Happy New Year from the Future

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Well, I’d better get used to starting to type out 08 instead of 07, since the new year is now upon us. As I write this, I’ve already spent an entire day in 2008, and am indeed looking forward to getting to bed and resting, as tomorrow it’s back on the bike for a tough slog up a very long hill up to 500m to get to Rotorua. Luckily, I don’t have to stress too much about it, as I’ve already booked accommodations, as well as deciding to spend 3 nights in Rotorua, since it is basically one of the major tourist locations, and a center of sorts for Maori culture, which I’d like to learn a bit more about. However, this post isn’t about tomorrow, even though it comes to you from the future 🙂 Read on about my day off in Tauranga, as well as my New Years experience in this charming city.

So, New Years Eve, what to do…? Well, since I was staying as a guest at a house in Tauranga, I figured a house party was out of the question. Not for lack of space or music, or alcohol, but really, I knew no one around here anyway, so I figured I’d just tag along with Cynthia and Mike to the downtown area after supper, then just wander off and explore on my own. I’d already been told that across the bay in Mount Maunganui was where the real action happens at new years. Hordes of younger Kiwis flock there and get into all sorts of trouble. So much so that the Police erect special temporary holding pens for them when they get out of control.

This year was a slightly slower year, with only a little over 350 arrests all told over there I think! They’ve cracked down a lot as in years past there have been riots, and a lot of violence. Sounds like a cool place to ring in the New Year doesn’t it? Well, the crowds for the live music over there were the biggest ever, but there was limited violence. Either way, I opted to stay on the tamer side of the bay. There was still a good number of bars available for me to visit, with a slightly older demographic, although no less enthusiastic. I checked out a few bars and had some delicious dark beers on my rounds. Normally, you can drink in public in NZ, but here, from Dec. 26th to Jan. 5th, there is a liquor ban. The bar I ended at for New Years was a place called the Cornerstone Pub, and had a live band, and wouldn’t you know it, at minutes to midnight, they busted out “The Final Countdown” by Europe. I was a bit homesick for Rob at that moment. Mainly because I had no one to share this with, and was a bit of a loner in the corner. Regardless, at midnight, there were still plenty of people willing to wish me a Happy New Year.

After the countdown, and finishing my beer, I made my way back to my temporary home, and was in bed by 1am. Next morning, I got up and started a load of laundry and going through all my stuff again. I was then off to Mount Maunganui to check out that side of the bay, and scale the namesake peak over there. Nothing too big though, only 252m. Just a nice New Years hike. To get there, I biked the 10k over, without a fully laden bike. What a difference. I’ve definitely gotten stronger legs now for the hills. Thank goodness. The hike up was magnificent, and everything I hoped for in order to welcome new year. And no, I made no resolutions, apart from biking more hills, with more wind and rain 😉

At the top, I hung around for about a half hour, checking out the paragliders, and fine views from the top. I wrote out a postcard for Jody as well, and just generally relaxed in the sun. After a while, I headed back down via a different, cooler trail which has exposed cliff sections. Way more fun, and still with good views. This lead down to Maunganui Beach, which is the supposed surfing capital of NZ, and where they are working on a large artificial reef project. The waves weren’t very high today though, so no big pro surfers there for me to snap pictures of. Bummer. It was still nice to just saunter along at a snails pace to try and truly take a rest day. On my walk, I bumped into none other than my Dutch friend Ralph, who was basically doing the same as me, and had in fact been on top of the summit at exactly the same time as me, but we didn’t bump into each other. Crazy, eh? I guess I’ll never shake him!

We both decided a New Years Day beer was in order, and cycled back across to Tauranga, and the Crown and the Badger for a couple pints of Speights Dark. It was a great day for a patio beer. Ironically, he had also been at the same bar I had been at the night before. We’re also both heading to Rotorua tomorrow, although he’s camping, and I’ve got a hostel booked for 3 nights. However, I’m sure we’ll see each other. We opted not to try and rendezvous for the bike tomorrow, as with the extreme hill action coming up, I think he’d rather bike his own, faster, pace than wait for me all day. I’m a bit jealous of him at the moment, as he is taking a full year to do his trip, although he hopes to work as a teacher here during that time as well.

After another quick ride as we searched for Ice Cream and groceries, we split up again, with me returning to the Manion home. Once again, I was spoiled with a great supper to fuel me up for the road. It helps that they are leaving for China for 3 weeks and needed to get rid of some food. I also worked on the bike for a bit, lubing and greasing and checking tensions and pressures and what have you. Had to make sure the ole girl is up for the challenges in the coming weeks. I’ve vowed to keep a closer eye on all the bike workings, as I’ve realized this type of touring really does put a strain on a bike.

Anywho, it’s off to bed now, with visions of long climbs dancing in my head. I wish you all a wonderful and happy new year, and hope that everything comes out the way you want it to for 2008! I’m thinking of you all, and will do my best to keep filling you in on my progress.

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