By: Connor Glasset, Secondary Education Major, Champlain College
I have been fortunate enough to call three other countries, besides America, my home in my short 21 years of life. In that time I have had the opportunity to travel and explore a baker’s dozen or so more countries. And without fail, I always run into stereotypical American travelers and vacationers. With their socks and sandals combos, fanny packs, NFL jerseys, obnoxious irreverence for everyone else around them and all together ignorance for the history and culture of the places they are visiting, there is nothing more in this world that irks me. However, I must admit with great embarrassment that I happened to be as completely clueless on one such hike up Mt. Eden this week. Although I must assure you, I wasn’t wearing flip-flops and white socks nor do I own any NFL jerseys, and I was completely conscious and respectful of all the other hikers around me. (Sometimes I do wish I had a fanny pack though. Don’t judge me.)
It was a beautiful, partly cloudy morning when I met up with Seth Aubin and Ali Sousa on the lime green couches in ground floor common room for 9:00am. Advantageously, we decided to make the most of the low 70 degree early morning weather by going for a hike. Allie took the lead leaving WSA, turning onto Symonds Street directing us up the hill toward the Mt. Eden region of Auckland. After about a fifteen-minute walk out of the central business district and through the more residential streets of Mt. Eden, we arrived at the car park at the base of our destination. There, we were directed by a kind Kiwi woman that the walking trail we were in search of was off to our right, up the earthen steps. Thanking her, we departed.
Now, there are two ways to summit Mt. Eden: along the paved path that was once intended, but no longer used for cars, or by way of the dirt path through the bush. Being adventurers, we naturally chose the latter. The first leg of the trail was the longest and moderately steep. We walked under trees and around bushes; all the while the cicadas hummed, providing us with a natural soundtrack for our journey. At one point, one fell from its perch on an overhead branch, landing on my shoulder. Luckily, Ali quite literally had my back and quickly brushed it away. We came out from under the trees as the path opened onto a clearing and leveling off point on the hill. We stayed for a few moments, let our heartbeats return to normal, and snapped a few photos.
Continuing the climb, we trudged on through some calf-high grass. After what could have only been three minutes we finished the second, and last, leg reaching the summit. Only, it wasn’t the summit in the traditional sense. Instead, we noticed a massive, grass covered crater just in front of us. We turned to one another other questioning if we had just unknowingly climbed a volcano. Indeed we had.
It turns out that Mount Eden is Auckland’s largest volcano at 196 meters. The crater, which made it apparent to us that Mt. Eden was a volcano, is nearly 50 meters deep at its center. Mt. Eden is culturally significant to the Maori people because it once served as home to some tribes. The leveling off that Seth, Allie and I had experienced between legs one and two of our hike were in fact terraces that the Maori had created. The terraces were used to garden on as the volcanic soil and rock that made up the mountain is extremely fertile. (https://www.mounteden.co.nz/about-us/history)
We stayed at the top for some time in the cooling gentle breeze, admiring the 360 degree views of Auckland and its suburbs, the harbors, Rangitoto off in the distance. Making our way back down the dormant giant, we passed a brown building, which I later learned is being repurposed into a café and soon to open sometime in the coming months. We opted to take an alternate trail down to the terrace we stopped at on our way up. Once we made it to the terrace we posted-up on a bench, enjoying the views and the company of one another, and munched on some carrots and clementines.
What a successful morning! Where else but Auckland can you say that you climbed a volcano and returned home before noon? I’ll take it.
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