The drive from Lake Tekapo to Akaroa was relatively uneventful other than the truck that had tipped over on the super windy road and caused a minor traffic jam. Thankfully the driver looked unscathed. These roads in New Zealand … they are something else. Akaroa is on the Banks Peninsula which are some old volcanoes that first emerged as an island thrust out of the sea by volcanic eruptions estimated to have started between 10 and 15 million years ago.
It also has a unique French flair with many French street names and lots of French flags. Why you ask? Well, Susanne and I were both wondering about this as we were driving the very windy road. According NZHistory:
“Canterbury’s oldest town, Akaroa was founded in August 1840 by French settlers. It has been suggested that French interest in New Zealand speeded up Britain’s decision to annex New Zealand. By the time French settlers arrived, the Treaty of Waitangi between the British Crown and Māori chiefs had been signed.”
So there you have it. Now you know. We got to be in little Kiwi France. J’ai le cul bordé de nouilles!
We had rented a nice little 2-1 bach within walking distance of downtown … not there is much that isn’t within walking distance of downtown in Akaroa. We got to the Airbnb and there was no key in the lock box. Just then, the cleaning lady showed up and said it hadn’t been cleaned yet. Ugh.
We told her about the key and we rooted about for a while and then realized the door was open and the key was on the table. It was raining, so we couldn’t really go for a hike. Bummer. We headed downtown and decided to get some lunch and have a glass of wine at the HarBar. Cute name and great view. Susanne had some tacos and I had some fish and chips.
After a nice lunch, we headed back to the place to unload our mountains of stuff. It had become quite discombobulated from the hut-to-hut trip and our waning desire to deal with it any more. While muttering under our breath, we unloaded the car and just threw it into a big pile on the floor and declared that our work was done. I think we both have hit the wall on nomading. It has been fun, but the constant packing up and unpacking gets a wee bit wearing.
Children’s Bay: After concluding that we were both feeling lazy, we had coffee and lounged and stared at our stuff for a while before heading out for a hike. Susanne had scoped out a pretty easy one called Children’s Bay which was about an 8 km loop without too much climbing. As we were walking toward the trailhead, we saw a couple of people out on their SUPs with their dog. I just think that is the coolest thing.
So do you hear me Rogue?? (our friends’ puppy) Time to start practicing!!!!!
The first part of the hike climbed up through some bush and then into some cow paddocks. Common theme on a lot of hikes here. The views of the bay were amazing as you could look around at all the coves and inlets surrounded by the green/blue water. Someone has put up a bunch of metal sculptures around the hike as well that are really cool.
Susanne had read that the trail was a bit overgrown and there was a bunch of stinging nettles along it. For most of it, we kept our eyes out but didn’t see any. After looping around to the moa sculpture, the trail hit the overgrown part and the nettle was everywhere. Thankfully we did not touch it. Although there are not many nasty bugs and beasts here, many of the plants seem to have a bad attitude—thorns and nettles abound. After navigating the nettles, we dropped down to the beach and made our way back. All in all, it was a very nice hike with great views, but I would skip the loop-through-the-nettles section next time.
Sufferfest: That afternoon, I was feeling like I need to burn off some energy and wanted to see what the bike riding was like, so I headed out on the bike. I thought I would ride up the road toward Flea Bay to get a good view along the way. It only went one way … up. The beginning was about an 8% grade and then it just kept getting steeper and steeper and steeper. I rounded a switchback and the ensuing grade was over 30%. I was having a hard time not inadvertently doing a wheelie and flipping over backward, much less keeping any forward momentum. I will confess I had to stop a number of times. I did make it up the worst of the climb and got some amazing views. In 2 miles it climbed over 1600′ and about 1/4 of a mile was flat. Do the math. Ouch. Descending was even a bit nerve racking, but it was fun nonetheless … in a suffering kind of way.
