Volcanoes and Cheese Tour

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Hello again, and welcome to another chapter of InactiveSteve’s adventures. It’s now been a full day since my cycle journey ended, but I’m still trying to fill my days with exciting things to do. Today’s post is all about a day trip that I made out to the beautiful Banks Peninsula, and more specifically, the town of Akaroa, one of the only places in the world where the French and the English lived peacefully side by side in the days gone by. There is a history of settlement there by both nations, and the little town the remains there is a very picturesque and charming area, well worth the visit I reckon. The weather wasn’t perfect for my day trip, but at least it wasn’t pouring rain. I sort of wish I’d been able to spend a night there as well, and see the area in better weather, but at least I got to stroll around for a few hours, have a good meal, and sample some tasty cheeses later in the day. As a result of two days worth of accumulated hangover, it was a very low-key day for me, but you can still check out my map and the pics from the ensuing day. Read on and enjoy, friends.

I should be clear on one thing right off the bat. This was not a full tour like the day before. It was more of a scenic shuttle, dropping me off in Akaroa, then taking me back at the end of the day. There would be no wild stops or heavy drinking. Any doubt I may have had was put to rest immediately upon boarding the bus, and finding myself surrounded by more ‘distinguished’ tourists. Okay, they were mostly retirees, that’s all there is to it. To be honest, it was a bit of a relief, as I’m sure my body couldn’t have handled another abusive day. However, as it was the scenic shuttle, there were still a number of great stops along the 80km trip to check out things like a gallery as well as the excellent views from the volcano crater rim. Well, they would have been excellent, had it not been for the less than stellar weather. However, that’s nobody’s fault, is it. Banks Peninsula is quite interesting, as along the east coast around Christchurch, it’s all very flat as a result of being part of the Canterbury Plains. However, upon heading to the peninsula, you are greeted by high hills once again, as the entire area was formed by two different volcanoes which were active millions of years ago, and shaped the land to be the way it now is. At one point, it was actually an island off the east coast, but time and erosion have made it a peninsula.

For its size, Akaroa had an astounding number of cafes and restaurants, but there was really only one place I was looking for. It was supposed to be called ‘Fun Judy’s’ or something like that. It was where Greta, a girl I’d met in Curio Bay, had worked, and she told me I had to go there for pizza, and a chat with Stephen, the owner and her boss. I walked around trying to find this place, but nothing seemed to be the right place. Eventually, I pieced together what the issue was. It was in her accent when she had told me. I saw a place called Vangionis. And saying it aloud, I realized that was probably what she meant. I strolled in and asked if Stephen was working, and he was indeed there, cooking. Looks like I found the place. I then brought up Greta, and since he knew who I was talking about, I knew I had finally found the right place. It was a very nice little restaurant, and the whole time I was there, people were coming up to Stephen to tell him what a great meal they’d had. Sounds good to me. I ordered up a ‘Helena’ pizza in honour of my niece that I miss. It was ham, pineapple, tomato base, and blue cheese. It was simply outstanding, and I was extremely glad to have stopped off there for lunch. Nice story eh? Well, I was even offered a job from Stephen if I wanted to work for a couple weeks. He was short some staff for the Easter time. Sadly, I had to decline.

So what else did I do in Akaroa? Well, I just walked around basically. I headed up a place called Settler’s Hill Road, the site of the original French Cemetery where the settlers were buried. Once again, I suspect the views would have been quite stunning, but as a result of the cloud cover, I couldn’t see very far. I still enjoyed the walk however, and it took me back to the waterfront, where I watched a Ketch leaving with a load of tourists for a cruise. I also checked out a few other boats and tour options, but none of them really fit my schedule, and since it was overcast, I decided just to forego any ‘extra’ activities on the day. The only bonus treat I gave myself was an admission to the Akaroa museum, which for its size was a pleasant enough experience. There was a good 20 minute movie which went through the entire history of Akaroa, and there were some other good displays showing Akaroa over the years. The best part for me was learning of one of Akaroa’s most famous sons. Frank Worsley, the navigator on Shackleton’s Endurance expedition hails from there.

By the time I was wrapping up my museum touring, it was time to make my way back to the iSite to catch the return bus. Not before grabbing a tasty ice cream though. After all, we were in a region steeped in dairy history, so one can only assume the ice cream would be good. It was. The bus was right on time, and we loaded on, ready for a slightly different return route to Christchurch. We’d make one stop of note on the way, and that was at Barry’s Bay Cheese company for some cheese samples as well as being able to look at the factory floor. Of course, they were done cheese production and were just cleaning up, but the cheese samples were quite tasty. I really enjoyed the rinded mature cheddar they had. Being unsure of whether or not I could travel with it though, I opted not to buy any to bring with me. Others bought some however, so I’m sure Barry’s Bay Cheese did alright from our 10 minute stop.

The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful, and I actually dozed a little bit on the bus. I even snapped a picture of myself doing so, which believe me, taking your own picture while you’re sleeping is quite a feat 🙂 Okay, maybe I staged it, but I just had to show you that even ActiveSteve slows down once in a while. Ha ha. Upon my return to jail, I set about repacking my things for my next journey onboard the trains, as well as starting to upload some of the many pictures I’ve snapped since Invercargill. After reading this, you might as well head over to Flickr and check out the latest pics since Inver-Vegas that I managed to get up. The hostel had a deal where for 10NZD, you got 5 hours of time, which is pretty awesome, I also went out for some lack-lustre chinese take-out which was very close to the hostel. It was ok, but nothing too special. So ended my Akaroa day. I didn’t go dolphin spotting or whale watching, just walking, eating pizza, and visiting a local museum. All told, it was a great way to spend my Sunday. Next up, the TranzAlpine train and an overnight in Arthur’s Pass Village. I just realized it’s St. Patrick’s day, but I’m not sure there will be any way to truly celebrate in the mountains! Tune in next time, and find out if there was any Irish madness from the rails.

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