Forget staycation. Let’s go to Tauranga!

Dear reader, I have a confession to make.

I didn’t go anywhere else on my staycation. Apart from a walk down the waterfront followed by a novelty dessert, my trip to Matiu/Somes Island was the only adventure I went on that week. I spent the rest gaming. More on that another time.

So, yeah. No more local adventures to report for now.

However: I had something else lined up that was guaranteed to get me out of the house.

A wedding invitation!

1 squee

Before you get too excited, this post isn’t about the wedding. As much as I’d love to share the wonderful experience, it’s not my story to tell!

I’d been to a few weddings before, but always for family or friends of family. This is the first time I’d been invited to a friend’s one. It was a huge privilege. I booked my flights straight away. There was no question as to whether I’d go – that was, until I came down with a cold within a week of the event. Thankfully I got over the worst of it just in time!

The location? Tauranga. I’d passed through there once as a kid, but never had a chance to explore the place. I booked the Friday off work to make a long weekend of it.

Okay, it’s still not Fiji. But you know what? It’s pretty sweet!

Day 1: I did not think this through

My plans changed shortly after the plane touched down outside Tauranga’s adorably tiny airport. (There’s one gate. This is New Zealand’s sixth-largest city (pending 2018 Census results), and the airport has just one gate!) It was late morning. My plan was to Uber to my motel room in town, drop my stuff, and explore from there. Thankfully I had the sense to ring them and check, because it turned out they’d been full up the night before and couldn’t check me in until 2pm!

So there I was, in a tiny airport terminal, in an unfamiliar place, with a backpack full of nice clothes and three hours to kill. What to do?

Find an outlet and charge my phone. (Why didn’t I do that the night before?) Oh, and buy a snack from the café so I could justify using the space. And while I’m at it, hit up Google Maps to suss out my options.

2 map_satellite
What’s where in Tauranga. (Google maps, 2018)

Well that killed half an hour. But seriously, now what?

I decided on something that probably not many visitors to Tauranga do: Explore on foot. Like pretty much everywhere outside of Wellington, Tauranga is built for driving. But like many Wellingtonians, I don’t drive. And besides, I’m doing a step-count challenge – what better opportunity to bump up my stats?

Fuelled by coffee and cake, I set out for the beach, where I’d planned to go the next morning. Thankfully the weather was good. Actually it was better than good: Tauranga put on a stunner for me! After half an hour of pavement-pounding, I hit the promised golden sand of Mount Maunganui beach.

3 real beach
Look! A real beach!

Let me tell you, this is quite something. We don’t get beaches like this back in Wellington. The main beach at Oriental Bay isn’t even a real beach – they ship in sand and dump it there! Sure, there are real beaches too, but nothing like this.

Camera in hand, I set out on the hour-long (according to Google Maps) trek to the hill at the other end. After two hours, 80 photos, and a detour through the town, I made it. Hey, I’m on holiday, there’s no hurry!

Montage 1/3: “I like long walks on the beach”
Ain’t no Mount high enough

This is the part where I wanted to point out that the “Mount” in Mount Maunganui is redundant, like the N in “PIN Number”. (Maunganui means “big mountain”.) But on reaching the foot of the hill, I discovered that the hill itself has a different name! It’s known as Mauao – “caught in the light of the day”.

5 looks intimidating
Sign me up.

Looks kind of intimidating. The photo doesn’t convey how steep the hill looks from here! So, once again, it’s decision time: To climb or not to climb? I’ve been out for a few hours already, I’m sick, and I’m mildly sleep-deprived from having a blocked nose and therefore not being able to sleep properly. It’s past 2pm and I could just go crash at the motel now. But I might never be here again, and my legs still feel okay.

Here goes.

Montage 2/3: “Mountage”

I made it to the top without incident and set about getting some photos of myself to prove I was there. Easier said than done. As friendly and helpful as the other visitors were… let’s just say they don’t have my eye for photography. (Thanks for trying, Johnny from Auckland!) Rather than ask for a retake, I thanked them, walked away, and asked another stranger to help. At the third attempt, I found a local who managed to photograph me in the light – albeit with my feet in their shadow. Oh well, I can crop that bit out!

7 on top of the mount
Bay of Plenty lives up to its name!

Photos in hand, I returned to base camp and Googled up a route into town. Earlier in the day, I’d Ubered to Wellington Airport, giving Metlink the middle finger for their questionable network changes. Now to rub it in a little. Here at the Mount, I found a bus route that went from my location to within two blocks of the motel! Wanting to travel like a local, I waited at the stop until – lo and behold – the bus turned up right on time! (Take that, Metlink!)

Exhausted but satisfied, I checked into the motel, took a spa bath (ahhhhh!), grabbed some takeaways, and hit the hay.

