Exploring the old French town of Akaroa

Trip Start Mar 19, 2010
Trip End May 23, 2010

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Sunday, April 11, 2010

    Last night was the worst night of sleep I've had yet, by far! This older lady went to bed right about the same time as me, but she must have fallen asleep faster than me because pretty soon I heard snoring...uh oh. This wasn't just snoring either...it sounded like a freight train, and it lasted ALLLLL night! I might have slept for 4 hours but that would be it. I tried earplugs and pillow over my head, and listening to music on my Ipod, but I could still hear her! I really wanted to wake her up, but I didn't. So my day didn't start off well. It got much better though :)
    Today I went to Akaroa (which means Long Harbour in Maori) on the Banks Peninsula. However, before taking the Akaroa Shuttle I got up early (6:20) to walk a bit around the Botanic Gardens since I planned to spend all day at Arthur's Pass tomorrow. The gardens were beautiful! Some of the nicest I've seen I think. I walked a little along the river, then across it to the visitor center which was closed, through the water garden, rose garden, and open tree-filled spaces. I also saw an Asian styled statue with a bell in 'honor' of world peace, and a giant rose statue. It was really a very pleasant walk, especially this early when no one was really there yet and the light was soft looking on the flowers. I wish I had had more time there but I had to get to the Cathedral Square by 8:15 to catch the shuttle to Akaroa.
    I made it in time and after spelling my last name like 6 times to the driver, was headed off, sleepy-eyed, to the historical French settlement of Akaroa. We passed the Port Hills again along the way and 2 shallow lakes: Lake Ellesmere and Lake Forsyth, and then headed up Banks Peninsula. We took a quick 3 minute photo stop at Hilltop which had a beautiful view down into the harbour. I was again glad I didn't take Magic's connection which stops here longer for 'refreshments' at the cafe. But being that I didn't want any, it would have been a waste of time. The trip to get to the town took about an hour and a half total.
    We were given town maps on the bus and after being dropped off at the visitor center, I headed off to see all the local sights. I headed first to the waterfront where I saw the old Customs House. Anyone arriving in the port would have had to go through here and declare all goods - sort of like the customs at our airports now, I guess. I continued down Rue Lavaud (many of the street signs are in French!) and saw St. Patrick's Church where the first Mass on the peninsula was held. Then it was up a hill to the old French Burial Ground. I was expecting a graveyard with tombstones and everything, but apparently they had been a lot of weathering and so they were replaced with a simple monument with the remaining legible names inscribed on it.
    Along the way I also went in a few shops but saw nothing too interesting (or that I could afford, haha) plus, I don't really have any room for anything bulky. So I continued walking along the waterfront which was beautiful and had plenty of benches to sit on. There were some more shops and cafes (and I picked out a bakery I wanted to go to later :) ) but I mainly stuck to the waterfront. I enjoyed going down onto the pebbly beach to collect a few small rocks, which were igneous from the volcanic eruption, (did I mention Akaroa was the crater of a volcano? 3 actually that includes the area of Lyttleton too), and a shell :) I'm developing quite a collection from here in NZ, I hope I can remember where they're all from!
    As I said, the walk along the water was wonderful, but the sun sure was strong! I had considered bringing sunscreen with me but for some reason decided against it, but I wished I had brought it because I was a bit concerned about getting burned (which I didn't). I also regretted bringing both my Northface and raincoat, both of which were definitely not needed!  
    My walk took me along Beach Rd. leading to a lighthouse which reminded me of Cape Cod :) and then to the Britomart Monument where the British raised their flag indicating that the land was theirs following the Treaty of Waitangi. This was mere days before the French arrived, so New Zealand was close to becoming a French colony! I have to say I expected the monument to be a bit more, well, interesting. More than just an obelisk-like monument. But it provided a nice vie over the harbour.
    On the way back I passed through an old Anglican cemetery and read some of the tombstones from the late 1800s before heading back to town for some lunch. I had a sandwich at the Akaroa Bakery while facing the water - inside though because the sun was too strong. This is the place I wanted to get a pastry from after the cruise, but by the time we returned later it was closed :( so I got something else later from Le Escargot, another cafe.
    But anyway, after lunch I relaxed until 1:00 when check-in was for the Black Cat Harbour Cruise. I spent my free time looking in a Blue pearl shop where the pieces of jewelry ranged from $300 to $3000!! A little out of my price range, haha.
    The cruise was nice. The volcanic rocks around the harbour were cool because you could see the layers of lava-ash-lava-ash from the multiple eruptions. As far as wildlife, we saw some more shags, blue penguins bobbing in the water(!), more fur seal pups playing amongst the pools, and...Hector's Dolphins! This species is unique to NZ and I think is the world's smallest dolphin. We didn't see a tremendous number of them but the ones we did hung around the boat for a while - and I managed to get 1 good picture of them! The cool thing about seeing them here was that they are in their natural environment - unlike in the Bahamas where they are kept and trained by people.
    It was kind of funny that every time our driver would spot something, everyone would shift to the side of the boat he mentioned, hoping to get a picture, lol. The cruise lasted 2 hours, but I was hoping we'd get to see this one spot, scenery nook, and the other side of the harbour; but I guess their plans change depending on when they find some dolphins. It was a nice ride though, and they gave us a free postcard at the end with the wildlife we saw on it.
   Afterward, I sat on a bench with a girl I met on the shuttle this morning and we ate our snacks (I got white chocolate raspberry ice cream and a Napoleon slice to take back to the hostel with me :) ). Then were were picked up at the I-Site at 4:15.
    On the way back I was pretty sleepy, no sleep last night was catching up with me. We did make one stop on the way back, Barry's Cheese Factory, where we got 3 small samples of cheese and a short video on the production process. None of us bought anything though.
    We arrived back around 6, I walked back to the YHA, made stir fry for dinner (fancy!) and it was pretty good but made too many dishes, haha. Before turning in for the night I asked the desk what the weather was going to be like in Arthur's Pass tomorrow, and they received an e-mail from the YHA there saying it wasn't going to be very good. So I need alternate plans for tomorrow. I can't say I was extremely disappointed because I'm kind of tired of being on the move every single day. So another day in Christchurch it is!
    Lyrics of the day: "Little town, it's a quiet village, Every day like the one before, little town, full                                 of little people, waking up to say, Bonjour!..." - Beauty and Beast
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l2010 on

Click on the green WOW corner. The video is awesome!!! What a trip!!

taskittle on

Julie, that video is great!

jewels1864 on

I actually didn't make that video, lol. Trip advisor must be advertising on Travelpod. It is pretty cool though!

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