Banks Peninsula, part 2

Dec 5, 2015

Our sleep was partially interrupted at 2 am by a lot of penguins honking, braying, and squeaking outside; it was quite funny listening to them as we tried to sleep. And then it got light at 5 am in our little house, but we turned over and slept until our usual time. Our walk today was only 6 kilometers over headlands, so we didn’t have to get an early start. In fact we really had to get a late start so we didn’t arrive too early at Otanerito Bay.

Stony Bay outdoor bath

Stony Bay outdoor bath

It was sunny again this morning—we had been really lucky with the weather on this walk. We headed out at 10 am and had a leisurely walk to the beach before angling up to the headland. As we walked along the trail we passed by numerous penguin nests—which we could detect by the fishy smell! But we didn’t see any penguins. Soon there was a Kelp Gull colony by the shore, and we could see that one nest had three chicks which were being fed by both parents. And then around the corner we could see a Spotted Shag colony on the cliff across the bay. There were chicks there too but we could hardly make them out.

Spotted Shag colony

Spotted Shag colony

At Sleepy Bay we made a short detour to see the waterfall, which turned out to be quite beautiful as it cascaded over a moss-covered slope with bright green duckweed floating on the surface. On the next headland there was a good view back to a sea stack. But this was a new stack—before the earthquakes it had been a high sea arch. You don’t see that sort of thing very often.

Sleepy Bay waterfall

Sleepy Bay waterfall

It was now close to lunchtime, but there was no seat here and the ground was covered with sheep droppings, so we decided to carry on. Down the slope we went and through the trees to the beach at Otanerito, from where we could see the blue gate outside our house. It was just before 1 pm so we sat on the front porch and ate our lunch.

The house was surrounded by a beautiful garden full of roses, fuchsias, and tall geraniums. Inside there were two large rooms with beds plus a large kitchen. What a beautiful setting for our last night on the track! There was a shop, too, which if anything was better stocked than the shop at Flea Bay.

Otanerito Bay house

Otanerito Bay house

We claimed the front room (with four beds) and left the back room (six bunk beds) for the others, who didn’t arrive for quite a while because they had stopped to watch a group of fur seals cavorting in the surf. For the rest of the afternoon we sat on the front porch and had tea and wrote our journals. Before dinner we walked down to the beach, which is very sandy and is described as a “swimming beach” in the brochure. However none of our group went swimming because the water was still too cold.

Our fellow walkers

Our fellow walkers

Back at the house we chatted for a while before making our dinner. Tonight we had roast lamb with mashed potatoes, which is our favourite of all the freeze-dried meals we tried. We also finished off a lot of the other food we had brought, so that our packs would be much lighter for tomorrow’s walk. As we were finishing dinner it started to cloud over, and by 7 pm the rain was starting. But according to the forecast it would rain overnight but by 9 am tomorrow the weather would improve.

Dec 6, 2015

From time to time during the night we could hear rain pouring down, but by the time we got up the rain had stopped. This agreed with yesterday’s forecast, so we looked forward to fine weather.

Doug and Joy, the American couple, were first to leave this morning. They had a shuttle bus to catch and didn’t want Joy’s arthritic knee to make them miss it. We chatted with the New Zealanders for a short while before heading out the door at 9:30 am. We had a 10-kilometer walk, with 600 meters of elevation gain and 600 meters of elevation loss, but we didn’t expect it to be too challenging.

New growth of native bush

New growth of native bush

For the first hour we gradually gained elevation as we followed a creek up through the Hinewai Reserve. The reserve had been created about 25 years ago, after somebody discovered that native bush can start its life growing under gorse bushes and then grow up and choke out the gorse. As we climbed we had a few short steep sections involving steps, but for the most part the trail was well graded. The walk through the reserve was well signposted, with signs identifying trees and other plants, and we finally saw a silver tree fern, which is an emblem of New Zealand.

Silver tree fern

Silver tree fern

As we approached the saddle there was a side trail leading to a pond which, it was said, often had a pair of Paradise Shelducks. So we went to have a look, and there was a pair with their brood of eight chicks. It didn’t take long after that to reach the open area near the saddle, and then after a short climb we could finally look down at Akaroa. At this point we suddenly remembered that the Banks Peninsula had been formed by volcanic eruptions, and therefore we were now walking over the rim of an extinct volcano.

Information sign on the loo

Information sign on the loo

There was a very cold wind blowing here so we carried on down to a shelter which was marked on our map. The shelter was about the size of two phone booths, but it was very welcome as it kept the wind off as we ate our lunch. Parts of the trail down from the shelter were quite steep but with our destination in sight the whole way it spurred us on to get there.

Last look at Otanerito

Last look at Otanerito

Finally back in Akaroa, we stopped at the bank to get some cash and then walked the short distance to Chez la Mer to get our room. The outside of the hostel is painted in shades of purple and we found out that our room was also painted mauve, with the beds having rosy pink sheets with floral duvets. Very colourful! After dropping our packs in the room we retrieved our other bags from the office, where we had left them four days ago, and rummaged through them to hopefully find some clean clothes. Not much luck there, so we’ll be doing laundry once we’re back in Christchurch.

After a cup of tea Rosemary went out shopping—last chance for bargain-priced merino products. She bought a lovely possum-merino-silk sweater and several merino shirts. We also found about the scheme where tourists can avoid paying VAT, which we hadn’t heard anything about before.

Tonight we had dinner at the Akaroa Fish and Chip shop. We both had elephant fish, which we had enjoyed before; it cost $4 versus $10 for blue cod. They had sour watermelon flavour Fanta, which we both really liked, so we had that to drink. We also had some L&P lemon drink which is apparently a New Zealand favourite, but neither of us was impressed. Sitting outside at the picnic tables was really nice, with warm sunshine and a nice view over the harbour.

Next: Christchurch again