The Mount

Google’s “Quick Facts” give a great description of the Mount Maunganui area. “Set on a peninsula, Mount Maunganui is a laid-back suburb known for the extinct Mount Maunganui volcano, a sacred Maori site with ocean-view hiking trails. Long, sandy Main Beach is popular for its surf breaks, while Pilot Bay Beach has calm waters for paddle boarding. The Mount Hot Pools complex offers saltwater bathing and spa treatments, while brunch spots, global restaurants, and boutiques fill the town centre.” That description sums up why we chose to rent an apartment in “The Mount” for six weeks.

“The Pacific”, the blue building shown above, 5th floor apartment provided a great view of the Tauranga Harbor and Pilot Bay. In the evenings, we enjoyed watching the hustle and bustle of the bay from our balcony.

With plans to watch the America’s Cup modified to watching on television rather than in person, we chose to kick back, enjoy some bubbles and root for Team New Zealand to win the Cup. Sailing foiling monohulls – amazing engineering and masterful sailing proved to be quite fun to watch – especially since New Zealand won!

A lack of tourists in New Zealand left us wanting to support the local tourist attractions such as the harbor cruise aboard the motor vessel Kewpie. Kewpie, built in 1953, ferried passengers, mail and cream in the Bay of Islands and Auckland areas before moving to the Tauranga harbor for scenic cruises.

Whether walking on streets or trails, discovering nature or human art kept us amused.

There is no shortage of fun to be had in the area. Situated at the base of the volcanic Mount Maunganui, hot salt water from an underground bore 600 meters deep heated by extremely hot rocks underground is piped into the Mount Hot Pools. Soaking in the pools is quite relaxing.

Before or after a soak in the hot pools, activities abound. Kayaking, paddling, wind surfing, kiting, swimming, sailing, surfing, boating, fishing, paragliding, volleyball, walking – The Mount has it all.

An hour drive from our apartment brought us to the Skyline Luge in Rotorua. Rotorua, known to most for Maori culture and geothermal activity, is known to us for its fabulous land luge (aka street luge or road luge).

In case you want an insight into the fun, check out these folks experiencing one of the three courses.

When not having fun outdoors, we managed to find delicious libations and food.

The nearby Port of Tauranga is a bustling harbor and the largest port in New Zealand. While on the harbor cruise, we passed by the Silver Supporter. This ship is a freighter delivering goods to Pitcairn Islands. There are 12 visitor berths on board to go along on the journey. Sounds like a fun way to get to one of the most remote island groups in the world.

We learned of New Zealand street artist, Owen Dippie, while in the Mount. Check out some of his amazing murals. When Maori widen eyes and stretch out the tongue it is a sign of strong and deep-felt emotions which is how we feel about New Zealand.

After close to five months, we returned to the Auckland airport to begin the trek back to San Francisco. The process began with a COVD test 72 hours before the flight. Knowing all passengers required a negative test before boarding the plane made this flight significantly less stressful than the flight to NZ in December. The empty international terminal helped, too.

Wallpaper in the plane lavatories kept us in good humor during the flight.

We arrived at LAX, grabbed the rental car and spent the night in a nearby hotel. Refreshed and ready to head north, we beat LA morning rush hour to dash to Bakersfield to get our first dose of the vaccine as a pit stop on the drive back to SF.

Safely tucked back into the condo, we sipped on a cocktail whilst a carbecue ensued on the Bay Bridge. Ah, back in the big smoke – hope everyone was unharmed.

Grateful is an understatement of how we feel about spending the past several months in New Zealand. People, scenery, attitude, humor, generosity, friends old and new.

Aroha nui. Tēnā koutou.

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