Friday, November 28, 2008

2008. Mount Vernon Park and Huntsbury Hill

2008. Mount Vernon Park Sign, Christchurch

I drove to Mount Vernon Park, parked my car at the end of Albert Terrace, and walked along Gorge Track, wanting to reach Dry Bush Track.

2008. Mount Vernon Park Rock Climbing Sign, Christchurch

Bluffs either side of the gorge cast cool shadows. I passed caves on my left, and on my right at the base of a cliff a board stated: "Mount Vernon Park Rock Climbing Area." On a previous walk above the gorge, I'd watched seventeen rock-climbers climbing the cliff. Close up, I saw pitons hammered into the cliff.

The board told me about endemic plants like Banks Peninsula hebe, Banks Peninsula blue tussock and Hebe strictissima, as well as skinks and geckos, none of which I saw. I did see orange-berried Coprosma robusta, lots of whiteywoods, Melicytis ramiflorus, creepers, climber blackberries and bindweeds, Calystegia sylvatica with white flowers smothering native plants in the gorge.

2008. Whiteywood, Melicytis ramiflorus, Gorge Track, Mount Vernon Park, Christchurch

While I walked through pine forest, I saw pigeon nests on the left bluff. In sunny glades, I enjoyed the strong smell of resin. I had the gorge to myself, while I criss-crossed stony Albert Stream, dry except for stagnant puddles. Gorge Track went left, but on my right I climbed a steep pine gully, over pine needles and pine tree roots, as I thought I could reach Dry Bush Track that way. Big mistake, as I should've stayed on Gorge Track at the bottom.

2008. Pines, Gorge Track, Mount Vernon Park, Christchurch

As there was no path at the top of the gorge, I followed a fence on my right until I came across another fence at right angles to the first fence. I crossed the first fence by a corrugated iron shelter and followed the second fence through pines along the gorge rim.

2008. Gorge in Mount Vernon Reserve hidden below pines to the left of the paddock I crossed to the next shelter belt. Montgomery Spur & Rapaki Track, Port Hills behind

At the end of the pines I crossed another fence into a steep gorse paddock, crossed the windy paddock, and crossed another fence into a pine shelter-belt, where some young pines had been pruned out, allowing others to mature.

2008. I tramped to the left of these houses & paddocks to the top house & shelter belt. Mount Vernon on Port Hills behind

At the end of the shelter-belt a gum tree was blown over, and its roots lifted the fence, enabling me to cross under. While I kept a big house on Huntsbury Hill on my right and the gorge on my left, I waded through waist-high grass and a flax gully in the next steep and windy paddock. Across the gorge I saw Farm Track on Mount Vernon ridge.

2008. I walked from the Gorge in Mount Vernon Reserve below this house till I reached its shelter belt. Rapaki Track in distance

I crossed another fence into another pine and macrocarpa shelter-belt, which was thicker than the previous shelter-belt, as the trees were unpruned. I came across a grassy track and turned upwards towards the big house on Huntsbury Hill, well sheltered by trees.

I passed house perimeter trees, went through a gate at the back pine belt, and along the grassy track until I reached a gravel road by another house. I passed a dam, after which I reached Huntsbury Avenue just above Tirora Lane and West View Place. A jogger passed me going down Huntsbury Hill.

The blustery nor'wester had knotted my hair, and caused my views of Christchurch to be dusty and murky. Along the way, I'd snapped houses backdropped by Rapaki Track, Farm Track, Bike Track and Mount Vernon. New houses were built near the top of Huntsbury Avenue. As we'd seen many new houses built during our years in Christchurch, in future I thought the steep paddocks and shelter-belts I'd bush-bashed would be covered in houses.

2008. Westview Place & new houses near top of Huntsbury Avenue, Christchurch. Sugarloaf with TV transmitter behind

A blonde passed me walking up Huntsbury Avenue. An elderly couple too. For about four kilometres, I zig-zagged down Huntsbury Avenue, which became Ramahana Road at a lower corner, crossed Centaurus Park to Saint Martins School and walked up Albert Terrace back to my car.

