NB All these photos look much better embiggerated. You just click on them.
A popular activity around here is a walk 'around the Mount'. It's pretty, doesn't take long (3/4 of an hour), it's accessible and safe, with just enough interest and beauty to please everyone from zero to incontinent. We can walk on a hot day, as it's shady, and even on a drizzly day because it's mostly under trees. It can be dazzlingly gorgeous when the Pohutakawa (Po-hoo-ta-kar-wa) are in bloom, or there's a big swell after a storm and the waves seem determined to dash themselves to pieces on the rocks. Birdlife abounds and is surprisingly tame, despite this reserve being at the end of an urban peninsula. Sun or shine, there's always something different to see.
Many people who live on the Mount Maunganui peninsula walk or run it daily, and it's a popular second date for those meeting online.*
So, have I convinced you? Shall we go for a 'Walk Around the Mount?'
First, as my father was a cartographer, and I like to Locate myself, and assume you might like to too, let's have a look at the map:
This is Pilot bay - the internal side of the isthmus at the base of the Mount, and the lights of the port are still glowing as I park the car. That container vessel is getting up smoke, and the tide is high - so she will soon be heading out of the narrow harbour entrance between Mount Maunganui (Mong-ga-noo-ee) and Matakana Island. The big vessels can't get in and out without a reasonable depth of water.
We walk between the high-rise apartments and the lower slopes of Mauao (The Maori name for Mt Manganui) towards the ocean side of the isthmus. There used to be a little pub here on the corner, where this apartment is now, and I did a drawing of it when I heard it was to be demolished.
A tanker is waiting its turn to go through the narrows as the sun inches up.
We climb the track through the pohutakawas.
The hard, black volcanic debris down on the shore is still contorted and sharp, showing little erosion despite the action of sand and surf for thousands of years.
Looking back along the track, we can see the high-rise and Mt Drury.
A fantail flips and squeaks close to walkers, eating the tiny bugs their passing disturbs. Can you see it? It is well camouflaged.
That tanker has come through the gap between the Mount and Matakana Island:
The walkers are out! Here's some determined power-walking women who have overtaken us:
Imagine these waves four times the size; this is an exciting walk when the spray splashes over the path!
Fishing boats get an early start on the day. And an early fisherman has already caught something straight off the rocks.
A pheasant nonchalantly strolls four paces from my path. No dogs are allowed on this track, and any cats spilling over from the urban area are probably caught in the traps set for possums, so the birds are quite unafraid here.
Past the half-way point, there is a little sandy bay. In the distance you can see the port's container cranes looking like odd giraffes. This is Pilot Bay again.
I love this tiny sandy beach. I can see the sculpture of Tangaroa, god of the sea, placed to greet sea-going visitors to Tauranga.
And there are herring gulls, and shags and a quartet of oyster-catchers with their strong, brilliant scarlet beaks:
Here is the sign telling you how much of what you are allowed. A little optimistic 15 minutes from a city of 90,000 people, perhaps? Although I have heard some people get big feeds in some places. Paua (Paa-waa) are a species of abalone, and kina (kin-ah) are sea-urchins.
This part of the track looks like it has been transported through another dimension and has appeared from England somewhere...
Back at Pilot Bay, another fisherman waits for a nibble. The sun has disappeared into a band of low cloud to remind me it really isn't summer any more. Time to get home and have some breakfast!
Last images to show where we went. Next time to the top?
* And I should know :-)