Kayaking Flea Bay: We signed up for a half-day kayaking trip in Flea Bay which is an amazing inlet full of various sea and bird critters. It is privately owned, but like so many other places, they work pretty closely with Department of Conservation to keep access available and do some conservation work. They have a pretty good sized blue penguin colony there as well.
We walked down to the kayak shop where they would drive up and over to the bay on the same road I had ridden the other day. Viola checked us in. She was from the Czech Republic, had lived in New Zealand for quite a while and was truly hard core. White water rafting, kayaking, hunting, fishing, hiking, mountain climbing. She looked tough as nails. And she liked to talk.
We piled into the van and headed out. There were just 4 of us on the ride over—two other women from Wellington. As we were driving up the insanely steep road, I mentioned to Viola that I had ridden up the day before. She said “Why would someone subject themselves to something like that?” This coming from a seriously hardcore outdoor person. Maybe I do have a screw or two loose.
Viola blabbed the entire way while driving along at a good clip on this very narrow windy road with a substantial drop off. Clearly she had done this before. We got to the kayaking place and there were a lot of people on the tour. Bummer. It took quite a while to get the gear all sorted with so many people. Viola said they may split the group. It was clear that most had never been in a kayak before.
We got the briefing and finally pushed off the beach. They didn’t end up splitting us up because I think Susanne and I were the only ones that had the ability to go outside the bay and they didn’t want to leave such a big group with one guide. Oh well. We paddled along the east shore … well, it was more floating with the occasional paddle. The pace was leisurely, to say the least.
We saw some molting blue penguins and fur seals. Neato! The whole bay is gorgeous. We got out near the mouth of the bay where you have a chance to see Hector’s dolphins and sure enough about 5 of them swam right by us. I guess they are the smallest dolphins in the world and they are endemic to New Zealand. The fur seals had just had their pups so there we a bunch of very tiny, very cute babies hanging out on the rocks. We circled the bay and headed back to the beach. It wasn’t much of a work out, but the scenery was definitely worth the effort.
After being bitten by a few sand flies and checking out the baby penguins in their boxes, we piled in the van and listened to Viola tell crazy stories all the way back to Akaroa. It would have been nice to be with a bit more capable and smaller group, but we had a good time. Definitely worth the money and effort.
The next day we were both feeling, as my mom would say, “very logy.” Plus the weather was starting to turn to poo. There was a big cyclone hitting the North Island and it was projected to make it’s way down to us with a lot of rain. We decided to go back to the Children’s Bay area and do another walk in the same area and then spend the day packing up and being lazy. We got about halfway out and it started to rain and look pretty threatening, so we turned around and headed back. We decided to go out to dinner so we didn’t have to grocery shop and then lug a bunch of leftover food up to Motueka. We made a booking at Aihe which was just a short walk from the place.
The food was pretty good, although Susanne’s shrimp were just ok. I ordered a mousse for desert that was truly awesome. That was the highlight for me. To top off the dinner we splurged and each ordered an Oban whiskey. Not only was it Valentine’s day, but it was kind of the end of a big phase of our journey. Next up was looking for a permanent place to live in the Nelson Bays area.
That night the rain started. And the wind. The reports out of Auckland and Hawkes Bay were really bad. Bridges were being washed out and houses swept down hillsides. Both of us did not sleep well thinking about the drive out of Akaroa on the narrow windy road in a cyclone.
Finally at about 4:30 am we just got up. We checked the weather, which wasn’t good, but wasn’t as bad as I had feared. After some coffee we just decided to hit the road before it got worse. The drive out of Banks Peninsula was a bit hairy, but not too bad. Luckily there wasn’t much traffic and I crept along at a very slow pace. Once we cleared the gnarly part, we both breathed a sigh of relief. Although rainy, it was going to be pretty smooth sailing all the way to Motueka.
As we drove over Lewis Pass and to the other side of the mountains, the weather started to clear and the sun even came out. We were both glad we got an early start and now we could enjoy the beauty of the area. Hopefully this was a good sign of things to come in Motueka.
You must log in to post a comment.