Wednesday 27 July 2016

Two Weeks in Tauranga


Crikey, that two weeks flew by and as you've probably guessed by the lack of blogs, it was a very busy two weeks too. We said goodbye to our freedom camping spot at Sulphur Point the morning after another beautiful sunset over Tauranga's inner harbour...

...and moved across the harbour to our regular camping ground at the Mount. It's a busy place (especially during school holidays) with people walking around the Mount, strolling along Pilot Bay, relaxing on the beach or at the cafes. While it's not everyone's cup-of-tea, I enjoy the atmosphere and the hustle & bustle of this busy seaside community. Only for a short time though, then I'm itching to get back 'Out There'. 

It was lovely to catch up with our friends, Barb & Bruce, who also own an Ultima. They came down from Kerikeri for a few days to visit and do a few errands in the Bay.

Our usual camp site is on the ocean side of the campground, beside the boardwalk, but they've re-grassed  the sites in that block, so this time we parked on the quieter Pilot Bay side of campground.

Unfortunately the weather Gods are following us around (or maybe it's just winter) and we had horrendous westerly winds for a number of days on and off during our stay. We couldn't have been parked in a worst place; the sou'wester blew straight in from Pilot Bay. We were buffered about something terrible and were under fire from the nearby Norfolk Pine with small cones constantly hammering our roof on a number of nights. 

And then there was the rain, torrential rain that drowned out the TV at full volume and made the entry to our part of the park, a muddy bog. At least the kite surfers were enjoying the breeze, zipping in and out of the moored boats doing death-defying aerobatics high above the water.

David wanted to know why they didn't have to stick to the 5 knot speed limit.

Of course a stay at the Mount is not complete without the obligatory walk around the Mount Base Track (and sometimes a walk up), something I try to do usually every morning but somehow that was omitted off the memo this time, and I only managed a couple of circuits. 

The sea was wild on this walk, and the wind, a strong northerly, roughed up the Main Beach and blew salt laden spray across to Pilot Bay. It also felt like summer, warm air from the tropics blowing in on the breeze.  

I took my time around the track doing a little bird-watching along the way- I'm not sure if the pied shag chicks are a late hatch from last season or an early batch for the next, but whatever, one of them has paid the price for hatching out of season. Next is a Scared Kingfisher/Kotare- feeding over the top of the turbulent white water around the rocks, a juvenile Pied Shag/Karuhiruhi- taking a break from the rough sea, sitting on a rock right beside the track.

And lastly, a very shy Reef Heron/Matuku Moana, quite a rare bird with an estimated 300-500 birds in NZ. Reef herons are found around rocky coastlines and the Bay of Plenty is the only place I've managed to see them. In fact I saw two on this visit, one at Sulphur Point, skulking around on the rocks beside the boat ramp and then this one at the Mount.

This section of the walk symbolizes the Mount Base Track to me; gnarly old pohutukawa, large rocks protecting the track from wild seas, the odd seal basking in the sun, smelly shags roosting above, the narrow entrance to the the inner harbour, pine trees across the way on Matakana Island, boaties heading out for a day's fishing or sailing. All that's needed to complete the picture is a monster container ship punching through the waves, emphasizing how narrow that entrance really is. 

We completed all our appointments and catch-ups during the first week while the family were away and were then able to spend the second week with the grandkids; separately and together. Maddie (7) was quite the young lady and has grown up so much in just a short few months. She stayed with us for a few days and was very brave the night we got a hammering from the wind. She lasted until 2am through the noise and the rock 'n rolling before the final straw; a huge gust whacked the side of the van shaking us violently. She shot out of bed like a bolt of lightening, calling out "it's OK Nana, I'm OK, it just gave me a fright". She did very well to get back to sleep. We had very little that night. 

Joel (3) is still a little bruiser of a boy, all rough and tumble, full of energy and constantly on the go. Here he is beside a some street art we found down an alleyway while out walking (trying to tire him out) at Mt Maunganui. 

I love this one with the faces peering at him over his shoulder and from the side. Joels' the spitting image of his Dad.

There's a new attraction beside the playground on the waterfront in Tauranga. This is Hairy Maclary & Freinds from the world famous children's books by Lynley Dodd, who resides in Tauranga. That's Hairy Maclary at the bottom of the pole, he's surrounded by Scarface Claw (top of the pole), Slinky Malinki, Hercules Morse, Muffin McLay, Bottomley Potts, Schnitzel von Krumm, Bitzer Maloney & Zachary Quack.

