Fondest memory: One of my favourite things in Akaroa is seeing flocks of Canada Geese walking around on the beach at low tide. I remember them fondly from years ago and they seemed quite shy, only showing up early mornings before the tourists...but in 2015 I saw them in the middle of the day, on a day when a cruise ship was in port, so they obviously aren't too worried about tourists any more!
- Budget Travel
Fondest memory: Akaroa was also the first (and only) place on the holiday I managed to take a photo of what I started calling "vertical Palm Trees" because they point up, instead of down. I don't know what their real name is, but I found them rather interesting.
Before I saw them in real life, I'd noticed them depicted in metal in an art studio or gallery, and wondered what they were doing with them, depicting them pointing upward!
In 2015 though, I only found normal Palm trees so not sure what happened to the others.....
Favorite thing: New Zealand is famous for its Pohutukawa trees with their flaming red flowers which stand out brightly and at a good distance on even the dullest days in Summer (they seem to stop flowering by about early March, judging by my March 2015 visit)
Unfortunately though, the trees are becoming quite endangered in some regions (due in part again to having their foliage ravaged by introduced Australian Possums, who have a lot to answer for!)
In ancient times, the Maori used to plant one of these trees to mark the burial place of their chiefs.
At last finding several of these trees together (and in a place where I could actually photograph them) was a special moment for me of the holiday in 2005.
- Road Trip
Favorite thing: On my 2005 visit, At the end of Rue Lavaud, I found myself with another beautiful tableau in front of me, this time of the small pier (as opposed to the large pier, which is for bigger boats and the dolphin cruises, 600 mts or so further down at the Beach Rd end of the street).
I was even more reminded of the Meditteranean when I saw the rocks instead of sand! (A little like at Nice in France, but their rocks are more pebbles).
There is a sandy patch of beach at Akaroa, but fairly small and further around the bay, towards the large pier.
Fondest memory: One of the best memories I had is of taking a stroll by myself at leisure, down to the harbour, near the long pier, and admiring the palm and Norfolk Pine trees, and the small boats looking even brighter in the bright sunshine.
2015: Every day and every evening, since I was staying in Akaroa for a whole week, I liked to just go out and take different photos of the harbour in different light and colors. I never tired of this view.
Favorite thing: in 2005 during my visit, I happened to be walking down the street at one point, and happened across this cute 2CV French car, obviously well loved, as it appeared it had been shipped out from England.
Went with the streetscape scenery quite nicely!
- Road Trip
- Budget Travel
- Family Travel
The wee-est post office
Favorite thing: Between Duvauchelle and Akaroa you pass this wee building on the road. What is it?
The red panels by the door give you the clue - this was the Robinson Bay post Office - you can still see the panel of post box doors and the posting box, though both are sealed up these days.
It's not quite as small as the littlest post office I've ever seen ( the famous Ochapeepost office in Florida) but just imagine then what it must have been like in the days when the two sisters who ran it for years until it closed were at work - the image conjured up by Gerry Trott, the mailman on the Eastern Bays Mail Run, of the two "more than portly" ladies at work did make us wonder how they managed to fit themselves, their work tables, telephone exhange and the mailbags all in at the same time!
French Street Signs and "Je ne parle pas français”
Favorite thing: It is funny to see all these French street signs in Akaroa, knowing that not many New Zealanders are able to pronounce them correctly. The English pronunciation of the anglicised word “lingerie” always amuses me most, as they say “lonn-jerrey” instead of… something I cannot write in English LOL
My hair also raise when cafés, restaurants and shops get French names and the articles, the grammar, just everything is wrong – just to sound more elegant, and the prices can be adjusted accordingly ;-)
In Akaroa there is also such a place, called “Chez la Mer”. So… if “la mer” is correct, meaning “By the sea”, it has to be “Au Bord de la Mer”. If “chez” is correct it should be “Chez la Mère”, meaning “With Mother”, in those name terms: “At Mother’s Place”. As I am sure they want to express the seaside location I would be pleased to see a new sign reading “Au Bord de la Mer”. If I make such an important decision about naming a place I would always ask a native speaker before being ridiculous.
Yes, I know, I am difficult and hard to please ;-)
But really… LOL
Of course, Akaroa has to market its French heritage actively for tourism purposes, as this French touch makes it unique, and it is nice, even if some French names and expressions are so difficult nearly no visitor will understand them. But in most cases this does not matter at all, as the people are strolling leisurely through the township and have time to have a look inside and check what the strange name is all about.
