1YoT: Akaroa, the Southern Alps, and a New Zealand Dairy Farm

This post is going to be all over the place. We’re nearing the end of our time in New Zealand, and due to delays from the Kaikoura earthquake, we are running out of time to get where we need to go. Add to this that we gave ourselves an extra day in Christchurch (we thought the city had more to do that it did) and our time is really running short. We’re also pretty exhausted from all the camping we’ve done, and we have a flight booked out of Queenstown in a couple days, so we have to make it down there, no matter what. All these things resulted in a random last couple days of our roadtrip.

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With an extra day in Christchurch but not much more in the city to do, Inna and I drove to nearby Akaroa, a quaint French harbor town.

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Akaroa is located on the Akaroa Harbor, which itself is located in the volcano-created Banks Peninsula. This area was gorgeous; the harbor and scenery reminded us of Dingle and the Ring of Kerry.

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If you think this cheese shop wasn’t one of the reasons we visited this peninsula, then you don’t know Inna. Interestingly, while the food in New Zealand wasn’t great (so far New Zealand is the only destination where this has been true on our trip), their treats were delicious. Beer, wine, chocolate, cheese, everything that is bad for you was delicious in New Zealand.

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And we’ve made it to Akaroa. Such a charming village!

The architecture was very quaint and simple in this town, and Inna and I enjoyed it a lot. Also, true to Australia/New Zealand form, we found a WWI memorial here.

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Akaroa’s most famous feature was its lighthouse, a historic lighthouse that was relocted here several years ago. Honestly, I don’t remember much about it, but it was beautiful.

Akaroa’s other most notable feature was its cemetery, which was actually three cemeteries (one Catholic, one Protestant, and one for dissenters) inside a forest. The cemeteries themselves were pretty beat up, we assume due to the Christchurch earthquake in 2011.

We didn’t stay in Akaroa for long, but even so we had a great day here. And on our way back we took the “tourist route”, an elevated, windy, scenic route that no one but tourists would take.

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The views from this route were spectacular.

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After Akaroa and one final night in Christchurch, we were back on the road again. Here we are driving toward the southern portion of the Southern Alps, an area even more beautiful than the north.

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This drive took us by several gorgeous lakes, all of which reminded us of the lakes in Patagonia. Here is the first lake we drove by, Lake Tekapo.

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Pictured here is the Church of the Good Shepard, located on Lake Tekapo’s shore. Built in 1935, this small church is believed to be the most photographed church in New Zealand.

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But the real beauty here isn’t the church, it’s the lake. It was stunning.

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From Tekapo we continued south, where the Southern Alps just got prettier and prettier.

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This is Lake Pukaki, the second lake we visited on our drive down the Southern Alps. This lake is very close to Lake Tekapo, only 25 miles south.

From Lake Pukaki we headed into the Dunstan Mountains. This mountain range, while not quite as beautiful as the Southern Alps, was still amazing.

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We drove by our third lake, Lake Dunstan, while traversing the Dunstan Mountains. The lake and its secluded location were incredible.

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The one drawback to all these locations? It was windy, so windy that we were reluctant to leave our car. For our entire drive south from Christchurch, we only exited for quick photographs; we even ate lunch in our car.

Speaking of windy, almost all of New Zealand was windy. The only nice weather we had was at Auckland/Kawakawa BayKaiteriteri Beach, and Akaroa. This wind (and also several rainstorms we encountered) was another reason why camping in New Zealand was not as enjoyable as camping in the United States.

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And we’ve made it! Exhausted from camping, we sold our gear in Christchurch, then found the most inexpensive and relaxing southern Airbnb we could find. Doing so brought us here, to a dairy farm near the Blue Mountains.

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This Airbnb turned out to be one of the high points of our trip. First, the place was super relaxing. Second, the place was beautiful (the above of the Blue Mountain was the view from our room). And not just the views, the house itself was beautiful too. And finally, our hosts were so nice, and really interesting; in addition to farming, one was a musician who often flew to the US to play (he actually flew to Texas the day we left) and his son was about to start a full-ride soccer scholarship at a college whose name I can’t remember in the US’s midwest.

Our hosts fed us so much, all homemade and so delicious. They completely spoiled us!

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If the above weren’t enough, our hosts also let us meet their cows! Here we are dressed up and ready to go.

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First, we delivered food to the babies. Next year they’ll be milking these gals just like the cows we visited next.

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This is the milking station. About forty cows were milked at one time and it took about five minutes per session plus another couple minutes of set-up and breakdown. The whole processes went much quicker than I expected, but even so, it took hours to milk all the cows on this farm. The cows were milked twice a day, everyday, including once at 5AM. It’s hard work being a farmer, I’m glad there are people out there who enjoy it, because I really enjoy drinking milk!

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Our host not only showed us how they milked their cows, he even let us attach and detach the contraption ourselves. The whole thing was surprisingly simple, and even though I was worried, I didn’t break anything!

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Most of the cows ignored us, but a couple were very nervous that we were there. They stared at us and kept their distance, which was actually really cute. Cows have a lot more personality than I realized!

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Not only were the cows being milked, it was also mating season. Because of this, there were three bulls amongst the hundreds of cows, bulls that would walk around and try to mount whichever cow he chose. Each time a bull did this the chosen cow tried to escape; she scurried through the herd while all the other cows just stood there. Poor cows.

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One thing that struck us about the milking process was how much poop there was. I always though cows didn’t poop where they were milked, but I was wrong; they poop a lot. Sometimes they even poop all over the cow standing next to them! It was gross, but it actually wasn’t as gross as I would have guessed, one because we got used to the smell, two because we were properly dressed, and three because we were with our host and he kept things sanitary; he was also relaxed and had great music playing (music Inna is dancing to above), all of which helped make the experience feel comfortable and normal, despite all the poop.

From here on out, we simply relaxed on the farm, which we don’t really have pictures of, thus we’ve reached the end of this post. Up next, the last stage of our roadtrip, also our last stop in New Zealand: Queenstown!

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