New Zealand part 10: Akaroa and more gardens
7 Jan. Another lazy morning since we don’t have to pack up and check out. It’s hard to do a different hotel each night. Hope Kelly doesn’t ever do that sort of book tour! Around 11:00 we get on the road to Akaroa. It’s a two-hour drive. The first hour is gentle hills and plains, 100 kph. The second hour we probably averaged around 50 kph (30 mph). Mountainy hills, curvy, windy, gorgeous. Like Scotland only supersized. Sheep and cattle on steep hillsides. Sheep ruts in the hills. Crazy driveways dropping off the narrow road at insanely steep angles. We stop for a breather at the Hilltop Bar parking lot, where there is a stunning view of the valley below, with hills, lake, and Akaroa. As soon as we get to town we park and walk around. No penguin tours available today, so we take a walk along the beach. I splish around a little; can’t resist water!
There are lots of walking trails available, but we don’t know what we want to do. I see on the local map that there is something called The Giant’s House. Oh my. Oh wow. This is one of those places that you don’t really believe exists until you experience it. It’s a tribute to the wonder of human imagination. And to human weirdness.
Imagine a large city yard, like a double lot. There is a gorgeous large house with a fanciful paint job. And the rest of the space is a garden where plants and mosaic sculptures breed. A mosaic column has china teacups climbing along it like a miniature spiral staircase. A mosaic piano plays swinging music in front of 10-foot tall mosaic instruments. Sit on a mosaic bench between two figures, one with a dog head and one with a cat head. They are taller than you are. It was so wonderful and strange! Bizarre and beautiful together. I can’t recommend this place enough. It was so cool!
They had a cafe with the most reasonably priced food we’ve seen, but we aren’t very hungry. Kelly is deep into book brain. He gets a sort of glazed look and barely talks at all. The Giant’s House is the sort of place to fill your brain to the brim; we walked away in a peaceful daze. It’s mixed sun and clouds today, windy as expected. High up in the mountainy hills it was 16 deg C, down at the beach it is 23 or 24. Back at the car we munch on raisins, fresh fruit, and granola bars. Then we start the drive back.
The drive back is faster, knowing what to expect. We stop at the Hilltop Bar again, this time for lunch. We eat near the window, with the spectacular view as before. The sun decides to stay for a while, and you don’t need three layers to be outside. The food here is delicious. Kelly tries Zeffer cider on draught (very dry) and I try Weka pear cider in a bottle (very mild). Kelly has fish-n-chips. I have a beetroot and feta salad with a mild wasabi aioli on top. Good food and drink with a splendid view.
The drive home is uneventful. This car is smaller and less fancy, but it has one special feature that our first car did not have. The turn signal is on the right side of the steering wheel. No problem, right? Of course not! You like seeing the windshield wipers turn on, right? We saw a lot of those windshield wipers in four days. At least Kelly and I both did it, so the teasing went both ways.
Once back in CHCH, we decide to take a walk since we didn’t in Akaroa. The botanical garden is open till 9, and doesn’t look too far away. We walk through downtown areas that were hit hard. It’s sad, and scary, and hopeful too. They are rebuilding. It’s empty, though. There are tram tracks leading into closed off blocks, but the trams are running in other streets. No homeless that we could see; not a good place for them.
The botanical garden entrance is near a creek running the opposite way of the Avon–must be another bit of water. We cross into the park and are in shock yet again at the trees here. Such trees, so huge and spreading and beautiful. There is an ancient eucalyptus that has twisted around and around as it has grown and is strong and upright and enormous. It smells lovely. Ducklings follow mama into the grass near a pond. It’s warm, sunny, and bright, though the sun is low in the sky. It is very refreshing to be in shade with ponds and water around. There is a rock garden, a water garden, a rose garden. Our brains fill up again with the wonder of the place.
We head home, footsore. Check online maps for grocery stores. There are several listed on the road home. Yet we arrive to find rubble. It’s disconcerting. And we can’t take our road all the way to the hotel since it’s blocked off for construction work. End up at our hotel, the Subway next door has drinks, so we buy two bottles and eat cold pizza and cheese and raisins for dinner. Then to bed!
I’ve been traveling in Hawaii and New Zealand and will be posting links to the pictures soon.
Whenever we travel my wife does a travel diary while I take most of the pictures. I use her notes as my references for later use for books and other things. She has been gracious enough to allow me to share them here on my site for those who are interested.