We hit Christchurch mid-afternoon. The motel is OK but there are no cooking facilities and no SKY so there is also an absence of international news. I hope we can accommodate these unexpected hardships for 2 or 3 days.
We go for a walk through nearby Hagley Park (which is huge) to the city. Past water features, enormous trees of many varieties, a Museum on the perimeter of the park and tennis courts. It is quite cold and windy.
The centre of the city is like a war zone. There are huge notices up about where you can enter but most of it is fenced off by 2 meter tall wire fencing. This city pre-earthquake was noted to be one of New Zealand’s best – very English – with the Avon River winding through much of the central blocks of the city. It was beautiful with many historical and well-preserved buildings.
Today we walk in a more-or-less rectangular pattern around the middle of the city. About a dozen city-centre blocks are fenced off. Mostly it is deserted although this is about 6 pm and of course knock-off time is 5pm. 940 buildings in the centre of the city have been demolished and there are about 50 still to go. In one place a huge crane is working at dismantling an 8 (or thereabouts) storey building. We get a good view, but it is at least 200 metres away. In other parts of the city there is also high fencing, particularly around older structures. Some buildings and residences are obviously deserted with less noticeable warnings and/or restrictions.
All in all it is pretty depressing. In a few days it will be the second anniversary of the main quake.
After circumnavigating the city we find a bus depot and catch a bus to Riccarton Mall where we do a bit of shopping. We walk home to Kilmarock Street on the park with a hot chicken and bread rolls for dinner.
Rangiora, the real plains and Ashley Gorge
We take it easy in the morning before departing for Rangiora about 10. As we go through that town we notice a bit of Canterbury fencing wire around some buildings and we miss the centre of the town because it is closed. Wonder why? Later we realise Rangiora was and is well within the quake zone.
We head out of Rangiora onto the “real” Canterbury plains. This is flat and the roads are long and dead straight. At Springbank we hesitate. We turn off the road to the north, prematurely as it turns out.
I am searching for my relative’s farm (Uncle D and my Auntie B). They left the whole of the family in Motueka/Nelson in the early fifties and came down here and bought a farm, initially of about 250 acres of flat and prime sheep country. I never knew about the mortgage(s) but on reflection times were tough for him and my aunt, who worked her fingers to the bone. My Aunt was my Father’s sister; she was sparse and non-stop and a woman of immense character, absolutely devoted to her family of eight, if not to her husband. She reminds me of Lilly and also of Lilly’s mother in her absolute dedication and service to others.
We visited them at least a couple of times but the sentimental journey back here is also because of a period of about two months that I came down from Motueka and worked on the farm when I was 16/17.
I have no addresses or remember any of names of the roads. We go this way and that, gravel roads and all. Gradually the contour of the land and the low hills to the North provide the clues. We move to the South a block, which means about a kilometre. I find some contour signs and go North again but I have gone a block early so we go further west. Got it. Unmistakably everything fits and we find the spot despite all the lifestyle blocks and changes over the last 50 years. I can see in about the position I would expect the corrugated iron roof of a home of the fifties era.
I pull up at a closed roadside gate merely to see if the original homestead is still there. It was well back from the road and although there are sheds I can’t see the home. Two quiet, well-behaved dogs come to the farm gate. I talk to the dogs. They listen quietly. Cat may have got their tongue.
A young man of about 40 appears shortly. I say “Hi, we are on a sentimental journey”. He needs no more than that to open the gate and come over to the car. We chat. He owns 37 acres and has been there 11 years. The house was in original condition when he moved in. He knows the house was built in 1951. He knows about R. There was an owner between them. I tell him R and I were contemporary, D was my uncle and I worked on the property about 50 years ago. He invites us in, but I say no thank you. I reminisce a bit about the history of the property and he updates me with what has happened since. He is an articulate and professional young man, probably the property is just a lifestyle thing for him and his wife. Lilly is bored. You can only take so much history. She wanders off taking photos.
We then head off to Ashley Gorge about 20 kms to the north-west. I remember on a day off when I was down here working, that three cousins and I rode horses there and back on one fine day. My cousins were all horsemen but I do remember having a very sore bum for about a week after. I was too proud at the time to admit that but my allocated horse was not used to the work and was also a bit lame for a while.
The gorge is gorgeous and we go via tracks down to the Ashley River and try to skim some flat stones across it; does not work for me like it used to. After tea and bikkies we head off to Oxford.
In Oxford we miss the i by about 20 minutes and instead head across the road to the Arts & Crafts shop. The lady proprietor who hailed from Yorkshire (I had to apologise after thinking the lilt may have been Irish and accusing her of that – she was gracious) tells us that this town has also felt the effects of the quake. We can see the fenced-off historical buildings even from her windows. Will it be repaired? We don’t know she says. There is big controversy.
