New Zealand: from the beach to the foothills – Okains Bay to Geraldine

Our host in Akaroa recommended the Maori & Colonial Museum in Okains Bay so we decided to visit it before we left the Banks Peninsula. As we were down at the bay before it opened we had a walk along the empty beach.

There were a few flowers still in bloom on the path down to the beach.

Oystercatchers in New Zealand are black and there was a pair along with a Red-billed gull and some other waders that flew away before I could identify them. Most of the shells were clams and mussels but there were a few others.

We walked back through the trees. There is a large campground here right behind the beach which would be a great place to camp in summer. The museum is housed in a former cheese factory and staffed by volunteers. It has a large collection and the Maori displays were the most interesting.

As the colonial collection only dates from the second half of the 19th century, many of the items were very familiar e.g. Singer hand sewing machines. For anyone whose ancestors lived here, there is a lot of information on local families and many of the items on display have been donated by their descendents. Across the road from the museum is a shed with the two canoes currently used every year on Waitangi Day.

We then re-joined the summit road which on a clear day would have good views over the peninsula. We were back on Highway 75 at Hilltop which is 476m and then descended to Little River for coffee. As we crossed over to join the Inland Scenic Route on Highway 72, we could see mountains ahead and forests. We were soon in the foothills of Mount Hutt Range and stopped at Rakaia Gorge where there are overlooks and short walking trails.
We met a couple of guys from Yorkshire who were also travelling around before attending some of the Lions matches later on. It was now time for us to descend a little, cross the Rangitata River and find our accommodation in Geraldine.

New Zealand: the Banks Peninsula – Akaroa Harbour

The 1st of June is the first day of winter down here. We had booked a two-hour cruise around the harbour and were a little disappointed to wake to mist and drizzle. The locals were saying that it was most unusual to get so much mist at this time of year. It lifted a little as we walked down to the pier for the 11am departure. There is a hut on the pier selling fish and chips so the gulls were hanging around hoping for some food. Red-billed Gulls are apparently declining in number.

We sailed down the eastern side of the harbour with a commentary on the history, geology and natural history of the area. These are the southern-most palm trees

The outer part of the harbour is a reserve and the company we went with, Black Cat Cruising, give part of the ticket price to maintaining the reserve. We kept our eyes peeled for wildlife but this was as close as we got to penguins.

Just outside the harbour dolphins were fishing all around us.

New Zealand Fur Seals were very well camouflaged on the rocks but soon popped their heads up to have a look at us.
We looked at the volcanic cliffs a little more closely

and then had a swift look around the Pacific for whales but there were none to be seen. The mist was descending again as we returned to Akaroa for lunch.

We walked back to our motel via the museum and some of the older streets in the town.

New Zealand: the Banks Peninsula

The Land of the Long White Cloud was cloudy as we left central Christchurch to pick up our car back at the airport. We left through the southern suburbs and then east towards the Banks Peninsula. Sighted and named after the naturalist Joseph Banks by Captain Cook in 1770, it was settled briefly by the French in the 19th century before the British claimed it.

South of Christchurch we stopped for coffee in Tai Tapu at the Store Cafe which seemed popular with a local cycling club. The next halt was at Lake Ellesmere which is actually a broad, shallow lagoon separated from the Pacific Ocean by a long narrow sandy spit. We could see Black Swans in the distance. At Lake Forsyth just before Little River, there were Mallard, Australasian Crested Grebes and this White-Faced Heron.
While I was looking at birds, James had spotted some brown cattle he thought were Herefords but had a large white stripe along their backs and down to their white heads. He chatted to the farmer who confirmed that they were Herefords. At Little River, we looked in the old station which is now run by the Little River Railway Station Trust. They are a small volunteer community group who lease the Historic Railway Station from Christchurch City Council. They look after the Gardens, the Building and environs and restore the railway carriages. Inside, there is a Heritage Room and a Waiting Room with the Little River War Memorial Boards from the 1914-18 and 1940-45 World Wars. There are displays in s on local historical and community events and reference books available for people to use to research their family history. The old railway is now a 48km Rail Trail which can be walked, ridden or biked. There is also a gallery selling art and crafts plus you can Stay in a Silo.

The tide was out at Barry’s Bay
and we finally reached Akaroa
The lighthouse was moved from the headland when automation took place. As we ate our picnic lunch this female House Sparrow sat watching us hoping for scraps.