MistyNites

My Life in Motion

Archive for the category “Christchurch”

Destructive Beauty

I don’t remember how or when I found out, but somewhere between getting to Melbourne‘s Tullamarine Airport and getting in the taxi to go home in Christchurch, I absorbed some brief information about a couple of fires on the Port Hills, the hills behind my home city. One of the people I shared the taxi shuttle with had been on the opposite side of the plane and she had seen the fires illuminating the dark night sky as the plane approached the runway. It was after 1am when I got to bed, and I gave it no thought, falling asleep ahead of work later that morning. As I head towards the Port Hills from home to work, I was aware of some smoke in the distance on the opposite side of the hills to the city and helicopters flying nearby, but there otherwise wasn’t much to see. Aside from the occasional murmur from people coming into work, and some road closures announced on the hills to keep gawkers at bay, little concern was suggested.

That evening after work, I could see there was going to be a beautiful evening and dusk so I decided to head through Lyttelton tunnel and drive round to Governor’s Bay in order to park up and watch the colours that I suspected might be made through the smoke as the sun lowered. From this side of the hills it was possible to see separate fires in the bush on the hillside, although there was little in the way of flames, just smoke billowing up from the tree line, and helicopters moved around with water buckets suspended below. I was far from the only one parked up watching the evening light fall over Lyttelton Harbour. Despite being a Tuesday, every pull-up on the road was full of cars. And whilst I knew that below that smoke, the bushland of the hills was being destroyed, I found the scene quite beautiful. I know how regenerating a bush fire can be, and whilst destructive, I thought nothing more of it, snapping photos as the light changed, then driving home as it grew dark.

 

But the next morning things were different. I hadn’t seen any news on the Tuesday, and now on the Wednesday, I discovered that one of the helicopters fighting the fires had crashed the previous afternoon, killing the pilot. Even to this day they are yet to announce the trigger of the fires, but with one of them starting at a car park on the hills, I am convinced it was caused by an idiot throwing a cigarette or dumping glass that has reflected the sunlight. And now somebody had died. Not only that, but the fires were anything but under control, and they continued to move nearer and nearer to the hill suburbs of Christchurch. The smoke was by now very obvious on my commute to work and from my home the smoke hung over the house.

 

By the Thursday, things were getting more serious. The two fires were now one large out of control fire, and people we knew were being evacuated. The recently opened Adventure Park, a fantastic addition to the post-earthquake city, was now at risk of being damaged, and homes were now being destroyed. That evening I could see flames from my driveway as the fire had moved to Victoria Park, a popular recreational spot. It burned for many days, with some people out of their houses for 1-2 weeks. The Adventure Park remains closed still with no known time of reopening. The buildings at the base remained untouched, but large sections of the trees in the park as well as the chairlift were in the fire zone.

I have been up at the summit several times since the fires were extinguished and the roads reopened. Over 2000 hectares of land burned, and the hills now look very different. The spot on the summit where one of my best friends got married a few years ago is now black. But whilst there’s a lot of ground to be cleared, areas at risk of slip to be fortified, and houses to be rebuilt, there was already a lot of fresh green grass budding through the blackened soil within a couple of weeks of the fire. Having gone back up the hill again a couple of weeks ago, the rate of grass regrowth was amazing. Out of the ashes comes growth. And if there’s anything Christchurch is good at, it is regenerating after a disaster.

Mount Herbert via Packhorse Hut

Once upon a time, two large volcanoes stood side by side on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island. As they eroded, the craters formed two large harbours which today are known as Lyttelton harbour and Akaroa harbour. The volcanic remains have become the mountainous playground of Banks Peninsula, a stark contrast to the flatness of the Canterbury Plains which sit immediately to the west. Christchurch, the south island’s largest city, nestles just the other side of the Port Hills, making the peninsula a perfect spot for getaways from the city.

Standing proudly behind Diamond Harbour, Banks Peninsula’s tallest peak, Mount Herbert is a great choice for hiking. With a choice of four main routes up, I am slowly but surely working my way through the route options. I first summited Mt Herbert via Orton Bradley Park, a track that requires private transport to get to the starting point, and since then, I took the most popular route up from Diamond Harbour which can be reached by public transport from Christchurch. I later found out about another route up from Kaituna Valley and this again requires your own transport to reach the starting point. Unlike the other two routes which start from the northern aspect, this third route starts from the south.

