Friday, October 7, 2011

New Zealand trip, day 5: Mt. Maunganui

Wednesday, October 5

(I just noticed that the day of my trip matches the day of the month. As in, today is day 5 of the trip, and it's October 5. That makes me really happy.)

This morning marked another first: I used a coin-operated shower! Our camp grounds are equipped with exactly one shower, and it costs 50 cents for 7 minutes. It involves quite a bit of strategy. First, because you only have 7 minutes. Second, because the coin box is around the corner from the shower, your time starts as soon as you drop in a coin, and you should probably be clothed while running to the coin box and back. It was probably somewhere around 50 degrees outside--which meant 50 degrees inside the shower stall--which is a sure way to wake oneself up in the morning.

After my shower, Josh and I went out on the beach for a little while, then I took off on my own, walking down the beach. I'd never spent that much time alone on a beach. It was very soothing. Since it was still fairly early in the morning, there was no one else out there except a couple joggers. The only sounds were the waves, the wind, and the birds. Sigh.

For breakfast we had oatmeal with honey and peanut butter. Which tastes amazing while camping, though I doubt I'll ever make it at home. Oatmeal is just one of those things that I always want to like, but really only do like when I'm camping.

After breakfast, we loaded up and set out for Tauranga. On the way, we stopped for lunch because Neal wanted Subway, and the rest of us went to a bakery. I got a meat pie that reminded me of the meat pies we ate in Papua New Guinea while growing up. Since we were stopped in a town, we went out in search of a hat for me. I actually brought one to New Zealand but managed to leave it in New Plymouth with my swimsuit. But since we were going to be outside a lot, and since there's no ozone layer over New Zealand, I thought a hat would be good. We found one, I bought it, and we pressed on.

Mt. Maunganui rests at the very tip of a peninsula (here's a map; the green thing labeled "The Mount" is what we hiked), so the mountain is surrounded by water on three sides. Which provides a very different experience from most mountain-climbing. There are stairs built into the mountain to make the hike up easier, and by the time we reached the top, I had developed a severe hatred of stairs. Since I am not the most physically fit person on the planet, my thighs were not happy with me--and my calves were starting to complain about the long walk on the beach this morning. BUT the view from the summit was stunning and absolutely worth the burning legs. We hiked down the other side of the mountain, which had a road completely void of stairs, and which gave us a whole new set of beautiful scenery for the way back down. We hiked through a lot of sheep pastures and were far more intrigued by sheep than the average person. We were even assigning personalities to a handful of the lambs and mama sheep.

We hung out in the parkish area along the beach for awhile, then decided to walk around on the nearby Moturiki Island, which has been made into a peninsula so you can get to it on foot. It also made for some pretty pictures and backdrops for random conversations. Basically everywhere in New Zealand makes for pretty pictures and backdrops. At one point, Josh ended up throwing his Frisbee into the ocean so, logically, had to climb down the rock wall into the water to retrieve it. He succeeded, and the Frisbee was saved!

Before driving back to Matata and our campsite, we stopped at an Indian restaurant in Tauranga for dinner (India Smart, I think). It was delicious, and we all tried bites of each other's food, which made it even more delicious!

Normally when I go on trips, I have a significant role in planning them. This road/camping trip has not been that way at all, which was hard for me the first day or so. Less than 24 hours after arriving in New Plymouth, we were packing up for a trip to somewhere (I didn't really know where), with people I didn't know, and with an itinerary that no one told me about in specific terms. For awhile it really frustrated me, and then I got frustrated at myself for being frustrated that I wasn't in control. But as the trip has progressed, I've realized that my frustration wasn't really about control as much as it was about just knowing what was going on. Don't get me wrong--I've thoroughly enjoyed all the activities the team had planned, and I'm going to be happy with anywhere someone takes me in New Zealand. But last night on our girls walk along the beach, we talked about the plans for today. And I must say, just knowing what we were planning to do helped me enjoy it that much more. And it made me feel less like a control freak, which made me happier with myself (not that I'm completely dropping the control freak descriptor, because it definitely still fits at times!). And that concludes Wednesday.

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