The flight to Tauranga from Wellington was uneventful, in a rather larger plane than that from Nelson to Wellington. Peter and Denise (Hartles) were waiting for us at the airport, and we set off to a beachside cafe for a light lunch before taking a stroll round Mount Maunganui, one of the many extinct volcanoes in New Zealand. It was very pleasant, warm and sunny, and there were views over the bay through the trees.
In the short time we were with them Peter and Denise made us very welcome, showing us round Omakaroa, where they have a lovely house with a beautiful view over the bay. Their garden is on several levels down the hill, a little like ours in Winchester, except that their fruit trees are rather more exotic, including grapefruit – very sweet and juicy – and avocado. They also have native trees, including Pohutukawa, also known as the New Zealand Christmas tree, as its stunning red and gold flowers start coming out in December. We walked along the coast path near the house, seeing interesting houses and gardens as we went, and chatting to friendly neighbours. We also visited Te Puna Quarry, which is now a park with walking tracks, native and specialist plants, including many beautiful orchids, outdoor sculptures and beautiful views. There were also lots of birds and butterflies: they have a hatchery for Monarch butterflies, and grow plenty of their food plants. Another visit was to a wood-carver who makes extraordinary sculptures of everyday things in wood. They are so detailed and realistic that we were completely taken in at first by the bathing togs and towel hanging on the wall outside the studio. Sadly we couldn’t take photos.
On the Sunday there was a family wedding in Auckland, so we were driven up there for the final stage of our holiday, with another Hartles family, Alan and Rachel.