Saturday, December 12, 2009

NZ - Banks Peninsula, Kaikura

I awoke and thought I was once again in a deluge from skies.  When I finally woke up – at about 9am – and looked outside: I found an almost cloudless sky… but a gale like none other.  I made my way out of the hostel and first southward toward Lyttelton.  My first goal along this drive, along Dyers Pass Road and Summit Road, was to not kill any bicyclists.  An admiral goal, I know.

They were absolutely everywhere… fortunately, they behaved as model bicyclist, as opposed to the one guy I passed by during my drive to Aoraki / Mt. Cook.  Along that drive: I passed a slew of cyclists apparently traveling together (they all had identical orange vests), but spread out over the span of several kilometers.  The second batch of them I came upon had some guy who insisted on meandering in all directions, across all lanes, apparently oblivious to a car attempting to pass in the right lane.  I’m all for bicyclist’s rights on the road, but you gotta at least drive responsibly & I’ll do the same.

Back to my drive along the south of Christchurch: Summit Drive was certainly cyclists’ territory moreso than motorists’.  It’s certainly not a commuter route, and even less so on a weekend morning.  It was a fantastic drive with amazing views, but the forceful winds were even more pronounced at this height.  At one point, while standing on some rocks taking photos, a gust pushed me right over: sending me falling backwards (I fortunately steadied myself just enough to fall in a semi-controlled fashion… as controlled as an unexpected tumble can be).

Just as I was leaving the hostel, hayfever hit me like a flyswatter on its prey.  Those who know me probably know that I’m really not particularly allergic to anything, and when allergy season rolls around: I am pretty much unaffected.  So I certainly wasn’t prepared for the runny nose & marathon sneezing that I got to experience today.  When I got to my final destination of Kaikura, I couldn’t help but laugh as I sat in the common area & joined in with the symphony of sneezing.  I’d come to find it’d been a South Island-wide phenomenon all of a sudden.

Rolling through Lyttelton and on to Governors Bay, I’d hoped to pickup lunch in the latter; but let it be after seeing the prices.  When I got to Akaroa they weren’t much better.  Apart from some cashews I’ve been munching on whilst driving, I didn’t have a thing to eat until dinner.

The drive around Banks Peninsula – specifically to Akaroa – was amazing.  I particularly liked the unsealed road I took to get to Pigeon Bay, and then the views down both sides of the ridge from Summit Road (a different Summit Road than the one in Christchurch).

Bravo to Akaroa for finally providing a Kiwi town with its own identity.  Granted, history has a bit of a role in that: this was where the French founded a colony back in the day.  While it was eventually absorbed into English New Zealand, it still retains a different feel than the rest of New Zealand… I can’t say it necessarily felt French, but at least it didn’t feel so English-American.

During my quest for cheap food, one of the descendents of the original French settlers – an official Town Crier (which apparently takes a lot of formal training) – helped show me around & lead me on my quest.  I ultimately gave up on the quest, not because I couldn’t find any cheap food (I found some around $15, which is pretty cheap in this country) but because the kitchens in the cheaper places weren’t open.  Ahh, foiled once again by NZ’s quirky operating hours.

I gunned it up to Kaikura, not stopping at all along the way.  I’d initially been planning to skip Kaikura, but I figured I’d try and make as much headway as I could toward Picton in preparation for taking a ferry back to the north island.  Upon arrival, I actually became quite glad that I opted to stop by Kaikura.  It’s a very scenic small town wedged onto a peninsula & surrounded by either mountains or sea – exactly my sort of place.  The town itself has the same sort of stores as any other NZ town, but at least the geography forces it to contort a little bit, helping it looks just a little bit more distinct.  There are some great lookouts just above the town, too, great for both sunrise and sunset (though I only partook in the latter and have no intentions for the former).

My room, at the Lazy Shag, was almost all to myself; but in the last minutes of reception’s opening hours three French guys arrived.  They seem nice enough, but I have a natural disliking of anyone that wears designer popped collar sorts of clothes, and these three certainly were.  One additional demerit was that one of them, if standing around in North Jersey, could have easily been mistaken for a guido.  Not a compatible personality for me at all... hence my choice to take on a more reclusive persona for the night.

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