Sunday, September 14, 2014

Climbing the Volcanic Cones around the city

It’s been more than 2 months for me now in this city and it still seems new. The Indian inside me still refuses to develop even the slightest belongingness to this place. That sounds strange to me too. I blame it on the cold weather. With the spring setting in, I am getting my wings ready to set off and explore this Island. The easiest and the cheapest way to see the place is by walk and there are innumerable bush walks, day walks right inside the city. My list is ready and will try to ignore any curses from my bank account for having cultivated an expensive hobby like travelling.

Auckland War Memorial, Photo taken by Lisa

Though a small country, there are endless beautiful places to visit, no dearth for adventure and wonderful people. History of this city is fascinating and anyone who reaches here will invariably be interested in exploring more and more about this wonderful place. The numerous museums and parks everywhere you go reminds how close to nature you are. A 15 minute walk from a house in suburb will take you to a bush which is no less than a thick forest and every corner of the park speaks loud of the attention it receives. This country is also famous for several volcanic cones and craters some of which are still active and makes news by erupting now and then. It would not be natural to write anything more about this country yet. I hope to write a dedicated post on this when the time is right.

After a long hibernation, I was craving to pack my bag and that’s when I joined Auckland hiking group. There was no effort to decide on which group to join as all of them are genuine and I just found one close to my place. And ever since I was here I wanted to climb the Volcano Mountains, just then there was a meetup to climb 8 volcanic cones around the city. 25 km was an ambitious one as I was walking for so long after like almost 6 months or more now. But I dint want to miss this opportunity and decide to climb at least 5 of the 8 mountains.

So all set on a bright sunny day, there were many others like me assembled in front of the Auckland war memorial. Just to make sure I keep up with the pace with group I intentionally dint carry the camera and wanted to just walk and clicked very few on my phone. The place we assembled itself was on a mountain. From here we started our walk and visited the winter garden which is right adjacent to the museum.
Winter garden, Photo taken by Stephen

On top of Mt Eden

After the garden, we walked towards Mt Eden. Suburbs around these mountains are named after these mountains itself. Mt Eden is one among the very affluent suburbs close to the city and flaunts old and large houses with wide roads lined with huge trees all along.

Reading the history of each of these mountains relates to the volcanic cones being used a fortification by Maori later as quarry and pasture lands and then to reserve water to be supplied for surrounding houses. Today most of these are protected as pasture lands and parks for visitors.

At Mt St John Photo taken by Stephen

We walked to Mt Hobson from here and on reaching every summit, Stephen, the meetup organizer would take a group picture before we head to the next mountain. I was blown away by this interesting fellow. During the introduction session we stood in a circle to say Hi to all with our names and the countries we come from. This fellow repeated all the 60 odd names without many mistakes and he continues to remember almost all his team members. This seems extraordinary for me as I am really bad at remembering names.

Photo taken by Ross

Throughout the walk there were so many people you would say hello to and share a small talk. As this was a big group and I don’t really like the big numbers I still managed to find some quiet time for myself and enjoyed the walk.

Photo taken by Stephen

Watching the cattle graze has been one of my favorite scenes ever since a kid. It is such a common sight here that I feel I am so close to my dream or rather I am living my dreams. A close look on a far away mountain, you will notice a herd of sheep and cattle grazing. Its such a beautiful sight.

From Mt Hobson, we headed to Mt John. Another beautiful scoria cone with a large crater. All these mountains have a Maori name like this one is Te Kopuke or Tikikopuke, but are seldom used. I assume this could be because of the difficulty in spelling them. But even now many places in New Zealand still have Maori names like Rangitoto, Takanini, Manukau. I initially found them to be funny and never could recall the names, later as I search for their meanings I realize how wonderfully they are named. I someday wish to learn Maori and for now I can only say “Kia ora” which means “Hi” or greetings.

                                                                                                                                                Photo taken by Lisa

Our next stop was at One Tree Hill passing through a beautiful Cornwall Park. This place is crowded with families spending some quality with their little ones. These li’l ones could be kids or dogs. Dogs’ looks more like dolls with all the grooming and care they receive.

Photo taken by Jane

On the volcanic peak of One Tree Hill is an obelisk on the grave of an English man and a bronze statue of a Maori warrior. The story of the treaty between English and Maori called Treaty of Waitangi, is an interesting history one should know about while in New Zealand.

On top of One Tree Hill

Our next climb was to Big King, which according to me was a difficult one. Three kings is a volcanic cone which has three peaks and one of them being Big King. The other two are mostly quarried and no more prominent. The peak is a vertical climb for almost 133 meters with a prominent water tower at the peak. We stopped here for a group pic and soon started walking to our next peak which was Mt Roskill.  

Photo taken by Stephen

Another beautiful volcanic peak with two craters. Most of these volcano peaks are identified to be more than 28,000 year old. When we reached here, the sky was decorated with dragon sized colorful kites. It seems to be a regular hobby for people flying kites there. I could sit there for long watching the kites sway, as the body craved for some rest relaxing on the large lump of green grass as natural cushion.

The last cone Mt Albert seemed close but was almost 50 minute walk from here. None of us wanted to stop and just pushed ourselves towards the last mountain. The walk through the city crossing bridges and water canals was a treat to watch. The sun was almost to set on the west spreading the golden light on the early blossoms of spring flowers. It was magical on the peak and we had covered the walk ahead of estimated time by few minutes.

After the last group picture and refilling the body with some water we started climbing down the hill. The body craved for some rest and we reached the nearest bus station to catch bus to reach the city.