Monday, September 1, 2014

Not Labour Day Here: Christchurch->Akaroa->Dunedin

Had breakfast at Denny's (my first indulgence in American chain restaurants of the trip) and then stopped by the New Zealand Automobile Association office. They "converted me" to a visiting AA membership, which allowed me to gather up a pile of maps for my trip.

I had a good drive to Dunedin ahead of me but decided to start with a side trip to Akaroa, a pretty little harbour town about an hour and a half from Christchurch. It's set in the middle of two old volcanoes, and the drive there was staggeringly gorgeous. At first there was fog clouding the tops of the hills, but that cleared, and the views of the rolling hills and valleys from the twisty road with no guardrail were amazing. These photos don't begin to capture how stunning it is, with amazing textures on the hills that made it look like there was a wrinkly blanket of grass draped over a rough landscape. It reminded me a lot of Scotland.

View from the road from Christchurch to Akaroa

Akaroa, seen from its wharf

Walked around the little town a bit and had lunch at a fish & chips place, then got back on the road, retracing my steps until I was close enough to cut through a few small towns to reach the main highway running down the east coast of the South Island. Suddenly the scenery turned very drab and ordinary, so I guess New Zealand is not completely gorgeous absolutely everywhere. One thing I noticed that I found interesting were the giant hedges made from trees. Some of them were dozens of meters long, 5-8 meters high (with trees just lopped off at that height) and 3-4 meters thick, trimmed into perfect box shapes. I haven't seen anything like that anywhere else I've been, but I saw lots of them today.

I had planned to stop at a store in Dunedin to pick up a couple things for the rest of my trip: a small cooler bag to keep lunches and drinks cool during all the driving I'll be doing the next 2 weeks, and a fold-up chair for watching the climbing competition in Noumea. I had found both online at great prices at a store called Bunnings in Dunedin, not too far from tonight's hotel. As I was driving along I thought to myself, "Hmm, maybe I'll drive by another Bunnings store on the way to Dunedin" (I knew from their web site that they have a bunch of stores). A minute or two later one such store presented itself, so I pulled over and bought the items (about $30, including two ice packs). The fold-up chair should work as carry-on luggage for the flight from Auckland to Noumea, and after the competition I'll donate it to someone rather than lug it back home.

About half an hour outside Dunedin the landscape turned stunning again, as the land dropped down to the harbour. I found my hotel and settled in, then walked a few blocks and found an Indian restaurant for dinner. Back to the hotel after, tired after a long day of driving, but very happy I decided to do the side trip to Akaroa!

More gorgeous scenery (try to ignore the power lines!)

The camera can't capture a fraction of the true beauty.
There was so much depth, in terms of tiers of rolling hills,
huge dynamic range of lighting, and the textures of the grasses and sheep on the hills.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome that you did the drive to Akaroa; it's a pretty special place.