Along the way, I passed Huntsbury Hill Community Notice Board by the roadside, and Huntsbury Reserve. I liked north-facing gardens filled with geraniums, Namaqualand daisies and xerophytes. Near the bottom of Huntsbury Hill a blonde school girl slogged upwards wearing white socks and carrying her shoes. The circular walk took me 2h15mins.

Eleven months later I returned to Mount Vernon Park, as I wanted to walk Dry Bush Track which I'd missed in the gorge pine forest.

2009. Fallen Pines, Gorge Track by Albert Stream, Mount Vernon Park, Christchurch

In drizzle I passed native plantings and went up through pines again, while criss-crossing Albert Stream, trickling turbid, clayey water after spring rains. Several pines had been blown down, two across Gorge Track. On my left, one half-alive pine leaned against the cliff, another half-fallen pine was supported by a sturdier pine. Two pines had fallen over Albert Stream, their roots sticking up in the air.

2009. Paradise Shelducks, Gorge Bluff Top, Gorge Track, Mount Vernon Park, Christchurch

2009. Caves & Camper's Tent, Gorge Track, Mount Vernon Park, Christchurch

On top of a gorge cliff I saw two paradise shelducks sunning themselves, well camouflaged. Pigeons still roosted in rock nests above a cave. Further up the gorge on the same cliff top, I saw a camper's green bell tent and sleeping bag, also well camouflaged.

2009. Gorge Track, Mount Vernon Park, Christchurch

2009. Sign by Fallen Pine Roots, Albert Stream, Gorge Track, Mount Vernon Park, Christchurch

2009. Dead Sheep, Gorge Track, Mount Vernon Park, Christchurch

I passed several caves on both sides of the gorge. I passed the pine gully which I'd previously climbed, a freshly fallen pine blocking the gully. I crossed a fence where a sheep carcass lay. Near the end of the pines, I found the DRY BUSH TRACK and GORGE TRACK fork. On Gorge Track side I scrambled up to a "Maori" cave, and found another dead sheep which had fallen off the cave cliff onto a rock at the cave mouth.

2009. Gorge Track / Dry Bush Track Fork by Albert Stream, Mount Vernon Park, Christchurch

2009. Bracken, Gorse & Fallen Pines, Dry Bush Track, Mount Vernon Park, Christchurch

2009. Dead Sheep & Dead Gorse, Dry Bush Track, Mount Vernon Park, Christchurch

Beyond Pines on Dry Bush Track, drizzle stopped, and I found another dead sheep. I passed through dead gorse before entering tussock grassland stretching up both sides of the gorge. Again I wondered if dead sheep resulted from toxic gorse spray? Sheep stared at me from the heights.

2009. Dry Bush Track northern view down Gorge. Christchurch backdrop

2009. Dry Bush Track / Albert Stream southern view to Shelter & Mount Vernon, Port Hills, Christchurch

2009. Under-runner, Dry Bush Track by Albert Stream. Northern view down Gorge to Christchurch

On the skyline near the gorge head I saw the kitsch shelter, which I'd passed on previous walks. I hopped over an under-runner hole in the path, and after half an hour's walk up the gorge I turned back, as I had no intention of visiting the shelter again.

Dry Bush Track was a misnomer, as I'd passed cliff side shrubs, creepers and exotic gorse, into tussock grassland with poplars and more pines on gorge bluffs which I'd bush-bashed eleven months before.

Content & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

2008. Dead Sheep Signs, Farm Track, Port Hills

2008. Start of Gorge Track, with Bike Track above left, Mount Vernon Park, Port Hills, Christchurch

I wanted to snap the dead sheep I recently saw near Farm Track in Mount Vernon Park, so I drove to the end of Albert Terrace and parked my car near an empty bus with a blue logo "Adventure Specialist Trust." On the farm gate four signs shrieked:

1. Christchurch City Council. Your People Your City
AUTHORIZED VEHICLES ONLY BEYOND THIS POINT (Brown lettering on a creamy metal sign).

2. NO VEHICLES (Red lettering on a wooden sign).

3. PLEASE SHUT THE GATE (Black lettering on a white metal sign).

4. ALL DOGS ON LEASH AT ALL TIMES (Black lettering on a wooden sign).

Near a wooden stile next to the gate two more signs on the farm fence screamed:

5. DANGER FALLING ROCKS (Christchurch City Council picture of a black hill with black rocks falling, above black lettering on a yellow metal sign).

