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Tauranga’s one of my favourite spots in New Zealand so far. It’s just a lovely city, and Mt. Maunganui is just another highlight of the area. I hiked up to the top of it once again. The weather wasn’t quite as good, but there were still numerous people making the trek upwards, and the view from the top still very enjoyable after a sweaty hike up.

This time there was a bit more action at the top than before. With the sea-breezes coming off the bay and being driven straight up the sharp cliffs of Mt. Maunganui, this made a great spot for those wishing to fly.

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One of ‘those’ places

I almost don’t want to talk about this place. I spent 4 nights camping in McLaren Falls park, a 10 minute drive south of Tauranga on the Bay of Plenty. It felt like one of those ‘best kept secret’ kinds of places. It was absolutely wonderful.

For 3 of the 4 nights I was there, I had the place to myself. The entire park could camp well over 100 if it was busy, probably a couple hundred even. They give you picnic benches with free working BBQs nearby. Free hot showers. Wonderful scenery and bird life. Far off the highway so no sounds but nature. All for $5 per person per night. Which they are supposed to collect in the morning, but nobody ever came around to collect from me (probably not worth it with just one car in the park). I walked around the park and just enjoyed the scenery.

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As close as I’ll be able to get….For now

This would be White Island, about 50km off the coast of Whakatane. The weather doesn’t look like this today though – it’s rainy, high winds and choppy water. Which is why I’m not currently standing on the island enjoying the barren, foreign landscape. White Island is an active marine volcano, the only one in New Zealand, and one that you can walk onto. This isn’t an easy undertaking though, it’s a 90 minute boat ride all the way out there, and once there you have to take a smaller dinghy to get onto the island. On the island you are issued gas masks, as being an active volcano it can have highly sulphurous parts and there are a lot of steam vents – the clouds above White Island in the picture above are from the steam. Nobody lives on the island, it’s only accessible via one boat tour operator or a helicopter operator. It’s supposed to be an absolutely amazing tour, but it will have to wait for me to return to Whakatane later on – it’s something I’m going to do in NZ, rest assured.

Long walks on the beach

Yesterday was yet another beautiful day, so it was time for another walk. I walked along the beach in Ohiwa this time, and had company as well - Marion, from France, a fellow traveller who is also staying with a host family here in the Opotiki area. She’s staying in Ohiwa, so we walked the beach from her host’s place, which has the kind of view I doubt I could get tired of:

For some reason I didn’t take a picture of the waterfront facing area and patio, but it was even nicer. I’ve enjoyed staying with my hosts here in Opotiki, but I certainly don’t have these kinds of views (I look at hedges and an evil banana plant).

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Spring has sprung

I had assumed that New Zealand followed the North American convention/dates for seasons, simply with opposite seasons, so following the equinoxes it would be Spring by around September 23rd this year. However, turns out I was wrong. Spring is already here! Rather than use a constantly changing date (though only by a few days either way), the Kiwis and Australians simplify things and simply have each new season start on the 1st of the month of the equinox. So I’m about 8 days behind in realizing all of this. Always said I was a bit slow in the head.

The weather has stayed wonderfully warm and sunny, and today I went on a hike up to the site of an old Maori Pa in the nearby area of Ohiwa.

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Around and about

With my free time here in Opotiki, I haven’t been up to too much really. Simply relaxing with my host family and going on walks with the wife on the surrounding roads. She goes for a 30-60 minute walk each day (and it’s FAST), so I’ve decided to join her. Just a couple of pictures from the nearby area that I’m staying, which I get to walk around. Good exercise!

I don’t have too much planned for the next couple of days, mostly just a few more walks. Come Monday though, weather permitting, I’ll be setting off again, a bit in both directions really. But why say now what that would be? I’ll just use pictures I’ve taken to describe them for now.

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.

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