Oh yes, how was my step count? Well, my inner math-nerd was delighted to find I’d landed on a strobogrammatic number – and nearly double my 10,000 target!

7.5 19061
Turn it upside down and tell me what number you see
Day 2: Wedding bells

Wait, I said I wouldn’t talk about this. Let’s just say I’m still buzzing from the wedding as I write this a week later – it was a truly joyous and special occasion! (To the bride, since I know you’re reading this: Congratulations, and thanks again!)

Day 3: It’s not Oriental Bay, but…

After a late night out, and with a midday flight home, I had a couple of hours to cover the city centre and waterfront. Thankfully, central Tauranga is tiny, so this wasn’t an issue!

I walked from Memorial Park to the northern end of the waterfront, following the coastline where I could. A big chunk of the shoreline is taken over by houses (watch out for sea-level rise, folks!), which meant my route cut through the city centre, saving me from doubling back. Not that there’s much to the CBD, especially on a Sunday morning – it felt much like the northern half of central Wellington in that respect.

I didn’t expect Tauranga’s waterfront to stack up to Wellington’s, and maybe it didn’t, but it was charming in its own way!

Montage 3/3: Waterfront, interrupted

And with that, I wandered to the nearest bus stop and… oops. There were no buses for half an hour, by which time I’d be late for my flight. Come on Tauranga, I thought you had this! Oh well, back to my default state of hating public transport. Thankfully Tauranga has Uber drivers too!

Okay, but what’s in it for me?

Believe it or not, this was my first time staying in another city by myself! I gained a ton of confidence by flying solo, and some great life experience too. There’s a fair bit of stress in being responsible for every aspect of the trip – planning, travelling, unplanning, exploring, replanning. And writing up, of course! But to know I did it all is immensely satisfying.

I also discovered some of the perks of solo travel:

  • Setting my own agenda. With other people in tow, I might have had to compress my schedule, do activities I didn’t want to do (or miss the ones I did), and – heaven forbid – share accommodation!
  • Doing what I feel like with no one to tell me otherwise. Want to go for a crazy long walk? Ate way too much for breakfast and need a nap? No problem!
  • Random interactions with strangers. I had some lovely conversations with locals and visitors that I wouldn’t have if I’d travelled with friends or family.

Okay, let’s not get carried away here. It’s a weekend away within the same country. For me, though, it’s a big deal, and hopefully a stepping stone to something bigger. A huge win after the staycation that wasn’t.

Overall a great experience. A+, would recommend. And the city’s all right, too!

Matiu/Somes Island almost to myself

My plan for Monday was thrown into doubt at 5am when a gust of wind woke me up. At first I thought it was a passing truck, but several “trucks” later it clicked: this isn’t a convoy, it’s just Wellington being Wellington!

In the lead-up to my staycation, I picked out Matiu/Somes Island as my number one place to see, and I’d go on the first tolerable day, weather-wise. Roaring gusts are not what I consider tolerable, especially when there’s a ferry trip involved! Continue reading “Matiu/Somes Island almost to myself”

Eight years on: My Christchurch earthquake story, part 1

On this day, eight years ago, Christchurch, New Zealand was struck by a magnitude 7 earthquake. This disaster, along with the earthquake of February 2011, stand as defining moments in New Zealand’s recent history. Their effects are still being felt today.

Many residents of Christchurch have shared their stories through projects such as Quake Stories, as well as countless news pieces and books. (For a poetic take on the first few years, I can recommend The Villa at the Edge of the Empire by Fiona Farrell.) But there are many stories yet to be told.

Like mine.

Until now.

This is my Christchurch Earthquake story. Well, the start of it. This turned out longer than I expected!

Disclaimer: Human memory is fallible. This happened eight years ago!

Saturday, 4 September 2010. 4:35am.

This date and time are permanently etched in my memory. Like the clock towers in the city that stopped at 4:35, there’s a little clock in my mind that’s stuck on this time, even now. Continue reading “Eight years on: My Christchurch earthquake story, part 1”


A breeze so kindly

Softens a winters grip

Please wait with me

We can take in the sun

– Birds of Tokyo, White Leaves


Today, 1 September, marks the beginning of spring!*^ And it’s an absolute pearler.

Just don’t look at the forecast!

*In the Southern Hemisphere.

^Some may argue that seasons start at the equinox/solstice. They’re wrong. This is my blog, and I say they start on the 1st.

This turn of the calendar came to my attention when a fellow blogger posted about her plans to write 30,000 words this month. (Good luck, Lauren! 🙂) I’m not going to do that. But I would like to take the opportunity to “spring clean” myself a bit. Continue reading “Spring!”

This is your captain speaking…

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard this Sunshine Airways flight to Wellington!

