Here’s a fun fact for you, travelers. For the first time in my life, I live incredibly close to the ocean.
I mean, I’ve seen the ocean. But now it’s a short 40 minute drive away. I can go there on weekends. It’s crazy!
Where did I leave off last? Oh yes. I returned from Taupo Thursday morning and, as soon as I walked in the door, promptly started a load of laundry in preparation for my next trip. I was leaving for Tauranga tomorrow afternoon and I had a few things to coordinate.
About a week or so after arriving in NZ, Tinder inserted itself back into my life like an ex boyfriend that just won’t get over it. Which I guess makes me the ex girlfriend that can’t get over it either, but I digress. I’ve noticed a trend in my time Tindering. Apparently all the interesting people live in Tauranga.
This kind of worked for me though. Traveling alone is fine, sometimes even preferred, but it also tends to get lonely doing all these cool things by yourself and not having anyone to share them with. So I set up, not one, not two, but three ‘dates’ with a few guys I’d been chatting with. Between these meet ups and the few other things I had planned, my days would be full and I wouldn’t have to spend them all by myself either.
I had another afternoon check in time so I enjoyed my morning at home before setting off over the Kaimais for Tauranga. The Kaimais are the closest things I have to mountains here. And go figure, they are to the east of me. My directional confusion aside, I arrived in Tauranga at 3:00 on the nose. I met my host, a very nice older chap named Graeme, and spent a bit of time chatting with him before retreating to my room to get settled and coordinate the evening’s events.
That night I was meeting up for drinks with Andy. He’s a music teacher from Texas. But don’t hold that against him. He’s a really nice guy and we have quite a bit in common. We met up at a place called the Pizza Library Co. It’s exactly what it sounds like. All the pizzas are named after books and the decor is comprised of mostly books. They had some very interesting topping combinations, some that sounded amazing, others that sounded weird but were probably good, and others that probably should never be on a pizza. But who am I to judge?
We ordered the Pumpkin Jack, and Andy was cool with having no cheese. We took a seat on the barside next door and had a drink while we waited for our pizza. The place was alive with energy. Bartenders were running back and forth, people were constantly milling about behind us, and music hung thick in the air above half-shouted conversations.
There’s not much to tell about the evening. We had our drinks and ate our pizza (which was quite tasty) and talked for a good two or three hours at Pizza Library until they started to close up. So we went around the corner to another bar called The Hop House. We had one last beer and I ordered some chips for takeaway before calling it a night.
Saturday started with a visit to Wild Earth Organics, another Happy Cow find. It’s a combination grocer/cafe so I stopped in for breakfast and also to see if they had any vegan goodies I could stock up on while I was there. I savored the cashew cheese on my pizza (yes, pizza for breakfast) and was thrilled to find nutritional yeast and loose leaf chai. It was expensive as but totally worth it.
From there I made the half hour drive north to the Katikati Bird Gardens. This is the second bird related activity I’ve done in New Zealand. Mom and I visited a reserve called Nga Manu during our visit. I just kind of like birds. Places with copious amounts of birds in residence always offer you the choice to buy a bag of bird food. And I can never really say no to this for a couple reasons. One, I love Mary Poppins, and two, who doesn’t love feeding the birds?
The weather had been a bit shit last night and had carried over into Saturday. Gray clouds covered most of the sky, with only a few patches of blue to be seen here and there. The wind was so ferocious that the woman at the cafe warned me to watch out for flying branches while I was walking around. I thanked her for the warning, took my bag of bird feed and stepped outside.
I was instantly greeted by a flock of birds well conditioned to think anyone that walks out of the cafe is going to have food, which the majority of the time is probably true. There were ducks, chickens, a few doves fluttering around overhead and a couple of peacocks waddling and strutting excitedly towards me. None of them were shy. They were practically standing on my feet trying to get a few pellets to themselves.
When the birds started pecking at each other as well as the food, I moved on into the bush to see what other feathered friends would be waiting for me to serve them a quick bite. I was accosted again once I came to the rose garden a whole minute later. The amazing thing about most bird sanctuaries like these is that birds just keep coming and coming. You’re amazed at where they all came from!
The feeling of being in an Alfred Hitchcock movie (you know the one I’m talking about) lingered in the back of my mind as I picked my way through the garden. The pathways were not clearly marked and there no real references around that helped my map make any sense. So I just chose paths at random to follow. There always seemed to be a chicken or duck not far away, and occasionally I would wander by an aviary housing some exotic bird.
