Rangitoto: Not just another island

By Donna McIntyre

Rangitoto reveals its mystique to Donna McIntyre.

Rangitoto's war bunkers have spectacular views. Photo / Philipee Dierick
Rangitoto's war bunkers have spectacular views. Photo / Philipee Dierick

On a trip ferrying tourism delegates across to Rangitoto Island, I was fortunate enough to hear the exciting plans iwi, DoC and Ateed have for three-day walking visits, "Rangitoto Motutapu Haerenga - A Journey through Sacred Islands" starting later this year.

What made that visit special was the Maori hosts' explanation of Rangitoto. Where visitors see just what is in front of them - the spectacular scenery, volcanic landscape and lush, regenerating bush - Maori also see what has gone before, paying homage to their ancestors.

They explained how their journey starts at the top of Rangitoto's three knuckles, descending from the highest point to the sea.

Inspired, I returned with my husband and our two teenagers. But again, just like visitors' experiences of Rangitoto are unlike those of iwi and DoC staff who know the island so well, parents and teenagers also have different views ...

A couple of times on our family trip I'll admit I wondered why I'd bothered bringing the kids. Should have left them at home to be babysat (teensat?) by the XBox or PlayStation. The boys had brought along an iPod without earphones and subjected our ears to rap, distracting us from the birdsong, which is wonderful, thanks to the island being rodent-free.

And we were asked "How far is it to go?" questions every 10 minutes as we walked along one route signposted as taking 105 minutes.

The best moan of the day, considering our teens live on another beautiful gulf island: "You brought me on another ferry to another island to look at the same old trees!"

We were rewarded - and the moaning forgotten - at the summit, when the teenagers admitted the view was well worth the climb. We spent about an hour appreciating the 360-degree panorama of island, sea and city views from the crater rim. City dwellers from overseas must be blown away to find such a remote-feeling paradise just 25 minutes from the CBD, plus they appreciate the novelty of travelling by ferry.

But comparing the trips also showed how having the iwi - Ngati Paoa, Ngati Whatua, Ngai Tai - as well as DoC involved will enhance visitors' three-day experiences, telling them more about the island's history and geology and the Maori perspective, the rich history, from the Maori arrival centuries ago, and the eruption that made Rangitoto, to the war years and now the farming and conservation taking place.

We approached the summit via the Coastal Rd to McKenzie Bay and then the Summit Rd. On top, we walked around the rim, visiting the World War II bunkers and imagining what it must have been like in times gone by. Was it worth prising the kids out of bed so early? Maybe the 12.15pm boat connecting with the Volcanic Explorer Tour and its guided commentary would have been a better autumn option.

But it was definitely worth doing something together, even if the boys were less keen than me about another of "Mum's great ideas of things to do together as a family". We walked, climbed and even managed conversations, including learning more about rap music.

To the island

Getting there: Rangitoto ferry, adults, $28, children $14, earlybird fares available. Volcanic Explorer Tour, $60. fullers.co.nz

Upcoming: The three-day Rangitoto Motutapu Haerenga - A Journey through Sacred Islands will be available later this year. It will involve walks and a stay on the islands. Day one, Rangitoto summit and volcanic landscapes; day two, cultural significance of Motutapu; day three, the Motutapu restoration.

Donna McIntyre was a guest of Fullers.

- NZ Herald

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