Tuesday 1 May 2018

Not going hungry

It doesn't take long to do Tauranga. A brisk stroll along the waterfront, pausing to admire the ruru mural, register the fishing boats and smile at the Hairy Maclary installation next to the playground, and that's pretty much it. There are cafés and shops, of course, and an Art Gallery (closed) and one day there might be a museum, but it's not what you would call a hub. The Mount snaffles all that sort of attention.
So, fortified by Trinity Wharf's excellent Bircher muesli, I drove away on a bright, sunny morning, down the coast along a smart toll road, the countryside green and fertile, Whale Island, or Moutohora, distinctive across the tussocky beach. Through Whakatane, and over the hill to Ohope, and then on to little Kutarere where I met Scottish Kenny at his home perched above the shiny, sheltered waters of Ohiwa Harbour, one of the locations where he does kayak tours.
Today though we were cycling, and I got kitted out at Motu Trails with mountain bike and helmet, and then we set off with Jim along the road towards a pretty fancy suspension bridge over the Otara River and then down the coast on the Dunes Trail. So, no mountains were involved then, for which I was thankful (though there are hilly trails in the area, if you're that sort of masochist). Growing up in pancake-flat Christchurch means I am by birth useless at managing gears on a bike, so it was as well that the ups and downs were so moderate that I could manage on one setting.
It was a good trail, packed hard gravel or boards, no soft sand - the most challenging part were the frequent pinch bars we had to squeeze through, there to prevent horses and motorbikes from using the track and cutting it up. There's a lot of hard volunteer work gone into building and maintaining the track, and restoring and replanting the dunes, and they're naturally protective. So we saw only dogs, and pukeko, and a couple of e-bikers grinning their way along, as e-bikers always do, despite some negative vibrations from Jim, who's a dedicated single-gear biker (as was I, today). There was sunshine, lots of chat and information, an empty beach, a cup of tea and a feijoa muffin, and then the return the same way, meeting a bunch of barefoot schoolkids on the bridge, out practising their cross-country. We did 12km, which felt just right to me.
The guy who runs the Two Fish café in Opotiki, where we had lunch, has his lifestyle sorted: open weekdays only, closing at 2.30pm and the rest of the day and week for himself and his kids. It's apparently a common attitude here in the Eastern Bay of Plenty - work/life balance including plenty of room for family and fishing. Sensible.
It was a lovely drive back to Whakatane, the sun golden, the sheep-nibbled hills like green corduroy, the trees autumn red and yellow or starkly bare already, the river still running high. My next appointment on this rather full programme was at Mataatua, a historic meeting house that, under protest, was uplifted by the Government in 1879 and taken for exhibition in Sydney, Melbourne, London and Dunedin. Eventually, more than 100 years later, it was returned to Whakatane in a sorry state, having been re-erected at least once with its walls inside-out. It was restored and finally reopened in 2011, and we four visitors today were given a genuine and authentic Maori welcome and tour of the wharenui. The carvings are amazingly detailed, considering they were done with obsidian, from Mayor Island.
Afterwards, there was an unexpected feast laid on next door: seafood chowder, mussel fritters, venison rolls, fried bread with jam, and kumara brownies, all washed down with kawakawa tea. I had a dinner out scheduled, but decided to cancel it, and did my best, with Maru's encouragement: "Ae, Aunty, have some more!" Back outside, the sky was pink, the river was glossy as a couple of silhouetted waka slid along it, the tui were still singing in the trees along the cliff face; and I went to bed well-nourished.


the queen said...

Sheep nibbled!

TravelSkite said...

Oh yes. Close grazers, sheep.


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