Pacific Ocean

Stopover on the other side of the world… New Zealand (Part 2)

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Discovering South island…

With the boat well-sheltered on the hard, we have become land-lubbers again. Backpacks, sleeping bags, tents, gas stove, water bottles, headlamps… Late December, we set off on State Highway One, which runs from north to south of both islands of New Zealand. The V8 motor of our secondhand 4x4 purred along smoothly: if you fed it 18 liters of gas every 100 km, it pushed you along nicely! With our Interislander ferry tickets in hand, we wandered around the downtown area of Wellington, New Zealand‘s capital. It is one of the windiest cities on Earth, thanks to its location in the Cook Straits, an often stormy area which separates North Island from South. At night the sky was filling with big dark clouds, pushed along by a rising wind. The crossing, which normally takes a little over 3 hours, took five! The ferry had to fight against the gale which came up just before we set off. We disembarked, tired, around 5 in the morning at Picton, a small town sheltered from the sea by a deep fjord, Queen Charlotte Sound. The gusts were shrieking at 40 or 50 knots, with torrential rain hammering on the roof of the Land Rover when we parked up on a small headland on the road to Havelock. Wow! At daybreak the storm was dispersing, but the overnight rain had transformed the streams into torrents. Trees uprooted, roads flooded and landslides. Later on, the first rays of sun reappeared over Blenheim, the wine capital of New Zealand.
We didn’t know it, but New Zealand, or at least South Island, could easily be mistaken for the green pastures of France! I was going to enjoy this place! The trouble is we French weren’t very good at managing our empire. Okay, time has moved on. But the British, again and again, got the better of us! Not much of course, but enough to leave a bitter taste. And always cunningly… Those double-crossing Brits… [note from the translator: there are two sides to every story…] France’s Captain Langlois, who regularly anchored at Akaroa, wanted to establish a colony there. During 1838, he negotiated the purchase of 30,000 acres of Maori land for 1,000 francs. He decided to return to France, to seek the backing of King Louis-Philippe’s government, which he obtained. As well as funds and settlers. He wanted to colonize New Zealand! On board his ship, the Comte de Paris, 57 emigrants joined the adventure. A few weeks later, Louis-Philippe dispatched the warship Aube, under the command of Charles Lavaud, France’s official representative. But all this took time, and on the other side of the world… the British, having got wind of this, sped up their negotiations with the Maoris in North Island. In February 1840, the treaty of Waitangi was signed. And on June 17th, British sovereignty was extended to South Island… By August 1840, when the Comte de Paris and her emigrants entered the bay at Akaroa, it was a huge letdown: the Union Jack had already been fluttering in the breeze for eight days! Those double-crossing ...

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