6. RESTRICTED AREA KEEP OUT (Red and white plastic sign).

Sign six was confusing, as my Christchurch City Council free map showed that the Gorge Track, following Albert Stream in Mount Vernon Park, began at the end of Albert Terrace.

By the gate I climbed over a wooden stile, and walked past a paddock full of sheep on my left, and a BMX track on my right to the Gorge Track, where I walked through native shrub plantings. I left the Gorge Track and climbed the left side of the gorge to caves, then climbed a steep path above the caves to reach the Bike Track.

2008. Rock Climbers in the Gorge, Mount Vernon Park, Port Hills, Christchurch

While climbing over another wooden stile, I looked down into the gorge and saw two girls rock-climbing a cliff on the opposite side: one climbed, while the other belayed from the bottom of the cliff. At intervals, four fixed climbing ropes hung near the top of the cliff.

While I puffed upwards along the wide Bike Track, at a wide open gate, three smiley girls passed me on their way down. On the ridge I joined Farm Track, and on my left I saw Rapaki Track below on Montgomery Spur. As the warm nor'wester blew, my view of Christchurch and Canterbury Plain was clear.

Snow had already melted on the Alps, indicating a long, hot summer. Beside Farm Track, by a small dam I met a hairy ewe with a shorn ram, which had big, pink testicles. The ewe had two lambs with curly fleeces. One lamb was on its knees and butted the ewe's udder for milk.

2008. Walkers on Bike Track, beside hidden Gorge on left, overlooking Christchurch. Mount Thomas beyond Canterbury Plains

I followed a contour path along the rim of the gorge until I found the dead sheep amongst Californian thistles, Cirsium arvense, and tussock grass. The carcass was still intact, and the sheep had died with a view down the gorge towards Christchurch. It took me 35 minutes walking from my car to the dead sheep.

2008. Dead Sheep overlooking Gorge, Mount Vernon Park, Christchurch CBD & Mount Thomas beyond Canterbury Plains

After snapping the dead sheep, when I returned along the contour path I found another dead sheep. All that was left was a bit of fleece, four lower legs and a dead grass-print of the dead sheep. The skull, spine, ribs, girdles and upper limb bones were all missing. A heap of dung showed where guts had been. As I'd seen dead gorse nearby, and as the two dead sheep were about 100 metres apart near shrivelled Californian thistles, I wondered how the sheep had died - Californian thistle herbicide?

Back on Farm Track, I walked barefoot on cool, green grass, where a man and a woman passed me down the ridge. An old man on his bike smiled at me while peddling upwards. Down Bike Track, overlooking the gorge cliff again, I saw the rock-climbing party had swelled to seventeen climbers wearing red, white, blue and pink helmets. I watched a girl get stuck halfway up the cliff, then abseil down. Each climber, with a belay climber at the cliff base, climbed to the top of a fixed rope before abseiling down.

I watched rock-climbers for a while, then continued down Bike Track to a gate where a sign warned cyclists about children on the road. The gate ended Bike Track at a Mount Vernon Park exit some distance from my car, so I walked down the road a bit and left-turned into a gravel driveway, where on a tree trunk a sign in black lettering on a wooden board screamed PRIVATE PROPERTY KEEP OUT.

Instead of prohibition signs, it would've been better to give direction signs at the start and end of tracks. Opposite the KEEP OUT sign, I passed through a farm gate, went across the paddock full of sheep, and passed through another gate back to my car.

Content & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

2008. Mount Vernon, Christchurch

2008. Ferry Road roundabout, Christchurch, with Mount Cavendish left, Witch Hill middle & Mount Vernon right

After nearly fourteen years' residence in Christchurch NZ, I got around to climbing 462m Mount Vernon in the Port Hills. I drove to Mount Vernon Park carpark, and started walking up the Dry Ridge Track, which went steeply up to Farm Track and Gorge Track.

Dry Ridge Track passed through native shrub plantings, then zig-zagged up the steep, rocky, dry ridge to a cave, (used by ancient trekking Maori), then went through a small gate, then around the base of the ridge until the track reached the dry ridge top, where I found a bench and a stainless steel plane-table overlooking Christchurch.

