The town of Akaroa, is, quite frankly, a bit weird. Situated just near Christchurch, on a piece of land known as the Banks Peninsula, it appears to be, to all intents and purposes, French.
France is not the first place that one usually thinks of when roaming your average Kiwi village. Other than an obsession with wine, you wouldn’t think that there was much to link the two, besides that rather unfortunate incident with the Greenpeace boat, which the French would probably rather forget about.
Still. Akaroa was originally a French settlement and it appears that these are roots that are tough to shake off. The roads are all Rue’s. The petrol station sells “Essence”. Accommodation has charmingly French names. It’s all, as I already mentioned, a bit weird, if fairly quaint.
The Banks Peninsula, which Akaroa sits on, was formed by a massive volcanic eruption, and therefore provides some nice geographic relief against the backdrop of the Canterbury Plains, which are epically flat and mostly populated by cows.
This is the agricultural heartland of the south island, and therefore, not really a massively interesting place. Unless you are into cows. It’s also where the earthquake ravaged Christchurch sits – the centre of which still looks war torn, ten months on from the quake. The centre is also still very much closed to visitors, so we didn’t spend much time there.
The Banks Peninsula, on the other hand, was rather pretty, so we spent a couple of days exploring it’s hilly surrounds and it’s French town.
The walk highlight was the hike up Mount Herbert – the highest peak in the area – which took us from sea level to just shy of a kilometre in height, and rewarded us with frankly epic views across much of the south island and the mighty southern alps. Which I may have mentioned previously as being totally awesome.
From Akaroa it was further on up the coast to the whale mad town of Kaikoura, which will be the subject of a future post. Stay tuned… (did I just end my post like that? It appears so.)