The tactile bronze sculptures are certainly very popular with children, I managed a rare moment of no people in the shot above but for most of the time there were children climbing over, riding on the backs of the bigger dogs or just resting on them. I love how the children all raced in to pat the animals and were even giving them kisses on the head and muzzle. The bronze was worn smooth and gold where many little hands had petted their heads and ears.

It wasn't only the little folk that were enjoying the sculptures, this tiny travel mascot belonged to a French guy in his twenties who was posting photos to his Instagram account. I'm sure I can see a terrified look on the little dog's face!

All too soon the second week came to an end and we once again said our farewells to the family. The kids sent us on our way with a parting gift- colds! A plus of being on the road is that we very rarely catch colds these days, these are just the second ones we've had in 4 years.

We were hoping to make it to Glenfalls on the Napier-Taupo road the first night but by the time we got organised and did a couple errands, it was the afternoon so we stopped for the night at Whakaipo Bay Reserve on the shores of Lake Taupo. Only 10kms from Taupo and not far from Kinloch, the bay feels like it's miles away from civilization.

The reserve is DOC operated (dogs allowed) and is a large long grassed area at the bottom of a short dirt track. The ground is quite uneven and it took us a few moves to find a level spot; we weren't unhitching so needed to have the nose level. The weather wasn't that great (what's new) but I'm sure this spot would be very popular over the summer. The K2K bike and walking track also passes through the bay. 

It is a pity that you can only access the lake over the styles in the fence and through the bush that lines the bay (and provides shelter from the wind), we'd have trouble getting the Takacat inflatable onto the lake to go fishing if we came to stay. 

It rained overnight and we were a little worried about pulling out, up the dirt road incline, back to the main road but it was fine; if it was clay, it had a bit of grit included to help with the grip.

There is a place on the Napier-Taupo road (just 17kms from Taupo) that I have been wanting to check out for a long time. 

It's a place that I must have passed at least a thousand times in my lifetime but one I've never stopped at. I know the Napier-Taupo Road like the back of my hand, it's one of my favourite roads, more from the familiarity of it than the diverse and interesting scenery; it's a road that's carried me away (and home again) on family holidays, on overseas travels, to the snow for some weekend fun, business trips to the big smoke, just for the fun of it (driving to Taupo for takeaways at 10pm on a Saturday night when you're 17 seems a logical thing to do in the scheme of things). I even commuted from Napier to Tauranga 2-3 times a week for a few months when we were shifting cities. And then the trip reversed as I regularly drove from Tauranga to Napier (and home again) to visit Mum & Dad, deliver step-children home, visit new nieces and nephews and the extended family and old friends, and now more recently, with our home on the back.  

I used to boast that nobody passed me on the Napier-Taupo, first in my hotted-up MkI Cortina (ok, well maybe they got me on the hills), then in a Subaru GT Coupe, amongst many others. Once I had my Golf GTI it didn't worry me anymore, I knew I had the power to pass them if I wanted to, or, just maybe, I grew up. 

Anyway, that's enough reminiscing, the Opepe Bush Historic Reserve has a hidden secret located in a clearing surrounded by bush and birdsong, and just a short 5 mins from the roadway. 

This is the grave site of  nine members of the Bay of Plenty Cavalry who were surprised and killed by an advance guard of warriors belonging to Te Kooti's (Maori guerrilla leader), in June,1869. While looking for signs of Te Kooti in the area, the cavalry leader failed to post sentries before standing his men down for the night. The five survivors took several days to reach Fort Galatea, 70kms to the north-east through heavily forested land.

I can now tick that one off my list.

We arrived at our favourite camp site, Glenfalls just as the cloud disappeared and the sun came out, warming our cockles (and the solar panels) - we must be back in the Bay (that other Bay, Hawkes Bay). Does it ever rain here? It sure does, the Mohaka is swollen and dirty, there was no trout for dinner last night.

Glenfalls, just as we like it- deserted! 

Next stop- Napier!

Newsflash!  We're still not having trout for dinner but he did catch one!


  1. Another great read,thanks for sharing the experience.

    1. You're welcome Peter, glad you are enjoying it and thanks for stopping by.

  2. The photos in this post worth the wait. My heart melts when I look at those adorable little faces...and I love seeing them playing with Hairy Maclary & Freinds! Amazing how well Joe and the street art complement each other :)
    In contrast with you, we traveled the Napier-Taupo Rd only once in one direction, from Taupo to Napier, except short backtracking from Eksdale to Trelinnoe Park. Most of the time it was either cloudy or raining. Lake Taupo that we saw was exactly the same with your photo - grayish rather than blue. Hope someday we will be back to explore more of this region. Enjoy your Napier-Taupo Rd story very much!


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