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.
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.
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.
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.