But now it becomes really funny: Sometimes people ask me the way to some place, or I talk to locals about places in Akaroa, and when I pronounce the French names correctly nobody knows what I am talking about. My Kiwi husband tells me how a New Zealander would pronounce the words, and recommends to pronounce them in the worst possible way I can imagine.
So, for example, like the other day when we were in Duvauchelle and a friend asked me where we had been, I say: “We were… you know… if I pronounce it correctly you will not understand it… So: What about Du-wot-shelley?” (With the stress on the second syllable.) – And she says: “Ah, Du-wot-shelley, really a nice place. How would you pronounce it?” – And I say: “Dü-voh-shell.” (Sorry for the German ü Umlaut in the French word…) – And she says: “No, I would not have understood that…”
I really wonder why English speaking people are so obsessed with French words if they cannot say them correctly – like my favourite “soupe du jour” which, of course, they spell “soup de jour”… I would just say “soup of the day”…
But never mind. I think this is easier to understand than Scottish…
P.S. in April 2011
The other day I drove through the Christchurch suburb of (North) New Brighton and nearly drove off the road when I saw a street sign that read "Rue De La Mare".
Which idiot has invented this?!!!
The use of "Rue" and the female pronoun and article (which would not be spelled with capital letters) suggest that French was the intended language. But "Mare" is Italian.
In French it would be "Mer", so in total: "Rue de la Mer".
- Historical Travel
- Hiking and Walking
- Road Trip
The Bon Accord Bungy
Favorite thing: I find this little display seriously funny. And Kimi the Bear was delighted and was already heading into the Bon Accord backpackers accommodation to ask for permission to join the toy girl on her bungy cord ;-)
You will easily find the spot. The Bon Accord is at the corner of Rue Lavaud (main street) and Rue Croix, right above the tiny Balguerie Stream.
A very small bridge leads over the stream to the backpackers house’s sunroom, and there the bungy jumping doll is attached to the guard-rail and hanging on a rope over the water.
Bon Accord is is an old cottage with two entrance doors on Rue Lavaud that are both not used.
- Arts and Culture
The Roads on Banks Peninsula
Favorite thing: Although you should never sleep when driving there are such and such roads – and those on Banks Peninsula are such… Even on SH 75, the direct connection between Christchurch and Akaroa, you have to be alert although this road is wide in most parts and in very good condition. As soon as you drive up the hills to Akaroa the road gets very winding, the sight does not reach very far, so it is difficult to overtake slow vehicles (and there are some that make you crazy, I can tell you…), and also after the hilltop crossing this winding nature of the road continues along the harbour until Akaroa.
The Scenic Drive is winding in all parts, and much narrower than the main road. But take it easy. You will get to so many points with spectacular views that you should stop at lookouts from time to time, admire the sights, take some photos and relax.
Some of the roads down to the bays around the peninsula are sealed but very steep in parts, winding all the time, and the tarseal can melt on hot days. So pay extra attention. As you should also do referring to wildlife on the roads. It is absolutely normal to meet some sheep escaped from the paddocks. On nearly all of my many Banks Peninsula trips I have had such encounters.
The only sealed roads down to the bays are the roads down to Port Levy (from Purau) – but from there any other road is unsealed – and to Pigeon Bay, Little Akaloa, Okains Bay and Le Bons Bay.
Be aware that the unsealed roads are slippery gravel, and many only wide enough for about 1.3 vehicles. So if you cannot see around a corner drive with extreme care, or you might crash into oncoming traffic. Several of those gravel roads are not allowed for normal vehicles, only for 4WD.
I would not recommend to drive on the allowed gravel roads if your car has low reaching spoilers, as sometimes in narrow and sharp-angled curves you could scratch the ground. The link road between Port Levy and the Port Levy Saddle (on the way from Diamond Harbour/Purau to Little River) is such a road.
Some extremely narrow roads are just farm access roads and lead nowhere – of course, not really, as they lead to a farm ;-)
Be also prepared to permanently changing light, as parts of the roads lead through native and forestry bush. And in a few curves you will have to cross little fords – but really, they are not to worry about, the water is not deep, just the road could have a little ditch there in places, and the low-lying spoilers could get damaged.
