MistyNites

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Archive for the tag “Hagley Park”

Spring Getaway

I was supposed to be gallivanting around Europe. I had booked an epic 6 week trip taking me through Singapore to Germany and on to Scotland to see my family, before taking a road trip up the west coast of Norway. I was one of the millions of people to have overseas trips canned because of COVID. In August 2020, it was then 2 years since I’d seen my family, and I had no idea when I’d see them again next. The 6 week leave from work was pointless so I cancelled 4 weeks of it, and left myself the last 2 in mid-September, figuring I’d take a wee spring roadie around New Zealand.

The final week of winter was a mixed bag weather-wise with gorgeous blue sky days with a winter chill in the air, followed by grey days, or a hint of warmth. I spent the last weekend of August walking around the city. Christchurch is not everyone’s cup of tea, and some visitors still fail to see beyond the earthquake scars that are still present on some city streets, but I love it here, and I enjoy a good wander around the place on a regular basis. I used the Avon river as a route finder, following its course past Margaret Mahy playground, and finding I had the giant swing all to myself. In my opinion swings have no age limit, and I’ll happily have a go at seeing how high I can get if I see a vacant one on a lazy day.

 

Spring is my favourite season to visit the city’s botanic gardens. The garden city had been ignoring the fact that it was winter for quite a few weeks by this point, with the daffodil lawns next to the hospital in full bloom even in August. It was warm enough to walk around in a t-shirt and I took a seat on the mosaic chair for a bit before returning to the flowers. The first of the cherry blossoms had bloomed, although the main event was still weeks away. Away from the gardens, the city felt a little empty but just a week later, it was buzzing, and with a DJ playing on the balcony at Riverside Market, I had that excited feeling that comes with the turn of the season, and the thrill of the impending months of spring and summer ahead.

 

The trees were still bare, but the buildings on the Terrace were colourful, and reflected in the gently flowing water of the Avon river. It’s a popular spot to sit and eat lunch, on the steps down to the river where the eels wait for some scraps, and a myriad of water fowl paddle around. Cutting across the city centre, I took a wander around some of the sculptures in the east frame of the city. Some large spray cans formed a canvas for some changing artwork, and a large rusty-looking jagged spire sticks up towards the blue sky, framed by the Port Hills. The flatness of the city centre makes it the perfect place to explore on foot or bike.

 

After a morning of work, I set off north the next weekend, for the winding drive to Kaikoura. The mountains of the Kaikoura Range were snow-capped, framing the bay and the town itself, so I headed to the lookout at the top of the peninsula hill to take it all in from a slight vantage point. I wasn’t staying here though, it was just a handy place to stretch my legs after a few hours of driving. With the late start in the afternoon, I didn’t stay long as I still had a few hours of driving ahead of me.

 

But as I continued on the winding road north from there, my car lost power on an uphill bend. Thankfully it was only brief, and no warning lights came on, but further along the road it happened again. This really wasn’t the kind of road to lose power on, as there’s so many hills and bends to negotiate between the coast and Picton, my destination. Most of the time it was driving fine though, and as I arrived in Picton in darkness on a Saturday night, I tried to allay any concerns, and focused on settling into my accommodation. It was a very basic hostel and a quiet one at that with no international travellers, but I was happy to be joined by a cat that looked so similar to my own.

It was a beautiful sunny Sunday when I awoke, and my car was behaving itself as I drove out to Waikawa Bay. The marina was full of boats swaying gently with the ebb of the water. The mountainous ridge where the Queen Charlotte track hides sat across the water of the Queen Charlotte Sound. A little further around the coast is Karaka Point where a short walk from the car park leads down a small spit to a flight of steps down to a small beach. The views here are incredible. New Zealand is full of stunning landscapes, and the Marlborough Sounds is one of my favourite scenic regions. The sea within the sounds was so calm, and there were rolling green hillsides in all directions.