I always have mixed feelings about places like the bird garden, especially when it comes to birds. Obviously it’s hard to showcase different kinds of birds without them being in a cage. But birds should also be, you know, flying. It’s kinda their thing. I guess I always just hope places lean more towards being a rescue/sanctuary than they are a zoo. (Though some zoos I’m sure are helping in conservation efforts. It’s a complicated issue.)
(The Ninja peacock and another fuzzy friend that kept me company as I had my drink.)
After I’d walked most of the park and was ninja attacked by a peacock while enjoying a ginger beer, I drove back home for some lunch before meeting up with date number two. We met at the Mount, the landmark Tauranga is probably best known for. The weather was moving from bad to worse, but having no better ideas, Henry and I took a walk around the Mount in the rain. It should be noted that I was wearing Converse and that those are terrible shoes to wear in the rain.
Henry works for a dinner theater company, and he’s British, and both of these things were very apparent upon meeting him. He was nice, don’t get me wrong, but the conversation didn’t always flow back and forth like I’m used to. Off and on it was like he was delivering mini one man shows. To be fair they usually made me chuckle, but anyone who knows any theater people will understand that it’s not always fun and games.
So we took our walk around the Mount, where I stated just how amazing it was to me to be this close to the ocean. We were both sufficiently wet when we completed the circuit so we stopped and got a drink at the Coffee Club across the street. Unwittingly, we stayed almost an hour past closing, so the conversation was improving. I still had some time to kill before meeting back up with Andy so we switched to more adult beverages.
Here we spent another hour or so chatting before crossing the street for a spontaneous sushi fix. I had been craving it the past few days. My flatmate was nice enough to help me make some at home before I’d left, but I guess the craving hadn’t passed yet. After our meal we walked back to our cars and said our goodbyes.
I picked up Andy a little while later and we went to a bar that had a whole 12 beers on tap! Wooooah. (I miss you Mayor of Old Town.) The bar had this wall covered in what were essentially specs sheets for a bunch of different beers. We both spent some time looking it over and wishing the light when a bit higher so we could see the rest of them, then took a seat by the window.
The conversation started of as standard bar talk but then got really deep really fast for two people who had only known each other for a day. I liked it though; being comfortable enough to be that open with someone you just met is always kind of a good sign for me. When I’d finished my beer and Andy finished his second, we called it a night and I dropped him back home.
The next day was my most stress-inducing date. I was meeting up with the guy to hike a gorge. When I told my flatmate about climbing a gorge with a guy I’d never met his first reaction was to tell me that didn’t seem smart and could be dangerous. He never actually got to say as much because I guessed what he was going to say before he said it and said it myself. Which was the first time the thought had occurred to me and afterwards I became very paranoid. I considered calling it off but instead coordinated with my flatmate a plan that would hopefully ensure I didn’t disappear in some gorge.
First I had to find said gorge. I mean, I found the gorge, they’re kind of hard to miss. But Google was not forthcoming about the location of the car park. Peter and I had to exchange a few calls and texts before I finally realized I hadn’t driven far enough down the highway. When I got there, I located him and his uncle’s dog, Ruby. She’s this gorgeous Alaskan Malamute and got all kinds of compliments on our walk.
I could tell only a few minutes into the walk that Peter was a little on the shy side. Which is fine. In the end he did kind of do most of the talking, which I was cool with. I like to listen. Plus I wasn’t in the most talkative mood for whatever reason. From my listening I gathered that we have a fair bit in common. Also, at one point on the hike we had to walk through this old railway tunnel, which made me feel like I was facing the long dark of Moria and making a four day journey to the other side, but it was pretty cool to walk through.
Roughly three hours later we made it back to the car park. We said a rather awkward goodbye, the kind where neither of you is 100% sure if you should hug or not (we didn’t). He did text me later that night and there were some things said that aren’t really your business but it was cute, just know that.
From there I drove as quickly as I could back to Tauranga to pick up Andy. He had told me about a sweet local bookstore that we could check out. We were going to try and check it out yesterday but it didn’t work out so we were trying again today. Sadly, it was a Sunday and shit closes early here, especially on a Sunday. We missed out on books so instead we went to the Flying Burrito Brothers and had margaritas instead, or at least I did.
Instead of browsing for books, we talked about them over our late lunch/early dinner. I had my margarita and a tasty chimichanga and I helped Andy finish his bucket of beer (seriously, there was a bucket). All the while I went through my Goodreads to-read list, introducing Andy to knew and wonderful authors to read.
We called it early that night. I dropped Andy off at home after eating and he lent me this book that is way outside my comfort zone, which I have since started. I spent the rest of the night home in my room, reading and watching Doctor Who, before finally rolling over to get some sleep.