Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

Distance travelled 177 kilometres

We woke up to a very dull and overcast morning. It was in no way cold, but it was grey and blustery. To get used to what we had thought would be a “different” Harley (the planned “swap” would have given us a Road King) we had planned a shortish trip to the picturesque ( just for a change !) town of Akaroa. This had been recommended to us by Graham, the Christchurch traffic policeman, that we had met on the Wellington to Picton ferry. By then, that crossing felt like it had taken place at least a century previously.

Because the trip would be a short one, there was no rush to be off. I made Lucie her morning espresso and set off for a “morning constitutional” walk to a point that had caught my eye on the map. A brisk few minutes of striding out brought me to a sign saying “St Albans Park”. There was nothing spectacular in that – it was a “normal” park. The reason that I had walked there was because I used to live very close to, err… St Albans Park, in the English city of that name, over thirty years ago.

The walk through the suburbs was enlightening. The city of Christchurch had suffered a number of earthquakes in its history including four in quick succession between February 2010 and the end of 2011. Most modern buildings are as “earthquake proof” as it is possible to build them – but there was evidence of many sites where collapsed buildings had not been replaced or, in some cases, simply not repaired. A lot of new construction of small, residential units was going on. Nothing “high-rise”, all one or two storey with a low brick wall topped by wood framing which appeared to have a lot of triangular reinforcement in the skeletons that I saw.

In one place, not two kilometres from Central Christchurch, I came upon some cows grazing in a field in a residential street ! Sadly, it appears that this little rural oasis will soon have houses on it too.


The weather, as we set off, had not really improved and, as we left town, it even drizzled a little, but fortunately, the shower was brief.

The town of Akaroa, lies on the shore of a volcanic crater lake on the Banks peninsula, east of Christchurch. The whole peninsular is of volcanic origin, which is obvious from a glance at the map. One wall of the crater was breached by the sea, thousands of years ago, when what is called the Canterbury Platform subsided beneath the waves. That, effective made Akaroa a “seaside” town. There was a cruise liner in the bay when we arrived.

The route to the peninsula soon passed along the shores of Lake Ellesmere / Te Waihora, which is, more precisely, a coastal lagoon. It had a deep green colour and, seemingly, very stagnant water. It was also created by the fall of the Canterbury Platform that collapsed the volcano crater.

We stopped for a nice breakfast in Little River at the Little River Café (Christchurch Akaroa Road, Little River, Christchurch) and then continued to wind our way south-east along the coast, passing the town of Ellesmere and then around Lake Forsyth / Wairewa. After another somewhat steep climb on a road with a very dubious surface in some places (usually the best “line” for the Softail was the most degraded), we arrived at one of those classic T-junctions where Akaroa was signposted in BOTH directions ! In fairness, it was a dead-end road, so we had to choose which way we wanted to make the loop. To the left, the route was indicated to follow the summit of the crater so, as we like a view, we went left. It was still fairly clear at that point and we soon had good, but slightly hazy, views over the waters of the bay far below.

As we climbed higher, though, we came into mist, or possibly cloud, that quickly thickened to the point where visibility dropped to about three metres !

Fortunately, we were practically alone on the road (no wonder) and as soon as there was an opportunity and we were able to determine, from the iPad exactly where we were, we turned down a sharply descending side road that brought us to the shore of the bay. It was gloomy, even by the water and not particularly beautiful, but at least the roads were visible.

Like the Rome of old, all roads (well, the only one) led to Akaroa, so we drove around the bay and into the town. We parked on the jetty and took a few pictures, but the overall gloom caused by the weather meant they were not the colourful scenes we had been hoping for. On the jetty were the local fishing “rules” which seemed totally draconian and stipulated, to the nearest MILLIMETRE, the size of shellfish you could catch. The rules were so convoluted and complicated that we were surprised to see people fishing. They must have been university professors on vacation ! There was other posted notices too, which included advice not to swim with Orcas (Killer Whales). I cannot believe people actually have to be told that ??

We found what appeared to be the only open café, Mandala (40F Rue Lavaud, Akaroa). Many places in the area had French names, no doubt a throwback to the incursions preceding the Treaty of Waitangi. Despite its French name, the road overlooked the cricket field and its tidy little pavilion – ah ! England ! It was still so drab, though, that even the doctor chose to sit inside. At least the carrot cake was up to standard and the ice-creams on offer reminded me of Essex !

Overall, there was an empty air to the place, which surprised us a little because it was really close to Christchurch. We evaluated the possibility that the clouds on the summit might have cleared as being about zero, so we saw no point climbing back up there and hoping for views. We took the lower, bay side road back towards Christchurch, passing the T-junction and down the evilly surfaced incline, which seemed even worse in that direction.

We had initially considered taking a scenic cable car trip on the return journey at a place called Marleys Hill (another “missing” apostrophe !) but, as the pylons for the gondola ride were also obscured by low clouds, we also rejected that as we did not believe it would be in operation anyway.

We got back to the lodge in mid-afternoon and whiled away the time trying to find some recommendations for restaurants on Trip Advisor, but none we found was in the pleasant area we had visited the previous evening. There was one, that I remembered, which had been next door to Delilah, but totally packed and which had displayed a menu that had also interested us. We found it, rechecked the menu (the internet can be so useful, sometimes !), liked what we saw and set off to walk there.

We had chosen the restaurant Amazonita (126 Oxford Terrace, Central City, Christchurch).

The food was quite interesting. As ever we shared starters, crayfish rolls and potted crab, both excellent.

These were followed by sea-urchin risotto for Lucie and a Catalan fish stew (fish, mussels, clams, etc.,) for me. Lucie pronounced hers bland, but my dish was very tasty.

Lucie also enjoyed an Aztec Armadillo “mocktail” and I had a cider. Draught lager seemed nearly impossible to come by ! Somehow, Lucie found room for a coconut dessert, so I tried a chocolate one which, with an odd, but complementary creamy accompaniment was delicious indeed.

The previous evening, in the poor light of dusk, we had noted a strange metallic statue of a figure actually standing in the river Avon which is quite narrow at that point. We had photographed it on the way down and now walked up the opposite bank to read the blurb on the poster. It appeared that it was by Antony Gormley, (of “Angel of the North” fame) and was called “Stay”.

It also seemed that there was a twin to it quite nearby, in the Arts Centre. Lucie declared that she was feeling a bit strange, whether from something disagreeing with her or just plain over-indulgence, she could not say. However, she gamely accompanied me on my search for the twin statue. Of course, we could not find it ! The second one is actually quite controversial. Two were ordered, but they take time to make and, by the time the second one was complete, the value of the New Zealand Dollar had fallen so much that it cost an additional $NZ 100,000 ! I vowed to try and locate it on our final night, back in Christchurch, the following Saturday. We would have to wait and see.

While I was statue hunting, Lucie, who had found some tram tracks, studied how the system worked with an eye towards taking a ride. It seems that the Christchurch tram is not part of a public transport network, but merely a tourist attraction which rides on a loop around the city centre for a fare of 30 $NZ. The type of tram is “historic” and, at night, from 19:00, it operates as a mobile restaurant.

We walked home by a different, but a familiar route, because it was the way that we had now driven to the lodge on a couple of occasions. Lucie was feeling a bit better by then so we had our evening drinks and retired to our king-sized bed.