Tauranga. Mount Maunganui.
Although we were stuck in a little town Opotiki for quite some time, we moved away just before my birthday. After a small celebration and few holidays our goal was to find a job and a place to stay for two more weeks before our next travels and other plans. And so we arrived in Te Puke.
Also small city close to Tauranga. If anyone have ever heard of Te Puke I can bet that they have heard of it as New Zealand's kiwifruit capital. And I wouldn't doubt that although Bay of plenty itself is filled with kiwi orchards everywhere you look.
We arrived around 3pm and decided to check some info boards in the local groceries markets (and this is a good tip for those who doesn't want to stay in hostels for some reason). We found only two ads for room rentals: one from a hostel and one from a country-house. The second was more appealing to us, so we tried to call. Turned out the room was still available and we arranged moving in just an hour later.
Job problem was solved by a help of Facebook power where I posted that we are looking for some jobs in the neighborhood. The next day we were starting to work in a kiwi picking again. The contractor were incredibly organized and we signed the papers the same day. Team was distant at first as we where the newbies. But after they saw that we are pretty familiar with kiwi picking and our speed is in the same level as theirs, they accepted us in their group. We felt awesome in a team, they played great music on a speaker and kept the good speed most of the time. This was perfect ending to our kiwi picking experience.
On our free time we managed to drive around and see some awesome places, like Kaiate Falls. These cascading falls area easily reachable from Tauranga city or in our case - Te Puke. They are located in a lovely natural surrounds and my favorite was a 15 meter drop into its pool below. I suggest to see it only if you are in the neighborhood. New Zealand is filled with beautiful waterfalls so you have plenty of others to see. This is pretty much in a middle of nowhere and there are not much else to do around (there is short hiking trail along the river, but that's about it).
Of course we couldn't wait to see Tauranga and Mount Maunganui itself. We were really lucky with the weather. Although it's winter in New Zealand, the day was sunny and warm.
Tauranga was nice, but didn't surprise us as much. Mount Maunganui was definitely our favorite. The city is really close to Tauranga, but looks so much cuter. The main street filled with lots of clothing and souvenir stores and so many cafes and restaurants that we couldn't choose where to eat. And of course the star of the city - Mount itself - is always in the background providing stunning views for your instagram pics.
Climbing Mount Maunganui is a must if you are in the neighborhood. Yes, the climb is steep and that makes blood pumping fast, but it is worth every step. And after you see so many silver-haired people in their late 50s climbing up like it's nothing - that will be your motivation! Maybe I haven't mentioned that before, but New Zealanders like outdoor activities. And a lot of retired people run, hike and swim without any hesitation. Surveys have proved that people between the age 55 to 64 are more likely physically active than the ones in their late 20s. And that was a huge surprise when we started our New Zealand journey and really noticed that. A lot of people are fit and challenge themselves in a steep tracks and long distance hikes. Even when walking Tongariro crossing (~20km) we met a lady in her 70s.
Anyway - just climb that hill!
We also went to the Moturiki or Leisure island. You won't find an island more accessible than this. It is connected to the beach by a man made land bridge. The island itself wasn't so surprising as it is mainly just bushes and trees there. But there are beautiful views across the Bay to Mount Maunganui and the beach, the rocks and birdlife. The walk to the lookout is easy and gives views out over the ocean. Locals refer to it as Leisure Island mainly because there were large pools for swimming, bumper boats, and hydro slides. Many Bay of Plenty locals still remember this attraction (it closed in 1990).Today the island (which covers almost 2.5ha) has reverted back to its natural state, with no signs of the former facilities or attractions visible.
After breathing in the stunning views from Mount Maunganui (we really spent some time just to enjoy being on top of it and taking some rest after the climb. Okay, it isn't that bad - I am exaggerating!) and having delicious Asian food we were happy and filled with gratitude.