Days 1,127-1,128: The Auld Alliance

Wed 01.02.12-Thu 02.02.12:

Christchurch is not somewhere for holidaying at the moment, and since the major earthquake last year, cruise ships have been calling at the place down the road, Akaroa. What’s interesting about Akaroa is that it was intended to be the beginning of a full-on French colony that was to encompass the whole of the South island. Could you imagine? Two New Zealands: a British north one and a French south one. Eek!

Luckily for New Zealand, before the first French colonists arrived, the British had signed the Treaty of Waitangi with the Maori tribes, giving them power of attorney (or something) over both islands. Yeah, I know you think that’s a bit mean saying they were lucky not to be colonised by the French, but ten of the richest countries in the world were British colonies and ten of the poorest were French colonies. Just sayin’…!

The French colonists were allowed to stay, so long as they didn’t try to impede British sovereignty and shaved their armpits. So Akaroa has this charming Frankish feel to it, a bit of Gallic oh-la-la that I found quite endearing. The lovely architecture helped.

It therefore seemed fitting that the next day we would call into Dunedin, the place I should have been last week for Burn’s Night. I had stumbled around Auckland asking all and sundry if anybody had haggis on the menu. It wouldn’t have been hard in Dunedin: the city was founded by Burn’s Nephew. Seriously, there’s a massive statue of the great Scottish Poet himself in the middle of the town square.

The options on the table for Dunedin included a trip to the chocolate factory (BRING IT ON!!) or a tour of the local brewery.

So then, Speight’s brewery it is. A fine old-fashioned brewery still using the traditional big wooden vats. The best bit? At the end of the tour you get left in a bar, five beers and one cider on tap and you can drink as much as you can in 20 minutes. Oh boy.

Upon seeing the massive queue for the bus back to the cruise, I opted to (cheekily) sneak onto the P&O bus which was going to the berth next to ours. With a little time to kill, I sauntered over to the village next to the port in order to grab a cheap bottle of wine, since you’re allowed to bring on board one bottle a day. Fortunately for me, I happened to stumble upon a few buddies from the cruise and asked them (very nicely) if they wouldn’t mind carrying a bottle each on board for me. They didn’t mind at all, and I was stocked for the next few days.

Back on board the ship I proceeded to maximise the boozy advantage and slipped effortlessly into the beer vortex. Goodbye New Zealand, my sweet little 194th country. NEXT UP: THE RETURN TO OZ!!!

Graham Hughes

Graham Hughes is a British adventurer, presenter, filmmaker and author. He is the only person to have travelled to every country in the world without flying. From 2014 to 2017 he lived off-grid on a private island that he won in a game show, before returning to the UK to campaign for a better future for the generations to come.

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