New Zealand or…the tropics?

I’ve now moved onto the Bay of Plenty region of New Zealand. The drive itself yesterday was uneventful, reminding me a lot of some places in Canada. Lots and lots of pine trees. After dropping Tania 30km from civilization at the town center of Tauranga and saying our goodbyes, I continued on to my next stop – Mt. Maunganui. It’s right beside Tauranga, with Tauranga being more the working city and Maunganui being the tourist/vacation spot.

I arrived yesterday and was greeted by the usual grey and showers/drizzle that have punctuated my free days far too much. I did get the interior of my car cleaned (had been meaning to do that for a month!), dinner cooked and a movie watched, but that was the extent of a uninteresting, grey day.

Today heralded a much better scene – vibrant blue skies and a bright sunny day. Thank god/gods/flying spaghetti monster! Easily the nicest weather I’ve had in a week. And I had a goal – ascend Mt. Maunganui.

This was both harder and easier than it would appear. Easier in the sense that the mountain is only 240m or so. Really, not even much of a hill. Standing at the base of it, you still get a good sense of height though. Harder in that there are very steep sections of stairs – my nemesis after the Grouse Grind injury to my hip. The climb to the peak is about 1km of trail, so not quite the extent of Grouse in stair climbing, but continuous enough. Thankfully, the hip made it up with only soreness, no pain this time. And unlike previous mountain peaks, this time I was rewarded with gorgeous scenery!

Looking back down at the town of Mt. Maunganui:

Northwards to open ocean:

A decent shot of the steep cliffs, and a few mountains in the far distance:

There were definitely pluses and minuses to doing this hike, especially on a Saturday. It was busy, I saw more people on the trail in 15 minutes than I have on probably all of my other hikes in NZ combined. There were noisy and obnoxious children. A bit more litter than usual. But the good parts were the trails were great, the views outstanding, and I got a neat moment out of it – shortly after returning from the spot where I took the above picture, a Kiwi guy around my age came over and asked a favour, to take a picture of him and his girlfriend. He mentioned quietly to me when giving me his camera to take a few and give him a few minutes to do something. After the first usual picture of them standing together with the beach and ocean in the background, he got on one knee and proposed. A very nice little moment (she said yes).

I started my hike downwards on a different trail and got a shot looking towards the city of Tauranga. You couldn’t actually see the city from the peak, that area is covered by trees. Only once I’d come down a good distance could I see they bustling port and city.

Near the base of the track there were more sheep. And this getting close to spring time it’s also when lambs start being born. This lamb here is likely only a few days old (if even that) according to something a guide was saying nearby.

Finally I returned to sea-level and did the outside track along the coast of Mt. Maunganui – I think I was determined to re-injure my hip at this point. That, and the day was just WAY too nice to do anything but stay outdoors and enjoy the perfect walking weather – sunny, 17-18C and a very light breeze. I still find it unbelievable that this is ‘winter’.

I was glad I did the coastal track, Mt Maunganui is an old volcano and as such there are numerous large lava rocks scattered around the ocean nearby. I enjoyed looking at them and watching the ocean come crashing in.

I climbed on those larger ones. No real reason, I just wanted to.

Finally, back onto the main bay, the sun was still shining and it was only 1pm. I had finished off about 10km of steady walking and hiking, so what did I end up doing? Grabbed my kindle, packaged up a couple sandwiches and a banana and had a great afternoon relaxing on a picnic table by the beach. I think this is one of my favourite things about travelling long term so far – not just being thankful when good weather comes along when you have things on the go, but also being able to enjoy the good weather just by sitting outside, doing nothing else but enjoying the pleasant sun and warmth of the day.

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