After getting married in September 2010 we decided to do the opposite of settling down; so we packed up our life, stuffed it in our parent's attic and hit the road for what is essentially an extended honeymoon! We started our trip on 29th December 2010 spending 4 months travelling overland through Europe, Russia and Mongolia to China. After many a train and bus journey we caved-in and flew from Western China to Malaysia, and worked our way north to Thailand and Cambodia. The time came for us to replenish our bank accounts, so we headed to Western Australia for work in July 2011 and lived in Fremantle until February 2012. After a couple of months back home seeing our families and friends, we headed back down-under. This time we headed for New Zealand and we are currently living in Wellington. Our blog started as part of an elaborate wedding present from two of our very good friends. The idea was that on our trip we should blog from every country we visit, detailing the sights, sounds and smells and most importantly, the beer. We have certainly had fun writing it - but moreso, living it!

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Akaroa and the Banks Peninsula - May & June 2012

As we're still way behind on the blog I figured I'd give you all a quick update on where we actually are now and what we're doing! We arrived in Wellington almosts 4 months ago (cripes!) and quite quickly found work in our usual fields. We are living on Mount Victoria overlooking the city, and both enjoy quite picturesque commutes; Liam getting the train around the harbour to the Hutt Valley and Charlotte walking across Evans Bay each day. We are loving everything about Wellington, the accessibility (we have had no need for a car), soaking up culture at various galleries, theatres and music venues and discovering a really thriving and experimental beer scene. We arrived in winter so we are excited that the weather is now picking up, even a 15 degree day here feels pretty hot (thanks to the hole in the ozone layer down here). The wind took a bit of getting used to but otherwise the winter was more like a cold (well, 10 degrees in the day) version of an English summer with lots of rain but regular sunny days. We're looking forward to exploring to getting out and about and exploring the wider Wellington area before hitting the road again in the new year! Now, back to the advertised programming...

Stony Bay Peak

We'd had a recommendation that Akaroa in the Banks Peninsula was a good place to chill for a couple of days, especially since the earthquakes levelled Christchurch.  At this point we were needing to get some work if possible or at least to work for accommodation, and chatted about various possibilities whilst on the bus over to Akaroa.  Our first view of the Banks Peninsula and over to Akaroa was absolutely stunning and complemented by a gloriously sunny day.  We checked into Chez La Mer hostel and found it very welcoming and homely.  We then noticed that they were advertising for a cleaner and a night manager. Kerching!  So within three days of being in the country, we'd managed to bag ourselves some work for accommodation, not bad going!  Charlotte took the cleaning job (2 hours in the morning 6 days a week, stripping and making beds, and general cleaning), and Liam took the night manager job (evening manager would be more appropriate as there were no staff on duty past 9) This basically consisted of checking in late arrivals, keeping the fire fuelled-up (the most important job!) and handing out wi-fi tokens. He was soon 'promoted' to weekend manager, so everything worked out nicely.

Our fellow workers at the hostel when we arrived were a veritable United Nations; Sara (American), Colette (Scottish), Kirsty (Scottish), and Shah (Dutch). They were all chilled out and friendly, and we were later joined by Krista (Canadian), Amanda (Welsh), Urara (Japanese) and Joyce (Taiwanese).  We also had the company of Sampson the dog, a super-sweet 7 month old Labrador, even Charlotte had a soft spot for him.  The hostel owner's dog was often around too, a Bernese Mountain Dog charmingly named Pongo, who Sampson loved to torment.  We learnt some valuable dog owning lessons, such as "dogs can't eat pine cones", and "biting each others faces is just playing".

Charlotte also bagged a part-time bar job at the Grand Hotel.  It's probably fair to say that the 'Grand' title hasn't been applicable for a good while and it was definitely a very local pub full of true Kiwis drinking beer in tiny glasses from a jug, playing fruit machines (under the guise of charitable donations - apparently most school sports clubs get their funding from gambling proceeds!), watching the rugby and betting on the racing.  The shifts were short and sweet and the bar never got too busy, so it was a pretty easy-going job.  There was a kitchen porter who appeared to be struck dumb every time Charlotte spoke to him, as well as a one-armed kitchen hand (ex one-armed welder). Some of the more interesting locals consisted of a possum hunter, tradies/builders who drank double vodkas with Bacardi Breezers and volunteer fire-fighters.  The latter meant the pub almost emptied a couple of evenings when the fire sirens went off along the wharf, one time because someone's chimney had caught fire.  The landlord carefully crafted his 'grumpy old sod' persona but was actually a really nice bloke once he got to know you.