The plane-table with engraved viewpoints and directions, dedicated to the memory of Bill and Marjorie Dukes, showed that Christchurch's rugby stadium in the CBD was due north.

While walking up Mount Vernon ridge, I looked across the valley on my left, and saw I was walking higher than Rapaki Track on Montgomery Spur. The southerly blew over the ridge, but I was warm with scarf and Aussie Driza-Bone parka. Trackside, I saw spikes of small pink flowers, edged in white, accompanied by clover, at the lower end of the ridge, which I hadn't seen anywhere else in the Port Hills.

Farm Track was an easy walk through tussock grassland up the ridge. By a small dam, in the distance on my right, I saw a shelter at the head of a gorge, but I didn't walk the side track up to the shelter. I followed the Farm Track which kept below the ridge crest to avoid the southerly wind. Shorn sheep lay on the grass, also avoiding the wind.

I passed a water tank on my left, and walked under electricity pylons crossing the ridge in pairs. By that time I was hot, so I stripped off my scarf, parka and jandals and walked barefoot on the cool green grass.

There were no walkers on Farm Track except me. A brown rabbit hopped across. Two Aussie black-an'-white magpies sauntered ahead. Shorn sheep still lay on the grass. No black sheep. The higher I walked, the better my views of Christchurch and Canterbury Plains became. Low clouds obscured Southern Alps.

2008. Sheep Pens, Top of Farm Track near Summit Road, with Witch Hill & The Tors behind

A farmer had left hay bales beside Farm Track for his sheep, but he also left blue plastic string and green plastic wrapper to flutter in the wind. So much for conservation. I passed lots of Californian thistles, and climbed over a style by a locked gate.

Shorn sheep wore plastic red tags in their left ears. Their lambs were unshorn with curly fleeces. Sheep pens were near Summit Road, and I passed through three more gates, one left wide open. By Summit Road I enjoyed the cooling southerly, and to my left I looked at Witch Hill, The Tors and Castle Rock. Like the Alps, Mount Cavendish was obscured by clouds.

2008. Top of Mount Vernon overlooking Farm Track & Christchurch

2008. Top of Mount Vernon overlooking Rapaki Track, Avoca Valley & Avon-Heahcote Estuary, Christchurch

I crossed Summit Road and Mount Vernon Track, and climbed the easy track to the top of Mount Vernon, a big grassy plateau. On Lyttelton side was a rocky knoll, where despite the wind, on the top rock I lunched on KB's steak pie and CocaCola.

2008. Top of Mount Vernon overlooking top of Rapaki Track, Summit Road, Witch Hill, Castle Rock & The Tors

2008. Top of Mount Vernon overlooking Quail Island & Banks Peninsula

2008. Top of Mount Vernon overlooking top of Huntsbury Track, Summit Road, Scott Scenic Reserve & Sugarloaf with TV transmitter

I had all-round views and took snaps of Quail Island near Lyttelton, Witch Hill, The Tors, Castle Rock, Mount Cavendish, Avoca Valley, Avon-Heathcote Estuary, Christchurch CBD, Summit Road and Sugarloaf with its TV transmitter on top. It took me 1.5 hours walking from the carpark to the top of Mount Vernon.

2008. Lamar Track information board off Summit Road, below Mount Vernon, Port Hills, Christchurch

Near the sheep pens off Summit Road, I detoured on the circular Lamar Track, designed by the Port Hills Park Trust Board for wheelchair disabled people to enjoy Port Hills views. I came across a grey-haired lady, wearing shorts and parka, digging up Californian thistle with a spade. Nearby, I found a white memorial pole with a bronze plaque stating:

"John Alfred Archie Lilly
Perished 30th March 1882
Aged 8 Years 4 Months"

2008. Pole Monument on Lamar Track overlooking top of Rapaki Track, Summit Road, Witch Hill & Banks Peninsula

There were several wooden benches around Lamar Track, and more in the middle, where two stainless steel plane-tables stood with engraved viewpoints and directions. There were no disabled people enjoying the views. A big expense for 5000 wheelchair people in NZ, in addition to all the disabled carparks wherever I went.

