We took a pause in the last post, as we climbed Maungawhau. It’s getting steep now, but the sun is reaching the high slopes
and illuminating the distant cone of Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill).
Here we are, just one more scramble up the sides and we will have reached the highest point on the Auckland isthmus (196 m, or 643 feet),
and from here, under the lowering clouds, we can see that this cone has not only height, but depth.
Here is the surprise: a perfectly shaped crater, 50 metres deep (160 feet). Two decades ago, drummers used to sit in the cold shadow at the bottom of the crater at winter solstice and drum up the sunrise. But now there is a sign asking visitors not to descend as the crater is a fragile and sacred archeological site.
The crater was known at Te Kaupa kai a Mataaho: the food bowl of Mataaho, who was the god of volcanic eruptions. 28,000 years ago Mataaho had plenty of food, which he was flinging far and wide in spectacular displays, but now he is sleeping.
Maungawhau was once a pa site, a fortified village, and like the other cones, still has the remains of kumara pits dug into its sides. The light is fading fast now, and the bank of clouds is threatening rain, but in the golden glow of early evening we have a last view, out towards the gentle contours of Rangitoto island, which erupted only 600 years ago.
We are reminded of the fiery history of Auckland, and give thanks that we are living here when the volcano god has emptied his food bowl and is now deeply slumbering, or has slipped away to vent his energy in the central plateau of the north island, where no city has been built.