From Christchurch city centre it is a 45min drive curving round the side of the Port Hills on the Akaroa road before cutting up the Kaituna Valley road past open farmland, eventually arriving at Parkinson’s Road. It was a hot sunny February day when I pulled up around 11am and there was barely any space left to park. I had planned on setting off earlier to beat the heat, but as often happens on a Sunday, I’d enjoyed a bit of a lie in before eventually getting out of bed. So as I stepped out my car, the dashboard thermometer was already reading 26oC. It was going to be a scorcher.

The track I was kicking off on was to take me to one of the Department of Conservation’s (DOC) huts called the Packhorse Hut. Even this hut itself has a few options to reach there, and being within easy reach of Christchurch, it is a popular destination for people to go for a night. As such, it requires to be booked. The DOC sign stated a 2hr walk to reach the hut, and the track starts off across private farming land. Stiles are provided to cross the fences meaning gates don’t need to be touched, and at the time I was hiking, stock was everywhere. It is important not to worry stock when passing over private land, but sheep being sheep, they often make it very hard to get past them without them getting spooked.

 

There is quite a long and relatively gentle meander across the farmland before finally the wide track zig-zags across a stream and starts climbing. And once the climb starts, it just keeps on going. The summer just passed did not offer much opportunity to get up into the mountains unlike the summer before, so despite hiking the Queen Charlotte Track just 2.5 months prior, I was out of shape once more. The gradient of this hike should have been well within my capabilities but instead I found myself huffing and puffing in the heat and needing to stop often. Once the trees parted though, the view opened up more and more and looking behind me the Pacific Ocean was glinting in the sunlight through a gap in the hillside, and in front of me lay the distinctive peak of Mt Bradley. Now I started to enjoy the hike.

 

There was plenty of other people on the track heading both up and down, although most people had been sensible enough to head off hours before me, so most of the people I saw were on their way back from the hut. When I reached the Packhorse Hut there were several people milling about inside and out, and others still could be seen on the track up from Gebbies Pass to the north. Directly in front was the Port Hills across the harbour, behind which lies Christchurch, and just peaking into view was the head of Lyttelton Harbour.

 

Built of local volcanic stone in 1914, the Packhorse Hut is one of four stone huts built as a resthouse for a proposed walking route between Christchurch and Akaroa. The brainchild of Harry Ell, a city councillor and member of parliament in the early 1900s, he was well known for his interests in recreation and conservation, and played a role in the creation of many of the reserves that now exist on the Port Hills. Whilst only three of his resthouses came to pass in his lifetime, a fourth followed after his death and all of them still stand to this day. The Sign of the Kiwi at the top of Dyers Pass road is a cafe, having recently reopened following the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010/2011. The Sign of the Takahe lower down Dyers Pass road is a restaurant, although it still remains closed for repairs following the earthquakes. The Sign of the Bellbird off Summit road started life as a tearoom but now is really just a shelter. It is a great picnic spot, although unfortunately after someone set fire to the roof in 2015, it is now completely open to the elements. And the Sign of the Packhorse is what is now the DOC run Packhorse Hut.

 

After taking a quick look inside before stopping for a snack, I still had some way to go to reach Mt Herbert. It was by now about 1pm, the sun was high and the DOC sign related a 3hr hike to Mt Herbert summit. This was longer than I’d anticipated but at least there were still many hours of daylight ahead. From the hut, the track follows the Summit Walkway which has recently been renamed with its Maori name to Te Ara Pataka. The track followed the curve of the land towards a small section within the bush which was some welcome respite from the sun, but before long it was back out in the elements and the zig-zags began. About 210m (689ft) altitude gain is achieved through a series of zig-zags up the slope of Mt Bradley. Here I met a group of people coming back from the summit who seemed surprised to see me and enquired about how well equipped I was and how much water I had. It put a hint of doubt in my mind that somehow this hike was more than I thought it would be.

 

Finally though, I was on the relative flat below the bluff of Mt Bradley’s summit. The view from the track up had been impressive enough, but from this higher altitude it was stunning. Although it undulated, it stayed roughly around 720-730m (2362-2395ft) with lots of bush on either side although nothing above to shade from the sun. I was now on the lookout for a nice lunch spot but there was nowhere to stop and sit. Both ahead and behind me the track was empty of people. Most of the people at the hut turned back there, so this section of the walk was devoid of people compared to the lower section. After some time of hugging the mountainside, the track dipped slightly and went into a copse. The shade was welcome so I found a large rock to sit on to have my lunch.

