Friday, March 24, 2017

NZ/Aus Days 3 & 4: Akaroa

The beach a 5 minute walk from our flat

Baby did us a solid and slept for 16 hours our first night, waking only once to feed. That, coupled with it being only a four hour time change (because it's really a 20-hour time change), meant that we were feeling way better than we thought for our first day in New Zealand. It was cool and rainy so we stuck close to home to give Baby a chance to acclimatize and us the time to get settled. We drove into nearby New Brighton to get groceries, and do a brief walk along the boardwalk looking at the moody ocean. We gave her a bath and played lots. And most importantly, we ate some delicious lamb and sampled some wine from New Zealand! We all got another great sleep and were ready to start exploring the next morning.

Craig had mapped out a scenic driving tour of the area for us leading to the quaint town of Akoroa. Determined to keep our costs down, we packed a lunch, and what felt like half of our stuff, for a five hour round trip tour. Starting to feel more comfortable on the "wrong" side of the road, we jetted along the coast gathering altitude and views along the way. Each turn brought a new bay or inlet into sight nestled beneath towering mounds of dry grass and rock. Baby slept peacefully in the back allowing us a few quick stops for photos and a stretch. We got her out once to nurse on a picturesque bench overlooking Purau Bay. At this point, Google suggested turning back and retracing our steps but Craig, seeking a new path for our adventurous eyes, chose a route through the mountain pass.

The first pass was a lovely empty road with sweeping views in all directions as we decended to Port Levy. Continuing on we were confronted by a trio of warning signs. It seemed that to continue to Pigeon Bay was not suitible for campers or trailers, the road was narrow, and a giant '!'. Caustiously, we sped along at speeds up to 20 km/h as the two-way road was at times barely wide enough for one car, and was at its best wide enough for one car to dangle over the edge and the other to pass on the inside taking some shrubery with it.

At a corner we let a truck whiz past us, but quickly lost sight of it in the gnarled twists of a narrow canyon. Soon after we crested the pass, we came upon the truck, an ATV, and a whole heard of cows blocking the road. The rancher on the ATV instructed us to follow the truck bumper to bumper as it cleared a path. However the road was not wide enough and the hillside too steep for the cows to go anywhere but forward.

We backed off the truck's bumper, disappointing the rancher, when a cow slammed into the side of the truck. The loud crunch combined with thoughts of insurance paperwork filled Craig's head and we decided that we were not in a hurry. If we had to sit and watch a cow eat for a bit then so we would. After 10 minutes of inching along a second rancher was able to help get the cows to one side of the road at a wider section and we continued on our way undamaged.

The rest of the drive was also filled with great views around every corner, to the point where we maybe didn't enjoy them to the extent they deserved. Our turnaround spot was the town of Akoroa, a town that our guidebook proudly proclaims as the first settlement in the Cantebury region, forgetting that Māori arrived a few hundred years earlier. Steeped in French routes, there were bakeries, general stores, and a pretty waterfront to wander.

With the sun dipping closer to the horizon than we'd anticipated, we buckled a sleeping babe back up and opted for a more direct and well-travelled road for our return.

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