Kayaking to Rangitoto

Kayaking to Rangitoto

Given basic directions and a few pointers, we paddled into the channel. It’s busy out there—a liquid highway of ferries, yachts and tinnies, we felt unnervingly small as we headed for Auckland’s iconic island.

Rangitoto literally erupted from the sea around 600 years ago, spewing forth 2,300 million cubic metres of lava and 19 million cubic metres of ash.

Now extinct, it’s astounding that anything grew on this acrid base of black lava crumble. With no soil whatsoever, the 5km wide volcano should have remained a bald protrusion, caustic toward all life forms. But it didn’t.

Life has spawned on the basaltic rock, and from a distance, the island looks like it’s completely covered in a shock of unruly hair. More than 200 species of native plants, including 40 types of fern, grow on Rangitoto; also home to New Zealand’s largest remaining pohutukawa forest.

It took just over an hour to reach the island. As we got closer, tiny colourful baches—remnants of Rangitoto’s 1930s summer bach community—came into focus. Behind these, mounds of lava debris rose from the greenery like blackheads on a clean green skin.

We weren’t the only kayakers to visit Rangitoto that day. On arrival, we parked our boats alongside two other double kayaks. By the time we returned from the top of Rangitoto’s 259m high summit, a dozen more had been haphazardly yanked onto the wharf.

The return trip to Okahu Bay took twice as long as the first leg. A head wind had crept in and it was like paddling in a washing machine. If we stopped for a breather—albeit just for a few seconds—the kayak was shunted in the opposite direction.

We were shattered, our arms burned and our skin was coated with a thick later of salt. But, it won’t put us off doing this again—Rangitoto’s social and geological history is fascinating, and kayaking there is definitely a worthwhile experience.

A word of warning, however: don’t over-estimate your paddling ability, because if that wind turns, you could be in trouble.

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Content updated: 15/12/2019 04:09

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