Akaroa – The long harbour

After awaking to the wonderful view of the coast with pink sunrise reflections staining the otherwise blue clouds, we drove down to the French settlement of Akaroa.

There were lovely little shops, most of them with French names surrounded by beautiful harbour views.

We stopped for breakfast at L’escargot Rouge Deli. With a name like that I was expecting to be asked, “Would you like red snails and ham?” but after resisting the Mr and Mrs Croques (Croque Monsieur = inside out cheese toastie, Croque Madame = same + egg), I settled on a breakfast sandwich and some tea. This was the view from breakfast:

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And these were our cheeky breakfast companions:

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We had a look through some of the shops, spending a bit of time in the fossil and gem shop where I had a bit of a childhood flashback after seeing some gemstone gnomes (tiny ugly clay gnomes on string clutching various gemstones).

Then we walked along the waterfront and along the pier. I was pretty captivated by the scenery so I took quite a few photos.

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While we were waiting for a nature cruise to set sail, we stopped for a coffee at L’Hotel, walking past the Tui truck and its excellent slogan (which makes more sense if you know that a Tui is a type of bird and a type of beer).

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Just after midday, we boarded our tour boat and began our cruise.

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The first thing we passed was a monument where the Union Jack flag was flying. The story behind this was that a French whaler had a plan to settle Akaroa after visiting so he organised a group of French immigrants to colonise. Unfortunately, they stopped in Russel on the way and while in a haze of booze and brothels, someone gave the game away. The English, not surprisingly, weren’t keen on the French barging in on their New Zealand gig, took a faster ship and arrived in Akaroa 4 days before, signifying their claim with a Union Jack. The French were annoyed, but settled anyway.

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Once again, there was a lot of wonderful scenery. Steep green hills, almost iridescent greeny blue water and interesting volcanic rock formations (in particular, a thermal dyke – the lighter coloured triangular rock on the cliff and the Elephant’s Head – the one that looks like an elephant’s head with its trunk in the water.

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As exciting as these rocks were, they were nothing compared to the pods of Hector’s Dolphins that we encountered. The dolphins are miniature, only up to 1.4m long, have rounded dorsal fins and are only found in New Zealand. Our captain kept the boat still around the pods for a while and then took off, knowing that the dolphins would follow us to surf in the wake. We saw them jump several times, narrowly missing falling onto the deck. It’s really difficult to describe how wonderful it was, but here are some photos which don’t do the experience justice:

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One of the other animals which we encountered on our tour was Murphy, the official cruise dog, who was a bit of a dolphin whisperer (dolphin barker?), yapping when the dolphins were approaching the boat. He also was a safety-minded dog, wearing his own dog-sized life jacket.

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On the rocks beyond the harbour, we saw some fur seals. There were some babies, having a swim in a shallow pool and some others who looked like we had woken them up from their afternoon naps.

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After our cruise, we stopped for a late lunch at a Fish and Chip shop which claimed to be “world renowned”. It was a pretty good feed, especially appreciated by the resident cat, who sat at our feet begging until some fish came its way.

We retired back to our cottage for an early night after our incredible sight-and sea mammal-seeing expedition.

I spent the evening trying to stop feeling like I was swaying, curled up by the fire like a lazy cat.

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