26 March 2018: Monday.
A morning start with PBBanana in and on pita. Flo was tickled at the look of my breakfast and had to take a photo.
I realise this is a better way of having peanut butter and bananas instead of on toast because after warming the pita up, you can stuff it with bananas that will then get all soft from the heat. Peanut butter went on the outside otherwise the pita halves will split leaving you with no more pita pocket. 😦
From Lake Pukaki, the plan was to drive past Christchurch and over to Akaroa since one of Flo’s best friends Chris had mentioned that it was a really nice place to visit. Since we were doing well for time, we decided to heed Chris’s recommendation and have a look there.
This was possibly our longest drive taking up much of the day. We found a quaint farm cafe where we stopped for coffee. I decided to give in and finally try a Turmeric Latte topped with Cinnamon.
Ooooh wheee! This was delicious. I actually enjoyed the turmeric flavour with the creamy milk and subtle sweetness of the latte as a while. I used to think it was just a silly fad but now, I have to humbly agree that turmeric lattes are legit. I will have to try and concoct some for my own consumption now that I’m home.
Although Akaroa looks deceivingly close to Christchurch, winding around the mountains and lakes meant that it took about 2 hours before we found ourselves there. The weather was brilliant – wispy clouds floated lightly in the clear skies of blue and the sun lit the greens into shades of gold.
From Lake Pukaki to Christchurch, the change in weather was quite big. As we drove along, we slowly peels off layers of clothing especially nearer the city where the lands were flatter and used for agriculture and farmland.
Once we turned off towards Akaroa, it cooled again slightly and the scenic ups and downs of the landscape returned once again.
Akaroa turned out to be just by a small harbour, aptly named Akaroa Harbour. The village itself was small, cosy, and very French-inspired with plenty of quaint restaurants catering to the well-heeled visitors, and all their roads were named in French, for example ‘Rue Jolie’. The houses reminded me very much of those in the English countryside complete with a small creek running through the village.
Akaroa is one of the few villages set within the centre of what used to be a volcano. That volcano collapsed and formed a big crater that has since filled into a lake. Its harbour was filled with fancy yachts all happily bobbing on the calm waters.
It was near dusk when Flo and I reached Akaroa, so after a quick exploration of the area, we returned to our camper van and had some dinner before we rested for the day.
27 March 2018: Tuesday.
In the morning, we decided to drive to the location of the Old Lighthouse. It was quite a feat for Flo and our van because of the crazy steep inclines going up, and the slippery downhills on our return.
It’s actually recommended to drive a 4-wheel drive to get there and our camper van being a rather old model meant that Flo really had to concentrate. The road to Akaroa Head was very narrow and winding so I wouldn’t recommend driving there if you’re not a very seasoned driver, especially if on a manual. Also, the strong winds make it all the more dangerous and it’s one of those paths where once you’re on it, you have to go all the way. But I had my utmost faith in Flo, and I was extremely proud of him and our van for what it’s worth. It may be old but it’s still able to rough it up some.
To be honest, before the final 7km leading to the end of Lighthouse Road, there was a sign indicating ‘no camper vans’ but right after we’d U-turned, one camper van came by from there and the guy driving assured us that it was safe to go up as long as we stuck to the lowest gear and took things slow and steady. So we did. And we went all the way up, up, up until we reached this fence and fearing that there might not be space for us to turn around below, we decided to park there and walk down.
We found out once we neared Akaroa Head Scenic Reserve that there was indeed a grass patch carpark but we’d already done our 10min walk down.
The view of Akaroa Harbour was stunning! The sea laid before us in wondrous hues of blues and greens. To our right were the cliffs.
And to our left we saw the work of water against rock – a spit and an archway created through countless years of erosion.
We were hoping to be able to see some Hector Dolphins which are native to this area of New Zealand and are the smallest species of dolphins in the world. No such luck!
It was a wonderful reward after the arduous drive up to get there, and one we certainly relished.
After we spent a good amount of time relaxing amongst the wild grassy patches, we saw the clouds getting thicker and slightly threatening. So we decided that it was time to return to our van. It was only 3 minutes into our walk back that we realised just how steep the climb back up was. What took us 10 minutes to happily roll down, took us about double the time with the incline constantly getting steeper the closer we got to our car. It was a true test of our mental strength to try to keep going, especially in the final 20m.
I know, 20min seems like nothing especially when we’d done longer hikes and walks throughout the trip but this walk back up seriously had no plateaus or downhills. It was just steep, steeper, steepest all the way. So imagine when we go back to the van and broke into a refreshing can of Coke Zero. That fizz never tasted so good!
Back at Akaroa town, Flo and I lunched, showered, cafe-d, and made for Kaikoura. As we drove out of the camp area, I decided to be a lazy girl and try and shoot a banana peel into the rubbish bin from my seat. Flo obviously had to take a video…
Don’t worry, I got out of the van immediately and disposed of the peel properly.
It was already about 5.30pm by the time we left and GoogleMaps told us we’d take a good 4 hours to get to Kaikoura. In the end, we decided to stopover at Hanmer Springs since a road closure detoured us through there.
28 March 2018: Wednesday.
After a night of heavy drizzle, we woke up to bright skies. The air was cool and refreshing, leading us to want to take a pleasant walk up Conical Hill.
Hanmer Springs is surrounded by lots of alpine trees and as a result, really gives the ski-feels. It was an easy walk up to the top and not long at all.
It’s supposed to be a 45min return track but of course, once you reach the top, you just want to chill back and have a bird’s eye view of the town.
I actually enjoyed our short time at Hanmer Springs. Its town centre was littered with cafes and hot spring spas. We went to a few of the former but none of the latter, which most tourists who visit there go for. The place is idyllic, laid back and as with most of NZ, a beauty in its own right.
Soon after we got down from Conical Hill, we were back on track with our plans to go to Kaikoura. On the way, I kept thinking about the morning text Mum sent me regarding Aunty MH whose children I grew up with. Her older daughter who’s the same age as I am was my first best friend ever! Anyway, her health isn’t the best right now and it reminded me of how my ‘problems’ are mere specks compared to the mountains she faces every day. She, Uncle R and their children. I pray that God will keep her well for a long time more, that she will see D get married later this year, that she will stay positive. And I pray that Uncle R will keep holding on to God, and Faith, and Hope.