Our free time in Akaroa was aimed at cheap living so we took advantage of the amazing scenery and did a lot of hiking.  There were some great trails leading up from the town so whenever it was a fine afternoon we would set off after the cleaning shift and make the most of the weather.  Liam perfected his 'house-husband' routine by cooking and baking whilst Charlotte was at work, including some memorably giant cinnamon and raisin bagels.  Krista and Charlotte went up to Tree Crop Farm one afternoon for a nosey.  It is a sprawling farm property with a few random quirky huts to stay in, which weren't being used as the owner wasn't paying tax!  So (code-word style) we had to ring up and ask if we could look at the 'library' to be able to go up and have a look around.  Quite bizarre!  Each of the luxurious places to stay were wooden with cozy stoves and opulent decor.  Krista and Charlotte agreed on their favourite, a sleep-out complete with outdoor shower and an outdoor bath over a fire.  There was also a tree house with an amazing balcony overlooking the woodland.  Check out the photos, it was a rather fabulous place.

One week we had the opportunity to head over to Okain's Bay, about 18km over the hillside.  The owners of Double Dutch hostel very kindly offered to come and pick us up, and Sara from Chez La Mer very kindly offered us a lift back, so we were able to grab a blissful two nights away.  Okain's Bay is basically a tiny village with an old shop, garage, museum and school.  We walked down the estuary from the hostel to the sea and had a quick paddle - very quick, as it was ridiculously cold - and enjoyed a hike up the 'Big Hill' for views over to the Kaikoura Mountains (and mobile phone signal!).  The hostel was gorgeous and for well over 24 hours we actually had it to ourselves so it was basically like staying in a self-catered house for cheap as chips.  It was purpose built, very modern and comfortable.  A few glasses of wine, some yummy food, a few games of Slam and a game of Scrabble later, it definitely started to feel like we were on holiday. The picture was completed by breakfast the next morning consisting of Liam's home made bread rolls with boiled eggs from the on-site hens!

Back in Akaroa we enjoyed a boat trip out of the harbour and learnt about the history of the area.  We saw lots of wildlife including Hector dolphins (tiny!) and seals.  It was an absolutely stunning day and hard to believe that June 1st (in a couple of days time) would officially mark the start of winter.  Further history was absorbed in the Akaroa Museum, a pretty comprehensive and interesting little place. We watched a short film about the Maori legends of the area and the original settlers, wandered around some preserved old municipal buildings and looked at lots of photographs of the first European settlers.  It also presented some information on the Treaty Of Waitangi (which the Maori chiefs signed to accept Queen Victoria as a monarch in 1840), and showed the differences between the English version of the text and the Maori version translated back into English. To this day the treaty is disputed and a long legal process is under-way to reinstate some of the land.

As our last week in Akaroa drew to a close it felt quite odd to be moving on after feeling quite at home here.  Charlotte attended a knitting circle for International Knitting Day at the local library with Krista, and got to have a go on her spinning wheel (harder than it looks, but good fun!).  We had a good covering of snow one day and the cleaners got to finish their shift early to go and frolic - fun times!

An honourable mention goes to a few great NZ beers we enjoyed while in the Banks Peninsula.  The pub Charlotte worked at had the usual Kiwi suspects on tap; Steinlager, Tui, Speights, Mangatainoka Dark, Summit, DB Draught and Export Gold.  The Mangatainoka Dark was Charlotte's choice of after work freebie drink, a pretty decent easy-drinking dark lager. They also sold an impressive array of bottles too.  Having been under-whelmed by Monteith's (Lion Breweries 'craft' brand) offerings, we were pleasantly surprised by Monteith's Single Source Lager (even though it was out-of-date and thus being sold off cheap), pretty strong and robust. There is a great article debunking the branding nonsense here - but the beer itself was decent enough.  We also enjoyed Moa Five Hop and Emerson's 1812 Hoppy Pale Ale (the landlord's favourite), both tasty, hoppy and well-balanced ales.  On Bekah's birthday (as a nod to her and the original Wright World of Beer Blog she set up for us - which has now changed as Liam has a dedicated spin-off beer blog!) we tried a Three Boys Oyster Stout.  Oh boy, what a great beer.  Rich, dark, velvety, it certainly packed a punch.  Beautiful!

Christchurch & Akaroa