12. Tauranga

We arrived around midday, ate a sandwich on the beach, strolled around the town and enjoyed an ice cream. We went up Mount Maunganui. It is not a high mountain (230m) and is at the end of the town. It dominates the scenery.

We decided to hike to the top. The path is short but relatively steep. The compensation for our efforts was indescribable because the view was breathtaking. Four aspects provide a 360° view of the area. On one side there was the white sandy beach, the town in the middle on the other side, the harbour with big cruise ships and the Pacific Ocean with the northern coastline.

We also discovered the New Zealand Christmas Tree, the Pohutukawa. For the Māori, it is a sacred tree and holds a prominent place in Māori mythology. One tree, which is 800 years old, is believed to guard the entrance to a cave through which disembodied spirits pass on their way to the next world. It is called this because the flowers resemble the red baubles that people can use to decorate Christmas trees. It is a spectacular sight.  

Tauranga was like being in Paradise. The beautiful beach, the flowers, the mountain, and the weather were fantastic. 

We also witnessed the eruption of the White Island volcano. Twenty-two people lost their lives. They were on a tourist trip to visit the volcano. The eruption was sudden and unexpected. The cruise ship moored in the harbour waited in vain for a few passengers. It was forbidden to sail out into the sea. Because White Island (80km away) was too far from our coastline, we could only make out approximately where the eruption was. But, it was the number one topic amongst the townspeople. The discussions were mixed with the sadness and the tragedy of the occasion. 

For me, Tauranga confirmed my image of the beauty of the Pacific Ocean. The white sand, the vegetation, the weather, and people surfing and swimming in the ocean. It was a very relaxed atmosphere.  

But we were just in transit. Our destination was the Coromandel Peninsular and Whitianga, the largest town in the area. 

We drove along the coastal road. On one side was the South Pacific Ocean and on the other side the inland. We could relive what the crew of the Endeavour saw, intensely blue water, white sandy beaches, and rocky paths contrasting with the very green countryside. Parts of the coast reminded me of the Normandy coast or the white cliffs of Dover. 

We arrived in the evening and stopped in Whitianga for two nights. It is on the north part of the Coromandel Peninsular. 

The next day, we wanted to explore the beach. To get there, we could only park our car in a designated car park, and then we had to take a shuttle to the beach. There, we walked along the coastal walkway and through some pine forests. Our destination was Cathedral Cove. We walked for about 45 minutes, with our rucksacks with food and beach towels. There were a few scenic viewpoints that gave us a first glimpse of what we would discover. I did not have an idea of what to expect. 

To reach the beach, we had to walk down some wooden stairs and to a magnificent landscape. This view was worth the walk. We kicked off our shoes and walked barefoot in the sand along the beach. We continued until we reached a rocky tunnel in the cliffs. And nature gave us more magnificent views. We decided to put our towels here.  

It was here where we had our South Pacific Ocean bathe and swim. As it was spring, the water was “refreshing”. When we emerged from the water, we enjoyed the warm sunshine and appreciated our picnic. Looking at it now, for me, this was the most beautiful place on the North Island. It looks like paradise and is a real inspiration for a painter. It is untouched nature and not many tourists. 

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