When we were planning our trip to New Zealand, everyone who had been there (and even a few who hadn’t) talked about the stunning nature walks. Today I got to experience that for myself. I had to climb half a hill to get to the starting point for the walk.

But what goes up, must come down … then up again, then down, then up… you get the idea. More stairs. So many more stairs.

But it was worth it.

One thing I immediately noticed was the complete absence of annoying bugs. No biting insects, not even annoying things flying around your face. I love that.

And the plants. So many plants.

I liked this one – combining the walking path with the plants helping to shade the path.

And the views. Oh my…

After the walk we had lunch and then we went for a walk along the beach and a swim in the ocean. And in the evening we had a fabulous dinner at the restaurant just around the corner. I don’t believe in heaven, but if I did, it would look a lot like this.

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We checked out of our hotel, and then went for another walk along the beach in Mount Maunganui.

Then it was a short drive down along the Bay of Plenty to Whakatane where we has a lovely lunch. All week we’ve been noticing that restaurants were all out of the salads on the menu. Today we discovered why. It is because of the Auckland floods. So we have finally discovered one area where the flooding is having an impact on our holiday. But, all considered, pretty minor.

After lunch, we headed out for … wait for it … a long walk along the beach.

The patterns in the sand always amaze me.

I’ll leave you with another flower picture as you ponder what we will do tomorrow.

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Rinse and Repeat

Yesterday we walked barefoot along the beach, climbed Mount Maunganui, had lunch, and then walked along the beach again. So today … we walked barefoot along the beach, climbed Mount Maunganui, had lunch, and then walked along the beach again. To change things up, we decided to go to a restaurant for dinner.

We opted for the less difficult path up Mount Maunganui today. You’ll note that I didn’t say “easy” because it was still rather steep and a great workout. Along the way we saw sheep grazing and the water tower.

And as always, lots of interesting vegetation.

After climbing to the top of Mount Maunganui, we decided to take the easy path around the base, because … why not. All in, it came to 8 km, which isn’t a bad walk, especially given the hill.

And then, after lunch…

Unfortunately tomorrow we’re off to our next stop, but I’m pretty sure we will be back and we’ll stay a lot longer next time.

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The Happy Place

I know that I’ve mentioned several times that the weather in New Zealand was wonderful, especially in light of the fact that it was minus 30 degrees at home. But today was the day that it really hit home. We were hiking through tropical forests and walking barefoot along the beach and … well you get the idea.

Mount Maunganui was at the top of my list. There are a number of paths up and around the the mount with varying degrees of difficulty.

This is the easy path that winds around the base of the mount with views of the sea.

And then there were the more challenging paths to the summit. The path started out relatively manageable…

But then it got … interesting.

It was challenging, but the views were stunning.

Along the way, the vegetation was lovely.

And the trees growing out of the rocks were inspiring.

There were also a few trees that were clinging to eroding cliffs. We came across a few trees that came down during the recent storms. It wasn’t difficult to imagine the same thing happening to these trees in the future. But hopefully…

And after Mount Maunganui there was the beach. We could walk barefoot along the beach for hours. Come to think of it, we did walk along the beach for hours.

It is Jan’s happy place.

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It was raining lightly when we picked up the rental car and headed to Tauranga. While planing this trip we didn’t realize that today is a major holiday in New Zealand – Waitangi Day. This meant the roads were busy with people heading home at the end of the long weekend. Fortunately, they were mostly going the opposite directions so our traffic was light.

We were drawn to this area for two things. The first is Mount Maunganui which is an extinct volcano and a Mauao Historic Reserve. It’s known for hiking trails of various difficulties and stunning views (if you take the more challenging trails to the top). The other attraction is the beaches.

When we arrived the top of Mount Maunganui was wreathed in clouds. Of course it was. But by the time we checked in and had lunch it was sunny, so we decided to take a look.

One of the easy paths goes around the base of the mountain and we decided that was our speed today. Lots of amazing trees, as always…

Most of the shore is rocky and the path is set back, but in one area we could walk along a sandy beach. I came across this scene with a small stream.

And then we spotted a Cormorant…

We only went part way around Mount Maunganui (tomorrow, all the way…) and then checked out the main beach (we will be back tomorrow). On our walk back to the hotel we saw something that we haven’t seen since we arrived in New Zealand.

… a flat and level path through a park. I’m joking of course, but not by much. Tomorrow we will make up for the easy walk today.

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A Walk in The Park

Another sunny day in Auckland. I love the vegetation here, even though I have absolutely no idea what this is.

I’ve mentioned the floods before now and the fact that we really haven’t seem much in the way of damage. That isn’t quite accurate. We have seen signs of the recent cleanup efforts. The cut marks on these branches are clearly very recent.

And a closer look at the damage gives you a sense of how intense things must have been.

Today we walked through Auckland up to the War Museum, which is situated in a large park, of course. The park had a number of Maori themed sculpture.

As we were walking through the park we heard someone playing a flute on a bench along the path. It was lovely to hear.