The rule of thumb that applies to the whole world, of course, but on such dangerous roads in particular: Stop if you want to admire a view and do not dream while driving.
Oh, and I nearly forgot: Banks Peninsula gets real winter, and sometimes a lot of snow. And no wonder, as the hills are up to 920 metres high. It has happened that locals and tourists got stranded and had to stay for the night wherever they were. The Press has published stories about people sleeping on the floor of the Hilltop Tavern…
For better orientation click on the map here
- Road Trip
Try Pots – the Remnants of the Whaling Times
Favorite thing: -
Although those huge cast-iron pots look like taken from a cannibal’s kitchen… They are only the decorative remnants of Akaroa’s past as a whaling post. In some info about the Cook Islands I read that when cannibals prepared humans as a meal they baked them in the oven ;-)
Akaroa was the region’s first substantial settlement and an early centre for whaling and seal hunting.
Along the main street (Rue Lavaud and Beach Road) you can see some cast iron whaling pots, so called Try Pots (also: Trypots), which were used for boiling down blubber and make whale oil. (Blubber is a thick layer of vascularized fat under the skin of the whale.) The process of removing blubber from the whale is called flensing. Other parts of the whale which were harvested were the skin and the bones.
In the early days the whales were processed at sea. The try pots were built into the decks of the whalers. This part of the ship was called tryworks.
But in 1837, Captain George Hempelman established the first shore whaling station at Peraki, the first permanent European settlement in Canterbury. Others followed. From then on the carcasses of the whales were dragged to the foreshore and cut into pieces there. In the early 20th century some try pots were brought into Akaroa.
There two or three cast iron try pots were built into furnaces of brick, iron and wood, and then the blubber was boiled there.
In Akaroa you can see three try pots mounted in a brick base on Beach Road (the esplanade), and a single try pot above the beach near the War Memorial.
BTW The Peraki settlement I mentioned earlier as the first shore whaling station in Canterbury, is also located on Banks Peninsula, at Peraki Bay. This bay is about 2 km long and located west of Akaroa Harbour, about half-way between Lake Forsyth and Akaroa Harbour. Coming from Christchurch, you drive along Lake Forsyth before you reach Little River.
- Historical Travel
The Pukeko on the Roof
Favorite thing: You will not see such a thing very often on your travels in New Zealand. A pukeko on a roof is a rarity. Perhaps you do not even know that pukeko (the correct plural is without s as the Maori language has no s) can fly because they always stride along the roads. Even many New Zealanders think they are flightless birds, like their rare relative, the takahe.
I have only seen a pukeko fly two or three times, once on Tiritiri Matangi when one had not spotted me and then thought I was clearly too close to him, and it felt there was no time to run away. And sure, this one you see on my photo flew onto the roof of the backpackers accommodation in Duvauchelle. No idea what had lured him off the safe ground. And then he tried to walk up the slope, and slipped downwards… Well, at least he once had a good view of Akaroa Harbour ;-)
I really like pukeko and call each one of them “Puki”, like a friend ;-) It is not only for their beauty, this royal blue of their feathers and the striking red beak and huge legs. When you watch them striding along you see that some hidden white tail feathers move up and down at every step they make. And they can really race! Some scientists believe they are on the way to give up flying completely, and in many years time they will be flightless.
As pukeko are abundant they are not fully protected. It is even allowed to shoot them in the duck shooting season, and some weird characters offer pukeko recipes in newspapers and magazines. On the West Coast farmers are allowed to kill pukeko outside the season since 2008. They have successfully claimed that pukeko destroy their crops.
I hate such attitudes. It is like people building a house beside a tennis court and then complaining about the plop-plop of the tennis balls. The pukeko were there before the farmers, the farmers have intruded into the birds’ habitat, as developers and you and me have done in the cities. Here in Christchurch, for example, the swamps have been drained, roads and housing suburbs have been built on land were the pukeko once were thriving. Do you think the pukeko enjoy foraging along the roads? But in many areas it is all that is left for them.
If you want to see a lot of happy pukeko, drive on the ring road from the Christchurch suburb New Brighton to Lyttelton. Mostly on the left side of the road there are still some swampy areas and large paddocks (horses), and especially in wet weather those paddocks are dotted with pukeko in their dozens. That is between the turnoff to Ferrymead and the start of the Lyttelton Tunnel Road. Before that you will see a lot of pukeko along the road, as there are the Bexley wetlands, the oxidation ponds, etc. However, more and more housing is being developed in those green areas, so life does not become easier for pukeko, and some day, you can bet, also the paddocks will disappear.
