Rangitoto Island

Guys. I have to tell you about how much I love this cafe. It’s my new home. There’s a “take a book, leave a book” shelf, couches, solid wifi, a decent selection of teas, a giant window I can sit in with my laptop, and a random little vintage pac-man arcade game in the corner. I’m obsessed. This is where I spend every morning.


I’ve been operating without much of a plan each day. The only problem with this is that all the activities around Auckland require a bit of travel time and therefore a bit of planning. I decide it’s a good day for hiking, and look up ferries to Rangitoto; an island visible from the Auckland port, and home to a dormant volcano! It’s not painfully expensive at $33 return, especially when you consider that’s the same price as visiting the Sky Tower (Auckland’s imposter CN Tower – erected 20 years later, I might add).
A volcano hike seems like a pretty good bang for my buck!
The last ferry heading to the island is in an hour, so I rush back to my hostel to change into some more appropriate hiking gear and walk down to the ferry terminal.

Before boarding the boat, we’re asked to clean our shoes off on these little brush things stationed outside the entrance, and to check our bags for rats, mice, and ants. Yeah, alarming. Apparently people find them in their bags “more often than you’d think” and I am horrified to even look. Thankfully, I’m clean.
Rangitoto has a fragile and well-contained ecosystem that New Zealand is working hard to preserve while still allowing for tourism. There are no shops, hotels, cafes, or anything on the island. Not even a place to fill up a water bottle, so they advise you to bring all the water and/or snacks you might need for the day. I didn’t know this in advance, so I’m extra stoked that I thought to bring my reusable water bottle, and filled it before I left!

In half an hour, we’ve arrived on the other side, and I head straight for the trail. It’s 1:45, and the last ferry back to Auckland is at 3:30 so I want to get a move on. It’s possible to leave after the last ferry, but it’s an extra 50 bucks, and that’s a hard no from me.

arriving on the island – I don’t know what’s in the little house!

I follow black trails lined sometimes with unfamiliar trees, and at other times with nothing but stark black volcanic rocks. The higher the trail takes me, the better the view becomes. It’s an easy walk, especially for the first half as it’s pretty flat. I’m a city walker; Toronto has no hills. I’m not used to all this stair and hill climbing, and it’s roasting hot out. If this path weren’t partially shaded, I might have died from heat stroke. I apply my weak 30SPF sun screen twice during the walk, just to be sure I don’t burn.

Once at the top there is a view point that looks out over the old volcano crater, which is now entirely covered in greenery. Without the sign post to tell me what it was, I’d never have known. The real sight though, is the 360 degree view around the island. You can see Auckland off in the distance, and epic teal blue waters all around. Pretty fantastic for a 1 hour hike.

You can see the fake CN tower from here!

I soak up the views, finish the rest of my water, and head back down. I end up chatting with a nice elderly couple from Malaysia on my way down, who start a conversation by calling out “where are you from!?” as I pass them on the trail. We talk about Malaysia, Canada, and they tell me all their opinions about “Mr. Trump”. They’re pretty adorable.

I’m back down to the pier by 3pm and have 30 minutes to spare, so I find a shaded bench where I can lay down and take a little siesta, but set an alarm so I don’t miss the last ferry. Not that spending the night here wouldn’t be rad af.

When the boat arrives they have so much trouble docking due to the high winds, that they have to try 3 times. I’m a little concerned about the choppy waters back to the city, which weren’t this bad on our way over this afternoon.
They make an announcement on the way back that “If anything should happen, life vests can be found in the lockers”…which I notice are secured and tied up with ropes, so if this ship starts goin’ down, I’m pretty sure I’m done for. R.I.P.

After more trouble docking back in Auckland, we make it safely off the boat and I head back to the hostel. I have to double take when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I look like a god damn tomato. Noooooooooooo! I applied my sunscreen! I tried to be responsible! I am heavily regretting leaving the 100SPF in my drawer back in Canada. I brought that Nicaragua a couple years ago, and came back just as pasty white as when I left, so I didn’t wanna go totally tan-less again. Huge mistake. I knew about the absence of ozone layer down here but… I thought double sunscreen would do it. Nope. How embarrassing. Now I gotta walk around like this for the next few days. So much regret.

Aside from the burn – solid day.

I go out at night and try to get a look at this blue moon/super moon/eclipse thing, but it’s too cloudy, which is tragic.

Costs for the Day

$16 breakfast at Remedy Coffee

$33 return trip to Rangitoto

$16 for 2 pints at a pub in the viaduct area

$8 fast food wrap for dinner

$20 hostel

Take me there!

