B’s friend, S, picked us up from our Christchurch hotel and took us to her holiday home in Akaroa, about 90 minutes drive from the city.
The Banks Peninsula is the result of volcanic activity. Both Lyttelton and Akaroa are the remains of volcanic craters. Read more here.
It’s a very pretty drive from Christchurch, winding through countryside tinged with the colours of Autumn.
We did a couple of picture stops, the first at a ‘beach’ covered in water-worn stone. There was tonnes of the stuff, all smoothed by the action of wind, water, and abrasion. It’s all volcanic around here, and most of the rocks looked grey, but when they were wet patterns and colours appeared.
We drove on past Lake Forsyth, a haven for water birds.
At Little River we stopped for lunch at a place S assured us did great food. She was right. I had fetta and spinach filo, served with a fresh salad. From there it was on to Akaroa, a natural harbour set amongst rolling hills and rocky crags. The summit road gives glorious views.
Our hosts have a lovely home with a great view over the harbour. They also have a lovely garden where we enjoyed watching the birds picking at the pears in a prolific tree.
We enjoyed a lovely meal with W and S, drank good wines and listened to stories about Akaroa. The area was (of course) settled by a Maori tribe. I suppose I vaguely knew the Maori were cannibals, but W told us about how a warlord from the North came down to attack the local tribe. Te Rauparaha wanted to attack paramount chief Tamaiharanui, who lived in Akaroa and conducted trade with the Europeans. But he needed surprise. The appearance of war canoes in the harbour would signal his intent and warn the village. The warlord made an agreement with Captain Stewart, of the brig Elizabeth. The European ship would transport the Maori war party and their canoes in exchange for 50 tons of flax. The unsuspecting Tamaiharanui actually came on board the Elizabeth for what he thought would be trade talks. He and his wife were imprisoned below decks. That night the war party attacked, sacked the village and engaged in a cannibal feast. Eventually Captain Stewart handed Tamaiharanui and his wife over to the attackers, when they were tortured, killed and eaten. Captain Stewart only received 18 tons of flax and I expect he developed a few grey hairs with a blood-thirsty Maori war party on his ship. It seems another trader with more New Zealand experience had advised him against the deal. A wise man.If you’re at all interested in history, this is a fascinating story. Find the passage headed “The capture of Tamaiharanui”. History of Canterbury
The following day S took us sight-seeing, starting with a quick visit to a Maori settlement and its tiny church. It had a lovely painting of Jesus steering a boat in a storm. I’d never seen him depicted in such a way before. Note the familiar Maori Tiki symbols on the gables.
Then we drove up into the hills above the harbour and down a narrow country track to Flea Bay. It’s all green, precipitous, and spectacular. It’s as if the sheep have velcro on their feet.
Tomorrow we’ll take a closer look at the town and the harbour.
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