How to get a Sheep from the Road
Favorite thing: When sitting on the verandah of the Duvauchelle Hotel we had entertainment all over the place. Fantails chirping and chasing insects above our heads, a pukeko on the roof, and a runaway sheep on the main road, chased by two sheepdogs and the farmer.
Finally the farmer won the race… and lifted the sheep back over the fence. The sheepdogs were rather proud of having scared the sheep and kept it under control. However, they were so focussed on their job that they did not give the road or the traffic any thought. So they first chased the sheep from the verge of the road right onto SH 75 where cars pass at speed, and lucky sheep, dogs, farmer, and drivers, everybody could brake and avoid a crash.
It is not so common that you have to be prepared for escaped sheep on the State Highway. But it is absolutely normal to have sheep on the road on the smaller roads on Banks Peninsula. As it is not possible to race on such roads you should always be able to avoid a crash. I must admit, I even enjoy seeing sheep on the road, as I am a sheep fan and love to photograph them, and what is cuter than a lamb at the side of its mother, staring at you? Well, sure… two lambs and the ewe ;-)
Only a few areas of Banks Peninsula are used for dairy farming, as irrigation is impossible in most places. So the main part of the peninsula can keep its charm and will not be converted into an artificially green dairy cow haven.
- Road Trip
Takamatua - the German Touch of all French Akaroa
Favorite thing: Although I do not really search German contacts in New Zealand, I think it is quite nice to know a place named German Bay. However, nobody would know it as officially it now is Takamatua Bay, and is located north of Akaroa. Takamatua Hill is the last hill you have to cross before reaching French Bay and Akaroa.
When the Comte de Paris arrived in Akaroa Harbour on 17 August 1840 - six days too late to claim sovereignty – approximately 60 settlers were aboard the ship. They were landed on 19 August, and they set up separate settlements. The French immigrants cleared land and built their homes in Pakariki Bay which is now the northern end of Akaroa, the Germans settled in Takamatua which you pass before reaching Akaroa.
Of course, the French and the Germans did not live in segregation, but mixed up. Christian Waeckerle, the owner of the first hotel, the Grand, even played an important role in Akaroa's urban life, and was mayor of the town for several years.
This photo of Akaroa was taken from Takamatua Hill. It rises to 209 metres above sea level. Takamatua Bay which has a beach and a boat ramp would be behind the photographer. The view reaches over French Bay to the township of Akaroa.
- Road Trip
- Historical Travel
Onawe Peninsula – a sacred Place for Maori
Favorite thing: In some brochures you might read that Onawe Peninsula, located at the northern end of Akaroa Harbour, between Duvauchelle and Barrys Bay, is pear-shaped. I do not think this is the right description. It looks more like a dangling pendant – or a woman’s body (without head LOL) with the thinnest waistline you can imagine, and wearing a skirt. This skirt is the triangle close to the land, and which you explore on a walk – if you have the permission of the Maori. A thin line of rock formations, called The Razorback, connects it with a teardrop-shaped top part far out in the harbour. The teardrop (pendant) can only be reached at low tide, at high tide it becomes an island.
This peninsula is a historic reserve. It is thought that it possibly was the largest occupied Maori fortress on Banks Peninsula. As there were three eras of Maori immigration Maori tribes fought against each other. So the location was perfect for the purpose of defense. However, once in a moment of confusion they left a gate open, so Te Rauparaha’s warriors of the Ngati Toa tribe could overwhelm the Onawe and take over their land. Later, Te Rauparaha could withstand retaliation, and even restored peace between the rivalling tribes (including Ngai Tahu) by releasing prisoners and intermarriage.
Back to the walk: The loop is 3 km long but on private land. The Maori consider it a sacred site, so you have to contact the Heritage Officer at Onuku Marae (phone 03 304 7607, best during business hours). The Maori want to protect the site and are only willing to issue permits after the potential hikers have received historic information and understand the importance of the place for the locals.
There are false trails off the summit which are rather dangerous as they lead into scrub bashing down bluffs.
Onawe Peninsula (left) nearly reaches the hills behind French Bay and Barrys Bay.
- Road Trip
- Hiking and Walking
- Historical Travel