Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Akaroa on the Banks Peninsular

Saturday 26 October
Akaroa, being on the Banks Peninsular, is not really that far from Christchurch and you can visit for the day, but we decide to get to know it a bit better and drive over there on Saturday morning for the w/e. The weather is bright and sunny and warm but forecast is for plenty of wind later.

Boat houses on the way to Onawe

The Banks is made up of two huge ancient volcanoes, one creating Lyttleton Harbour and the other Akaroa Harbour. I’d not been to Akaroa before and looking down from the crater rim it’s a really beautiful harbour. Before reaching the little town we stopped at the Onawe peninsula. This is an old Maori Pa site, a series of small hills sticking up out of the western end of the harbour looking for all the world like the humps of a sea monster. The plan was to walk along the humps avoiding getting our feet wet if possible.

Having parked by the boat houses we walked around the little hills to the main island from which this picture is taken

Unfortunately there has been a land slip and the path over the tops is closed but as the tide’s turning we don’t get too wet as we walk around the rocks to the largest island. The base rock is compressed sand with bright orange layers forming patterns. We do a loop walk to the Pa at the highest point and back again choosing the coastal path on our return with strange rusty metal parts underfoot  and glorious views of the harbour.

Beautiful patterns in orange rock

Arriving in Akaroa we find a great place for lunch (Vangoris -- best Western food so far in South Island according to Mike), check into the Youth Hostel, and then wander round exploring the town. We visit the i-site and plan a circular walk up to Stony Bay Peak the next day.

The small jetty at Akaroa on a bright, windy day

Sunday 27 October
Set off early for a long steep climb almost straight up to the peak. One of those walks where you can see your destination right from the start. A beautiful morning with great views of the harbour below and a ring of hills above all the way up. A long section of the climb is an old drovers’ trail which then becomes a stony track between areas of flowering gorse. Eventually we reach the saddle where the wind is ripping through us and the path turns to the right for the final climb up to the top.

Looking up the drovers track to the top of Stony Peak


Nearly at the top looking down on Akaroa. Onawe in the distance

Strangely enough it’s a little less windy up here and we enjoy a wander and a sit down with the views below us. The path down starts well as we walk in a south-easterly direction on the far side of the mountain over-looking the Pacific. It then joins a gravel road which takes us all the way down to Akaroa. Great dinner at Vangoris.

Standing proud at the top

Monday 28 November
We want to explore the Hinewai Reserve before returning to Christchurch. Find the car park and do a little walk through bush and broom getting a bit wet in the drizzle. Then walk on down to the lodge on the reserve. You can book to stay here ($18 a night!) so might be a fun place to stay. Set up like a hostel with cooking facilities but any profits go towards the upkeep of the Reserve which is run by a Hugh Wilson who has managed the Reserve since 1987. He’s an expert on the botany of the Banks and has written books about it. Looks a great place to stay so we’ll be back I’m sure. Later on, driving on the Crater Rim we overtake an old bearded chap on his push bike and it turns out to be the man himself.

Lovely collection of old settlers buildings

We carry on to the NE coastal settlement of Okains Bay which has a museum famous for its Maori collection. The place is nothing but a few buildings and a beach but the Museum is fascinating, being a collection of old settler buildings, lots of wakas, and a huge collection of Maori artefacts rivalling anything you could see in the Auckland Museum. Amazing for such a tiny out-of-the-way place. Head for home.

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