Saturday, August 3, 2013

New Zealand - Rafting and Akaroa (Days 19-20)

Alright. I avoided the last two New Zealand posts for long enough. At first, I was avoiding them because I didn't want to let go of the most fantastic trip of my life quiet yet. But now I just avoid because it's been 8 months and it feels silly to still be posting about it when we've had some great adventures since then. So here we go.....New Zealand Days 19-20...

Day 19 was one of our favorite days, and yet I have ZERO pictures from it. All I can say is, if you make it to New Zealand, I highly recommend rafting on the Rangitata River with Rangitata Rafts. The location is awesome. Far, far down a scenic road is this cottage with a huge porch and big yard where all the river guides seem to live. Rangitata's guides are super professional and organized. After providing lunch on their porch, they got right to business getting us ready to head out to the river. They did a great job of getting the group comfortable on smaller rapids, before tackling the big guys! We rafted two Class V rapids that our raft made it through without falling out, but some of the other rafts in the group weren't so lucky. Because I feel safe in the water, I wasn't ever really that scared, but it was still quite a rush! We also had opportunities for cliff jumping and they let us swim down a couple of slightly less intimidating rapids, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Being less than 2 hours from Christchurch, the Rangitata River is a perfect day trip. They actually have a shuttle that picks you up and takes you back to Christchurch (we obviously didn't do that because we were coming from the west and had our campervan, but it's an option). We had trouble finding a place to park our campervan that night, because of the holiday week. Our plan was to stay in the Peel Forest, but they were booked. We were tired and drove around a bunch (after stopping at the Peel Forest Store for a much needed ice cream bar!) and finally found a spot to camp at Orari campground. There are several little DOC campgrounds in the area, but they are spread out. I would advise having a plan here if you are coming during this one week of the year. Otherwise, you would probably have no trouble getting a spot in Peel Forest without reservations.

This campsite kind of reminded me of Hawaii. It was a pretty primitive site, but nice and quiet. 

By Day 20, we were getting pretty tired of being in the car, so our plan to drive out to the Banks Peninsula might have been a bit ambitious (and when I say our plan, I really mean my plan). A lot of people make the Banks Peninsula a day trip from Christchurch or spend a couple days there enjoying some no doubt incredible hiking trails (I hear the views are amazing, but where aren't they amazing in New Zealand!) We were heading to the little French colony of Akaroa for one night before heading to Christchurch for New Year's Eve. On our way, we stopped at Barry's Bay Cheese Factory and sat outside for our picnic lunch.

When we got to Akaroa, my allergies were awful (they had been pretty bad most of the trip), there were a ton of tourists in town (probably day-tripping from Christchurch) and it was threatening to rain. Note to anyone who suffers from allergies, bring allergy medicine with you to New Zealand! We had the hardest time finding a pharmacy. And don't worry, there is a pharmacy in Akaroa but it was closed that day! Needless to say, I was having a difficult time enjoying this quaint, beautiful town on the water. We walked around a bit, stuck our feet in the water, and then decided to just sit outside in the yard of one of the cutest cafes I've ever been to - The Stables - and share a flat white while casually people watching.

Which way is the waterfront? 

 People watching at The Stables

New Zealand Camping

It started to rain, so we decided to head to the campground (Akaroa Top 10 Holiday Park), shower, and relax in the campervan for awhile. This is exactly what we needed. After getting clean, writing some in my journal, and a short nap, I was a new woman! And right around 5pm, the rain cleared out for the most magical evening. We walked back down to town and it was nearly deserted. I have a sense that this town needs the tourism, but it is sad that Akaroa's true charm doesn't really shine through with all the tourists there. 

This evening, the crowds had gone back to Christchurch. I'm so glad we had a chance to experience the quieter Akaroa. We had a great dinner at Ma Maison (yes, more fish and chips) and finally heard Fat Freddy's Drop (our favorite NZ band) playing over the speakers. 

We had a map of the town with us, and there are several little hiking trails that take you up past the residential streets to some historic spots and great views. We went exploring after dinner and this ended up being one of the highlights of the trip for me. The colors of the landscape were sharp and the air was fresh. We could hear families cooking and eating dinner in their backyards and just felt this sense of what their lives are really like in Akaroa. In Allyson's poetic words, it felt like this town had exhaled. 

 Lots of drinking happened for this artistic yard


After spending a couple of hours exploring, we went back to the campground for a glass of wine while watching the sunset over the bay (more like watching another storm come in so there wasn't much of a sunset). Once again, even with all the driving and the allergies, we had a terrific day as we were coming to the end of our amazing honeymoon. Last stop....Christchurch.

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