 

From the top of the stairs to the beach, I spotted a New Zealand fur seal gliding through the water nearby. It had a large linear gash on its lower back that I’m convinced was a propeller injury from a boat. It was full skin thickness, exposing raw red flesh underneath, and it looked relatively fresh. The seal appeared to be swimming normally despite this wound but it was sad to see, and I’m sure it would be in a lot of pain with an exposed wound like that. One of many examples of the harmful outcomes from human and wildlife interactions. It stayed out in the water as I watched it now from the beach, cruising up and down the coast as I followed the stony beach round the headland onto the rocks. I spotted another fur seal cruising in the water, and a little off shore, some small sea birds were fluttering and diving for food.

It was so peaceful, and I’ve no idea how long I stood on those rocks for, but when I turned back around the headland, I found the injured fur seal had hauled out right by the base of the steps. It put its mouth on its wound, and I knew it needed to rest, but it was blocking my exit, and I couldn’t leave it alone without first disturbing it. Unfortunately it took off back into the water as I approached and I was quick to exit the beach in the hope it would come back out again. I savoured the views as I headed back to my car, returning to Waikawa Bay for a walk around the foreshore. Now there were many locals out enjoying the place, but it was still so peaceful, and I stayed here before heading back to Picton for brunch, which I ate out while watching the inter-island ferries come and go.

 

I always feel like I’m on a grand adventure if I have to fly or sail somewhere. I checked in for the lunchtime sailing on the Bluebridge ferry, and counted down till boarding, eager to set sail. The crossing from Picton to Wellington is one of the most beautiful ferry crossings I’ve ever done, in particular the hour and a half that it takes to sail between Picton and the Cook Strait. It was not only calm, but it was a semi-blue sky with just some thin clouds to blur the sun a little, and I was certainly going to spend the entire time out on the deck admiring the view. The first few times I sailed the Cook Strait, I’d taken the Interislander ferries, but the last couple of times I’ve taken the Bluebridge, due to the convenience of their sailing times for my needs. They’re very different ships, and on the Bluebridge ferry the outdoor passenger deck looks down over the vehicle deck, and on that particular sailing there was a truck loaded with sheep among the cargo trucks.

 

The inter-island ferries seem like utter behemoths compared to the little boats that ploughed the waters within the sound. Being a Sunday, there were lots of private sail boats out and about, and every now and again a water taxi or fishing boat whizzed by, all utterly dwarfed by the ferry, and all having to contend with the wake the ferry created behind it as it cruised slowly by. It was cold out on deck, and I needed gloves and a windbreak, but there was no way I was going inside with the scenery as beautiful as this. From the blue water, to the rolling green hills in every direction, there’s just nothing like it. Then as the ferry snakes through the sounds, and a gap finally becomes visible in the distance, the North Island suddenly comes in to view and the Cook Strait becomes broader and broader.

 

The North Island looks so tangible from this point, and yet it takes a full hour to cross it. I’ve had one rough crossing in the past, otherwise mostly I’ve been lucky with the weather on the trip over. This time round there was a strong cross wind and a bit of chop, but the limited spray meant I could still stay out on deck. The blue sky had all gone though, and the cloud overhead turned the water a steely grey colour. As we headed east towards the entrance to Wellington harbour, I could see the snow-capped mountains of the northern end of the Kaikoura Range poking up above the north coast of the South Island.

 

From the green hills of the Marlborough Sounds, the urban sprawl that appears on entering Wellington harbour is such a contrast. Again a myriad of boats moved around us, and city life framed the coast as we sailed round Miramar Peninsula and deeper into the harbour. The office buildings and the sky scrapers of the country’s small capital city grew larger as we crept towards our berth. Everywhere you looked there were signs of movement and life despite the greyness of the day. I stayed on deck till the last possible minute when drivers were called down to the car deck to ready to disembark. The car deck was mostly empty with only a handful of trucks and cars, so once the ramp was down I didn’t need to wait too long before I was signalled to move forward and head off.

