Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

17 June 2010

Akaroa, Banks Peninsula, Canterbury, New Zealand



Akaroa is the oldest European town in Canterbury. It was founded in 1840 by some would-be French colonists who never actually got to colonize it because the British pre-empted them but who nevertheless managed to stamp an unusual Frenchness upon the town. In more recent years the locals not only realized what a draw card its origins were, they actively promoted it by squeezing every last drop out of its Gallic origins. At least half of the streets have French names such as Rue Jolie and Rue Lavaud (earlier known as Jolie and Lavaud Streets) and the tricouleur accompanies the New Zealand ensign and the union flag on festive occasions.

Akaroa township started life as Port Louis-Philipe but soon took the Maori name of its South Pacific inlet (Akaroa means long harbour) which, like its neighbouring Lyttleton Harbour, is a flooded extinct volcano.

By 1844 its population comprised 60 French, 20 German, 40 British and 97 ‘aborigines’. I guess the ‘aborigines’ were in the area long before the Europeans arrived and, indeed, there is a tiny Maori ‘kainga’ (village) to the south of the town to this day.

Akaroa’s population swells each summer with tourists, and grows, too, with new residents seduced by its natural magnificence. As gems go, Akaroa is lustrous in the extreme and well worth the long winding journey over the volcanic hills of Banks Peninsula from its nearest big city, Christchurch.


© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
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RANDOM SAMPLINGS F...
By Don Donovan