Since the Around Alone fleet arrived in New Zealand, the skippers have slowly fallen under the spell of this wonderful area.
It is an adventurers paradise inhabited by warm and caring people. It is also an area steeped in legend.
This afternoon the skippers and shore teams will receive a pohiri, an official Maori welcome by the Tangata Whenua (local Maori tribes). There will be a hangi, a feast of meats, vegetables and potatoes cooked in an underground pit in the traditional Maori manner. The skippers will also be greeted with a hongi, a traditional means of welcoming special guests where noses are pressed against noses in a greeting similar to a handshake. It's one of the highlights of the stopover and with todays warm sunshine and clear skies it's sure to be a memorable afternoon.
Part of the legend and attraction of Tauranga is the imposing presence of Mount Maunganui which stands at the entrance to Tauranga harbor. This mount is the first sight of Tauranga all the skippers have seen as they sailed down the coast towards the finish, and it will be the last land they see as they set off for Cape Horn. It's a beautiful mountain with a spectacular walk around the base. A few weeks ago the pohutakawa trees were in full bloom and the base of the mount looked as if it was on fire. Tragically the mount did catch fire a few weeks later and blazed through a day and a night until firefighters finally snuffed out the last flame. There is one person who lives in Mount Maunganui for whom the mount has been an ongoing fascination. He recently wrote a book entitled Mauao, about Mount Maunganui. and it's to him I owe the story about the legend of the mount. I thank Christopher Swart for his beautiful book and for writing about the legend of Mount Maunganui. Here is The Legend of Mauao.
"Maori legend tells the tale of three mountains in the foothills of the Kaimai range. One of these mountains, the beautiful Puwhenua, was in love with the mighty Otanewainuku who stood majestically near by. However another mountain, who had no name, was also in love with Puwhenua and he was keen to show his love. But when she asked his name, he had to confess to having none. On hearing this she rejected him in favor of Otanewainuku.
In his deep despair he approached the Patupaiarehe, fairy folk, and asked them to cast him into the sea. During the night, for the Patupaiarehe can only work under the protection of darkness, they dragged him through the forests and foothills down towards the sea. His deep trail scarred the land forever, forming the Waimapu Valley and The Awanui, Tauranga harbour.
The fairy folk worked hard but as dawn broke and the first rays of light filled the sky their task was not complete. There the Patupaiarehe had to abandon the mountain. He was left, where he now stands, forever alone.
The people named him "Mauao"
which means "trapped by the light."
Mount Maunganui will be the first thing Alan Paris will see later today as he approaches the finish in Tauranga. At noon local time today (Tuesday) BTC Velocity was 150 miles from the finish sailing at 8 knots. The conditions were good and Alan Paris has give an ETA of 13:00 local time on Wednesday. Once BTC Velocity has crossed the finish line Leg 3 will finally be over and we can start to look forward to leg 4 which starts at the end of next week.