 

I was in a total reverie munching away when a loud and angry yell made me jump. Somebody unseen had yelled an obscenity so loudly that I had a momentary fear about who was approaching. As the unseen man grew nearer I heard more anger, albeit at a lower volume and then round a corner in the path came a man in his 20s. He asked how far the summit was and although I wasn’t sure exactly, I surmised that it was probably 60-90mins away based on the DOC sign and how long I’d been walking for. He swore again, complained about the track dropping altitude when it was supposed to be going up and stomped off, leaving me in peace once more. As he must have also come from the Packhorse Hut, regardless of which route he took to get there, he will have passed at least one sign with a distance marker to the summit, so I couldn’t understand why he was so annoyed, when it is clearly stated the length of the hike at each stage. At least he was wearing proper shoes and had a backpack. I’ve seen many tourists hiking up mountains in jandals (flip-flops) with either no water or just a small bottle in their hand.

Finally moving on myself, it wasn’t much further till the path came out at a fence line on a low ridge past the far side of Mt Bradley. Crossing the stile, I could now see Lyttelton Harbour again, and as the path meandered on, I found myself at the junction with the track down to Orton Bradley Park. Now I was on familiar territory. Some way on I came across Mt Herbert Shelter, a small hut just off the path. It has a nice view from the front deck, but I was keen to get to the summit so I pushed on without stopping. A little up the track I passed the angry man on his return trip who still looked thoroughly grumpy, and finally I was at the familiar turn-off for the summit. It was the last push up to a relatively deserted summit. This is a popular mountain to hike, so normally the summit is busy, but after 3pm as it was, it was quite late on in the day. With a predicted high of 29oC, everybody else had been much more sensible and set off earlier in the day.

 

At 919m (3015ft), there is a beautiful 360o view over Banks Peninsula and Lyttelton Harbour as well as out to the Pacific Ocean. As always, Christchurch was under a haze but the Southern Alps mountain range was still visible in the far distance. It is a broad summit, so there is plenty of space to walk around to see different aspects and I noted that the DOC signage had been updated since I’d last been there to include its Maori name of Te Ahu Patiki. From here it is possible to continue hiking along the Summit Walkway towards Port Levy, and this is the 4th route up to Mt Herbert, and the only one I am yet to walk.

After a while it was time to head home. It had taken over 4hrs to summit, but as always the downhill is easier, and although the section below the bluffs of Mt Bradley felt like it went on forever, I was back in my car in just 2.5hrs. As I passed the Packhorse Hut, there was a family setting up a tent outside, and I met some people hiking up when I reached the flat section across the farmland. They were heading to the hut and back but had waited to escape the heat of the day. It had been a scorcher for sure, and I had worried I would run out of water, but in the end all was well. Of the 3 routes I’ve done, this is the longest one to the summit, but it was good to explore somewhere new and I always enjoy discovering New Zealand’s myriad of mountain huts.

Mural City

As life starts to wind down towards the inevitable short days of the winter months ahead, I’m spending more time around my hometown of Christchurch on my days off. Having spent many summer days out hiking or exploring the country, I recently spent some much needed down time wandering around the city that continues to pick itself back up again post-earthquakes. After the success and vibrancy of last year’s Spectrum Street Art Festival, I was pleased to see it was running again this year, and especially keen to see the new murals that have popped up around the place. Sadly, many of last year’s have either gone or been hidden, including my favourite, and the most popular, Ballerina. But the rebuild must go on.

Jacob 'Yikes" Ryan & BMD, Hereford Street

Jacob ‘Yikes” Ryan & BMD, Hereford Street

Jacob 'Yikes' Ryan, Hereford Street

Jacob ‘Yikes’ Ryan, Hereford Street

 

BMD, Hereford Street

BMD, Hereford Street

 

Artist Unknown, Cashel Street

Artist Unknown, Cashel Street

 

Toothbrush, Ikarus & Jacob Yikes, Cashel Street

Toothbrush, Ikarus & Jacob Yikes, Cashel Street

 

Artist Unknown, off Colombo Street & Battersea Street

Artist Unknown, off Colombo Street & Battersea Street

 

Embassy, Wongi, Colombo Street

Embassy, Wongi, Colombo Street

 

Love, Artist Unknown, Brougham Street (now gone)

Love, Artist Unknown, Brougham Street (now gone)

 

Artisti Unknown, Hereford Street

Artist Unknown, Hereford Street

 

Figure, Deow, Buchan Stret

Figure, Deow, Buchan Stret

 