But there was to be no lingering in the capital as I still had some distance to travel to reach my bed for the night. I was soon out of the city and in new territory for me, heading north-east around the back of the bay and up into the Hutt Valley. I had a two-hour drive that led me up into the winding hilly road that crosses Remutaka Hill. There’s so many hiking and biking trails around here, and I would have loved to have stopped and explored some of them, but it was well into the evening, and the light was getting low.

I’d never been to the Wairarapa region before, and turning off the main highway, I soon found myself deep in rural Wairarapa, seeing fewer and fewer cars as I eventually hit the south coast as the sun readied to set. I don’t like driving unfamiliar roads in the dark, but the Cape Palliser road wasn’t exactly a place to get lost. However, the sea came right up to the road in places, and with a slight wind buffeting from offshore, it felt wild as I passed the final kilometres. There was no one to greet me as I arrived at my cabin in the middle of nowhere, part of a small camping ground that was mostly empty. I settled in for the night as the place was shrouded in darkness, until it was almost pitch black outside. The sea was somewhere nearby, but it was no longer visible. With a coastal chill in the air, I could only hope for dry weather the next day.

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

Prizewinning sheep

Lucky coin

Fish

Zebra

Tiger

Giraffe

Tortoise band

Dragonfly

Spirit bird

Summer in the City

The trams are back! Anyone who ever visited Christchurch before the destructive powers of the earthquakes hit, knows that the tram system that snaked through the central city was an iconic part of the city. They ceased service following the Feb 22nd earthquake in 2011, but 1000 days later, after the trams themselves received an overhaul, and the tracks got repaired and partly replaced, the trams returned to (an albeit limited) service in November 2013. The route is short and concise, starting at New Regent Street, passing through the newly renovated Cathedral Junction, turning into Cathedral Square, past the remnants of the city’s other big icon, the now battered Cathedral, and along Worcester Street past the Art Gallery and stopping just shy of the Canterbury Museum. It then returns along the exact same route. There are 3 trams in service: the red cars numbers 11 and 178, and an old Invercargill brown tram, number 15. As an annual pass holder for the Christchurch Gondola, riding the trams is free, so happening to have a day off work the first day the trams were running, I took great enjoyment in going for a spin. There seemed to be some teething problems, and the return route took an hour, considering I could have walked the route in a quarter of that time, but things seem to be going a bit more smoothly now, and the trams appear to be proving quite popular with the visiting tourists. With so much ongoing construction and deconstruction continuing within the CBD, it is refreshing to see a sense of ‘normality’ return to the place.

 

Cathedral Square is now a hive of constant activity. Whilst the Cathedral itself remains untouched still, the square is a regular site for markets and social events. When it first reopened to the public, it felt sombre to wander through, and the people walked around with an air of sadness, and in sparse numbers. Now, there are crowds of locals and tourists using the space, and the mood is much more upbeat. A few more buildings have gone down in the general vicinity, and still more are to go. Notably, on the square itself, the BNZ building has been abandoned at half the height due to running out of money with the demolition, and the Government Life building with the clock on the roof is still undergoing asbestos removal at the time of writing. This large building will leave another noticeable hole in the cityscape when it is eventually lost.

 

Cashel Re:Start Mall is buzzing. It hosts a regular market, and has buskers performing in the centre every weekend. It has proven so popular that it will be relocated to remain in the newly designed city. Already, there is a building frame up to replace a section of the containers at the northern edge. At its end, Antony Gough’s project, the Terrace, is getting well under way with the first stage due to be open by the end of this year. It is a retail and hospitality project that will bring night life back to the central city and overlook the Avon river which is also continuing to be upgraded in sections. In the streets around here, the Central Library has gone, and work starts on the Justice Precinct here, the area where the emergency services headquarters will reside. Along Tuam Street, the old City Council building is under wraps literally, being demolished slowly from the inside out. In the proposed green belt of the East Frame, grass has been seeded to create an increase in parkland in the empty plots around Latimer Square.

