It’s always tough to have to set the alarm clock for an early morning wake-up call while on holiday. We had booked seats on “Akaroa’s World Famous Eastern Bays Scenic Mail Run” and wanted to be sure we got to the pick up point in time. With another cruise ship in the harbour, we knew that the streets would be full to overflowing with tourists again. While we waited for our ride to arrive, we admired the War Memorial. When we were here six years ago, the memorial had been badly damaged in the Christchurch earthquake, and was roped off. And close by was a sculpture of Lt Charles Meryon, on board the French Naval Escort ship, stationed at Akaroa from 1840-46. He was a very talented artist.
War memorial and French artist Charles Meryon
And in memory of our aforementioned trip in 2012, here is another photo from the archives. This shows Geoff and Eileen who were part of our travelling group, having lunch down by the Akaroa boat ramp. Geoff had forgotten to bring a hat with him, so he was snapped with one of my tea towels protecting his head from the hot sun!
Geoff and Eileen, Akaroa in February 2012
Our red Rural Post van arrived, and we climbed aboard. There were only four passengers, we were joined by two Canadian tourists from the cruise ship. Friends of theirs had down this tour previously, and thoroughly recommended it. The map painted on the vehicle showed our route.
The trip covered 120km, weaving in and out of 10 bays from sea level to the crater rim. We stopped to drop off mail, (and to collect outgoing mail as required) to farms and settlements. It was a bit eerie driving in and out of the clouds along Summit Road – not much chance of a photo stop up there in the cloud cover.
The van stopped here and there, popping letters and packages into a wide variety of mail boxes. If the flag was up, there was mail to collect. We stopped at a letter box in a tree trunk, one made out of a microwave, and another made from a copper hot water cylinder.
Some quirky letter boxes
Driving down to Pigeon Bay we stopped at the community hall. Here rural postie Jeff got busy sorting the community’s mail into their individual post boxes. He opened up the hall to show us the sprung flooring, perfect for the dances which were a big part of rural community life in earlier years.
The name of Decanter Bay came from the natural rock formations on the coast. The pile closest to the headland was topped by a flat rock and looked just like a decanter in former times. Wind and weather have obviously changed the shape over time. The area was settled by immigrants from Scotland, so maybe the taste for whisky may have something to do with the name too.
Morning tea was at St. Luke’s church in Little Akaloa. It was built in 1906 by local farmer and craftsman, John Menzies on a wooded knoll high above the bay, and has beautiful carvings in timber and Mt Somers stone, depicting Maori designs. In 2014, St. Luke’s underwent extensive renovations to repair minor earthquake damage and bring this beautiful building fully up to code.
St Luke's Church
View from the church grounds
There was mail and parcels for Okains Bay store, the longest continually operating store in New Zealand which opened in 1873. Our Canadian visitors expressed surprise at seeing a bright red telephone box next to the shop. Very necessary, we were told, as there is no cell phone coverage in this area. Wonder how all the teenagers get on without cell phones? And yes, the proprietor does cook up fish and chips.
At Okains Bay Store
Le Bons Bay was the prettiest bay of all, we decided, with a lovely sandy beach. We got out to stretch our legs and take the short walk along the track to the beach.
Le Bons Bay
Each time we dropped down to a bay, we then had to climb back up to Summit Road to continue on our journey. We stopped at a large shed on the Hickory Bay Corner to drop off even more mail.
Mountain top mail deliveries
Then it was our final trip down from Summit Road back to Akaroa, stopping to take photos. The large cruise ship is anchored off shore, and the passengers are ferried in and out on small tender boats.
This was a great trip, and we could certainly recommend it. We were taken up hill and down dale, along some rather narrow, windy, and unsealed roads, and got to see all sorts of places we probably wouldn’t have got to on our own. Saying our goodbyes, we decided to go to the French Bakery “Sweet As’ for lunch. And what could be more French than crepes?
French crepes for lunch