Climbing, Collapsing and Crying in Mount Maunganui

Mount Maunganui beach

After spending some time in Raglan, on the west coast of the North Island, and falling in love with it within seconds of arriving, I couldn’t wait to explore more of New Zealand’s beach towns. Mount Maunganui, located in the Bay of Plenty on the east coast of the country, looked absolutely gorgeous from the photos I’d seen online — I couldn’t wait to relax on the white sand beaches!

We arrived on yet another spectacularly sunny day. After hearing about how terrible the weather was in New Zealand for months before getting here, I was refusing to believe it ever rained here — we’d had incredible clear skies and not a drop of rain during the two weeks we’d been here.

Not wanting to waste the weather, we decided to spend our first day hiking to the top of Mount Maunganui, the extinct volcano that dominates the landscape in this area. I was loving all the walking I’d been doing in New Zealand and wasn’t going to complain about another opportunity to exercise my legs.

My big hike, the Tongariro Crossing, was looming. In under a week, I’d be attempting the hardest physical challenge I’d ever put my body through. I would be walking 25 km and, prior to arriving in New Zealand, I’d never walked more than 6.

My thoughts were consumed by the challenge that lay ahead and then —

Mount Maunganui beach

I don’t know what happened.

One second I was fine, bounding happily next to Dave, talking about how I was enjoying my new love of walking and then the next second my ankle had given way and I was sprawled across the road, gasping in agony.

I still had a weak ankle from my fall in Cambodia three months before this. I’d badly sprained my ankle falling off a kerb in Sihanoukville and had been unable to walk on it for over a month. It still hadn’t completely healed and was tender in certain positions but the pain had mostly gone.

If I had just damaged my ankle again in the exact same way then I’d be right back to square one.

Most devastatingly of all, I would not be hiking the Tongariro Crossing in 5 days time.

As I clutched at my ankle, refusing to cry yet struggling not to scream, Dave ran over and dragged me to the side of the road before pulling me to my feet. He’d seen this happen before and knew that if he didn’t do anything I’d be lying in the road all day. I tried to put weight on my ankle, groaning in agony as soon as I moved it.

This didn’t look good.

I didn’t want to ruin Dave’s walk to the top so I insisted that was fine, that I’d just head back to the car and wait for them there, that my ankle was getting so much better already.

It wasn’t. 

I waited until they were out of sight before shuffling behind a sign and bursting into tears. I was in so much pain. My ankle was throbbing. I couldn’t put any weight on it. We’d only managed to walk for five minutes from where we’d parked the car but it took me over half an hour to hobble back.

Mount Maunganui beach

I felt my dream of hiking the Tongariro Crossing slipping from my grasp.

This was everything I’d spent the past six months working towards, it was the reason for my hiking evolution over my last few posts. My entire focus had been on improving my fitness and turning myself into a hiker. I’d spent hundreds of pounds on specialist hiking gear, I’d spent hours comparing hiking boots online. I’d finally felt like I would be able to rock all the hikes we had planned in New Zealand and now this had happened.

I was completely and utterly devastated.

Easing myself into the car, I spent the next couple of hours looking up how to treat a sprained ankle on my phone and utilising my photographic memory by memorising every word of entire first chapter of the New Zealand Lonely Planet. Dave was sure to be astounded at my historical and cultural knowledge of the, ahem, land of the long white cloud.

Just wait until he saw my haka.

Memorising Maori phrases and learning facts about the All Blacks rugby team helped to keep my mind off the excruciating pain shooting through my ankle but I still couldn’t stop myself from wallowing in self-pity. I could think only of all our hikes we had planned — it wasn’t just the Tongariro Crossing, it was the Queen Charlotte Track, it was the Lake Waikaremoana hike, it was walking on a glacier for the very first time.

Was I destined to spend the next two months in New Zealand lying in bed, unable to take part in all the amazing activities I had arranged?

Quickly wiping away my tears when I spotted Dave strolling back to the car, I gingerly placed my foot back on the floor of the car and arranged my face into what I hoped was a bright smile rather than an sorrow-filled grimace.

