By Jacqui Gray
The Bay of Plenty in New Zealand is spectacular. I am sure when they named it they didn’t have us tourists in mind, but since nature is putting on such a brilliant show, we should sit up and pay attention.
One of my all-time favorite walks is in this area – it doesn’t require me to train for months before or survive on dehydrated food packs. It can be done as part of your typical day and yet still offers so much. Located on a peninsula to the northeast of Tauranga city center is Mt. Maunganui (Mauao in Maori). This extinct volcano dominates the coastline landscape and can be seen for miles around. Well worn and marked tracks go up and around – if you only have time for one, go up! The views are stunning, but if you have the opportunity to go around the base as well, make sure that you do.
Going Up? Mauao stands 232m (770 ft) above sea level, and its summit tracks are not a casual stroll. You could make it to the summit in 30 – 45 minutes, but it takes me twice as long. Not solely due to my lack of fitness, just as much to do with regular stops to enjoy the changing view. A mix of urban and natural; resort development, Main Beach, industrial areas, port of Tauranga, the estuary, city center, Matakana Island and of course the wide open ocean are on offer. There are a couple of tracks to take to the summit – more direct (harder) or take your time and enjoy making your way to the summit. There are a few picnic tables at the summit – more for show. Seriously no one is slugging up to the peak with a picnic basket – well not on my watch! Rest a moment at the top and take it all it.
Around the base of Mauno, there is a less energetic path to follow. The base track is an easy 3.5km (2 miles) and takes approximately 40 minutes. Picnic tables and benches are dotted along the path for you to enjoy with sheep grazing in nearby fields and rabbits (lots of rabbits) being rabbits.
A little further on and you will find yourself on Main Beach. Regularly voted into the top spot as NZ best beach, you will know you have arrived – it is just spectacular! I LOVE that beach, but wwhhhoooaa that water was cold. Even in summer, it scares me to think water can get that cold. Wetsuits I hear you say – good for you. This camper has a theory about wetsuits – if the water is too cold to jump on in – then stay the heck out of it! Yep. I come from a place where water temps range from pleasant to perfect.
Morning walk check! Next stop healthy breakfast and great coffee – another reason the area is called Bay of Plenty! Plenty of great little cafes and man they are serving up some seriously awesome breakfasts. There is a bunch of cafes across from the main beach but make sure you wander a bit further down Maunganui Road. I promise it’s not much further and you will find a cluster of awesomeness.
The Legend of Mauao
Details supplied by Tauranga Memories
There was once a hill with no name who lived on the edge of the Hautere forest. This nameless was a pononga (slave) to the great chiefly mountain, Otanewainuku. To the southwest was the shapely form of Puwhenua, a beautiful hill, clothed in all the fine greens of the ferns and shrubs and trees of the forest of Tane.
The nameless one was desperately in love with Puwhenua. However, her heart already belonged to Otanewainuku. There seemed like no hope for the lowly slave. In despair, the nameless one decided to end it all by drowning himself in the Pacific Ocean, Te Moananui a Kiwa. Calling on the patupaiarehe, the people with magical powers who dwelled in the forests of Hautere, pononga asked them to plait the ropes with their magic and then haul him down towards the ocean. Chanting their song they began to haul the nameless one slowly towards the water, gouging out the valley where the river Waimapu now flows. They followed the channel past Hairini, past Maungatapu and Matapihi and finally past Te Papa to the water’s edge.
By this time it was very close to daybreak. The sun rose to fix the nameless one to that place. Being people of the night, the patupaiarehe fled back to the shady depths of the Hautere forests, before the light of the sun descended upon them.
The patupaiarehe gave the name Mauao to this mountain which marks the entrance of Tauranga Moana. This means caught by the morning sun. In time, he has assumed greater mana than his rival Otanewainuku. Today he is known by many as Mount Maunganui, however to the Maori people he is still known as Mauao.