MistyNites

My Life in Motion

Archive for the tag “Quail Island”

Rapaki Track

It had been a while since I’d headed up this highly popular track within easy reach of Christchurch’s city centre. Starting 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).

After a brief walk through the shade of some trees, a bike grid denotes the entry onto grazing land. The 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. Whilst 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!).

 

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

 

Returning the same way, the view on the steep section is of the blue expanse of Pegasus Bay and the glistening of the Pacific Ocean. This view persists till the flat section where it disappears behind the hill, and from then onwards, Christchurch’s city centre pokes upwards, as the houses get nearer and nearer. It 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.

Quail Island

Nestled in the depth of Lyttelton harbour on Banks Peninsula, lies Quail Island. Once the home of a (very small) leper colony, it was subsequently used as an animal quarantine station where dogs and ponies trained prior to several expeditions to the Antarctic continent. Now, just a 10 minute ferry ride from the mainland, it is a great day out for a family-friendly walk with plenty of places for a picnic at the end of it all.

 

Up the hill from the pier, it is merely a case of choosing to go round the island clockwise or anti-clockwise. Heading anti-clockwise, some old buildings are nestled amongst the trees. Some of them were old stables for the horses, and a building with an interpretation room is just a little further along the track. Once out of the tree line, there is a 360 degree view of the surrounding Port Hills and Banks Peninsula for large sections of the coastal track, and the ferry company Black Cat Cruises, provides a leaflet and map of the island detailing important sites to visit on the way round.

 

Continuing in this direction, there are some dramatic sheer volcanic cliffs, a reminder of how the island (and the peninsula as a whole) was formed. This is also one of the best vantage points to view back towards Lyttelton and the mouth of Lyttelton Harbour. Scattered along the path round this coastline are various remnants of the early inhabitants, from rusty machinery to old quarries, one now filled with water.

 

Opposite Governor’s Bay, the Quail Island coast was used for scuppering old ships, and a collection of 8 ship wrecks can be seen just off a stony beach. Round from here, on the more southern facing coast, the beaches are sandy. The first one to come across is the more secluded one, accessible down the hill, and just a stone’s throw away from the neighbouring King Billy Island.

 

After passing another quarry and the sole grave from the leper colony, the path became a bit more of an adventure. Visiting on Easter weekend, a storm had blown through the week previously, and there were a lot of trees down occluding sections of the path. With a long detour to take to avoid this, we simply climbed over and under the large trunks, getting a few scratches along the way. The path had a closed sign at the other end for those walking clockwise round the island, but there had been nothing at the end that we came from. It wasn’t too much of a problem for us, but a few families that were coming behind us struggled to negotiate the fallen trees with their young children and picnic bags. The reward though, was reaching the main swimming and picnic area at a time when many other people were leaving. This southern facing coastline looked across to Diamond Harbour and Mt Herbert, the highest peak on the Banks Peninsula. It is a beautiful spot to soak up the sunshine whilst enjoying a picnic, and we spent the rest of our time sunning ourselves first by the beach, and then a little round the coast on a grassy ridge near a dilapidated pier.

 

Quail Island is a fantastic place to go for a lovely non-strenuous walk within the beautiful surrounds of Lyttelton Harbour and the Banks Peninsula. Accessible only in the summer months, it is a popular day trip, so don’t go there expecting solitude, but it is easy to find a place for that all important peace and quiet.

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