Introducing Barry the Bus Christchurch to Waihi Gorge

The New Zealand road trip started as usual, with a night-time arrival at the first campsite after lots of faff leaving Christchurch.

Jo finally drove us off the forecourt after we’d spent two and a half hours at the Britz hire place, a hive of inefficiency. The time waiting did give us a chance to scavenge through stuff left by the previous hirers of camper vans; beans, cling film and an apparently-unopened jar of herbs covered in drips of soy sauce. (We left the herbs.) Our new steed was quickly dubbed Barry the Britz Bus, and Harry the ginger tent fits neatly in the boot.

Our first night stop was Akaroa, a small town two hours south-east at the end of a peninsula, set on the giant estuary Akatoa1 Harbour. After relaxing with a glass of wine that nearly slid off the table we had such a comfortable night’s sleep that we overslept. (Note to self: buy a sleeping mat next time in Harry.) We were woken by a seagull walking over the roof barely inches above us and found, not for the last time I suspect, a stunning vista over the harbour below.

The town Arakoa1 is notable for being the only attempt by the French to establish a colony in New Zealand, and so there’s tricolore bunting everywhere and some of the shops have a French name. Some should really try harder though – looking at you, Le Thai and Le Bike Hire.

After a gentle walk down to the town and along the beach-front we headed up the hill to see the view further along the estuary. So much of the countryside here looks like England. England on a good day, for sure, but home nonetheless. The harbour could be in the Lake District, the rolling hills could be Derbyshire if only they had some little stone walls around the ubiquitous sheep.

We found ice cream and some very tasty fush and chups (world renowned, so they claim) before hot-footing back up the Krakatoa1 peninsula.

It was only driving back up the peninsula away from Arachnophobia1 that we saw the views we’d missed in the dark on the way there. We had a hundred kilometres of lakeside views with the distant hills climbing sharply out of the water towards the setting sun, the road winding off into the distance ahead of us.

By the time we got close to Waihi Gorge it was long dark. With judicious use of Barry’s full beam and head torches we navigated the gravel road towards the tiny campsite, and even managed to find a flat pitch. We could see nothing at all of our surroundings, but at least there were none of the scary eyes this time.

  1. We never could quite get the name right.  2 3 4