As I said in my last post, CJ and I headed down to Tauranga and the Mount Maunganui area for a day trip. We’d originally planned to stay with friends in Matamata but when that fell through we decided to head down anyway. With a two hour drive, it’s entirely doable to make it a day trip and so a day trip it was!
The Tauranga/Mount Maunganui area is a place that is immensely special to me. My grandparents moved down there at the start of my teen years so it was a frequent day or overnight trip for my family and I. Even when the memories are bittersweet, like the time that our big crazy extended family gathered down there to scatter our grandparents’ ashes, they are still part of a place that means a heck of a lot to me.
Driving over the Kaimais I passed the turn-off for McLaren Falls and Marshalls Animal Park – both places that we’d frequently visit on our way to and from visiting our grandparents. Upon driving into the outer suburbs of Tauranga we passed the pub where I had stopped before arriving for one of my grandparents’ funerals. Partially because I needed some “dutch courage” but also partially because I really needed to pee. I laughed to myself, remembering that I’d left my sister and her boyfriend in the car while I had a drink because they were underage. Continuing through Otumoetai, I saw the front wall of my grandparents’ place that used to work as a seat, a hurdle, a balance beam. I saw the restaurant where my grandma struggled to get out the bucket seat of my Honda Integra.
Saltwater Pools c. 2008
We passed the park where we scattered their ashes; the same park where my grandmother (who walked only with the assistance of a cane) told me that she’d join in on my cartwheels if only she wasn’t wearing a dress. We drove over the Tauranga Harbour Bridge and I saw the restaurant where my aunt fell off her chair and managed to bring down half the curtain with her. And finally, pulling up to the Mount, I got to see the mountain and the beach that make up so many of my memories.
Mum splashing in Pilot Bay c. 2011
Memories of walking around the base of the Mount and then deciding at the last minute to take the very steep track. Memories of “running away” down here one new year with my friends to avoid my ex’s stalkerish new girlfriend, getting sunburnt but enjoying freedom in the way that sixteen year olds can. Memories of building castles in the sand. Memories of the abysmal holiday I had down here with an ex that ended up with me dropping him at a South Auckland train station and telling him to catch a train home because I couldn’t stand being in the car with him a moment longer – we both lived in West Auckland, so it was a two-train, two hour journey home. Memories of swimming in the salt-water hot pools. Memories of the last trip I took down here with my mother, visiting the Little Big Markets and just lazing in the sun at Pilot Bay. Memories of visiting for the first time with my now husband. SO many memories.
Papa M and I on Mount Maunganui Beach c. 2011
It got me to thinking – this place that is not my home yet feels so much like home to me. While we love the Bay of Plenty and especially this area, with my grandparents gone we definitely don’t visit as much. It will never be home for CJ in the same way that it is home for me. Currently we don’t have a holiday destination that we repeatedly visit. Giving him new experiences is really important to us and exploring the world is one of our goals, but there’s something to be said for a place that is comfortable and embraces you every time you arrive.
I’m just not sure where that would be.