Posts Tagged ‘Akaroa’

This novel would fascinate anyone with an interest in the history of Banks Peninsula.  A branch of my family lived in Akaroa in the late 19th century, I’ve spent many holidays there, and I’ve walked the Banks Peninsula Track.  With careful research of the historical setting the book tells the stories of two fictional early Pakeha settlers in Akaroa, the struggle between French and English for control over the area, and the interaction with takata whenua.  The willow tree of the title, sometimes thought to be the ancestor of the willows that now grow along the Avon/Otakaro, came from a slip from the willow beside Napoleon’s grave on St Helena.

The book opens unusually with a glossary of Maori words.  There was only one I wasn’t familiar with – Tinirau, guardian of sea creatures, son of Takaroa.

The descriptions of the area have the power of authenticity, especially when characters walk up the Rue Balguerie, past the stream.  I loved the description of the forest “where birds seemed not so much to twitter as to shout”.

My only quibble about the writing was that it sometimes seemed to me a little ponderous, almost as though the author couldn’t decide whether she was writing serious history or fiction.  The story is well worth reading and an excellent addition to local knowledge.

“”The separate settlements unfold
as Akaroa’s story’s told.”


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With an Australian nephew visiting briefly, a day trip to Akaroa was our intention.  We stopped at the Little River Craft Station, where Paul, who’s a telecommunications engineer, was intrigued by the antique switchboard.


In Akaroa he was even more intrigued by a KTM vehicle.


KTM usually make racing motorbikes, but this was definitely a sports car.  The full face helmets and body harness suggest it might be capable of going very fast, and I’ve learned it’s the first four-wheeled model in KTM’s history.  I was told that no windscreen or canopy are required because if it rains you’re going so fast the raindrops don’t reach you!

We lunched on fresh fish and chips on the Akaroa wharf while we watched tenders from the cruise ship Noordam travelling back and forth.


One of the commercial boats had a sea-faring dog.


The Akaroa Lighthouse light was flashing intermittently, something I’ve not seen before.


We drove up to look more closely and found the lighthouse is open to visitors, 12.30-3.30pm on Sundays and cruise ship days.  By now it was 4pm, so we were too late to go inside.

On the drive home, we were very nearly involved in an accident.  Rounding a bend, a car ahead of us went over to the wrong side of the road, and almost crashed into an oncoming vehicle which was towing a boat.  The erring driver, who just managed to return to the left hand side, was Asian and the car was from Apex Car Rentals.  We followed them cautiously for a short distance, when they turned in a driveway and headed back towards Akaroa.  It was some time before we had sufficient cellphone coverage to be able to report the incident to the *555 Roadwatch line.

“A day in Akaroa – bliss
not so good – a car crash near miss.”

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Classic Cars

In Akaroa we saw numerous classic cars – Thunderbird, Studebaker, Austin Healey, Maserati.  It’s obvious that many visitors there are rich, and perhaps have little concern about global warming.  However, the one I liked most was this S-Cargo with the eyelashes.

Love those Lashes! (Small)

“Of many fancy cars we saw
This was the one I hankered for!”

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Fabulous Fox!

We sailed on the Fox II, the oldest gaff-rigged ketch in New Zealand, which offers cruises in Akaroa Harbour twice a day, from December to May.

Fox II

Fox II

Ruth 'steering' the ship.

Ruth ‘steering’ the ship.

We headed out under engine power, but once we were close to the harbour heads the sails were unfurled and skilfully manipulated.

Under sail

Under sail

Many Hectors Dolphins dived and swam alongside  – or maybe it was just a few staying nearby.

Dolphin surfacing

Dolphin surfacing


Dolphins swimming alongside

Dolphins swimming alongside

The Captain played music which he assured us attracted the dolphins – a variety of sailing songs.  We also saw seals, shag colonies, a giant petrel, and an albatross.  The three hour cruise was an exhilerating experience.  When we were out on the Pacific Ocean there was a heavy swell and the boat rocked violently.  A crew member handed round candied ginger ‘to settle the stomach’.   I’ve twice been out on the Black Cat, and would strongly recommend Fox II as the better experience.   There were just 11 passengers on our trip, although she can take up to 30.

When we returned to shore (after complimentary hot drink and biscuit) we found our mooring spot usurped.  The crew then moored mid-harbour, got us all to put on life jackets, and we transferred to a zodiac which ferried us back in.

Abandon ship!

Abandon ship!

This was an exciting end to a wonderful cruise.

“Who knew that dolphins like a song
and that it makes them swim along?”


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Rue Balguerie in Akaroa is home to The Giant’s House, a sculpture mosaic garden “of national signficance”, and not to be missed.  I love to visit whenever I’m in Akaroa, as there is always something new to see and wonder at.  On the way up there we stopped at St Peter’s Church where my Great Grandfather was once a lay preacher, and noted a plaque to three locals, including my Great Uncle Harold, who gave their lives in the South African (Boer) War.

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“If Akaroa’s on your route
The Giant’s House is simply beaut!”

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In Akaroa I saw this car with the numberplate “LEQUAK”.

Akaroa Doctor?

Akaroa Doctor?

Akaroa has a French history and there are lots of signs in French, but would the local doctor advertise himself this way? The accepted definition of the word ‘quack’ is fake or phony.  Perhaps he’s a doctor with a good sense of humour?  Do you know?

“Now if this doctor were a fake
he might not cure your cold or ache.”

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I’d optimistically packed my togs for our Akaroa trip – just in case – but a sign on the beachfront said: “Water quality along this beach is affected by moderate to heavy rainfall, so avoid swimming for 48 hours after rainfall”.  By 48 hours after the rain we’d be heading home, so no swimming this time.

The rain had cooled the temperature, and I was intrigued to find at least two cafes offered blankets to wrap yourself in when sitting outside.

Blankets are provided

Blankets are provided

I browsed in every shop and gallery, but bought nothing.  Maybe I’ve got out of the habit now so few shops are easily available to me these days?  I did stop at the General Store for a hot chocolate.  They seem to stock healthy and ethical goods, but sadly serve all drinks in takeaway cups.

We knew a cruise ship was due to dock on Wednesday morning.  At 6am I contemplated getting up to see it come in, then decided a longer sleep was more desirable.  Just as well, because the “Celebrity Solstice” didn’t hove into sight until well after 7am.

"Celebrity Solstice"

“Celebrity Solstice”

Later we watched hordes of passengers disembark (the ship caters for 2,500).  Buses were parked all around, often taking up one whole side of a narrow street.  It’s no wonder there’s some conflict among locals as to the benefit of these ship visits.  All passengers have to be brought ashore by tender/lifeboat, because the wharf isn’t suitable for large vessels.

Offloading from the tender

Offloading from the tender

The logistics of getting everyone ashore and onto their respective transports must be complex, but is well managed.  Many of the passengers thronged Akaroa streets, with scant regard for traffic.  They stopped to admire gardens and smell the roses.

You can tour by vintage car or motor cycle.  We later saw this cycle withv two passengers in the sidecar and one on the pillion

You can tour by vintage car or motor cycle. We later saw this cycle with two passengers in the sidecar and one on the pillion

We were happy to retreat to our balcony and sip tea while we watched it all.

“When tourists come here on a cruise
there’s heaps of tours from which to choose.”

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