Akaroa, Lucas and Hector – the dolphin

It was another early start today, with Kelly my tour guide picking me up at 8.30am. We were off to Akana today and my traveling Companions were from Chicago, USA and the northern part of Germany. In a land where I was expecting to meet Maori people, Islanders and Pakehahs, it really has been a mixed group of people I have been running across. An unexpected joy and delight, really!

The trip to Akaroa was going to take me through Halswell and through to Little River where we would have our first stop. Along the way Kelly, Occasionally provided us with a bit of commentary and point out a range of aspects that we probably would have been otherwise oblivious to – like Perth’s black swans that travel over here and enjoy the special seaweed that can be found in this lake that is really an estuary because it does have an opening to the ocean. Kelly also told us how there used to be a train that ran between Christchurch and this part of the world and how in the 196O’s it was decided not to invest in rail and the trains and their tracks were consequently removed. Of course you can imagine my delight when I heard and began to see that a nail trail was now put there in it’s place! Whoohoo! And when we stopped at Little River, there was a map of the rail trail. Yes I could just imagine if I lived here cycling along the different tracks.

The area of Christchurch and its surrounds need to be two massive and active volcanoes. They have been extinct for around six million years but that is why are area is filled with massive hills, expansive flats and so many beautiful water ways.

Our trip to Akaroa included a cheese tasting at – well I’ll have to look that one up – and it really was beautiful cheeses that we got to taste but only four – and tiny cubes at that! If I was heading off for a picnic with some wine and fresh bread, this place is definitely a must. But the tasting we had was not what I would advertise as a tasting. As you can see by the photos, the selection of cheeses could have lent itself to a fabulous tasting experience.

On our way around to Akaroa Bay Kelly told us how the French arrived a week to late to claim the South Island as French. But they settled down the opposite end of the beach to the British because they couldn’t be bothered trying to trek their way home. Anyway at some point both parties recognised the benefits to tourism to develop a French theme and hence why you feel like you have stepped into another world.

After a quick drive though the main street to get our bearings, we were on our own. It was such a beautiful place to wander and to be honest, there was not enough time for that. But I did come across a place where I was able to taste some of the most beautiful fudges I’ve ever tasted. Then I stopped for a coffee at a beautiful little bar on the beach front. Believe it or not the waitress was French and the batista was Italian and she knew what a cafe allonges was! Whoo hoo! Coffee heaven!

After that I wandered up to the British Quarter where we were to have lunch and meet for the cat ride. Well lunch was a treat. Breads and dips, fish – cod fillets – and a beautiful Hawkesbury Pinot Gris – large! The other meal was the salmon which came from the local salmon farm in Akaroa Bay. All beautiful – although I was particularly taken with the dips and breads. During our meal, Meredith and I discussed American politics and global impacts and love. Then Julia joined us and we talked about the best cities to visit in Germany.

Then it was off for a cat cruise and an attempt to find wildlife – dophins, seals and penguins. In particular we were going to try to spot Hector Dolpins that have a dorsel fin in the shape of Mickey Mouse ears.

As we headed out on the harbour it was peaceful calm seas. It’s a beautifully sheltered waterway and it’s surrounded by mountans and cliffs. I have to qualify that in New Zealand they tended to refer to such landscapes as hills, cliffs and gullies. But in my eyes the terrain was mountainous. I had a perfect spot on the right side of the boat facing the way we were heading. Mind you the wind was chilly and it wasn’t long before jacket, scarf and gloves were on.

As we neared the area where we might spot some New Zealand fur seals as opposed to Australian fur seals (haha don’t know if there is a difference but I thought giving them a nationality was funny) – a family moved closer and suddenly I had a young boy standing next to my knees – standing on tippy toes to see over the rail. He wanted to spot the seals and well – as you do – we began chatting. While his dad was there hanging onto him as the boat was getting rocky as we neared the heads and his mum and baby brother nestled at mum’s front, I started helping him spot the seals. Quite literally we were trying to spot rocks that moved!

Next thing he starts telling me about the ocean park he went to in Hong Kong and how he saw seals there. So, I naturally asked if he lived in Hong Kong. Well of course I was wrong – he lived in Shanghai! And speaking fluent English. I asked him if he went to school. This confused him somewhat. You see I was trying to find out if he was school age but no he didn’t go to school because his dad told the teacher that he was coming here. So while not confirmed I am assuming he was school age and he and his family were on holidays.

Well did we have fun spotting the seals. We even got to see some little 5-6 month olds jumping in and out of a rock pool. My new young friend was trying to count how many he had seen and excitedly gave me an update every time he spotted a new one.

Next we passed through the Akaroa Bay heads and we were out in the Pacific Ocean. And did we know it! There was definitely a swell and freezing winds.

Once out in the open seas, we saw cormorants, albatross and shags. One beautiful albatross gave us a beautiful display of how to glide on the wind currents.

Then suddenly out of nowhere I yelled out one o’clock! Our first Hector dolphin. And we also managed to spot a mother and calf swimming together. The dolphins swam in 2s and 3s, sometimes almost synchronising their leaps out of the water. Of course my young friend was just as chatty as ever as was everyone exclaiming with delight each time they spotted the dolphins breaking through the surface.

We did try to spot a penguin but no luck. The trip back in though the heads tooks it’s toll and it wasn’t long before I was wishing to be back on land. But I kept my head up and was very grateful I had only eaten half my main course!!!

As the waters settled, my friend had disappeared with his parents. Next moment they returned and he was asking to have a photograph taken. That was when we finally exchanged names. My friend’s name was Lucas and he learnt my name – Janet. Another precious moment or moments shared with another person.

Back on land we realised that if we were to go up along the top of the crater, we needed to get going. Well my legs and my stomach were definitely not ready for those roads of twists and turns as we headed towards the sky. No there was no vomiting still but as we drove to keep ahead of the clouds, I kept fighting to keep up a brave face. Mind you, the views had already been spectacular! So how do you describe this new perspective of awesomeness and magnificence?

Back at Little River we stopped for a coffee and a quick look at the art gallery. The coffee was a perfect anecdote for my sense of balance and the artwork was beautiful.

Back in Christchurch I left the tour guide to walk back to the B&B and get grounded. Instead, when I tried to find somewhere to eat, I had this huge wave of nauseousness overwhelm me and I was suddenly terrified I was going to vomit everywhere. So I walked back to my room as quickly as possible and went to bed. What a way to end the day! But spending the next 12hrs in bed – yes and missing out on dinner – did me a world of good!

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