The museum is called the Auckland War Memorial Museum, but when we went inside, it was far more than that. The entire ground floor was dedicated to a history of the Māori and how they came to New Zealand. Fascinating.

On the walk back we marveled at the trees. These pictures include people to give you a sense of scale.

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No rain today. This is excellent news. And not only for us – it’s clear that everyone in Auckland is sick of the rain. People regularly tell us that “we had terrible floods last week” or “it isn’t usually this wet here”. I get the sense that no one realizes the floods made international news. I know there are areas with significant damage, but we honestly haven’t seen any of it yet. Fingers crossed…

I wanted to see Mount Eden (also known as Maungawhau) because it looked like an interesting park and it has wonderful views of Auckland. It was about 5 km from our hotel, so we decided it would be a pleasant walk. We missed two small details. The first was the heat/humidity. The forecast called for 25 degrees C, which is quite pleasant. But when you add in the humidity, along with intense sun, it was very warm. And the other detail was that it was all up hill. Gently at first, and then…

And then … not so gentle. Yes, we were headed for the top. When you add that to the humidity, we were, let’s say, “warm”. Fortunately the lovely views of Auckland were accompanied by a wonderful cool breeze. Just the thing to enjoy.

Maungawhau is the revenant of two overlapping volcanoes that erupted 28,000 years ago. It is a sacred place, and the most sacred part is the crater, which is home to Matoaho, the guardian of secrets hidden in the earth.

No one is allowed to enter the crater, but we can respectfully visit the site, and enjoy the cool breeze, and the views.

The walk to Mount Eden was mostly uphill, so the walk back was mostly downhill. Thank God. We stopped for lunch and much needed water half way back, which was great, except for having to stand up and start walking again after lunch. But we were treated to more of Auckland’s lush vegetation. This was a banana tree, growing beside the sidewalk. The first picture is the flower, and then the fruit.

I mentioned earlier that all the locals are sick of the rain. Apparently they are also sick of their mayor, who was very slow to declare the state of emergency. We were treated to a demonstration calling for the mayor to resign. The speaker at the rally sounded incredibly pissed.

No idea what is on tap for tomorrow. But I do know it won’t be minus 30, so we’re all good.

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A Bit of a Washout?

If you’ve been following the news, you probably know that Auckland had historic floods last week. The rain today was nothing like last week, but we were still pretty wet by the time we got back to the hotel.

Early on our walk we spotted Aukland’s Sky Tower piercing the low clouds, so I couldn’t resist taking a picture. I do that a lot.

And then the rain started, and more of the tower was obscured.

And then … you can see where this is going, can’t you … it started raining harder…

By the time we made it to The Buoy Cafe and Eatery (the location for Rubens in My Life is Murder) we were soaked, but laughing in spite of it all. We were painfully aware that it’s minus 30 degrees at home, so a little rain didn’t seen like a big deal. And because the weather kept many tourists away, we got a window table for lunch without any wait.

I mentioned the floods in Auckland. It was bad enough that the airport was closed for a day, and we had the option of rebooking our flights with no penalty. But we figured (correctly, as it turns out) that things would be close enough to normal by the time we arrived. It is very clear that things were bad last week – everyone tells you that “it isn’t usually this wet…” – but in most of the city, things are pretty much normal by now. Certainly it would have been a mistake to cancel our trip. The only direct evidence we’ve seen of the flood is a few water-logged low spots in the parks. These pictures were taken in Victoria Park.

It’s mid-summer here (did I mention that it is minus 30 at home?) and the flowers are beautiful – even in the rain. Perhaps, especially in the rain.

This flowering shrub was stunning, but unfortunately I have no idea what it is. If anyone knows, please pass the name along. Not that it would grow at home, but still…

After we changed into dry clothes, and the rain stopped, we took another walk to Albert park. (You’d almost think that Auckland was part of a British colony from Victorian times…) The ancient trees were stunning. I think these trees are some variety of Cork Oak, but I’m not sure. If anyone knows for sure, please let me know.

I started the post by suggesting the day was a bit of a washout. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We had a great time and laughed a lot, even if I was soaked (quite literally) to the skin. But I’m still looking forward to tomorrow when it’s supposed to be sunny.

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And So It Begins

When we left home we’d just had a foot of snow, and our patio looked like this…

We were looking forward to 24 hours in airplanes (and by “looking forward to” I mean “dreading”) before we would be in New Zealand. Fortunately, the “upgrade Gods” smiled on us and we were in Premium Economy to Vancouver, and then … joy-oh-bliss … business class to Auckland.

The weather is fantastic here. Today was spent just getting settled and a feel for Auckland. Tomorrow we are looking forward to a lovely holiday.

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We’re getting ready for our next trip. A very long trip. Just shy of 24 hours from takeoff, to touchdown at our destination in Auckland New Zealand. If you measure door to door, it is even more. I’m tired just thinking about it…

This is going to be quite an adjustment, especially in terms of weather. It is mid-summer in Auckland, while here it is … not.

It’s all very magical in a “I wish I was somewhere else”kind of way.

Fortunately, soon enough I will be somewhere else.

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