Close up, Sofles, St Asaph Street

Close up, Sofles, St Asaph Street

 

Close up, Sofles, St Asaph Street

Close up, Sofles, St Asaph Street

 

Sofles, St Asaph Street

Sofles, St Asaph Street

 

For Madelane, Elliot Frances Stewart, Mollett Street

For Madelane, Elliot Frances Stewart, Mollett Street

 

Splash, Artist Unknown, YMCA Building, Hereford Street

Splash, Artist Unknown, YMCA Building, Hereford Street

 

Monsters, Berst, Gloucester Street

Monsters, Berst, Gloucester Street

 

Vexta, Cashel Street

Vexta, Cashel Street

 

Ikarus, Hereford Street

Ikarus, Hereford Street

 

Multiple Artists, Hereford Street

Multiple Artists, Hereford Street

 

Cookie Monster, Emma, Hereford Street

Cookie Monster, Emma, Hereford Street

 

Ikarus, Hereford Street

Ikarus, Hereford Street

 

Yikes, DTR & Leeya, Hereford Street

Yikes, DTR & Leeya, Hereford Street

 

Artist Unknown, Hereford Street

Artist Unknown, Hereford Street

 

Yikes & DTR, Hereford Street

Yikes & DTR, Hereford Street

 

Late Bloom, Artist Unknown, Hereford Street

Late Bloom, Artist Unknown, Hereford Street

 

RIP Prince, Jacob Yikes, Hereford Street

RIP Prince, Jacob Yikes, Hereford Street

 

Yikes & DTR, Hereford Street

Yikes & DTR, Hereford Street

 

Ikarus, Hereford Street

Ikarus, Hereford Street

 

Jacob Yikes, Hereford Street

Jacob Yikes, Hereford Street

 

Christchurch Lantern Festival

Welcome to the Year of the Monkey. This city has come on leaps and bounds since I’ve lived here, and I’ve loved the many events that Christchurch has held across the year. With New Zealand having ties with Asia through immigration, tourism and trade, it is understandable that the coming of the new year on the Chinese calendar has seen a flurry of activity here. Following on from an exceedingly popular night time noodle market, the Chinese Lantern Festival came to Christchurch, following an event in Auckland in the north island. Held in Hagley Park last weekend, the turnout of Cantabrians was phenomenal, and the park heaved with people sampling the food, listening to the live music and of course, wandering around the many lanterns on display.

Little Boy

Dragon

MouseLion

Watermelons

Blue Penguin

Snails

Bug

Vases

Prizewinning sheep

Lucky coin

Fish

Zebra

Tiger

Giraffe

Chinese Animals of the Year

Year of the monkey

Tortoise band

Dragonfly

Spirit bird

Masked Figure

Bridle Path

Following a gloriously dry and warm spring, during which a near-drought situation arose in Christchurch, the summer has rather failed to start. What should be one of the best months of the year has fizzled out amongst rain, wind, and extreme jumps in temperature, meaning that my hope for a summer full of hiking is rather failing to fulfill itself. With the nearby Alps either clouded over or too windy on a regular basis, I decided to look closer to home to give me my fix. Within the boundaries of Christchurch, in the suburb of Heathcote is the gondola that takes people from the city side of the Port Hills up to a viewing platform on the summit of Mount Cavendish. From here there is a stunning view both back over the city nestled against Pegasus Bay, and also down into Lyttelton Harbour within Banks Peninsula.

In Heathcote, right next to the gondola, is the bridle path, a historical route where European settlers used to trudge over the hill from Lyttelton to Christchurch. It is a popular path, mainly with walkers, but it is also a shared mountain bike track too. I’m yet to see a single biker stay on their bike the whole way up. The path is steep and covered in loose stones, and no matter the weather, it is impossible to walk this route without breaking a sweat. It is definitely not a walk to be considered without a water supply.

Information board on the bridle path

Following the major earthquakes of September 2010 and February 2011, there has been a lot of rockfall in the area, and the once distinctive Castle Rock to the right of the path has lost a large part of its structure. Previously another walk branched off the bridle path near the bottom, but nearly 5 years on, this walk remains closed, deemed as too unsafe. Even the bridle path itself has a section in the lower portion with a no-stopping sign due to rockfall risks. Frankly, I think any path around mountains, cliffs or rocks carries some inherent risk, and therefore I don’t see why these paths need any more warning or concern than any other walk, but that is just my opinion.

