Monday, July 4, 2011

Banks Peninsula

It is a very good sign when life starts happening so fast that you can't keep up with it on your blog.

So bear with me as I make up for missing a couple of days posting and try to play catch up with several small posts.

First -- The Banks Peninsula.
Map of Banks Peninsula

To get to the Banks Peninsula, you drive south out of Christchurch, past Lake Elesmere - a giant freshwater lake that looks like part of the ocean.

It is a great place for birdwatching and fly fishing.  We did neither.  We drove quickly past it without even stopping to take photos.  After all, we were on a mission to get lunch in Ataroa.  And with three hungry girls in the car, it was an important mission.

A typical New Zealand view.

We did, however, stop to take photos of sheep.  It is virtually impossible to find a countryside view without sheep in it.  Or cows.  Or possibly deer.  If there is grass, there will be livestock grazing somewhere on it, even if that grass is growing on a vertical cliff.

So, if you are looking for grass-fed lamb, beef, or venison, New Zealand is a good place to look.

En Route to Akaroa

We also had to stop to take multiple photos of the view.  From various angles.

It was verdant, but also so british with defined farms and communities built into the volcanic hillsides.  If the mist weren't out that day, I'm sure we would have had incredible postcard shots.
Akaroa Harbor - First View

This is the view as you drive into Akaroa harbor from the Hilltop cafe.  The photo cannot do it justice.

Our host - Richard Blaikie - told us that he thinks this view is possibly the best view in New Zealand.  And that's saying quite a lot.

We tried to stop at the Hilltop Cafe for lunch, but the owners were off on winter holiday, returning the next day.  The woman was there explained that in their absence, nothing at the restaurant was really worth eating.  So, she let us use the bathroom that was only for customers and recommended a fine place in Akaroa.  

Did I mention that I appreciate the service I've gotten in New Zealand so far?
On the Pier in Akaroa
Akaroa itself was also amazing.  It is a very popular summer holiday destination.  It is an incredibly cute village that was one of the earliest settlements on the South Island.  It was originally settled by the French, and kept up as the British took over.  There is great boating, hiking, a Maori museum further out the peninsula, and multiple whale and dolphin watching cruises.  Including a 'swim with the dolphins' cruise.  With winter weather - that didn't sound too appealing.

We also had heard horror stories about food in New Zealand.  Something about the tastes being mostly set before the English had discovered curries.  I can see where this criticism came from -- the English breakfast is prevalent and there are many take-away roast or fish-and-chips shops -- but there is definitely good food to be had.  We found some at a pub in Akaroa that specialized in local seafood.  I had mussels.  Chris had some dish that was in a 'who can serve the wildest meal' contest focusing on local ingredients.  It was excellent.
Akaroa City, With Cloud Cover
Our time in Akaroa was cut a little short because the clouds kept coming lower and lower.  We figured it would be better to drive back before the cloud cover caught up with us on the twisty-windy roads.  Particularly since we are still trying to get used to the wrong-sided driving.

So, we stopped at a cheese manufacturer and tasted their cheeses.  Then, we headed back over the hill and got home in time to rest for the next day's rugby match.

But that is a whole 'nother post in and of itself.


  1. Beautiful! I virtually toured a different part of the Banks Peninsula via Google Maps Street View and didn't have to deal with the ash cloud to get there. It's stunning. Driving on Street View is even more challenging, because it's easy to get disoriented on the turns and go back where you came from. But lots of fun.

    Great pics.

    Glad you did find yummy food. :-)

  2. P.S. With the misty cloud cover, these shots look quite like Ireland!

  3. I was very impressed with the Banks Peninsula, and with Akaroa. Looking at the Peninsula from on high, you can just see how geology forms.