Akaroa! Since the earthquakes trashed Christchurch a few years ago, the cruise ships bouncing around New Zealand have been stopping in the sleepy little French-ified village of Akaroa. On our first visit there we wandered around, checked out the old cemetery, saw the Giants House, took in the markets and shopping. Second visit there… we kinda piked and upon observing the tender snafus, decided to skip it. Yes, very jaded travellers are we.
This trip however, there were so many of us who had never been to the area, so I went hunting for a fun day trip out. I popped onto Trip Advisor and found glowing reviews for a sailing trip around the harbour on the small sailing ship, the Arctic Fox II. It promised lots of wildlife sightings and sounded like a great excursion. So I contacted Captain Roy, and requested a quote for 12 adults and 3 kids, which came back at less than half the cost quoted to do this trip through the ship … and he threw the kids on for free given I was booking for a largish group. Thanks Roy!
We set off on our little ship and motored out towards the harbour entrance, all rugged up against the cold and prepared in case we caught a bit of rain. Very soon we found ourselves surrounded by Hectors Dolphins – one of the smaller breeds of dolphins, they are not as plentiful as they should be but are quite commonly found in Akaroa Harbour. The lovely creatures seemed to follow us along, and when the Captain cut the motors and played some music?! the dolphins seemed to come and investigate us. Captain Roy commented that the dolphins always come over because they like the music – it’s possible, but I dare say, the music was for our benefit… floating around listening to sailing related tunes was really quite relaxing. 🙂 We saw plenty of cormorants, some fairy penguins swimming about, seals and of course our Hectos dolphins seemed to follow us all afternoon. Some of our party got a bit sea sick as we got to the mouth of the harbour, but over all everyone managed the swell of the small ship going up and down the waves quite well… a bit of ginger all round and only one person actually sick. Maybe that ginger should have been handed around a bit earlier! Captain Roy also gave us plenty of history about the area, from the Maori tribal massacres to early French and English settlers and Akaroa’s involvement during WII. All round a very informative and interesting afternoon out I loved it, would highly recommend this trip to anyone wanting to check out Akaroa and hear a bit about its weird and wonderful history.
Back in Windy Wellington! But yet again, the luck is with us and it’s not windy, it’s not raining, it’s not cold and miserable, it’s beautiful. I have a feeling Wellington is trying to con us – every time we come here, the weather is gorgeous and everyone says, ‘It’s not normally like this’… au contraire mes amies! 🙂
Most of our group went off on a LoTR tour today to see various places where the LoTR movies were filmed and to check out the Weta Workshop where Peter Jackson and his flunkies work their movie magic.
While Mr K and I did a bit of shopping and head over to Te Papa – we always go over to the Te Papa museum when we are in Wellington, they must have an excellent curatorial staff, as they always have interesting international exhibitions on and they have an excellent gift shop full of unique and local fine art and craft work. Though having said that the gift shop seems to have emptied somewhat since last time we were here – less books or something?
After pottering around the museum a bit, we went for a stroll down the boardwalk to meet up with Taxi B and his partner for lunch. As it turns out some work contacts of Mr K’s were on the same ship as we were – total coincidence. There are 24 of us and they were travelling in a group of 8 or 9 I believe? Anyway, we were catching up with them both for lunch along the waterfront. As the fates would have it, our idiot Premier (god bless his unholy corporately supplied socks) had just that morning called an election, and our lunch suddenly turned from travel and cruise holidays to work. Oh dear… possibly my fault too. Nevermind.
Back on board this afternoon relatively early so we could hit those bucket beers one more time! Can’t remember who was on the deck on the big screen… could have been Billy Joel? I dunno. Couple of Mai Tais and I don’t care.
Napier is a cool little town – I’ve visited here a couple of times before. So this trip, we decided to just wander around, check out the local shopping, enjoy the art deco ambiance and maybe take in a movie, perhaps if we have time, head over to Rosies, this cool little Irish pub one street back from the Esplanade. The Penguins of Madagascar had just come out and the kids were keen to go see it – though in truth, I have a feeling Mr K was probably more keen as the kids were, so about 12 of us went to go see it.
Overall a much quieter day than taking the fun bus out to Hobbiton. And given that I was pretty stuffed… as much as I love cruising, I do hate sleeping on strange beds… so I promptly fell asleep about 30 minutes into the film, (yes, that’s becoming a bit of a bad habit to be honest), but I’m pretty sure I’ll get a chance to watch it some other time down the track.
We pottered around enjoying the architecture and the townspeople who get into the art deco swing of things, with their old cars and flapper outfits for the tourists when the ships come to town. Which must get a bit boring for them after a while, there is a ship in nearly every day in the season, but there they are out with their sparkling immaculate vintage cars, their costumes, and their four piece bands playing some swing. Good on them, I reckon. 🙂
Got back on deck tonight to hear everyone lamenting how we were half way through our trip and we only had a week to go. Seriously? I thought I was bad at math… we were on day 6 which means we have 8 nights left. Talk about wishing the trip away!
I’ve been to Hobbiton before – in fact last December when we did this same cruise, and the main reason I was doing it again was to take the Small Child to go check it out. Like most teenage boys, he is quite keen on the LoTR and the Hobbit movies and the newest one was out in the cinemas just a couple of weeks away so off we went.
There were eight of us keen to go and we had done all our research well in advance so, we didn’t book our Hobbiton trip through the ship. Like last time, we hired a private vehicle and booked our tickets directly through the Hobbiton website. At $75 for Hobbiton tickets and chipping in a bit for car hire, this works out sooo much cheaper than booking through the ship at $150pp or whatever it is they are charging lately. New Zealand is an English speaking country, that drives on the correct side of the road, so no hassles hiring cars and doing your own thing.
The fun bus was not so fun… we had one with a bad cough up the back and another with the beginnings of laryngitis up the front, and no GPS and some really dodgy maps. So that was a little stressful, but we got there with only one tiny wrong turn and with plenty of time to spare for our tour time. The place must be making money hand over fist, the gift shop is quite twice the size it was when we were there the same time last year, had ten times as many souvenirs and things to offer and the buses and facilities were all upgraded. Pretty amazing how popular the place is turning out to be, but given just how dedicated LoTR fans are – it’s probably not that surprising.
We wandered around, went checking out the hobbit holes, had a great tour guide (a local girl who had just finished her teaching degree, so she had plenty of answers to general NZ questions too). Lots of photos… too many to include. But these were some of my favourites.
Definitely a lot of fun, and so much attention to detail. It’d be nice to be given more time to hang out at the Green Dragon Tavern at the end of the tour, but seeing that they are now pushing thousands of tourists through the place every day, I guess they can’t afford to just let groups linger or the place would be over packed and no one would really enjoy it. The Tavern would be a great place to hold a function though – they do private weddings and parties quite frequently by the sounds of it… no doubt for a price! 🙂