The remains of Castle Rock

Closed track in a rockfall zone

Rockfall zone below Mount Cavendish

The steep climb starts reasonably early on and maintains itself up a winding path that snakes high above the entrance to the Lyttelton tunnel, until eventually it reaches summit road, off to the side and below the top of the gondola. Looking north, the expanse of Pegasus Bay becomes visible and the city of Christchurch sits by its side. If the sky is clear enough, the Southern Alps span the horizon. Cross the road, and below lies Lyttelton harbour, the mountainous terrain of Banks Peninsula behind it. From here, there are plenty of walks to choose from. The most popular is to follow the Mount Cavendish bluffs track, part of the crater rim track, which rock-hops its way up to the gondola building. Behind here, other paths continue onwards, or there is a cafe, shop, and viewing platforms within the gondola building to take a break and soak up the view. Back at summit road, the crater rim also heads off away from the gondola as part of a very long day walk round what was originally a volcanic crater, and there are two paths down the hill to Lyttelton, one of which is the continuation of the bridle path.View from summit road looking over Pegasus Bay

Hiking the crater rim to the top of the gondola

Panorama over Lyttelton harbour from the gondola viewing platform

On this particular occasion, I was on a mission. I headed over the brow and followed the bridle path down a similarly steep path to the port town. This side is littered with patches of old rockfall, a testament to the power of nature. Whereas on the way up, the view is mainly behind or to the side, on the way down, it is right in front of you the whole way. On a sunny day, the water is a beautiful blue colour, and dependent on the tides, there is a large mud flat beyond Quail Island that is exposed in the depth of the harbour at low tide. The whole way down, I could see my objective: the port.

Lyttelton Port

Flowers on the walk

When the path meets suburban back street, you are still quite high up, and it is a steep walk down the pavement until eventually a flight of steps takes you down to the main road right by the roundabout where the Lyttelton tunnel exits. I headed straight to the port and joined the queue. On this particular day, there was a once-in-a-lifetime experience of an open day on the HMS Protector, an Antarctic ice-breaking patrol vessel that was in port for repairs. It proved very popular with long queues, but I had made it in plenty of time and thankfully didn’t have to wait long. Going to Antarctica constantly feels just out of my reach. I don’t have a relevant profession to work there, and now with chronic back problems for the past 2 years, I would fail the stringent medical even if I did. Going as a tourist remains financially unreachable at this stage of my life, so I have resolved myself to be an utter groupie. Without knowing it at the time, I moved to New Zealand and happened to settle in the city which is New Zealand’s gateway to the continent, and as such, I have had the pleasure of attending enough Antarctica-themed events to keep me satiated… almost.

HMS Protector

HMS Protector

After chatting with some of the crew and wandering round the ship, I headed back to town in search of brunch. Lyttelton varies between bustling little port town and sleepy suburbia depending on what is going on at the time. It suffered a lot of damage in the earthquakes, and the port itself is currently undergoing a major upgrade. This used to be where the visiting cruise ships would dock, but now they skip by and pull in at Akaroa round the coast. But it is still a busy port, especially for the export of logs to China. For people, it is also where boats cross the harbour to Diamond Harbour (from where Mount Herbert can be reached), Quail Island and out to the mouth of the harbour on a nature cruise.

Full of delicious food and coffee, I retraced my steps to the bridle path and worked my way back up the hill and over the other side. The signs at each end list 45mins to summit road, or 1hr 30mins from end to end, but even taking my time and stopping for photos, I was just over an hour each way. With the weather continuing to be grey day after day, it was nice to reacquaint myself with a local gem.

Mount Thomas

If there was ever a hike worthy of a sturdy pair of hiking boots, Mount Thomas’ summit track would be it. And if there was ever a day where getting up very early makes a big difference, then this day would be it. Just over an hour north of Christchurch, in the Waimakariri District of Canterbury, north of the town of Rangiora, and nestled down an unsealed road is the Mt Thomas Conservation Area. From a car park near a camping ground, a selection of paths head off into the forest for a variety of routes.Mt Thomas Conservation Area

I set off from the car park a little before 10am with the sun shining down from a near cloudless sky. There was a hint of wind, but choosing the summit track, I was sheltered well within the forest. For the first hour of this track there is little relief from the steep uphill slog, and the path is stony with a covering of fallen vegetation making for a route in need of good grip on your shoes. The steep incline was tough on my calf muscles as I found myself a little unfit after a spring of near laziness. There is little to see other than trees, as other than a brief section next to a private road, the majority of the path is deep within the forest.The first split in the paths