“Hi, guys! How was the walk? Yeah, my foot’s actually a lot better now! It’s nowhere near as bad as before, I’m pretty certain it’ll be fine in a few days”

Positive mental attitude and all that.

Car sunset in Mount Maunganui

Sadly, the rest of my time in Mount Maunganui was spent recovering in bed. It was tough to keep up the pretence that my ankle was improving when it felt like it was getting worse but I knew that if Dave knew how bad it was he’d refuse to let me anywhere near the Tongariro Crossing. I wasn’t going to say anything to him until the day before the walk — and hopefully by that point my ankle would have healed enough for me to walk on it without pain.

I can be incredibly stubborn when I set my mind on something and I knew that I was going to attempt the Crossing, injured ankle or not.

I wasn’t ready to give up on my dreams yet.

I’m upset I didn’t get to explore more of Mount Maunganui. Judging by the boys’ photos, it looks like somewhere I’d love and an amazing place to spend a summer. There’s gorgeous white sand beaches, the views from the top of Mount Maunganui look stunning, there are paragliders and surfers everywhere and plenty of pubs and cafes to chill out and relax in.

And as for my ankle?

The next five days were going to be crucial.

About the author

Lauren Juliff

Lauren Juliff is a published author and travel expert who founded Never Ending Footsteps in 2011. She has spent over 12 years travelling the world, sharing in-depth advice from more than 100 countries across six continents.

Lauren's travel advice has been featured in publications like the BBC, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Cosmopolitan, and her work is read by 200,000 readers each month. Her travel memoir can be found in bookstores across the planet.


  1. Oh no! I wonder what went wrong. I hope you get better in time for Tongariro. The Mount is not a bad place to recuperate. Ric and I spent a night at Pacific Coast when we arrived in the Mount. It was much needed too, very bad experience moving into a place prior. It’s a great hostel.

    • May 9, 2013

      Thanks, Bobbi! It seemed like a wonderful place from the little I saw of it. I’ll have to come back another time! :-)

  2. Scarlett
    May 8, 2013

    Ohhhh Lauren you poor thing!! I hope it got better! xx

    • May 9, 2013

      Thank you!! And yes, I was pretty fed up with my clumsiness by this point!

  3. I’m impressed that you managed to hide the pain – not sure I could have done it! Fingers crossed it improved quickly!!

    • May 9, 2013

      Yeah, it was pretty tough! I think they knew I was in a little bit of pain but didn’t know quite how bad it was. Had they seen me walking they would have instantly known!

  4. Aww- how did you manage to hide the pain? Get well soon :-)

    • May 21, 2013

      Badly! :-). I just tried not to use my ankle and whenever we walked anywhere I’d walk behind the boys so they wouldn’t see the pain I was in!

      Thank you!

  5. Stephanie
    May 12, 2013

    Oh gosh! I can totally empathise with you! When I had dengue I didn’t want to be seen as a burden so I tried my best to party. Resting is just so frustrating!
    I hope that your ankle is on the mend now :)

    • May 21, 2013

      I can’t even imagine trying to party while having dengue! It sounds horrible :-(. And thank you! I hope your dengue is all cleared up! :-)

  6. May 15, 2013

    No fair ending on a cliffhanger like that! :)

    I think, in spite of all the things I do that are actually risky, most of my injuries have come when I was just walking along minding my own business. Sometimes, the ground is just out to get you.

    • May 21, 2013

      Heh! I know, I’m the same! I swear it’s impossible for me to walk anywhere without tripping over at some point.

  7. This sucks so bad! Being sick or injured on the road is such a devestating experience because you just think of all that time you’re wasting and missing out on the things you could be doing. At least you know that Mount Maunganui will be there in the future for you to accomplish, I guess you can let that be your goal for now, to go back!

  8. May 20, 2013

    Oh no, that is devastating. I know too well how disappoiting it can be not to do a hike you have been preparing for it for months. I got AMS during the Everest Base Camp trek. It hit me one day before I was supposed to reach base camp and after 6 days of hiking, but I couldn’t continue. I was gutted, but there was nothing I could have done. I hope that you recovered in time to do the hike. Can’t wait to read about it!

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