Monday, 6 May 2013

Day Trips Out

Port Hills, 7 April
Our first walk and we travel south into the Port Hills which separate the port of Lyttleton from Christchurch. The sign on the fenced off track didn’t bode well but we squeezed through the gap and set off uphill. It soon became clear why the track was closed: massive boulders, fallen from Castle Rock, sat blocking the path in places, some more recent than the quakes and it was clear from the signs that experts were attempting to stabilise the rocky outcrops through controlled explosions. There were other people disobeying the signs so we bravely continued on our way.

The views back to Christchurch were terrific and reaching a saddle at the top we were able to look down onto Lyttleton Harbour and the Banks Peninsular beyond. Lyttleton is an active port with cruise ships and massive container ships. It also exports timber and there’s a tunnel through the Port Hills linking it to Christchurch.
Having climbed up to the saddle we could look down on the town and port of Lyttleton and across to Diamond Harbour on the Banks Peninsular beyond
We carried on walking along the crest of the hill ridge up to the cafe which stands at the top of the gondola for a well-earned coffee and more great views down to Christchurch.

Peak Hill, 14 April
A beautiful clear bright day and we drive west out of Christchurch towards Lake Coleridge. The Canterbury Plains stretch wide and flat either side of us with their tall pine hedge windbreaks separating the fields, and straight ahead of us the snow-topped mountains of the Southern Alps. We found the starting point of the walk at the side of a gravel road and set off across a field, then up a pretty steep hillside.

On the way up , looking down at Lake Coleridge, with the parallel lines of the tall Canterbury hedges

As we climbed the views improved of course and we could look down over the lake one side and the Rakaia River on the other, with the Alps ahead in the distance. The Rakaia is one of those beautiful, untamed braided rivers cutting a wide path over a stony bed. The path going up was a bit of a slippery scramble on the lower slopes but then became a stony track and then finally a ridge path to the top. There were some strange spiky native plants beside the path, very unforgiving if you accidentally brushed past them.

From the top with the Rakaia River running down from the snow capped Southern alps

It was pretty windy at the top so after a good look around we descended a bit and found a sheltered spot for lunch, before getting back down to the car. Quite a tough 4 hour walk and we needed a quick sleep in the car before driving home again.

Waikuku Beach, Anzac Day, 25 April
Anzac Day falls on a Thursday and everyone has the day off so we go due north to Waikuku Beach, stopping off at the Brick Mill Cafe for an early lunch. The cafe, on the site of an old water mill, has an art gallery, a jewellery workshop, and an antiques and collectables shop beside it, so makes for a good stop.

A young shag on Waikuku Beach

Waikuku Beach is one of those great long stretches of yellow sand bordered by sand dunes and pine forests that stretches on and on as far as the eye can see. My only other experience of local beaches here is New Brighton which didn’t make much of an impression on a cold grey day but Waikuku is fabulous and I know we’ll be swimming here in the Summer, it being only half an hour away from Christchurch. We walk barefoot encountering a couple of rather lost-looking shags, past driftwood tree trunks,and  watching the surfers catching the waves.

Diamond Harbour, 1 May
It’s a Wednesday morning promising to be a beautiful day and as I don’t have much on I decide to be a tourist for the day. I catch a bus round the corner from our house which takes me all the way to the port of Lyttleton, about a 45 minute journey taking me through the tunnel beneath the Port Hills. A gang of school kids also on the bus make it an interesting but noisy journey.
Busy port of Lyttleton with Banks Peninsular in the background, and the little ferry on the right
After grabbing a coffee and making a quick trip to the tourist info office for a map, I get the little catamaran ferry across the water to Diamond Harbour on the Banks Peninsular. The sun’s bright, the water’s sparkling and I’m really over-dressed for the day but at least I’ve got my sunglasses. Jumping off onto the wharf on the other side I plan to do a coastal walk eastwards but it’s not a clear path and I end up climbing steeply up a gully ending up on a road at the top. Another look at the map and I go back through the little town and try walking the other way, westwards, around the coast.

Walking around on the coastal path looking across to the far side of the bay
This path is good, following the rocky coastline as close to the sea as possible. It goes through a lovely cool area of pine forest then back down along the winding coast path. Way across the bay I can see a beautiful sandy beach, no buildings, no people, no cars, no road leading to it in fact. Definitely a place to go for the day with a picnic next Summer, though it’s a good two hour walk from the wharf I should think.
A good spot for lunch
After about an hour I come across a lovely old jetty stacked with dinghies so I sit down at the end of it, and make this my lunch spot. Then time to retrace my steps and take the ferry and bus back home.

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