Near the bottom of the summit track

A brief break in the trees

By the time the gradient began to ease a little, I was disheartened to see the sun had disappeared behind a thick blanket of cloud. When finally the trees gave way and opened up slightly to afford a view down into the gully at the side of the mountain, I realised that the wind had completely changed direction and a low-lying fast moving cloud had barrelled into the gully meaning that I was now within the clouds. It was cold and there were spots of rain, and I could barely make out the neighbouring hillside. The path hugged the upper reaches of Mt Thomas before finally the forest ended and the track emerged on a 4×4 track. There is no marker here other than the one pointing you in the direction you came from, but common sense leads you up the track instead of down, and round a couple of bends the aerials and trig point marking the summit (1023m) became visible through the racing cloud.The upper forest

Looking through the cloud bank

The cloud bank was whipping up the gully and over the nearby ridge very fast, and gusts of wind made the summit quite cold. There was no view in any direction and I was a bit gutted. Had I set off an hour earlier, I would have summited in the sunshine. After a quick wander round the summit, the sun threatened to burst through and I contemplated stopping to eat some lunch and see if the cloud burnt off. But the summit was completely exposed, and it was cold and windy, so I made the decision to push on. I had decided to return via the Wooded Gully Track which involves crossing the ridgeline next to Mt Thomas. This exposed ridgeline was where the cloud was whipping up and over, so all that was visible was the thin path snaking into the mist, marked by an orange marker.View towards the Ridge Track from the summit

Mt Thomas summit

View from the summit of Mt Thomas

The wind wasn’t strong enough to have me concerned, so I set off into the cloud and followed the ridge track through a very alpine environment. The track varies in width but is easy to follow, and as it dropped slightly down the one side of the ridge, it was possible to see down the gully slightly and get a slight view of the neighbouring mountains. Something caught my eye on the track at my feet and I was astounded to see a stone shaped like a heart. It wasn’t much further until the track disappeared back into the forest again.Following the Ridge Track into the clouds

Following the Ridge Track

Heart-shaped stone

The neighbouring ridge appearing out of the clouds

Whereas the summit track had gained the majority of the altitude in the first hour before easing off, the Ridge Track which soon after entering the forest split into the Wooded Gully Track, lost most of the altitude early on going downhill, only easing off in the lowest section. The Wooded Gully Track was much more interesting than the Summit Track with several streams to cross, and a varied forest canopy which was full of bird song. Even with the path being dry, there were several parts which were a slip risk, and on two occasions I lost my footing before managing to catch myself again. About half an hour after re-entering the forest, I was aware of the sun breaking through the canopy, and through the occasional break in the trees, I could see the now uncovered summit of Mt Thomas off to the side of me. I hadn’t met a single soul on the whole hike yet and several parts of this track were only wide enough for one person with steep drops off to the side. There were plenty of trip hazards too, so some sections took a lot of foot watching to prevent a fall. Finally, I passed a scattering of other hikers in the lower reaches of the forest where the path splits at different stages to give alternative routes back to the car park.Re-entering the forest

Wooded Gully Track splits from the Ridge Track

Stream Crossing

Looking back up the mountainside

Forest track

DOC walks are always well signposted and can sometimes be generous with their listed times for their walks. There was only one spot in the lower forest where the path forked that it wasn’t as blatantly obvious as usual which path I wanted, but again common sense prevailed. All the paths in this area lead back to the same car park though, so even a wrong turning here will eventually get you back to the same exit point. The final hour of the walk was in sunshine and I was slightly dismayed to realise that an hour either side of my leaving time would have afforded me a summit view. With just 10 mins left to walk, the path crossed a river and a picnic bench sat haphazardly to the side of the bridge. Having not eaten yet, I opted to sit for a while to have some food, but even this early in the season, the sandflies were out and about and insisted on flitting about my head. They are the bane of waterways in New Zealand and in enough numbers have the ability to ruin a pleasant summer day out in the countryside. After a fast consumption of my sandwich, it was a very brief and easy walk back to the car park.DOC sign at fork in the path

Bridge across the river

The DOC signs state a 2hr hike up the summit track and a 2.5hr hike down the Wooded Gully Track. There is also the option of following the Ridge Track to its terminus which makes it a 3.5hr walk back to the car park. I reached the summit in about 1.5hrs despite being painfully slow in the early stages whilst my legs eased into it, and including a brief stop at the summit and a lunch stop at the bottom, I made it back to the car park in 2hrs. No matter which path you choose, this is definitely a track in need of good walking boots and good hiking socks too, as there are steep sections on either route, and the Wooded Gully track has sections where streams flow down the track. The only toilets on the path are at the camping ground near the car park at the start.

