Day Trip: Akaroa
One element of this trip that Brett remarked about today is that I’ve, ahem, ceded some of the planning control. It’s true. He’s been Captain Daytrip, planning our jaunts drivable from the house. And dude has rocked it.
His first smash success was Akaroa.
The name means Long Harbor in Maori. It’s on the Banks Peninsula, a crab claw of land southeast of our place, and so insanely beautiful with turquoise-y teal water. Due to its popularity as a cruise destination the local population of 700 can swell to 15,000 during summer months. That’s another nod to winter travel, y’all, the water was still beautiful and we all got to wear light outwear, my favorite.
The local Maori community was outed by the British, who were than paid 230 pounds by the French nary a year after the Crown okayed NZ as a colony, yielding an odd little slice of colonial France (it was Port Louise-Phillipe) at the bottom of the world. The roads still have Rue, there’s a beautiful rich blue in use everywhere that smacks of France. I failed to document any of that but did find a fabulous old library, because I can sniff those out a mile away.
We cruised in a bit after 11 and hit the Gardens of Tane.
There’s not much available about the garden outside of this PDF, but it was incredible.
The Gardens started as an exercise in taming nature. When it opened (I believe in the 1800s) it was a well-tended garden filled with exotic European tress (oaks, elms, ashes), a spot to see and be seen for Akaroa society. There are old growth trees like this cedar you shouldn’t really spot in New Zealand. Also, this tree was silly tall.
By the time World War II rolled around, the native flora and fauna elbowed their way back in. It’s now this delightful mishmash with native songbirds that stop you dead in your tracks. I admit to a passing Hunger Games reference.
There are more worn paths and then the many paths of curious feet. Most lead from one of the cemeteries at the top (Loie calls cemeteries chess boards after seeing a large game of chess being played in Christchurch. What can you do?) to the waterfront or to a great old playground that is equal parts creepy and fun.
I love that the piece on the garden says its shady cover, which might be considered ominous, is instead a great chance for kids to learn about the nature of the bush in New Zealand. Rather than trim it back and mark every route it’s allowed to instead be what it is and let the people adapt. Well done, NZ.
So we played and listened to song birds and tramped about till we got back down to the water. We didn’t really do much stopping and shopping or swimming with dolphins. We aren’t aggressive shoppers, it was puffy coat chilly. We did fit in rock tossing, Lo’s hobby of choice. The shores are known for crabs and paua shells, too, and we saw plenty of folks looking for them and not rock tossing.
We stopped for lunch at Akaroa Fish & Chips. It might have been the diciest moment of the trip. Lo’s a picky eater, sans doute, so we opted to bring fruit and granola and, you know, just grab a yogurt from the local dairy (that’s a convenience store to us) to have her nosh on with fries. Turns out a town of 700 means a tiny drive to get the yogurt so I was in charge of ordering.
Oops. I thought because the fish came with chips, it would be a small order. So I got some more and some spicy fries, because I can’t not order spicy fries. When the order came up, I grimaced at just how gluttonous and American we looked. You also have to pay for ketchup, which is fine by me, but good god we ate a lot of ketchup that day.
After eating our spudweight, we headed off to a spot so insane and magical Lo has been asking to return since we left.
Built in 1880, it’s now the personal project of Josie Martin. She’s a mixed media artist but the house is primarily a sculpture and mosaic wonderland. The first section she worked on was the Rue des Amis.
And from there, things got expansiver and fancier.
It was another moment having Loie with us enhanced the adventure. She was so deeply invested in a game of pretend about a castle that we stayed far longer than I think we would have just the two of us (and far longer than had there been tons of people there in summer) and wound up discovering all kinds of nooks and crannies of creativity.
We probably could’ve spent the day, or the rest of our trip, at The Giant’s House if the littlest Burwell had been in charge. But we peeled Loie away and headed to say hi to the lighthouse before bidding goodbye to Akaroa.
Our day trip modus while we’ve been here is selecting places about 2 hours from Christchurch and with about 3-4 things we’d like to see or do. One we think will be awesome but if we have to skip no big whoop, one we know Lo will like, one that may be so cool it hurts or some combination of the above. We chat and sing on the way there and bring a tired but happy kid home by watching a movie on the iPad. It feels sane and doable and great.
Maybe I’ve mellowed. Or maybe traveling with a 4-year old who is a damn fine traveler and doesn’t nap any more has transformed our trip game. When we were in France we were living with my sister and her husband and their school-aged kids. It was beyond wonderful but I was keenly aware of my desire to get up and get out early, so early, because the kid woke up around 7 and she still napped. I know many kids nap awesome everywhere. Our kid is a A+ sleeper, in a crib/pack n’ play/bed. Not in cars. So we’d need to truncate our days into two adventures. For my sister, with her older kids who could pour their own cereal, days could start a bit more leisurely, and as they should since this was their vacation.
This trip? I get it. Most days we hang around for a few hours in the morning before getting a start on the day, whether it’s staying hyperlocal or daytripping local. It’s damn delightful.
Bravo to my main squeeze for wresting control from his Travel Type A partner and kicking day trip ass.