Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mt. Maunganui and Mauao

Written 8:55 AM Wednesday, 29 September, 2010
Opotiki, Bay of Plenty

Posted 2:16 PM, Thursday, 30 September, 2010

We have been so many places and seen so many things that I have a bit of catching up to do. I think I’m going to break it up into a couple different posts just to make it more manageable for you and me. I’ll start with Sunday, when we climbed Mauao, the mountain of Mount Maunganui (!).

We had camped in a carpark in Te Puke the night before, but came back to Mt. M to do some shopping and take a hike to the top of the Mount. 
 Downtown Mt. M and the Mount at sundown

We started off the day by buying a surfboard, and a wetsuit for me, at a great little surfshop on the main drag of Mt. M. We got a 7’4” epoxy funboard, which we should both be able to surf well on, and which fits on top of the bed in the van (important detail.). At night, it goes underneath the van.

 I also bought a wetsuit for me, which was a far better deal than I thought it would be. The shop was selling all their wetsuits at ½ price, and recommended a 3.2 suit for me (3mm of neoprene on vitals, 2mm on limbs), and I found a great one at a good price. It fits perfectly, and feels ridiculously light and thin compared to the 5.4 I wear in Oregon. (Matt brought a thin wetsuit with him to NZ).

After a lunch of bread and cheese and mandarins at the windy waterfront, we took a couple hours’ hike up Mauao, the reserve that is the mount of Mount Maunganui. It is a beautiful, dramatic old dormant volcano that rises up at the end of the spit of land that forms downtown and encloses Tauranga Harbour.
(Click on photos to enlarge)

Part of the mount is leased to private farmers, so the track to the top went through open sheep pastures, so sheep were right off the side of where we were hiking. An interesting pastoral contrast to the stunningly blue-green subtropical water and white beaches surrounding us. 

Lambies on the side of the track.

The top part of the mount is covered in fern trees and other forest shrubs, none of which I could identify! At the very top, we were rewarded with absolutely fantastic views of the curve of the Bay of Plenty, deep brilliant green water, and the city of Mount Maunganui spread out in front of us. 

The water was so clear that we could see a couple of stingrays cruising about 50 yards off the beach, 2,000 feet below us. The whole place just put me in utter awe of the whole country. 

After the hike, we headed south to Rotorua, one of the most thermally active regions in the world. I drove the road to Rotorua, which was absolutely terrifying. 

Aside: I may have mentioned before that Kiwi highways leave something to be desired. None of them are straight or flat anywhere (the landscape is too dramatic to allow for this), few have more than a couple inches of shoulder, and the lanes can be ridiculously narrow. Often they go through steep roadcuts that periodically slide down onto the road. And the speed limits often make no sense at all- you’ll see a 100km/hr sign, and 50m later there is a super sharp curve with a 35km/hr warning sign on it. There are also passing zones on corners. And then there are signs everywhere telling people to drive safely- seems to me they could save a bit of trouble by just putting up the proper signage. For all the love I have for Kiwis and how kind and fun they all are, the whole realm of driving in this country is a bit insane. That said, driving on the left is almost second-nature to us at this point. Almost. Occasionally, in moments of surpise, we still turn on the windscreen wipers instead of the indicators (they’re on the opposite sides here).

I had been fighting an incredibly sore throat and cough for a few days, brought on, I think, by the terribly stuffy dorm we were in in Auckland, so Matt finally convinced me to go to the doctor. There was an urgent care center on the main street in Rotorua, and they were super nice and about 15 minutes after going in, I came out with a dose of antibiotics and all the receipts needed to have it all covered by my travel insurance. I am already feeling loads better.

Sunday night we again went exploring after dark to find a good place to camp, ending up at Lake Rerewhakaaitu (Reh-ray-fahk-ah-EE-tu), southeast of Rotorua. We keep going to campsites after dark, so we find out what they look like in the morning, which is quite fun. This post is getting a bit cumbersome, so I’ll continue

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