This was hopefully the first of many day hikes this summer season, but alas, a summit view is going to have to wait for another occasion…

Artistic License

My favourite thing to have come out of the Christchurch Rebuild is the ever growing amount of colourful and quirky street art. Adorning the sides of buildings as well as hidden amongst the rubble and desertion, some world-renowned artists have left their mark amongst the city. Unfortunately many of them are on buildings earmarked for eventual demolition, and some will eventually become hidden once new buildings are erected next door, but I hope that as many as possible will remain in the city’s new blueprint. Currently running at the YMCA is the Spectrum Street Art Festival which celebrates this art form and is a showcase for some of these same artist’s work. A map can be obtained from the YMCA and an app is available to download which marks the locations of the current outdoor displays dotted around the CBD. I have become a particular fan of the work of Jacob ‘Yikes’ Ryan who is based in Christchurch and BMD who are based between Australia and New Zealand. Most of the outdoor exhibits are large and hard to miss, but in my wanderings I’ve spotted a few smaller hidden gems.

Giraffing Around, Tess Sheerin, 10 Liverpool St (now gone)

Giraffing Around, Tess Sheerin, 10 Liverpool St (now gone)

Mr 4 Square, Artist Unknown, between Hereford St and Worcester St (now gone)

Mr 4 Square, Artist Unknown, between Hereford St and Worcester St (now gone)

Steeple People, Kay Rosen, Worcester St

Steeple People, Kay Rosen, Worcester St

No!, Tony Fomison, High Street and Manchester St

No!, Tony Fomison, High Street and Manchester St

H.M. The Queen, William Nicholson, Christchurch Casino

H.M. The Queen, William Nicholson, Christchurch Casino

Ballerina, Owen Dippie, Isaac Theatre Royal

Ballerina, Owen Dippie, Isaac Theatre Royal

Naked Woman, Order, Calendar Girls

Order, Calendar Girls

Mexican, Jacob Yikes, Manchester St

Jacob Yikes, Manchester St

Hope, Paulie, YMCA Hereford St

Hope, Paulie, YMCA Hereford St

Face, Drapl, Hereford St YMCA

Drapl, Hereford St YMCA

Love Mural, Artist Unknown, Byron St

Love Mural, Artist Unknown, Byron St

Paris, Askew, Colombo St

Paris, Askew, Colombo St

Jacob Yikes, High St

Jacob Yikes, High St

Wongi and Ikarus, High St

Wongi and Ikarus, High St

Wongi and Ikarus, High St

Wongi and Ikarus, High St

Wongi and Ikarus, High St

Wongi and Ikarus, High St

Buff Monster, Durham St

Buff Monster, Durham St

Tilt, Peterborough St

Tilt, Peterborough St

Daek William, Peterborough St

Daek William, Peterborough St

Adnate, Kilmore St

Adnate, Kilmore St

Askew, Gloucester St

Askew, Gloucester St

Jacob Yikes & Leeya Warrander, Hereford St

Jacob Yikes & Leeya Warrander, Hereford St

Jacob Yikes, Hereford St

Jacob Yikes, Hereford St

Jacob Yikes, Tuam St

Jacob Yikes, Tuam St

Jacob Yikes, Tuam St

Jacob Yikes, Tuam St

Jacob Yikes, Tuam St

Jacob Yikes, Tuam St

Jacob Yikes

Jacob Yikes

Elephants, Owen Dippie, Manchester St

Elephants, Owen Dippie, Manchester St

Wongi Wilson, Manchester St

Wongi Wilson, Manchester St

Artist Unknown, Welles St

Artist Unknown, Welles St

Welcome to Christchurch, Dcypher, Welles St

Welcome to Christchurch, Dcypher, Welles St

Artist Unknown, Southwark St

Artist Unknown, Southwark St

Sef, Southwark St

Sef, Southwark St

Jacob Yikes, between Cashel St and Lichfield St

Jacob Yikes, between Cashel St and Lichfield St

Gary Silipa, Lichfield St

Gary Silipa, Lichfield St

The Black Hat, George Henry, Cashel St (now gone)

The Black Hat, George Henry, Cashel St (now gone)