South Coast Drive

I hardly need my 8am alarm to wake me up, because buddy across from me has been snoring louder than I ever thought humanly possible. All night. I had fallen asleep before Sev got in, but when I went to bed there was definitely a blanket there for him. When I wake up I see snores McGee is wearing a blanket and Sev is not. Thief!!! These blankets are 1100ISK ($11), you think this shit is a game, bro? I don’t do anything about it because he’s sleeping and I’m not a savage, but I’m not stoked. I’m trying to give Sev a good first hostel experience and this guy isn’t helping. 
Ma and Pa come to pick us up at our hostel for 9am for our South coast adventure!! I don’t usually do much research before a trip, but considering our limited time in Iceland I sought some advice from the Internet. I find a great blog with a super informative map for us to follow along the coast as a self-drive trip as opposed to booking a tour. We’re not really tour people, though I know they have their place in some cases. We decide to drive it ourselves because we already have the car, and this way we can stay as long as we like at each point of interest; the flexibility is nice. 

Our rental comes with a wifi router so it’s easy for us to access to the map as we go without having to plan too much in advance.

Our first stop is to a set of waterfalls about an hour into our drive. Only two are officially named and listed on the map (Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi) but there are some smaller falls between the two giants as well. Seljalandsfoss is visible from the road, where we can also see a lot of parked tour busses, so we drive a little further down to Gljúfrabúi and start from there; this one is somewhat hidden. If it weren’t for the map and/or other people walking around in this area I might not have ever known it existed. Almost like a cave, it’s accessible through a large crack in the rock wall where we step carefully through the shallow stream, doing our best to keep our feet dry. The amount of water tumbling down over the cliff above us is incredible, and once inside it’s impossible to avoid getting absolutely drenched by proximity. I wasted my time when I straightened my hair this morning. I’m really not sure what I was thinking. 

After this we dry off a little on our way over to Seljalandsfoss, an even bigger waterfall that you can walk behind. So much for drying off. They’re both super epic, and while there are a ton of tourists here it’s not overly invasive as it would be basically anywhere else in the world. There’s also minimal signage, rope ways, etc., which I’m always a fan of. 

Next stop: hot spring! This should be pretty cool. Iceland is known for its geothermal swimming pools, most notably the Blue Lagoon. People come from all over the world to experience it’s spa-like health affects, and it’s now become very commercial. This spring however is much harder to get to and as a result, is much more low key. After a 10 minute drive inland, away from the main road, we walk 15 minutes into the valley before reaching the springs. There are only a handful of other people, some of whom are leaving. By the time I’m in my bathing suit and ready to get in the water, we are the only people around. I can’t imagine the last time anyone has been able to say that at the blue lagoon. This pool doesn’t have all of the same minerals that cause the lagoon to have its opaque blue water, but it’s a natural hot spring all the same. It definitely contains sulphur, which I’m not sure has any health benefits; all I know is that it’s smelly. 

We don’t stay here too long because we’ve got a whole road of other things to see ahead of us! Our next stop is to skogafoss waterfall (this is redundant because foss means waterfall in Icelandic. Like saying Koh Tao island, when Koh means island). This is the biggest waterfall yet, holy moly. A staircase has been built up the side of the falls, so we make the trek to the top for a different view. If I’d have just run the 10k yesterday I wouldn’t have been able to do this, it’s a deceivingly long walk up. 
We also stop for some fish n chips from a solo food truck parked nearby. We meet a Canadian guy from Quebec who is biking around the whole island. I’ve noticed hitch hiking and bicycling are extremely popular here. 

After Skogafoss we move on to a black sand beach. I’ve never been to one before! Obviously this is not the kind of beach where we can set up an umbrella and catch a tan, but it’s beautiful all the same. Maybe even more so. The weather has been extremely kind to us all day, but now some clouds have started to cover the sky and the beach itself looks a little foggy. Not so foggy that we can’t see the dramatic rock formations standing just 50 meters out from the shore. I don’t know where one can sign up to do this, but a man is paragliding above the beach among all the birds at the top of the peak above us. This is one of those places where photos can never do it justice. 

Our last stop is to the town of Vik. I’m not really sure what there is here but after driving around a little bit we decide to head back to Reykjavik for dinner. We do make a quick stop at an IceWear Store where I finally find a hand knit Icelandic sweater. Obviously the sweaters are everywhere but most are machine made and I wanted a slightly unique one. I am now content. 

We drive back to the city which is just bursting with celebration after Iceland has won a Euro Cup game. We have dinner near my parents hotel then Sev and I head downtown for a couple beers. We visit the Lebowski Bar which is packed full of drunk humans having a good time, but it is late, I am tired, and I am very sober. We walk home in daylight even though it’s 1am. I don’t think I could ever get used to this. 

I just want to give a mad shoutout to my girl IHeartReykjavik for an epic South Coast blog post. My day wouldn’t have been half as awesome without your guidance.