I left Christchurch on a Tuesday morning, headed for the town of Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula. Akaroa is a Maori name (surprise), which means “long harbour”, and the town is situated at the far end of an inlet. The first Europeans who settled there were French, and the town really plays up that heritage. Many of the businesses and streets have French names, but I am pretty sure that there are very few people who actually speak French or even have French ancestors.
I wasn’t actually staying in town, but at a hostel situated on a working sheep and dairy farm 6km away. I am sooooo glad I stayed there. It is called the Onuku Farm Hostel and if anyone is ever in the area, you should check it out. There is a cute little house, with some dorms and some private rooms, a common area and 2 kitchens. Outside, there are decks that overlook the water and hills across the way, with picnic tables and an outdoor kitchen. There is an outdoor bathroom area with showers etc, and a little further on is a campground! I really wish I was staying at the campground, but I ended up spending both evenings hanging out there anyway. There are tent pitching areas, some huts with bunks, and really awesome “stargazers”, which are basically tiny a-frame huts with plexiglass over the head area so that you can look at the stars from the comfort of your sleeping bag. This would be well worth it, because it gets super dark there at night and you can see SO MANY STARS. It is amazing. I was really hoping to see the Southern Cross, but I honestly don’t even know what I’m looking for, so I was not successful. The grounds are amazing in the daylight as well. For anyone who has spent time at Mabel, it really reminded me of the whole lake vibe. Super chill, really fun, lots to do, but still plenty of time to relax. Visually, there are also similarities, but mostly it’s about the feeling. I would love to come back and spend more time here.
When I got to the hostel on Tuesday afternoon, I quickly joined up with a group of people who were headed out on one of the many hiking trails that are on the farm’s property. It was a fantastic way to spend a couple of hours. We did the ridge walk and hiked pretty much straight uphill to the highest point of the ridge surrounding Akaroa harbour. We had to battle sheep for space on the track at times. About halfway there was another viewpoint which is basically a rock that hurts out on the side of the hill. Once you get there, there is a sign that says something along the lines of “this area is very unstable following the 2010 earthquake, please use caution.” Eva, this German girl who was along, was like, “nice of them to tell us that once you’re on top of the rock”. I couldn’t help but think of how much less stable it might be after the 2011 one. We didn’t stick around there too long, and continued toward the ridge. The views were, of course, awesome, and we sat around for a while eating trail mix.
The next morning, I had signed up to go kayaking. The hope was that we would get to see dolphins, seals, and maybe some penguins. Well, we were absolutely not disappointed on the dolphin front! Unfortunately, no seals or penguins. The dolphins that we saw, and you could even say played around with, are called Hector’s dolphins, and are both the smallest and the rarest in the world. Just wee. They have kind of black and white stripes, and look almost zebra-like right after they are born. Hector’s dolphins are only found off of the coast of the South Island of New Zealand, so it is pretty special that I got to see them. They were frolicking about in the water, swooping under and around the kayaks and coming right up beside us. It was very fun, and very cool! The dolphins were definitely the best part of my morning kayak, but we also spotted some seabirds and went into some caves. Altogether, a great morning.
In the afternoon, I went on another excursion with Eva and Brad, an Australian dude who had been on the hike with is us the day before. Brad had been talking with another guy, who had caught some fresh mussels earlier in the day, and wanted to get some for himself. I just wanted to go swimming. Once we got. Down to the water, both Eva and I changed our minds. It was no longer swimming weather. Brad did jump into the water, though, and pluck some mussels from the rocks. He would dip under the waves, resurfacing a moment later, with bloody knuckles and mussels in hand. He tossed them to me, standing on the shore, and I put them into the bucket that Eva was holding. It was a nice little assembly line.
The plan was to cook up the mussels and have them with dinner, but in the end, only Brad ended up trying any. Pretty much as soon as we got back tithe hostel, I started thinking about how sick bad seafood can make you and how none of us actually k now how to tell if a mussel is good, except that you don’t eat the ones that don’t open after being cooked. Nevertheless, it was a fun way to spend an afternoon. Eva and I made a huge batch of pasta for dinner, and we hung out in the campground kitchen area for hours. It was raining, so there were lots of people around - girls from Quebec, somebody from the Netherlands, people from Israel, and lots of other places. It was really fun, and the conversation topics were all over the place - exactly how I like it. I was sad to go back up the hill to the main hostel at the end of the night.
Thursday was the day I left the farm to head back to Christchurch and set off on a weekend excursion. I had a few hours to kill in the actual town of Akaroa. It is quite darling. There is a lovely beach and a harbour with a surprising number of sailboats, considering the size of the town. Like many places in New Zealand, Akaroa mostly caters to tourists. There are several cute shops and restaurants. Probably the best part of the town, though, is the beach. I spent some time just hanging out at the beach, looking at the massive piles of shells along the seawall, wading in the shallows, and taking pictures of birds. There are a lot of birds in New Zealand! According to the bus driver who took me into Akaroa, there is a Canada Goose problem, and there are “population control” initiatives in place. I have seen many a possum smushed on the road, but no geese, which leads me to believe that the program might not be as successful as they were hoping…
Next up? Exciting weekend with Amy and Sarah, including Lake Tekapo, Mt Cook, and Twizel.