AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND — My brain has a hard time with Polynesian and Maori names: Roto-rooter, Ratatouille, Ringo all stuck in my brain as I asked for information about Rangitoto Island, today’s destination.

It was a 40-minute walk downhill from our AirBnb to the waterfront, where we would catch a ferry for Rangitoto Island, the last volcano in the area to erupt about 600 years ago, and now a DOC park.

With all the luggage we have, and the constant repacking, it is becoming harder and harder to know where anything is, and this morning we could not find our sunscreen. We planned to pick some up together with a lunch along the way.

The ferry building in downtown Auckland.

Arriving at the ferry terminal about 15 minutes before departure, we still didn’t have lunch or sunscreen, so Torsten dashed to a local bakery and picked up two sandwiches: a sweet chili chicken sandwich and a vegetarian one.

With just enough time to get in line for the ferry, there was no time for sunscreen, so we could eat like kings, but look like red crabs by the time we got back. We knew we could only stay for a while and would have to return on the first ferry.

On the boat, mad at ourselves, Torsten asked a staff person whether there was enough time at the next stop, Devonport, to hop off, buy sunscreen and still make the ferry. He said, No worries, mate! The ferry had a 1 liter dispenser of 50+ SPF sunscreen for public use, so we slathered ourselves with it and our mood improved.

Once we got to the island, we noticed many small cottages, or bachs. Many of these tiny houses with big views were turned into museums, but some were still occupied, as we could see by the laundry flying in the breeze.

On the island, there are two options for getting around: walking or sitting in a tractor-pulled trailer for a narrated “volcanic explorer tour.” We opted to walk, which wasn’t as fun as we hoped on an open gravel road over lava fields. Downtown Auckland was framed nicely for photographs, but we also could see that there were rainclouds coming, and soon we were caught in a heavy shower.

The lighthouse on Rangitoto island with Auckland’s northern suburbs.

We ended up at the turn-off for the beach with the lighthouse and enjoyed the scenery before heading up to the top of the crater. The last part consisted of a boardwalk going to the top, and the views along the way as well as from the summit were breathtaking.

Looking at Auckland (population ~1.4 million) from this island, we could see how spread-out everything is. We decided to turn our back on the city and have lunch looking at the other barrier islands instead, where a neverending play of hills, light and shadow provided a captivating scene.

We headed down the other side of the volcano and were treated to more of the same —  lava fields and shrubby vegetation — but instead of staying on the road back to the wharf, we hiked to Islington Bay, which separates Rangitoto from its close neighbor Motutapu.

We didn’t have time to hike to Motutapu and still make the last ferry, so we decided to hike back on the coastal track.

Not the best choice.

The track followed the coast only in the beginning and at the end, but in the middle was a rough, rock-choked affair with lots of up-and-down and lava flows with few views, other than the bush and the ubiquitous traps set to keep the island free of stoats and weasels.

Nevertheless, we hiked the estimated 2.5 hours in just over 1.5 and made the second-to-last ferry at 3:30 pm, where we shared a table with a man from New Plymouth, on the west side of the North Island. He was a chatty fellow and asked where Torsten was from. When Torsten said “Germany,” he shot back with, “Then why do you have an American accent?”

It wouldn’t be the first time that Torsten’s claim that he was German would cause a puzzled silence, if not a challenge. Obviously, he’s learned English a little too well.

View of Motutapu, Rangitoto’s adjoining island, from the summit overlook.

By the time the ferry docked in Auckland, our muscles were so sore we hobbled off the ferry and made our way to the gelato shop in the ferry terminal, where sat and watched the world go by while eating pistachio, lychee and passionfruit gelato.

We went home on  the bus, which dropped us off practically at the end of our street. After having a glass of wine on the Airbnb’s charming patio, we headed out for a light dinner at Mekong Baby, a restaurant recommended by our host, where we ate sashimi, curried duck with potato, pineapple and jasmine rice and chocolate mousse with raspberry sorbet for dessert.

Islington bay, between Rangitoto and Motutapu islands.