2008. Shelter near top of Mount Vernon Park Gorge, Port Hills, Christchurch

On Farm Track again, on my dawdling way down, I detoured to the shelter I'd seen by the gorge on the way up. As there was no path to the shelter from the upper ridge, I followed sedges down a green watercourse to the shelter, which got me away from the ridge southerly for a while.

Like Valley Track shelter in the valley on the opposite side of the ridge, the shelter near the gorge head had a wooden bench, wooden decking and kitsch-painted, corrugated iron roof. I found both shelters intrusive, pointless and a waste of money. If I wanted a rest, I sat on one of millions of rocks around me. If I was worried about sun or rain, I wore a hat or parka.

2008 Dead Sheep near top of Mount Vernon Park Gorge, Port Hills, Christchurch

I looked down the gorge for Albert Stream, unseen, then walked along a track returning to Farm Track, and found a dead sheep lying beside the track: a large lump of white fleece, with an arched neck, dry hole for an eye, and teeth in a dry-lip rictus. The rotten, sweet smell of death.

Farm Track by the small dam was windy again, and the grey lady with her spade caught up with me. Wordless, she loped left down Bike Track going to Albert Terrace entrance of Mount Vernon Park. I rejoined Dry Ridge Track on the right. As I'd dawdled and detoured twice down Mount Vernon tracks, the walk back to my car took me 1.5 hours.

Ten weeks later during Waitangi long-weekend, Leah and I climbed Mount Vernon from Lamar Track carpark. Leah stood on the topmost rock and raised her arms to the sky. She'd also got around to climbing Mount Vernon after nearly 14 years in Christchurch. La Nina had browned the Port Hills and Banks Peninsula. Temperatures for the next few days were forecast in the mid thirties Centigrade.

Content & pics Mark JS Esslemont.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

2008. Witch Hill, Christchurch

In 1995 after our arrival in Christchurch, I worked for three months as a labourer in the tree section of a nursery in Avoca Valley, a warm, north-facing valley in the Port Hills. Witch Hill rose above Avoca Valley head, like a witch's hat with the top cut off. One snowy October day I saw Witch Hill speckled with snow. While blistering nor'westers blew, I saw Witch Hill change from spring green to summer khaki.

I drove along Cashmere Road and Centaurus Road to the end of Hillsborough Terrace, and parked my car at Mount Vernon Park carpark below Port Hills. Mount Vernon Park had two valleys separated by a ridge, stretching from the Port Hills. As I wanted to climb to the top of 421m Witch Hill, I walked Valley Track to the left of the ridge.

Despite midday sun and blue sky, the southerly in my face was cold and cut through my jersey. The southerly rippled grass and tussocks on the ridge. The plantings at the start of Valley Track were mainly pittosporums, manukas, dodoneas, lace barks and cabbage trees. Cabbage tree blossom scent wafted on the wind. I passed a left turnoff sign to Rogers Track, and followed Victoria Stream past caves on either side of the "stream" - slimy, stagnant pools.

After passing through three gates, I came across a shelter with two wooden benches on two wooden decks and kitsch "wildlife" paintings on the shelter's corrugated iron roof. From the shelter, I snapped Christchurch down Valley Track.

2008. Valley Track, Mount Vernon Park, looking towards Christchurch

Beyond the shelter, Valley Track narrowed and veered leftwards, upwards to Witch Hill, so I lost sight of Christchurch. Despite knobbly rocks and hazardous underrunner holes in underfoot clay, I had Valley Track to myself, except for a ewe and three lambs. After a fourth rickety gate and fence, plantings stopped, and the valley became tussock grassland, sprinkled with sedges, bracken, foxgloves and Californian thistles.

Above left, I saw walkers and joggers on Rapaki Track, which paralleled Valley Track. When I joined Rapaki Track, I passed two women sitting beside Valley Track.

2008. Valley Track looking up to Rapaki Track & Witch Hill (The Dog's Head - Maori)

2008. Jogger on Rapaki Track overlooking Christchurch, Avon-Heathcote Estuary & Pacific Ocean

Rapaki Track got steeper as it neared Summit Road. I could see why Maori called Witch Hill "The Dog's Head," as it had a head, ears, brow and long snout when seen from Rapaki Track. While I drank CocaCola at a bench a jogger passed me, but I caught up with him when he sat panting near Summit Road.

