TRAVELING THE SOUTH ISLAND
For the next week and a half, we have a rental car and will be doing more driving and sightseeing on the road. We’re also staying at a bunch of different places as we work our way farther south and then west to end up near Doubtful Sound.
Today we left the serenity of Marlborough and flew north from Blenheim to Wellington (15 minutes in the air) and then connected to an hour flight from Wellington to Christchurch. There used to be direct service from Blenheim down to Christchurch, but no more. Fortunately, the first flight was on time as there was only thirty minutes to connect. We got off one plane, walked to the new gate, and boarded the second flight. We didn’t stay in Christchurch, but got another car and drove the approximately 45 miles over to Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula.
This peninsula is shaped like a horseshoe curling around the harbor and was named for Joseph Banks, the naturalist who voyaged with Capt. Cook. It’s stunningly beautiful; the mountains are contrasting shades of green, and we wound around up and down and around enjoying the sun and the view.
About halfway we stopped outside Lytleton for lunch at the Blue Duck Café, a simple straightforward place. We ordered ham and cheese sandwiches and an order of chips (read fries) that came with ketchup and aioli. The owner was chatty (who in this country isn’t, we now think) and told us he spent eleven years in London as a head chef, but got tired of the hours and returned to New Zealand to have his own restaurant. We talked a bit of politics with him (we want to export our president or gain asylum for ourselves; he bemoaned the fact that New Zealand still doesn’t have a formal government more than three weeks after the election), and then were on our way.
We missed a key turn toward Akaroa, our destination, but it turned out that Pigeon Forge Way gave us some wonderful views of Akaroa harbor we might not have gotten. That meant several stops for photos.
Akaroa was founded by a Frenchman and, consequently, reflects both French and British influences. We’re staying less than a mile outside town in what I would call a “cabin in the woods”, but what here is a cottage. There is no restaurant for food service and hence, after checking in, we went into town to wander around and buy provisions for breakfast. There was a lovely French bakery (croissants and sausage rolls), several French cafes, and a butchery whose cases were laden with tempting looking cuts of lamb, homemade sausages along with the usual chicken and beef. Backpackers must be regulars here in the summer as there was also an adventure center and some lodges and accommodations designed with them in mind.
Temperatures today were the coldest we’d experienced, and it’s windy. I’m very grateful for my on-sale L. L. Bean cashmere pullover sweater and the short down jacket I purchased at Costco some months ago. I wore them both!
We dined at the Little Bistro on the main street that seemed to be popular with the townsfolk. I tried their local littleneck clams with saffron cream (quite tasty) and the salad with pickled rhubarb and blue cheese (nice combo) while the C.P. had roast chicken and rosti potatoes. It was all very satisfying.