Wednesday, 13 January 2010


I've just spent another lovely few days in Akaroa, a beautiful harbour town near Christchurch, reached via a precipitous road over the volcanic mountains hereabouts. This was very nearly French territory way back when, after a French sea captain bought the land from a local Maori tribe, and hurried home to gather up emigrants to populate it. Sadly for him, before he returned with his 50 odd settlers, the British had signed the Treaty of Waitangi with the Maori, which effectively gave them control over both islands, and moreover it turned out that the local tribesmen had in any case sold the land eight times over. After coming all that way, however, they decided to stay and Akaroa became a French town in all but name.

Today, of course, it's all a bit more touristy - the French flag flies over fish restaurants, and all the street names are in French, but that's about as far as it goes. However (and I think I'm spotting a theme here) it's as charming as all the other small towns in New Zealand, with gorgeous views, cute harbour, gentle walks and plenty of photo opportunities. Plus trips out onto the water to interact with Hector's dolphins, one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world. The first day I was due to go out dolphin swimming the trip was cancelled because of a gale - and with the waves reaching six foot in the harbour itself, never mind in the open water, and the water iron grey and frankly uninviting, I was rather relieved. I spent the day in the tiny local cinema instead, chatting about sci-fi films with the enthusiastic owner and in between times watching subtitled movies in a lovely 12-seater, sipping fresh coffee and generally feeling that all was well with the world.

And in any case the next day dawned fresh and fine and we headed out in our wetsuits (no photo opportunities here) to look for dolphins. Sadly they were still a bit unsettled by the storm, and more interested in feeding than playing, but we still managed to get into the water with a pod of three, who circled us for a short while before swimming off to find someone more interesting! Even so, I feel very privileged to have swum less than 5ft away from a dolphin, and because they didn't stay long we got a partial refund as well, which I thought was very generous considering it's entirely up to the dolphins what they do!

And now I'm about to join my backpacker bus for a trip round both islands. I'm hoping that because it's all very rugged (camping out and cooking over a fire and so on) the clientele will be a bit older and more staid, but we shall see. Whatever happens, we've got some great stops on the way so who cares?! I'll write more when I get some internet access again, and in the meantime I hope everyone's well and surviving the snow...

No comments:

Post a Comment