When the Devonport Scouts offered my husband and me a free overnight stay at Scoutsville, their bach on Rangitoto Island, I was both pleased and apprehensive. Not being one of those native New Zealanders who were brought up to spend their January summer holidays camping in remote seaside locations, I felt ill-prepared for 24 hours in an old wooden cabin with no electricity, water supply or coffee shop. I borrowed a couple of sleeping bags, packed as much food and drink as I could carry, and resolved to enjoy the adventure of going “back to nature” on one of the hottest and most humid days of the year.
Rangitoto, a 25 minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland, was formed when a volcano erupted from the sea bed about 600 years ago. The steep-sided cone, with a deep crater at the top, is covered in pohutakawa and other native trees and there is rough black scoria underfoot. Technically it is not a desert island, for a few people used to live in the old baches scattered round the coastline, but almost all of these have now been vacated or pulled down. By day it is populated by tourists walking the tracks up to the summit and around the coast, but by night it is seldom inhabited.
Accommodation at Scoutsville was indeed basic, but my practical husband knew how to boil up rainwater on the gas stove to make cups of tea, and good Vodafone coverage meant I need not be deprived of my beloved iPhone – though I refrained from checking my emails so often as I do at home. We spent the afternoon walking part way to Islington Bay, then ate an early picnic supper on the bench outside the bach, and went to bed when it got dark. There was a heavy storm overnight, and lying on a hard bunk while the rainfall pounded down on the roof did not make for a perfect sleep, but I woke refreshed and after breakfast we walked part way round the other side of the island to Flax Point before catching the ferry home. It had been a good experience. Scoutsville is available for hire at reasonable rates.