We Got the Sunshine, Fluro and Oche, Madras St

We Got the Sunshine, Fluro and Oche, Madras St

Save the Penguins, BMD, Worcester St

Save the Penguins, BMD, Worcester St

Rapaki Track

It had been a while since I’d headed up this highly popular track within easy reach of Christchurch’s city centre. The view from Rapaki RoadStarting from the end of Rapaki Road, off Centaurus Road, the first challenge is finding a place to park. With no car park at the bottom, it is street parking only, and at busy times, the entire length of Rapaki Road can be crammed with cars. Part of the reason I hadn’t been in a while, despite living less than a 10 minute drive away, is that it is a very exposed track that winds its way up the Port Hills to Summit Road, and on hot summer days where temperatures can get above 30oC, it would be foolish to go up at any other time than early morning or into the evening. Even setting off before 10am on this autumn day which eventually reached 31oC was pushing it quite a bit.

The Rapaki Track is a track of thirds: the initial steady climb up the side of one hill, the flattish section along the false ridge line, and the final push up the steepest section of the track towards Summit Road. Taking roughly 1.5hrs return, it is a nice short walk to do whilst still requiring a bit of effort. Don’t let the shortness of the walk fool you though. The footpath is well marked but quite stony so a proper pair of shoes are recommended, not jandals (flip-flops/thongs depending on which part of the world you hail from).

Rapaki TrackAfter a brief walk through the shade of some trees, a bike grid denotes the entry onto grazing land. Leaving the houses behind on a greener dayThe path snakes steadily up on the side of the hill, which depending on the time of year, can range in colour from a brilliant green to a starchy yellow. On this most recent of walks, it was dry and yellow as Canterbury is currently in a drought. The early part of the hike on a greener dayWhilst cattle are across a fence if they are there, sheep can wander more freely and have been known to be on the path side of the fence. The track is shared with bikers too, so it is best to stick to the left at bends to prevent being caught off guard by a bike whizzing down the hillside. Dogs are allowed on this track, but due to the proximity to grazing animals, are allowed only on a lead (although it is exceedingly common to see this flaunted!).

 

 

On the flat sectionThe steepest section is the final section, and depending on recent weather, can occasionally be slippery in places, The steep section on a greener daybut the reward at the top, after crossing another bike grid, is the view over the far side of the Port Hills into Lyttleton Harbour with Quail Island directly below and the Banks Peninsula’s highest point, Mt Herbert, directly behind. Quail Island within Lyttleton HarbourThe view can look quite different dependent on the tide as the innermost aspect of the harbour forms a tidal mud flat at low tide. Mt Herbert & Mt Bradley behind Quail IslandI will never get sick of the sight of Lyttleton Harbour no matter which part of the Port Hills I go up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summit Road - the walk downReturning the same way, Pegasus Baythe view on the steep section is of the blue expanse of Pegasus Bay and the glistening of the Pacific Ocean. Nearing the bottom of the steep sectionThis view persists till the flat section where it disappears behind the hill, Heading down the hillsideand from then onwards, Christchurch’s city centre pokes upwards, as the houses get nearer and nearer. Christchurch skylineIt may not be the most distinctive of skylines, but it is still a nice vista to look at on the way back. This is certainly a recommended inclusion to any visit to the Garden City.Returning through the woods

A Sandy Shore

“Sandcastle”

From the beach its sandy walls rise,
Its turrets reach up to touch the skies.
A tiny moat dissolves the keep.
Its pavers are strong, though only two inches deep.
Tiny footprints embedded in the sand,
Where once a child there did stand.
Its grace and beauty a short time will last,
Before the sea washes it into the past.

Author Unknown

The 4th Annual New Zealand Sandcastle Competition took place this year on 7th February 2015. It was held on the beach at New Brighton, one of the eastern suburbs of Christchurch.

Sandcastle

Dragon Capsizing Boat

Bottlenose Dolphins

Dolphins

Face

Octopus

Campsite

Robot

Octopus vs Shark

Giant Feet on the Beach

Marae (Maori Meeting House)

Starfish

Hatchling

Pacman

Dragon

Dragon within a dragonSandcastle

Sandcastle

Sandcastle

Kite Day

“Let’s go fly a kite
Up to the highest height
Let’s go fly a kite
And send it soaring
Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Oh, let’s go fly a kite”

Mary Poppins

UnicornTigerTurtleWhaleKitesPlaneRed squidOrange squidFishSeahorseSeahorsesClown fishTall ShipKite Day, New Brighton beach

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