9&10/2/16. The plan came to fruition and we are in Akaroa, the main town on the Bank’s Peninsula. The peninsula was formed by two enormous volcanic eruptions 8 million years ago and is circular with an inlet of the sea through to the centre of the crater. Akaroa is on the inlet and the views across the water to the walls of the crater are just stunning! No doubt our photos (when uploaded) will not do it justice so you might be better off googling Akaroa!
When we set off on Tuesday the sky was pretty grey and we headed alongside main roads (mostly separate cycle tracks or hard shoulders) until we reached the Little RIver Rail Trail. This was generally well signposted, except for the section leaving Lincoln (a rapidly growing dormitory town we would guess) where we took a couple of wrong turnings in the absence if any signs.
After a stretch on quiet country roads the trail joined the old railway track itself and the surface was mostly firm gravel although there were sections where it was looser and gave Christine the heeby-geebies! Although it was pan flat we had a headwind most of the way and, with long exposed stretches beside Lake Ellesmere, it was tough going at times.
Arriving at Little River, we went past the turning to the campsite as we were in need of a drink, having seen no cafes or similar since late morning. The cafe in the village would “only serve takeaways” but we were allowed to sit at the tables to consume the drinks and delicious cakes! Work tbat one out if you can! We’re still trying.
The campsite was rather quirky – think Fanny’s Farm if you know the zany cafe/shop near Reigate – with armchairs and sofas in the covered, but open to the elements, kitchen/sitting area and little paths leading off to small campsites and cabins in the trees. Although there were taos for the water signs said that it should be boiled before drinking – just like many if the remote DoC sites.
It was a day without hills until the final section up to the campsite – total climbing of 95m with 75 of those in the last 2.5 km of a 65 km total.
The next morning, we descended the 75m to Little River where we topped up our water bottles with bottled stuff as well as topping up our caffeine or chocolate levels.
The contrast in profile could not be more marked. After Tuesday’s 95m of climbing in 65 km, Wednesday saw us going up almost 800m in 33km. The main climb was 470m to the “lip” of the crater to reach Akaroa in 7km. It was tough but there were some spectacular views from the top in both directions – back towards the hills that the rail trail had kindly skirted and in front the turquoise sea in the inlet. Of course the road immediately went down the other side straight to sea level! That was not the end of the climbing as the road went round the edge of the inlet with 4 or 5 “headlands” on the way, the last of which was particularly step reaching 13% at timed.
But it was worth it! Akaroa is lovely if a little twee. It makes a great play of its Frenchness. It was where a group of French settlers landed in 1840 to establish a colony – only to find that the British had signed the Treaty of Waitiki with all the Maori tribes only 3 months earlier! Many of the street names are French such as Rue Lavaud (although we did see a Smith Street! We get everywhere!!), there are tricolours flying and several bistros and brasseries. We are staying at the Chez Le Mer Backpackers where we have the best room in the house for the next two nights.
(Tomorrow we will tell you why we are treating ourselves!)