I snapped Avoca Valley, when I saw the nursery where I'd worked far below, and beyond was Lyttelton port's container depot. Near Summit Road I snapped a DOGS ON LEAD sign, and watched three smartly dressed walkers go down Rapaki Track with ski-pole walking-sticks.

2008. Top of Rapaki Track, Montgomery Spur, Port Hills, Christchurch

2008. Cliff at base of Witch Hill, Port Hills, Christchurch

I crossed Summit Road, briefly joined Crater Rim Walkway and found a track up Witch Hill. Dodging sheep dung and cow pats, and seeing blue and white NZ harebells, Wahlenbergia gracilis, like on The Tors, I boulder-hopped to the top of Witch Hill. The climb from the carpark to the top of Witch Hill took me 1.5 hours.

2008. WW1 Memorial, Top of Witch Hill, Port Hills, Christchurch

2008. From Top of Witch Hill: Summit Road, The Tors, Castle Rock in Port Hills, Christchurch

On top of Witch Hill I had 360 degree views over murky, cloudy Christchurch, (Alps clouded over); Avoca Valley; Castle Rock and The Tors; Rapaki and Quail Island. On top of Witch Hill was a WW1 memorial stone bench, with two bronze plaques above the bench, topped by crenellations. The top bronze plaque quoted Rupert Brooke's poem "The Dead:"

"Blow out, you bugles, over the rich dead!...
And we have come into our heritage."

Rupert Brooke died of blood poisoning on his way to Gallipoli.

The bottom bronze plaque facing Christchurch recorded the names of seven "English" Kiwis from Christchurch, and where they died: Messines (2), France (2), Laventi (1), Gallipoli (1), Magdhabar Syria (1). The memorial gave me shelter from the cold wind. Behind the memorial, facing Rapaki, a third bronze plaque recorded the names of two Maori soldiers from Rapaki who died in Gallipoli and Auckland.

2008. From Top of Witch Hill: Rapaki Track on Montgomery Spur, above Avoca Valley, Port Hills, Christchurch

2008. Top of Witch Hill view: Rapaki, Quail Island, Charteris Bay, Mount Bradley on Banks Peninsula, Head of the Bay, Governors Bay

After walking about Witch Hill's rocky plateau, and snapping Castle Rock and The Tors, Rapaki and Quail Island, and Avoca Valley again, I walked down Rapaki Track with the southerly on my back. I passed two walkers going up and several mountain bikers riding up or down.

Near the end of Rapaki Track, I went left down Rogers Track and zig-zagged down to Mount Vernon Park carpark. On the way down, I passed a man slogging upwards, leashed to his Alsation. My descent from Witch Hill took 1 hour.

Content & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

2008. Castle Rock and The Tors, Port Hills

It was A & P Show Time again in Christchurch, so I left people to play on Canterbury Plains and drove to the Port Hills, up Dyers Pass to the Sign of the Kiwi, turned left along Summit Road, and parked at Castle Rock corner next to a Park Ranger's ute.

2008. From Castle Rock corner: Summit Road; Great Tor; Witch Hill; Mount Vernon; Scott Scenic Reserve; Sugarloaf with TV transmitter

Although it was sunny in the Port Hills, a fog bank covered Pegasus Bay and fog rolled in towards Christchurch CBD below me. I stepped over a stile and clambered over the spine of Castle Rock (436m), then climbed down again, pushed through some manuka branches to a point where I removed my slops to climb to the top again.

2008. Castle Rock overlooking Christchurch & foggy Pacific Ocean

Not quite, as I needed to do a five foot chin-up with a precipice beside me, so I declined that "Hillary Step" and snapped Christchurch from Castle Rock top by leaning on the rock on tiptoe and placing my Minolta on top of the rock. Not recommended for the faint-hearted or those scared of heights. Two girls, a young couple and a single bloke carrying a camera tripod clambered around Castle Rock near me.

I looked down Horotane Valley to the left of Castle Rock, where every Xmas / New Year Leah bought tomatoes and plums for scoffing and apricots for jam-making. Heathcote Valley was to the right, more residential, with the lower Gondola station and entrance to Lyttelton Tunnel. Above Heathcote Valley was Mount Cavendish Gondola Station / restaurant, and far below was the Bridle Path which I'd walked some days before.

