On February 8th and 9th, we went to Akaroa and Christchurch.
Akaroa is a small town on Banks Peninsula on the South Island.
Around a thousand years ago, Akaroa valley was inhabited by several Maori tribes.
In 1770, James cook discovered the Banks Peninsula (named after his botanist, Joseph Banks). At that time, he thought that it was an island, which is understandable considering the water that surrounds most of the peninsula.
In the 19th century, French whalers led their activities near New-Zealand because the area was great for whale fishing. Captain Jean-François Langlois had the idea to create a French colony in New-Zealand to avoid travelling half the planet to get whale oil. He bought the Peninsula from the Maoris. The Captain went back to France and made arrangements in order to send a colonisation expedition on the South Island. It will happen in 1840: a French group from Paris and directed by Lavaud came in New-Zealand to colonise. But they discovered that the Banks Peninsula had been claimed by the British, who already had sovereignty on the North Island and had ‘easy access’ with the Treaty of Waitangi. Then, the French had to be satisfied with two villages instead of the whole island, one of them being Akaroa.
Nowadays, we still see French influence in Akaroa, for example with street names such as ‘Rue Jolie’ or ‘Rue Lavaud’, or the gas station ‘L’essence’.
Christchurch is a big town. In February 2011, the town was stroke by a massive earthquake, which destroyed a big part of the city. Christchurch is consequently the perfect place if you want to work in construction.
On our side, we decided not to spend too much time there. We only visited the Canterbury Museum (free admission!), see for yourself the pictures below. If you can, watch the Arte documentary ‘Nouvelle-Zélande, l’aventure aux antipodes’ (it is from 2014, unfortunately we could not find it anymore on YouTube), in which you learn a lot about Christchurch and the creation of this museum. The museum was founded in 1867 by Julius Von Haast, a german geologist who discovered entire moa skeletons, that you can see in this museum. Moas extinction occured in the 15th century, due to overhunting by Maoris.