We’ll be taking off to the north and reaching a cruising altitude of 50 feet before making our descent into Wellington.

Our flight time will be 10 minutes, including the safety video and musical interlude. This is assuming you read at an average speed and you don’t go down a Youtube rabbit hole.

The weather at our destination is 10°C and cloudy, with a forecast of four seasons in one day and a chance of broken umbrellas.

We don’t have the budget for a safety video so go watch one of Air New Zealand’s. Stop your music for a minute and listen!

Please read the safety card on the table in front of you, even if you fly with us often. This information is specific to this aircraft.

1 safety card

In case of unexpected turbulence, immediately check GeoNet and post about it on Reddit.

If an emergency were to happen, please Drop, Cover and Hold.

The emergency exit is at the top-right of your screen if you’re on a Windows PC. It’s the little red x. No, you don’t get to go down the slide.

At this time we ask you to switch your electronic devices to flight m– wait, read the rest of this post first!

Thank you for flying Sunshine Airways, and enjoy your flight!

2 mouthed plane noises
[mouthed plane noises]
Oh right. You can put your music back on now.

Ahh, isn’t that relaxing?




Our cabin crew will be offering a choice of a Cookie Time cookie or –


3 cookie


4 crumbs

Oh… kay. Would you like a cup of tea, sir? Oh, sorry, too late, we’re starting our descent already! Told you it was a short flight. Here, have some candy.

5 candy
Testing the rest of our fleet for… safety. Yep.

Flight attendants, prepare the cabin for landing. Flight attendants? Oh, wait, we don’t have the budget for those either. Fine, I’ll do it myself.

6 whooosh




Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Wellington! Local time and weather are available on MetService. If the forecast is sunny for the next ten days straight, alert Stuff immediately because this is big news. (Seriously.)

Please remain in your seat until you’ve shared this blog with everyone you know. (Please?)

Thank you for flying Sunshine Airways. We look forward to seeing you again soon!

7 Oh man, not again
Oh man, not again!

Introducing National Mental Health Day

Watch winter melt away

Look for longer days

The sun comes out

Come up from underground

Yellowcard, The Hurt Is Gone


We all need a mental health day sometimes. But what if the whole country could have one at the same time?

Allow me to propose a new public holiday for New Zealand.


Hard Times

I’ve noticed people around me seem a bit down this week. Work colleagues are visibly unhappy, even the usually bubbly ones. My flatmates tell me the situation is the same in their offices. I’ve been way off-colour myself.

This got me thinking: Is there something in the water that’s making the whole town upset? Am I generalising from myself with a heaping dose of confirmation bias? Have I just been unlucky with a small sample size? Or is Wellington just feeling flat right now?

I hit up r/Wellington to take the pulse of the community. The response was overwhelming.

rip my inbox

I got 39 replies in 24 hours. Not quite r/AskReddit levels of “RIP my inbox”, but strong for a modest community like ours.

Many culprits were suggested for the citywide gloom. Many workplaces were complained about. We even considered calling in Wellington Paranormal. But several commenters pointed to another cause – one that runs wider than any workplace.

SAD city

At 41° south, Wellington doesn’t get a whole lot of sun between May and August. This (somehow or other; reports vary) leads to the well-documented phenomenon known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Not everyone experiences it – some of my colleagues are still delightful rays of sunshine! But it’s common enough that it could plausibly bring down a large proportion of the city’s office workers.

Whatever the cause, mid-to-late August is the worst time of year for it – we’ve suffered for a while, tempers are starting to fray, and the end isn’t quite in sight yet. And as it stands, there’s no public holidays for two months either side. What better time to give everyone a day off?

Holiday spirit

How does one celebrate National Mental Health Day? As the commenter above suggested, it’s simple: Just do whatever you’d do if you took a day off work! Relax, socialise, create – whatever (healthy) activity brings you joy and gets you ready to face the world again.

And while you’re doing that, spare a thought for those of us for whom “mental health” means so much more. A National Mental Health Day would be the perfect conversation starter for New Zealand’s mental health crisis.

Awareness events come and go, websites are easily forgotten, but a public holiday would give the issue a permanent place in our consciousness.

Tell me you’re not thinking about Labour Day already. It’s still two months away! We could give mental health the same recognition as the 40-hour work week. Wouldn’t that be amazing?


New Zealand needs a National Mental Health Day.

To bridge that pesky gap between public holidays.

To blunt the impact of SAD.

To recharge for the final stretch of winter.

And to get people talking about mental health.

Let’s make this happen, New Zealand!


And in the meantime, fellow kiwis: Hang on till the hurt (of SAD) is gone.

Change comes for you

Even if you’re hiding out

So wake to this truth

And maybe you’ll believe me now