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2024 - January - Day 14 - Mount Maunganui

It felt like any other day when we woke up after a lovely night’s sleep in a very comfortable bed in our dear little apartment. But it wasn’t going to turn out like the day we had planned or expected. They say that Life can throw up surprises or in some cases lemons but later this morning we were going to have extraordinarily and statistically unlikely but good event that would change the rest of the day for us.


I enjoyed being able to make some porridge again for breakfast. We were in no hurry and whilst Karen sorted out some more clothes washing, I undertook some male grooming in cutting my hair and trimming my beard.


Just after 9am we set off for the short drive to Mount Maunganui. We had been here before on our last visit and really liked the place but had then been pressed for time and so had only been able to spend an hour here before needing to carry on with our drive for the day. This is why we had scheduled 2 nights here this time. Karen initially could not remember anything about the place or even remember being here at all.


We found a car park spot (free again) and set off for a walk around the base of the Mountain which was surrounded by the sea on three sides. Still nothing triggered Karen’s memory who I started to call ‘Dory’ even when we came to a spot where we had taken photos before. We stopped so that I could show her the photos and that we were standing in the exact same spot from 4 years previous and then it all suddenly came back to her. It reminded me of that film 50 First Dates. I might bring her back here again tomorrow, so that’s it all new again


The walk around the base was just under 3k long, it was a lovely walk with beautiful views at every turn. At almost the halfway point around the back of the mountain, Karen suddenly shouted out very loud ‘I don’t believe it”. Confused I turned to see whatever she was on about but she had stopped walking and had an incredulous look on her face. Then I realised walking round towards us in the opposite direction were Brian & Tina – a couple we had met on the Adriatic cruise some 16 months ago.


They couldn’t believe it either and for a moment we were all almost speechless before there were several hugs and handshakes. On the last night of that cruise, we had intended to swap contact details but had not managed to find each to do so. We learnt they had tried to find us with no success. I had tried to find them on the internet but didn’t know their surname which somewhat curtailed that search. On our drive to Tauranga yesterday I had reminded Karen that I thought they had lived in this region of New Zealand and wouldn’t it be funny if we bumped into them. However, with the population of Tauranga being 160000 so it would be very unlikely.


It seems they do this walk twice a week, but never usually on a Tuesday and normally later in the day. What are the chances? Even more bizarrely after talking we soon realised we had all been in Tampa on the same day back in November and could have bumped into each then as well.


We abandoned our walk and returned to a café where we sat for a lovely couple of hours in the sun chatting away with them. They are just a lovely normal couple who are retired and love travelling and we just hit it off again straight away. After exchanging names and contact details this time we gratefully accepted an invitation to join them for a meal at their house later in the day. Then just to make it more surreal it seems that the apartment we were staying was less than ½ mile from their house. We just shook our heads in disbelief it almost like it was meant to me.


After letting them go to get on with their day we thought we would go back to the base walk around the mountain and restart it again but in the opposite direction. We got almost to where we had stopped earlier before turning round again. It was great timing again as we made it back to The Coffee Shop that we had earmarked for lunch just before a short sharp isolated shower came down.


We both ordered a Caesar Salad which were flipping lovely as we recalled from having at this chain of café previously. We were still shaking our heads in amazement at our random meeting with Brian & Tina.


Then after a drive along Marine Parade looking at the houses on what was probably their millionaires’ row, we headed to the town centre for a look at their bustling street of shops. We parked and walked along part of it but decided we were at the ‘Magdalen Street’ end before walking back again. Driving to the better end of the street we decided not to stop again as it was mainly cafes and bars all of which looked busy and good. Yet again we decided we really liked this place.


After a quick whizz round the New World supermarket for more fruit we headed back to the apartment by mid-afternoon for a break and Karen to use the washing machine one last time.


Then we headed for a short drive to Brian & Tina’s lovely house they had built themselves with views over Welcome Bay. They had prepared a lovely meal for us and the 4 ½ hours we spent with was full of non stop chatter and laughter. They were gracious and good hosts. It was lovely to be able to just sit and eat outside in the warm evening air. We shared future holiday plans and hoped that our paths may cross again. They will be in Europe on another cruise and train trip in September and they may visit the UK at the end of that.  I invited them to read this blog to follow our travels.


There also able to answer many questions we had accrued about New Zealand such as the name of a tree we had seen (Norfolk Fern – ironically) and where do normal people buy clothes (the answer was Target of all places, not that we have seen one). It seems in this part of NZ the temperature never drops below 10c in the winter. Brian wears shorts all year round and does not own a coat. That sounds like a perfect climate to me.


Their house is below a steep hill. This time last year they had just gone to bed when they heard a large ‘whooshing’ noise. Part of the hill behind them had collapsed and pushed their next-door neighbour but one’s house, off its foundations and into the road. Brian & Tina had to rescue the 5 children trapped inside. Many cars were wrecked but fortunately nobody was hurt. They were featured on the TV and the NZ PM paid a visit to see the damage caused. The house has since been demolished.


After a short walk with them we headed back to the apartment not wanting to outstay our welcome, where we caught up with some holiday admin.


It had been a lovely but unexpected day but one we had needed. It has felt like a ‘normal’ day rather one spent travelling or on holiday as such.

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