Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Day 13: Volcano Island (10/02/2011)

The Ferry Terminal; Auckland to Rangitoto Island

Banyan Trees Growing Out of the Lava Tubes

The Lava Flow from a 15th Century Eruption

An Unspeakable Horror Lurks On The Island.

The booking for the camper van that we had hoped to pick up today, fell through at short notice and we spent the morning scrabbling around to find a replacement which, at height of season, was difficult.  With a few extra NZ dollars and an unintended upgrade we were now the proud owners of a Hippie Deluxe for the next three weeks.

By the time the booking was secured, the morning had gone and although we sat quietly for a while enjoying the sunshine at the front of the hostel, we managed to catch the 12.15pm jet ferry from the city port to the island of Rangitoto which is a 20 minute journey away.

A mere 260 m above sea level, it is regarded by experts as the most likely cause of the demise of Auckland, some 10 miles away, the reason being that it is a volcano. It last erupted at the begininning of the 15th century when it was a submerged vent and it has taken 600 years for life to establish itself. Now a home to a variety of unique species of plant, bird and insect life, it is far enough from the mainland to prevent contamination by the usual modes of transport apart from man made ones. The Department of Conservation work hard to protect the island which is regarded as the most active volcano of the 50 that surround the greater Auckland area.

Looking rather like it has been rotovated by very heavy duty machinery, the lava rock lies riven in some places and piled high in others, looking more like the early stages of ground work than the remnants of a 600 year old eruption.  The island was a military base in WWII but saw no action despite probing sorties by Japanese sea planes and submarines.

From above the path of the lava is clear to see and cuts a swathe to the sea. Barnacles have colonised the solidified underwater magma at the ferry pontoon. Subteranean larva tubes criss-cross the island. Collapses have ocurred and trees have grown up through the openings, creating a portal between the eerie underworld and the sun lit uplands of the volcano island.

Climbing to the crater rim was hard, hot work. The crater is now heavily populated with a strange mix of scrub and succulents but it retains its characteristic basin shape and it is easy to imagine the boiling caldara of magma that brought the island to the ovean surface a few short seconds ago in the cosmic time line.

The journey down  was easier but for the slippery, rock strewn paths. Within seconds Clare fell and the musical qualities of the volcanic rock were illustrated handsomely by the clonk of Clare's head on the igneous basalt.

We rushed for the last ferry home urged on by the fear of being stranded over night in Jurassic Park, driven home repeatedly by the captain on the way out and given sinister life by strange noises emanating from the darkness at the bottom of one of the lava tube.

The city approaches are amazing from any angle but Auckland from the sea is truly fantastic. The ferries swing 180 degrees in the ferry port mouth and reverse at heart stopping speed to the jetty. To the uninitiated, catastrophe seems inevitable, until the engines slip into forward gear and the azure water foams in spirals from the rotating propellors. The craft slows at the last moment, lines are attached and the ferry empties and refills with passengers in the time it takes to ponder the spectacle, all under the watchful eye of Auckland"s sentinel skyscrapers that cram the foreshore to the water line. They crowd the colonial Ferry Building but seem unable to dislodge its historical position as the elder statesman of the waterfront.

We walked home to pasta and yoghurt, happy in the knowledge that Auckland's volcanic obliteration had been averted for another day and that tomorrow we would embark on our adventure, exploring the North and South Island.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Day Zero: Introductions (Everything you need to know about my life before Saturday 29 Jan 2011 )

I started this blog a few weeks ago and it was extremely bad so I deleted it all and started again.

I am hoping that the self indulgent wibbling is gone, replaced by some snappy prose and a few mildly amusing anecdotes. A thousand words a day seemed a bit much at the time and to be honest, was becoming a bit of a chore as I was spending less time actually doing things than writing about them.

So here is a brief introduction.

1. Fifteen years in the same job is too much for anyone;

2. I left my job much to everyone's surprise and some people's annoyance;

3. Some people said I should have stayed so I started to worry about whether I had done the right thing;

4. After I got on a plane to Japan with  my wife (Clare) I gradually felt a lot better about it all;

5. Everybody who knows me, knows Clare but I name names on the outside chance that this blog goes global and I end up:

(a) Very rich indeed.
(b) Read by people who need to know names.

My name is Tim and this is my blog.