North of Oxford we head into the foothills. I get it wrong and we go a long way too far on a narrow, gravel road that goes nowhere. The i in Oxford would have set us on the right road. Eventually we get our bearings and find the Oxford Heritage Trails. We traipse into the shortest trail which is supposedly about a 5km round trip. Some of it is beautiful but overall it is pretty ordinary. The track is demanding physically, particularly on Lilly who wants to turn back. After 45 minutes of mainly uphill, we do that. Lilly almost immediately gets stung on the knee by a bee and we hold our breath as we hurry back to civilization, Will she be allergic? No problems and we make our way towards the Waimakariri River.
Today is the coast-to-coast race and we are halted for a while at the bridge over the river as there are lots of cars and people waiting for their athletes. We stop at Darfield for a late lunch, a snooze on a park bench and the biggest treat of the trip, courtesy of my beloved, a hoki poki ice-cream. There is a pint-sized jail in the town from 1915 that we photograph.
Today the highest temperatures in the country (+-28) are in Canterbury and we are not far from that area. It is warm and we feel sorry for the many athletes (now cycling) that we pass on the way back into Christchurch that have come all the way across from the West Coast.
We stop on the way back in Riccarton for supplies. Lilly talks to her family tonight which is Chinese New Year’s eve. We flash through hundreds of photos, taken mainly by Lilly. Hope she keeps it up.
Banks Peninsula and Akaroa
Before we head off today we look around for a workshop that can replace our brake pads. The car is making weird noises, particularly in reverse and I reckon that’s the problem. We find a couple of possibles not far from where we are, but both are closed. Idea is to get there at sparrows tomorrow morning as we have a motel booked in Dunedin tomorrow night.
Yesterday we went north-west; today we go south-east to the Banks Peninsula, named by Cook in honour of the Endeavour’s botanist, Joseph Banks. Firstly, we head along the foreshore of Mt Pleasant and Sumner. The road bears the scars of constant repairs and is rock ’n roll in the car. Huge cliffs overlooking the road have been denuded in two areas and in one, the remains of at least one house hang over the edge. All along these areas are containers stacked two high to protect the road from falling debris, boulders etc.
The road over the Lyttleton hills to the harbour is closed, so we retrace our steps and go via the tunnel to Port Lyttleton. We nosy around the port, some buildings here are fenced off and there is not much of the harbour to be seen. We stop for tea overlooking the harbour and take some pics. This is the best view.
Then it’s on over the Gebbies Pass to pick up the main road between Christchurch and Akaroa. “Pick up” as in “may the road rise up to meet you”. I had heard about this Akaroa and always wanted to get there. Today is the day, but it is quite a hike and a lot of it is winding and up and down.
We stop at Little River to be told by the old ladies in the Crafts shop that the river can get big and lap around their store door. We buy fresh beans from them at a ridiculously low price so that Lilly can do dumplings tonight. The road gives us magnificent views of the harbour and Lilly calls for a stop periodically to get photos.
At last we get into Akaroa (permanent popn about 700). It delivers on its reputation. The town reminds me of Russell. Many of the early settlers were French and the town has that French flavour about it. It is quaint, well-maintained, beautiful gardens, old homes along the waterfront overlooked by some big glasshouse type mansions in the surrounding slopes. The place is teeming with people and cars. Eventually we find a bit of shade and we take out our blanket and have our lunch by the car.
We walk along the waterfront. The Diamond Princess cruise ship is out in the middle of the harbour and t
The ships ferries are constantly running passengers to and from the boat. There is a beach but not a lot of people swimming even though it is a very hot day. We suspect the water is cold. We walk back through the village. I can imagine this to be a favourite weekend away spot for Cantabrians. It really is a charming place, with a host of water activities, walking tracks, restaurants and bars.
It is a long drive back to the city, but Lilly somehow still has the energy (despite a knee quite swollen from the bee sting) to make dumplings for dinner after getting some dumpling skins from a local Asian supermarket in Riccarton. They are delicious, best I have ever tasted.
Brake only for Dunedin
Up early this morning so that I can shoot off and get the brake pads done. The Magoo guys in Moorhouse Ave arrive at their workshop a moment after I pull into the forecourt at 7:30am. They are prepared to phone with a quote in an hour and get what is done this morning and lend us a little old runabout. I leave the car and return to the motels where we await the quote. It is $514 for the back brakes (front are OK), new rather than machined plus oil and filter which he reckons is overdue. I give him the go ahead and we pack our bags ready to move at 10:00.
After booking out of the motel we stroll in the park and eventually find the Museum after I finally admit I got the directions wrong and have to stoop to asking directions. We spend about an hour in the museum where the Antarctic expedition’s element is the highlight.
We pick up the car at about 12:30 and make Timaru by about 2:45 for lunch in the Botanic Gardens with ducks, seagulls and many of their cousins.
Lilly captures the Canterbury Plains on camera and the rain catches us just after Omaru. We get into Dunedin and get some stuff from the i before heading out to St Kilda and our motel.