Lake Tekapo to Akaroa
The drive from Lake Tekapo to Akaroa seemed strange, then I realized what was missing – New Zealand’s Southern Alps and those big, beautiful snow-capped mountain peaks! It will take a few days to get them out of my mind. They make a vivid impression, and I got used to seeing them constantly poised in the background… sigh
New Zealand Election Day
Today is election day in New Zealand so there were voting signs in towns along the way. New Zealanders have until 7:00 p.m. tonight to vote (see November 14th post).
The only point of comparison I have for the drive down into Akaroa (a volcanic crater) was descending into the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania – your ears start popping and suddenly it gets 20 degrees colder… Then you see thick, brilliant, bright-green vegetation like no green you’ve ever seen before. Akaroa is a beautiful seaside village in the heart of a volcano. I’ll stay a few days and explore.
A historic French and British settlement on the Banks Peninsula, Akaroa has fantastic colonial architecture, art galleries, craft stores, gardens, and many restaurants and cafés. It’s an easy place to relax or take part in many activities, including day hikes in the outer bays. There are French gardens wherever you go filling the air with the intoxicating scent of blooming flowers.
Akaroa – long harbour in Maori – is less than 50 miles from Christchurch. Founded by the French – the first settlers after the Maori – many of its streets have French names. The Akaroa Museum has an audio-visual presentation on the history of the Banks Peninsula, in particular the whaling industry which attracted European settlers. The Langlois-Eteveneaux Cottage in front of the museum was partly made in France and is one of New Zealand’s oldest houses.
There are some great walks here including the Historic Village Walk which takes you through narrow winding streets and past old colonial cottages, gardens, churches, and civic buildings like Town Hall and the Courthouse.
Another hiking trail (3 to 6 hours depending on the path taken) is the Woodills Track. It leads behind Akaroa’s historic streets into open pastures and farmland, through an herb farm, and back to the town center and marvelous harbor views.
There is a cool little foreign film cinema / café in town and the Bill Cunningham (New York City fashion photographer) documentary is one of the films playing. On Monday, it’s back to Christchurch. If possible, I’ll take a bus tour of the earthquake-damaged city center. The city recently began allowing regulated tours of the main earthquake site.
On Wednesday, November 30th, I leave New Zealand for Phnom Penh, so my next blog post will be from Cambodia. The time in New Zealand was memorable with indescribably beautiful places to keep in my heart!