Sunday, April 29, 2018

Worms and weather

I dunno, it feels kind of wasteful to take a flight that lasts only 25 minutes. Seems hardly worth all that effort and technology when surely I could have driven? As of course I could have done, Auckland to Tauranga, it's no great distance.Honestly, it took me three times as long simply to reach the airport from home. But anyway, here I am, in the Bay of Plenty.

Plenty of rain, as it happens. "The weather in Tauranga is rubbish," Captain Andrea announced after take-off, and she wasn't wrong. Heavy rain, the sky grey, the rivers orange with mud - right across the road, at one point, as we drove up to Waihi Beach. On a nicer day I could have admired the neat orchards of avocado and feijoa trees, and kiwifruit vines; the immensely tall windbreaks; the hills and beaches. But not today, alas, apart from showing some respect to the endless rows of waves pounding onto the beach just metres away from the deserted deck of the Flatwhite Café. Inside, under 16m beams of attractively distressed Oregon pine I ate Cajun fish and drank rosé while the conversation ranged over topics including Hobbiton, the America's Cup, the woefully low status of table-waiting as a profession, and the delights of Malta. I was generously given a chunky rhubarb and wild berry tart to take away with me, which I briefly considered taking back home to Auckland but later scoffed in its delicious entirety.
The rain, it rainethed, as we drove afterwards to Waimarino in order to set out on a kayak glow worm viewing expedition. The adventure park (which is kind of confusingly located in Taniwha Place, Bethlehem) is located on the river bank and looks fun, especially the long waterslide down into the Wairoa River - but not today. The river slid along, brown and sinisterly swirling, overflowing its banks, big logs twirling as they were swept downstream. To no-one's surprise, the kayaking was called off, leaving the operators busy preparing for being flooded when high tide hit in a few hours' time.

But all was not lost. Helpful Sean drove me up to Mclaren Falls, which were thundering and foaming most spectacularly, and then on to the lake where the expedition normally set off from, after nibbles and drinks (which today I had inside, and which happily included mulled wine - "People are always a lot more relaxed about kayaking after the mulled wine," Sean commented). Then we went for a walk through the bush, along a track where glow worms did constellation impressions under overhangs - swathes of bright, purplish lights. It's something I've often seen before, but it never disappoints.

And finally we drove back to Tauranga, talking about orcas and influencers, Abel Tasman and leopard seals, and I settled in for the night at the Trinity Wharf Hotel, where my room looks out across the lit-up bridge towards, invisible in the darkness, the famous Mt Maunganui - which, I hope, tomorrow I will wake to see bathed in sunshine.

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