off we go! travel blog

Banks Peninsula

A bit of a disturbed night; our neighbours carried on talking for ages, trains seemed to be running every ten minutes and the building site next door started up early. So we were up early and after all the usual preparations we set off for the Banks Peninsula. Apparently, Captain Cook named it Banks Island, after his friend Joseph Banks, but did not map it or realise it was not an island. Only 40 years later when someone tried to find a passage around it was it discovered not to be a island!

The day had started grey, but now the sun was poking through the clouds and before long it was a lovely sunny hot day. We drove out of Christchurch and through the Lyttelton Tunnel dropping down to Lyttelton itself. It was built as the port for Christchurch as it has deep water and is very sheltered. The town, built on the slopes of an ancient caldera, suffered badly in the 2011 earthquakes, it was immediately above one of the epicentres and many house were either destroyed or badly damaged and embankments slipped. A real shame as it is, apart from the port a very pretty town in a beautiful setting with many original buildings.

We drove around to Governor's Bay and on round the bay; it was beautiful, and then on up over the rim of the caldera via Dobbie's Pass to Motukaraka. Once over the pass the land flattens out and becomes Lake Ellesmere which is separated from the ocean by a long sandbar, created by the outwash from all the 'braid' rivers flowing from the Southern Alps.

The road headed back inland at the spit, alongside another lake, Lake Forsyth, before climbing over the back of another ancient caldera and dropping down to Akaroa Bay. A stunning view from the road as it drops down to the bay, though the little town of Akaroa is hidden by one of the many small peninsulas jutting into the bay. Another wonderfully scenic drive as we descended and followed the shoreline around to Akaroa.

The was a cruise ship in the bay, and the town was heaving with its passengers, which took the shine off the place, but then it was a bit of a pastiche anyway. Originally a French settlement, it has retained French name places, and many restaurants - all along the waterfront, have French names, though we could hear fno French spoken anywhere. We bought some fresh fish; great slabs of groper (well that's what the kiwis call it), for a very reasonable price and then along to the butcher where we found some lovely rib-eye steaks.

Back on the road to find our campsite at French Farm, a 'freedom' site with nothing but a view across the bay to Akoroa, beautiful. We cooked our fish, washed it down with a good Sauvignon Blanc, and just sat there watching the tide go out and enjoying the view and the sunshine. A gorgeous afternoon.

Dinner was barbecued steaks and a lovely bottle of Pinot Noir we had bought at the Chard Farm vineyard we had visited with Jack. The sun went behind the hills and we went to bed. What a great day and whilst tomorrow will be our last day in New Zealand which we were quite sad about we have Australia to look forward to.

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