50 volcanoes. That is how many volcanoes shape the Auckland area. So, basically, every hill, lake, and basin of the city was shaped or is an actual volcano. And they aren’t dead – just fast asleep (I hope). Rangitoto is the youngest of this big explosive family – and I got to climb its summit.
Rangitoto Island was formed by the most recent volcanic eruption about only 600 years ago. That is why it actually still looks like a volcano with a distinctive symmetrical cone towering 260m high above sea level, making it one of Auckland’s most visible landmarks. The lack of soil, very little water, and high temperatures have created a distinctive and unique environment on the island, which is a protected nature reserve since the 19th century. You can still see and explore the caves and paths formed by lava hundreds of years ago. Soooo awesome, if you ask me!
Rangitoto – Sky Blood
The names of the majority of places – towns, national parks and reserves, mountains etc. – in New Zealand still bare their original Maori names. After living in countries like Australia and Ireland, where the indigenous culture is only slowly being rediscovered, seeing that it can also work out differently is pretty amazing. Maori traditions, art, and culture are highly valued throughout the entire country. And – this might be my inner Nerd kicking in – I think it’s super interesting to understand the history as well as get to the bottom of the meaning of those native names. Sorry, not sorry.
Rangitoto literally translates to ‘Sky Blood’. You might think that this a proof of an eyewitness account of Rangitoto’s eruption by Maoris. Trust me I thought the same thing. However, it’s meaning isn’t volcanic. The island’s full name is Te Rangi i totongia te ihu a Tama-te-kapua, which translates to ‘the day the blood of Tama-te-kapua’s nose flowed’.
Several myths exists surrounding the formation of Rangitoto. Tama-te-kapua’s descendants, the Ngati Tai, tell the following legend of a giant couple:
Once upon a time, a giant couple lived with their slave on a mountain close to where Lake Pupuke (basin in the suburb Takapuna) is today. One day, the couple got into such a big fight that – in the heat of the battle – they let their household fire go out. By letting this happen, the couple offended the fire goddess Mahuika. This goddess wasn’t someone you want to mess with. In order to teach the couple a lesson, she called the god Mataoho, the local god associated with volcanoes. He followed Mahuika’s call and destroyed the couple’s home with an explosive eruption of Lake Pupuke. But that wasn’t enough punishment. The couple and their slave got imprisoned in the triple peak of a new mountain out in the sea. You guessed it: Rangitoto.
As part of the orientation week for international students in Auckland, my colleague an I got to go to Rangitoto together with a group of exchange students. We spend the entire morning exploring the lava caves and fields of the islands as well as hiked up to the summit of it. The view over the bay and onto Auckland CBD is absolutely insane! I will a hundred percent go back again…next time by kayak. Stay tuned!