I declared this month, March at the Mount, with an achievable goal of spending four of the five weekends in March at home by the beach. We spend so much time traveling around New Zealand that it has been too easy to under appreciate where we live. Here’s my report on the remedy!

Mount Maunganui is a beach town with lots of cafes and surf shops. Footwear is always optional. However, if you are opting for footwear, Havianas are the trendiest way to deck out your feet. Jack and I are now sporting these kinds of jandals (Japanese+sandals) made from recycled tyres.

My March at the Mount campaign was off to a good start as the gang from Auckland came over two sunny, warm weekends in a row. As part of New Zealand’s ocean swim series, we braved the crashing waves for a 2.8km dip. While isolated in the middle of ocean nowhere during the race, visions of great white sharks danced through my head. At one point, the zipper pull from my wet suit grazed my hand. You can imagine this would feel very similar to a shark’s nose or, at least, that it did to me. Luckily, I’ve read what to do about shark attack - “punch it in the nose”. This was my helpful mantra as I nearly choked on salt water while preparing for the fight. My zipper pull turned out not to be a man-eater and I did manage to run through the finish line with all my limbs intact.

The following weekend, firsts were achieved, bets were won and lost, prizes were claimed and personal bests were bested. Maybe I’ve exaggerated the triathlon results a little, but great races were had by all!

Tallulah waited expectantly while we looked for a new flat, as our old room was to soon become a nursery. We found a cute little place on Marine Parade. Marine Parade is kiwicode for “house on the ocean”. It is such a treat to see and hear the ocean from our bedroom window. We also inherited a chocolate lab, who loves to hold his ball. He also appears to like to fetch it, but only if you can figure out how to get it out of his mouth.

Easter weekend brought a four-day weekend and meant it was time for another road trip. We toured East Cape, a very isolated region with arguably the most beautiful beaches and open sky in New Zealand. From there, we got up with the moon and stars to greet the rising sun from the most easterly lighthouse in the world, the East Cape Lighthouse.

There seems to be a lot of competition in this part of the world about which areas get to see the sunrise first. Television crews climbed to the top of Mount Hikirangi in the dark in order to view the first sunrise at the turn of the millennium. We climbed Mount Hikirangi (1733m) in daylight with a Māori family who welcomed us to their hangi.

We wrapped up our East Cape tour with a stop at Tolaga Bay where we encountered Cook’s Cove and NZ’s longest pier at 660m. Cook’s cove was one of Captain Cook’s stops in 1769 and turned out to be a magnificent tramp. It’s hard to believe that after almost 250 years, the beautiful landscape is still mostly deserted!

For those of you who don’t know, Jack takes a lot of pictures. Though I love Jack’s pictures, I can sometimes get impatient with the enduring picture-taking process. However, my fascination with marine mammals is genuine and so Jack and I merged interests and enrolled in a marine photography workshop. A great combination of two of our favourite things! Despite multiple doses of anti-nauseants, I spent the majority of the boat trip reviewing my breakfast while Jack did his best nurse-photographer multitasking to comfort me while capturing amazing photographs of a hammerhead shark and giant albatross.

Eventually the boat came to a rest at Mayor Island, but to my stomach-curdling horror the group voted not to drop anchor in favour of continuing the boat tour and circumnavigating the island through the rough seas. This was a surprisingly fortuitous turn of events, for as we rounded the bend we came across a bunch of playful seals resting in the clear shallows. It turns out snorkelling is a great cure for motion sickness. Swimming with the seals was amazing! They jumped out of the water by our heads and dove all around us under the waves. They grabbed at my fins with their smiling teeth. Or at least, I hope they were smiling. When it was finally time to go back to the boat, the seals even followed us. The instructor wore scuba gear and took underwater pictures!

We changed our clocks back last weekend so you’re 8 hours ahead. Well actually, you’re 16 hours behind, but the fool-proof formula is to add 8 hours and subtract a day. Confusing stuff!