Guest blog from Kathryn Sobocinski
Despite Barbara plying us with more micro-brews—including one that came with 3-d glasses—and red wine, we were up early for the hike to the volcano on Rangitoto. We loaded up (2x breakfast), rowed the dinghy ashore navigating a very slippery boat ramp, put on our stout walking shoes and headed up the dirt road toward the summit rim. With binoculars in hand we were on the hunt for NZ birds, but Barbara insisted we were making too much noise to see much of anything. A few fantails flashed their rear-ends at us and we saw a tui or two, but not much in the way of rare birds. There are kiwis here according to the newly placed sign we saw the Department of Conservation installing last evening, but I guess they only come out at night. It was pretty hot for 8:30am and we were glad to be starting out so early! After a bit of a walk and a few hundred steps, we were at the crater rim, where there was no molten lava, but a few very cool tree ferns and some other plants. We walked around the rim to the summit, where there was a WWII armament and a fantastic 360 degree view of the the Hauraki Gulf.
We caught our breath and headed down a different path towards some lava caves that proved to be good fun! Save for the head-bumping. The walk back took us on more of a path through the forest, which offered some nice shade, before reaching the road we took up where we headed for the Yankee Wharf (where we had appropriately left the dinghy). We didn't see many birds or other animals, but we did see a lot of animal traps. It seems the Department of Conservation is doing quite a job trying to eradicate rats and other invasive wee beasties that are fond of native bird eggs. We were glad to see the landing after about 4 hours of walking. While the rest of the wimps hopped in the dinghy, I decided to make the swim back to Astarte. It was quite refreshing...which Barbara and Michael have deemed "really f-ing cold." Everyone did brave the water at some point today for showering purposes though, so credit is due.
We chowed down on some meat pies and L&P (a lemon soda), continuing on the NZ theme for our trip. We also had some soup to help warm up from the cold dips in the salty sea! And having won the "# of Boats in the Anchorage at Daybreak" contest (23, and my guess was 20, playing with "Price Is Right" rules, I won) I was absolved of dishwashing duty for the day. Woot! Naps and relaxing were in short order after the morning adventure and bellies were full!
The sailing forecast is set to be an 8 tomorrow (1-10 scale, the higher the better) and it shows by the number of boats in the harbor! And they keep coming in. We will leave sometime mid-day for the return to Auckland, where Mark and I will gather our items, due a bit of laundry, and have a look at the city (perhaps celebrating a birthday with a cook's night off), before we try our hand at driving on the left on Monday. Like they say, time flies when you're having fun...and you've regained your health and good humor.
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