Thursday, 25 October 2018

The top 15 most read blog posts on A Wandering Widow Solo Travel

This is my 200th post on A Wandering Widow Solo Travel.  I find it hard to believe there have been so many, and this morning I got to thinking about what a fun journey it has been.  Not only has it been a brilliant motivator, making me get out, do things, see the world and meet people in order to have things to write about but I've had an absolute ball in the process. Travel has always been one of my greatest loves, and makes up most of my posts, but I have written about many other things besides, like gardening, sculpture, cooking and festivals, to name a few. It has given me great pleasure to relive my experiences in writing and, I have to admit, it gives me quite a thrill when I see it is being read in some remote corner of the world. I have lost count of the many different countries showing up in my blog statistics.

Writing up notes for my blog - Port Douglas, Australia
 A Wandering Widow Solo Travel has now reached close to 50,000 readings so I thought it would be fun to see which were my most read posts.  Here are the top 15 starting with the most read at the top. 6 of the 15 are about places in New Zealand, my stunning homeland.

If you are interested in any of these posts they can be found easily by typing the title in the search box at the top right hand side of the blog.

Art Deco in Napier
Oamaru - New Zealand's finest Victorian town  

Napier - the Art Deco capital of the world

Des Goupillieres - Troglodyte village, Loire Valley, France

The Giant's House Sculpture and Mosaic garden, Akaroa, New Zealand

Gibbs Farm, Kaipara Harbour, New Zealand - An art lover's dream

Flavigny Sur Ozerain...and Chocolat (France)

Tracing the Ancestors - Bradford on Avon, England 
Den Gamle By, Aarhus

Akaroa - New Zealand's only French village

Craft Beer - Smog City Brewing, Los Angeles

Saltaire - Yorkshire, England

The Ghan Adventure - a train trip through outback Australia

Den Gamle By - Aarhus, Denmark
The Ghan, Australia

Homestay on a Turkish Farm

Top Tips for Solo Travelers - Updated 
 ( this is the second post of tips)

Day Trip to Waitomo

They are just a small sample of the many and varied topics I have written about over the last few years.  There will be more adventures to come, I hope.

Meanwhile this is one of my favourite travel quotes and I think it is one all keen travelers can relate to: "Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote and I shall be happily infected until the end of my life"  Michael Palin

Happy travels, everyone!

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Rangitoto Island, Auckland, New Zealand - A Must Visit for a great mix of geology, botany, stunning views and social history

600 years ago the Maori living in Auckland must have been terrified when Rangitoto erupted for the last time. The great spurts and rivers of lava looked to them like flowing blood so they named it 'The day the blood of Tamatekapua was shed.' after  Tamatekapua, a chief from the Te Arawa tribe who had arrived in New Zealand around 1350 and been killed in battle near by.  Rangitoto had erupted several times before the Maori migration though, rising out of the sea floor as far back as 6000 years ago.  Now standing sentinel at the entrance to Auckland harbour it is an iconic, dormant volcano beloved by Aucklanders. It says 'Auckland' to everyone visiting the city and 'home' to Aucklanders returning. Although not considered to be extinct the possibility of it erupting again is slim. Rangitoto is 5.5km wide and 260 metres at it's highest point, interestingly it's conical shape looks the same, or almost the same, from which ever angle you view it.

Rangitoto Island
Despite living in Auckland all my life, and seeing Rangitoto on a daily basis, I had visited it on only a handful of occasions, the last time at least 20 years ago.  While my family from England were visiting recently my daughter-in-law took my grandson to the island for the day and came home thrilled and excited by what they had seen. This spurred me on to go for another visit myself.

It was a perfect morning as I drove to the city to catch the ferry
So last Saturday I was up at the crack of dawn to catch the 7.30am ferry to the island, about a 35 minute trip. It was the most perfect of spring days, calm and sunny with the water smooth and reflective.  Once on the island I set off straight away on the 2 and a half kilometre climb to the top. The path is well marked, sloping upwards all the way but not arduous, at a steady pace it takes around an hour to get to the summit. At this early hour of the day there weren't many people around and most of the time I was alone on the path which was pleasingly peaceful and gave me time to just enjoy and observe without distractions.

Left: The path to the summit

Right: Ancient lava flow still looks recent

Rangitoto is a fascinating place, the fields of exposed black lava  still look surprisingly fresh even after 600 years.  Despite the fact that the island is composed of volcanic rock, air borne dust and leaf matter have settled over hundreds of years to enable 200 species of plants to grow and thrive, relying solely on rain for their water.  Rangitoto is home to the world's largest pohutakawa forest, pohutakawa are known as the New Zealand Christmas tree for their red flowers which cover them at Christmas time. There are rata, wild orchids, a kowhai grove where the native tui get drunk on the flowers' sweet nectar, and even, strangely, alpine moss.  
Plants establishing themselves in the lava fields.  
It is interesting how plants adapt to different environments, even mangroves, which normally grow in mud, can be seen growing on the volcanic rock at the water's edge.

One thing I noted was how few birds were on the island, the reason being that there is little food and no fresh water source.  I did however spot some tui, a fantail and  sea gulls. The island is also predator free.
What a view!
At the summit of Rangitoto I spent some time admiring the expansive view of Auckland and surrounds, enjoying the perfect day and reluctant to leave.  Eventually I set off again taking the detour 200 metres down the mountain to explore the lava caves. These are tubes formed when molten lava cooled forming a crust while hot liquid lava continued to flow underneath.  Visitors can walk through the caves however do bring a torch or cell phone to light your way...they are very dark. The landscape around the caves is primeval and magical.

Left: A view through one cave and into another

Right: Moss and gnarled roots surround the caves

Back at the base of the mountain I took a walk along the coastal  path to look at the historic baches.  A bach is the New Zealand term for a simple holiday home and comes from a time when single men, or bachelors, were housed in small, plain accommodation huts at forestry and mining sites. In the 1920s and 30s around 140 baches were built along the shore line of Rangitoto on leased land. There were a number of permanent residents on the island although many of the baches were used as holiday homes and fishing retreats.  
Bach #38 open to the public on some summer Saturdays - note the volcanic coastline
When the leases ran out in the 1970s and 80s it was decided by the government not to renew them and to demolish most of the baches to preserve the integrity of the island,  now only 35 remain, protected with  heritage status.  Back in the 1930s it was a lively little community where dances and parties were held on long summer nights, now it is sleepy and sparsely populated, a quiet echo of times gone by.  In this age of ever increasingly stylish and grand holiday homes they are a nostalgic reminder of the holiday homes I stayed in as a child.  Bach number 38 was built in 1937 to house the island's first caretaker and is open to the public on some Saturdays through summer. It is well worth a look as an example of a simpler life.
Inside Bach #38 and the old cooker still works well

 Then it was back on the ferry to return to Auckland. I was thrilled with my day on Rangitoto and won't leave it so long before I go back again.  I suppose it is the old story of taking things for granted when you see them every day so I would encourage everyone, Aucklanders, New Zealanders and tourists alike to get over to Rangitoto for a close look at a truly fascinating island.

Note:  For those less able there is a 4 wheel drive road train, with a full commentary, to take you to the summit.

There are no shops on the island so you must take all refreshments with you and take all rubbish home