2008. From Castle Rock: Bridle Path; Summit Road; Mount Cavendish; Banks Peninsula

From Castle Rock, I could almost see 360 degrees with Christchurch and Canterbury Plains in front and Mount Thomas and snowy Alps backdrop, with snowy Kaikouras to the north and snowy Mount Hutt to the south. In the opposite direction, partly obscured by a Crater Rim Tor, I saw Mount Herbert on Banks Peninsula. Summit Road snaked along Port Hills, and near my car was a concrete roof of a WW2 concrete guard hut.

2008. WW2 Guard Hut below Castle Rock, Port Hills, Christchurch

During the 4 Sept 2010 earthquake, big chunks of Castle Rock collapsed & tumbled into Heathcote Valley, the rock slide ending near Bridle Path.

2008. Survey Beacon on The Tors overlooking Cass Bay, Quail Island, Mount Herbert on Banks Peninsula

I had The Tors to myself, so I crossed Summit Road, stepped over another stile, crossed the Crater Rim Track and climbed what I called Tor 1 (452m), an easy climb over volcanic rock to a survey beacon on top labelled, "Geodetic Survey Mark."

There I enjoyed a fresh breeze and 360 degree views overlooking Castle Rock and Christchurch towards Pegasus Bay and Southern Alps. On the Crater Rim side I looked towards Cass Bay and Quail Island near Lyttelton port. Past Antarctic expeditions, like Shakleton's and Scott's, had used Quail Island as a quarantine base for their sled dogs before sailing south to the Antarctic.

Tor 1 had a rocky summit plateau, boomerang shaped and green. At both ends and Crater Rim side Tor 1 had cliffs, stopping me from continuing to what I called Tor 2, a smaller extension of Tor 1, so I climbed half way down the way I'd come up and followed cow-pats and hoof-prints to Tor 2, also an easy climb from Summit Road side.

2008. Top of The Tors, Port Hills with Christchurch behind

On Tor 2 rocky summit plateau, I saw the fog bank had almost completely burnt off Pegasus Bay. Tor 1 and Tor 2 had tussock grass, Alpine lichens, xerophytes and small blue NZ harebells, Wahlenbergia gracilis, as well as maroon legume flowers I'd seen on Godley Head. Like Tor 1, Tor 2 had cliffs on the Crater Rim side, so I clambered down Summit Road side and trekked to what I called Tor 3, aka Great Tor.

Like on Tor 1 and Tor 2, I saw someone had cut down yellow broom bushes and sprayed mauve weedkiller on the stumps. By the time I reached the rocky base of Great Tor, yellow broom bushes were still growing well. As Great Tor was more precipitous with all-round cliffs, I climbed barefooted to the rocky top - worth the effort as Great Tor also gave 360 degree views. Lake Ellesmere to the south was snot-green colour with farm pollutants, which spoilt my almost perfect, 360 degree afternoon.

2008. From Top of Tor 2: Castle Rock; Avon-Heathcote Estuary; Pacific Ocean

2008. Horotane Valley & Avon Heathcote-Estuary from top of Great Tor, Port Hills

As it was gusty on top of Great Tor, I climbed down barefoot and walked along Summit Road a few hundred metres back to my car. The afternoon heat blistered tar on the road - 24C the forecasted temperature.

2008. Summit Road, Castle Rock & Pacific Ocean from top of Great Tor, Port Hills

2008. Cass Bay, Quail Island, Mount Bradley on Banks Peninsula from base of Great Tor, Port Hills

I caught up with the Park Ranger by my car. The door of his Mazda ute stated:

CCC. Your People Your City.

The Park Ranger left Castle Rock corner the same time as me - 3.30pm. I'd clambered over Castle Rock and The Tors for two hours. The return drive from our Burnside home was 50 kilometres.

Coda: During the 04.09.10 earthquake, a big chunk of Castle Rock collapsed and slid into Heathcote Valley beside the Bridle Path. Post 22.02.11 quake, Summit Road was closed for a couple of years, due to all the rock falls on Summit Road.

Content & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.