Mount Manganui

Mount Manganui
Tauranga, New Zealand

Tauranga, New Zealand

The hostel owner in Thames gave me a tip – stay in Manganui. I ignored him and stayed at the first backpackers’ round the corner from the bus stop; I’m only here for a night, my bus out in the morning leaves just after nine.

Looking up at Mount Manganui, as people walk on a boardwalk in front of it
Little bit closer now.

But that didn’t mean I couldn’t spend my time in Manganui. It’s technically a suburb of Tangarua (Tao-wronger) but is expanding and has its own identity. I could either get a bus or borrow a bike for free, I was told, so I walked.

It isn’t the most charming of walks. After a quick sojourn in the art gallery, I started by following the heritage walk, whose chief achievement seems to be in avoiding the waterfront, though the old post office was charming. From one end of that walk – missing the more concentrated sights in the second half – I walked across the concrete bridge, past the port and oil tanks and down a long and busy road.

Hmm. However, walking lets you see more and at Blake park I noticed a sign for the cricket World Cup – this seems to be the venue for a majority of the qualification matches, which had reached the play off stages, though sadly I was on a day slap bang in the middle of the two play offs. The facilities are something, though. Manganui cricket club has a lovely old pavilion looking on to a cricket field that needs some attention. Just beyond the field, though, are two pristine new pitches and a glass-fronted club house, which must have accommodation for several teams, as doors at the back were decorated with flags and mugshots for Canada, Netherlands, Uganda, Kenya and others. I don’t know what they’ll do with the old clubhouse, which now doesn’t look over either main pitch, but they’ve gone from having one pitch to three and two clubhouses.

View from the top, back over Manganui, a spit of land with water on either side
View of Manganui.

By now I was in Manganui proper, cafés, slightly run down houses and a hostel in the middle of nowhere. The Malaysian girls in my Thames hostel had told me to climb the mountain (‘mountain-it’s 232m high) and that they’d done it in slippers. It looms impressively over the town, though, and is at the end of a thin spit of land, looking out to sea or back over beaches. It may be short, but it ascends over a small distance. I clambered up, picking the moderate, longer route over the shorter, ‘difficult’ one, reasoning the latter might have a scramble or two. My moderate route, though, had the worst bit for vertigo boy, with a path round the edge of the hill, open to a sheer drop. It wasn’t a narrow path, but still gave me the willies, and as I moved out to allow a descending girl to hug the rock face I knew exactly how she felt.

It’s only a 30 minute wander up, though, and soon I was onto a broad track with trees giving insurance either side. It seemed suddenly scorching when I got onto the exposed paths up – I think I was temporarily sheltered from the seaside winds and that raised the temperature considerably. The views from the top are grand, and there are ships to watch – this is the busiest port in New Zealand.

Looking down to the beach
Down to the beach.

I took the difficult route down, finding it made up mostly of steps. Those I could have coped with. The Copenhagen ice cream bar must be good, they had a queue out of the door, but I forewent the pleasure. My long walk back took me past the beach and, this time, along the waterfront back in pretty Tauranga. It’s New Zealand’s fastest growing city, itself on a spit of land; as close to riviera as New Zealand gets, according to Lonely Planet. In the evening I walked to the sights of the local pak n save, grabbed dinner and walked through to see the other side of the peninsula, rewarded for doing so first by a view of the sun beaming rays through the cloud and then by finding a walkway that took me back into town with water views. A pint in the craft beer pub next door, who were engaged in the easiest quiz I’ve heard – on my own I picked up 9/12 of the round I walked in on, though I should keep my knowledge of the Spice Girls’ first single/album title to myself – and I was done for the day.

Reading: Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell.

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