While waiting news from the camera repair shop in Christchurch where we droped Quentin’s broken DSLR, we decide to take two days to explore the Banks Peninsula and its famous French village Akaroa, 75 km east of the city. New hitchhiking challenge! Indeed, nothing is more difficult for us than to hitchhike in town…
En route for Akaroa
We walk through the CBD to reach the main southern road to Akaroa, thinking it would be a good spot to start hitchhiking. But after a loooong wait watching the endless traffic passing by in total indifference, we understand that our chance of getting a lift here are very thin… We resume walking along the road, stopping occasionally on convenient locations to try our luck again. Until a policeman pulls over : « You can’t hitchhike here, guys! » Amiable, he gives us the directions to get out of the « forbidden hitchhiking zone » then drives away quickly. Well, hitchhiking is a real gamble! We left our friends’ place two and a half hours ago and we didn’t even manage to leave the city!! So we walk (again!) the long kilometers that separate us from the outskirts of Christchurch.
Once we left the urban noise behind us, we manage to get picked up fairly quickly by gentle fifty years old Carol-Ann who brings us strait to the tiny village Little River, 20 km from Akaroa. Although touristic, this place is cute and promotes all kind of local crafts. However, after waiting there two hours for a lift, we get a little bit bored… Even if we are now trained to be patient, it’s starting to last a little bit too long! Luckily, the weather is perfect. Neither too hot nor too cold, with a beautiful sunshine.
As our left thumbs begin to get stiff, an English couple on holiday finally takes us on board! In their fifties and both bikers, they are really nice. The gentleman is as discreet as his lady is talkative. She owns a red motorbike, while her husband has a black one « because, he says, everyone knows that black is faster! » We stop quickly on a lookout to admire the striking landscape of the peninsula, bathing in the late afternoon sunlight. Ancient volcanic area that collapsed in the sea, the peninsula offers lots of beautiful bays and coves as well as gorgeous golden mountains. The view is stunning!
Moments later, our friendly english drivers drop us in Duvauchelle, just before Akaroa. Better to stop here for tonight… It tooks us a whole day to travel 70 kms!! We set up our tent along the bay in the Duvauchelle Holiday Park, hoping that we will manage to reach unreachable Akaroa tomorrow!!!
Visit of Akaroa
After all the mishaps of yesterday, we have to wait another half an hour this morning before beeing picked up by a very nice old guy who drops us directly in Akaroa’s town centre, which is only 10 minutes away from Duvauchelle! This tourist city is absolutely charming. However, we think that its french influence is really scarce : we can only notice a few signs in french as well as a lonely couple of french flags. No french bakery selling proper baguette in sight! It’s really disappointing… But the little harbour is lovely nonetheless, and we enjoy a nice stroll around town. From the Harbour, a few companies are taking groups of tourists on the pacific waters to get a chance to see Hector’s dolfins, the smallest and rarest dolfins in the world, but the fees are a little bit too high for our budget so we’d rather stay on firm ground this time.
Instead, we go to the very interesting museum to enjoy a bit of local History. Indeed, it is quite epic! In 1838, french Jean-François Langlois wanted to create a whaling port on Banks Peninsula. He bought the land to the maori tribe who was living there and came back to France to gather people and organize everything for the new french settlement. Learning this fact, the English couldn’t stand idly! They worked twice as hard to get their colonization project sorted before the French and managed to signed the famous Treaty of Waitangi with the moari tribes of New Zealand on the 6th February 1840, establishing the sovereignty of the British crown over all New Zealand’s territories. Soon after that, they despatched the ship « Britomart » in order to claim the Banks Peninsula. She arrived on the 16th of August 1840 and, soon enough, the Union Jack was floating over the land! Two days later, the two french vessels « le Comte de Paris » and « l’Aube », carrying 63 passengers, moored along the Peninsula!! Despite their defeat, the French decided to stay and established a settlement in Akaroa. A few heritage houses are still preserved from this time, including around the museum itself.
After this cultural visit, we had a call from the camera shop. We have to shorten our stay here, it’s time for us to get back to Christchurch. But we will come back when we’ll be back in Christchurch.
Ironically, we have no problem to get a lift this time. Old retired David takes us on board and, while driving, tells us everything he knows about the area. He even makes a detour to bring us to his favourite beach along the Pacifique Ocean then, as he is not in a hurry, he drives us back to Christchurch by the Scenic road. We stop at his house to meet his lovely wife and he proudly shows us his cute little garden. And, as « he’s got nothing better planned », he drives us back directly to our friends’ place! Thank you so much David! Meeting amazing people like you is exactly why we choose to hitchhike around this beautiful country! It amlpy justifies any mistreatment that the road inflicts us!
Tintin & Riette
Hitchhiking to Akaroa from Christchurch :
If we have to believe the police officer who talk with us when we were hitchhicking from Christchurch, it’s forbiden to hitchhike while still « in the city ». More precisely he said where a bus goes is considered as « in the city ». So from the CBD, jump on the Orange line, and jump off in Halswell at the second stop after the BP petrol station, just in front of the bowling club (platform 38006). From there, walk a few hundred meters, until the traffic lights crossroads between Spark Road et Halswell Jct Rd. From there it’s really easy to catch a ride, most of all the cars passing through are going in the direction of Akaroa.
From Akaroa, to get back in Christchurch, there is a little park on the city limits along Christchurch-Akaroa Rd. Post yourself just after Rue Jolie, at Rue Brittan level, there is enough room for the cars to pull over.
Sleeping in Banks peninsula :
- Duvauchelle Motor Camp :
At 8,5km from Akaroa, it’s a little campground that does not look fancy, but that offers a really good base to explore around. 12$/person for a tent or a campervan, with access to showers, fully equiped kitchen, and even a relax corner with couch, TV and book exchange.
- Okains Bay Campground :
15km from Akaroa, at the end of a little road, it’s a nice little camping spot on a beach front.
- Little Akaloa Wilderness Campground :
A little bit more away from Akaroa, on the north part of the banks peninsula, that little campsit is the perfect spot for a nice and quiet night neat the beach in a wonderful kind of fjord.
What to do/eat in Akaroa :
- Visit the museum. A short circuit, but really interesting about the early settlers History.
- Visit Akaroa Blue Pearls shop and gallery. An amazing jewellery shop on the warf, specialized in Paua (Abalony) pearls.
Free, unless you want to buy one of these beautiful jewells 🙂
- Eat one of the best New Zealand fudge in « Pot Pourri ». One of the gift shops on the main street. They are making their own homemade fudge at the back. A free testing is even possible !
- Hiking ! The peninsula is famous for its walks, from 30mn to 5-6 hours long. More informations here.
- Haven’t been tested (yet… 🙂 ) : Akaroa fish & ships, one of the best in New Zealand…
- Haven’t been tested : Akaroa Cooking School. One of the best cooking school on south island. You can have some private lessons here…
- Haven’t been tested : Black Cat Cruise. A 2 hours long cruise on the peninsula, to meet hector dolphins and yellow eyed pinguins.