 

One of the more noticeable buildings to progress is the Isaacs Theatre Royal on Gloucester Street. It has spent a large portion of post-earthquake time spent with the facade attached to a wall of shipping containers. Behind it, the building was split in two, brought down and rebuilt. Just a few weeks ago, the shipping containers were finally removed as the facade has now been reattached for the most part to the new structure behind it, and a new roof is now clearly visible. This is due for completion by the end of this year. Also making good progress is Victoria Street, which promises to be a great social area, and already has multiple bars and restaurants, including the relatively new Mexicana and Tequila Mockingbird.

 

Art is continuing to spring up around the city. Murals adorn multiple walls at every turn in an effort to bring colour back to a city that is at times overshadowed by greyness and dust. Temporary sculptures appear both in the city and in the suburbs. Sydenham has a series of sculptures depicting people in various poses, and in Latimer Square, a new piece of sculpture art has been erected to depict the lost spire of the original Cathedral. There is unfortunately a lot of graffiti adorning some of the abandoned buildings, but I love the painted artwork that many artists have shared with the people of Christchurch.

 

I continue to make use of walking tracks around the area, and have this year discovered the Rapaki Track. At the turn off from Centaurus Road, the track heads up the Port Hills on a well trodden gravel road through Mount Vernon Park to Summit Road. It is an exceedingly popular track with cyclists and walkers, and takes less than an hour to reach the top. From Summit Road, you can see the beautiful turquoise water of Lyttelton Harbour and on the way back down the hill, Pegasus Bay is visible as well as the city of Christchurch itself. It is my favourite ‘short’ hike to do in the area. A couple of moderate grade walks near Christchurch that I have done this summer are Mt Herbert and Mt Richardson.

 

One of the many things I love about New Zealand in general is the importance of outdoor living, especially throughout the summer months. The past few months I have attended a variety of events in and around the city. In November 2013, I got to dress up as a zombie for the inaugural Zombie Run, a 5km run where runners have to evade a zombie invasion. It took place in Orton Bradley Park on Banks Peninsula, and I had great fun getting a make-over to look like the undead. A few weeks later was the Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park, an annual outdoor concert which is held in Hagley Park. Hundreds of people take picnics and head to the park with friends and family to enjoy a few hours of live music, both festive and pop, and wait for Santa to appear. In December, there was a fantastic craft market in Cathedral Square which was perfect timing for some pre-Christmas shopping. It was fantastic to see the Square so buzzing. Another highlight of December was visiting a rather famous house to the west of the city. Not normally a fan of over-the-top festivities, I loved visiting this famous property with all its lights, and displays and festive music. It was immensely popular, with the state highway running past it becoming a temporary car park. We spent an hour or so just wandering round gawping at it all. I still struggle to feel festive in the summer time, but this helped just a little bit.

 

In February, Classical Sparks in the Park was another outdoor event in Hagley Park. This time, the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra played famous songs whilst we enjoyed another picnic with some friends. A hot air balloon flew very low over the concert, and when the sun set, an amazing fireworks display took place to the theme of Star Wars. It was incredible. The Chinese Lantern Festival followed a few weeks later. Unfortunately, I missed the best night for weather and it was cancelled on the second night, but I still got to have a wander round Hagley Park and see most of the lanterns in situ. It was unfortunate to miss out on them being lit up in all their glory, but it was still possible to see how amazing they all were. The end of February saw the 5km Color Run come to the city. A charity run or walk where you get absolutely covered in paint dust whilst completing the course. It was torrential rain whilst the run was going ahead but then the sun broke through for the paint party at the end which was immense fun. Again in Hagley Park, at the start of March, was the Ellerslie Flower Show. I remembered a similar event in Glasgow when I was a child, but had never really been fussed about going to this event in Christchurch before. However on the last evening, we headed down to take a look. There were some impressive gardens and structures on display, and a few times a day there was a floral fashion show which was amazing. Lots of models dressed up as different flowers and insects didn’t immediately jump out at me as being of interest, but it was actually immensely clever, and really well done, and I was glad that I had gotten to see it.

 

Hagley Park continues to be the centre of outdoor fun in the city, but the summer events are starting to wind down as autumn takes its grip. Regardless of the time of year though, there will always be changes happening in the Garden City.

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