Tuesday, November 11, 2008

2008. Bridle Path, Christchurch NZ

2008. Heathcote River, Christchurch; Heathcote Valley behind; Mount Cavendish top left & Castle Rock & The Tors top right

I'd been doing my Christchurch city and Port Hills walks to coincide with school timing: finished home chores after Leah and Luke had left for school; hit the road and was walking by midday; completed my short walk to freedom and drove home in time for Luke's return from school.

2008. Start of Bridle Path, Christchurch side of Port Hills; Mount Cavendish backdrop

2008. Bridle Path Information Board near start of path, Christchurch

I drove from Burnside to Heathcote Valley to tramp the Bridle Path over the Port Hills between Christchurch and Lyttelton Harbour. Along the way I stopped at Heathcote River beside Ferry Road, to snap Heathcote River with Heathcote Valley backdrop. I parked at the Gondola carpark near Lyttelton Tunnel entrance. Temperature was recorded as 24 degrees Celcius so I had a hot walk.

The Bridle Path, wide gravel path, was first used by English settlers, brought out by the Canterbury Association in the 1850s, then by tourists and trampers like me. At the beginning, beyond the Christchurch City Council (CCC) Bridle Path information sign, three more signs stated:

2. On a gate, yellow Port Hills Ranger Service sign: ROCKFALL HAZARD EXISTS IN THE AREA

I walked in shorts, slops and T shirt, with a small backpack, but wondered at a couple of tourists who passed me on their way down wearing longs, boots and parkas. They looked hot. I walked past a bench commemorating the Cressy sailing ship bringing English settlers to Lyttelton on 27 December 1850.

A smiling, black-haired girl with three dogs walked past me, upwards, while I slogged past a pine grove thinking of Greek retsina. A blonde wearing black jogging gear loped past me, while beneath gum trees I examined a red granite monument stating: WAYSIDE CROSS. ERECTED BY MRS. GODLEY 1857.

I stopped several times to snap Heathcote Valley and rejected the Sir George Seymour bench, near Castle Rock Reserve Track, commemorating another sailing ship bringing English settlers to Lyttelton port in 1850. Heart thumping I thought, "If I ever get to Summit Road on top, I'll live to be a hundred."

2008. Bridle Path Information Board near top of path, Christchurch

Three quarters of the way up, the two girls and three dogs passed me on their way down. The blonde smiled while jogging by. Near the top I saw a CCC truck with a man lugging orange plastic pipes towards Summit Road, after spraying weedkiller on exotic plants, turning them mauve. I reached Summit Road after 50 minutes sweat, and swigged CocaCola I'd carried all the way up.

2008. Top of Bridle Path, Christchurch; Heathcote Valley below; Avon-Heathcote Estuary & Pacific backdrop

Tourists enjoyed views over Christchurch on one side and Lyttelton port on the other. On Christchurch side a Jane Deans settler bench looked inviting. On Lyttelton side was a "Centennial Memorial to the Pioneer Women of Canterbury 1939," a stone rondavel. Under the roof a bronze plaque stated:

2008. Top of Bridle Path, Summit Road, Port Hills, Christchurch; Jane Deans seat; Memorial to Pioneer Women of Canterbury & families behind

"On this spot the pioneer women of Canterbury and their families rested after their climb from the port of Lyttelton and gazed with awe but courage upon the hills and plains of Canterbury where they were to make their homes."

Presumably their men and children were too stuffed after their heat-stroke inducing trek from Lyttelton to gaze "with awe but courage upon the hills and plains of Canterbury" after their arrival in six sailing ships in the summer of 1850-1851.

2008. Carpark, Top of Bridle Path, on Crater Rim Walkway, facing Banks Peninsula

2008. Top of Bridle Path, Lyttelton Port side; Soldiers & WW2 Guard Hut amongst broom

On top of the Lyttelton path, by a WW2 concrete guard hut, three soldiers in full webbing and camouflage gear strolled along the Crater Rim Walkway. One wore a backpack radio with aerial flapping in the afternoon heat.

2008. Lyttelton Port from top of Bridle Path; Banks Peninsula behind

I had five options:

1. Walk down the Bridle Path to Lyttelton port. (Done years before with Luke).
2. Walk up Mount Cavendish to the Gondola Restaurant. (Done several times with Leah).
3. Walk up to Castle Rock in Castle Rock Reserve. (Looked too hot.)
4. Walk some of the Crater Rim Walkway, but walking with another group of three soldiers who'd appeared put me off.
5. Return to my car down Heathcote Valley Bridle Path. I did, as I'd had enough heat and exercise for one day. Downwards, the gravel made the path treacherous as my legs needed to brake and became wobbly, and the gravel could've caused a nasty fall on the stony path, if I wasn't cautious.

I stopped for a CocaCola swig at the Sir George Seymour bench, while a fit old man passed me on his way down, wearing hat, jeans and "SPP Safety" T shirt. A dark-haired young man and his black puppy passed me going up, looking more stuffed than I'd felt on my upward trek.

2008. Ice plant, Carpobrotus edulis & flowering eucalyptus trees at bottom of Bridle Path, near entrance to Lyttelton Tunnel, Christchurch side

Near Lyttelton Tunnel entrance I snapped a pink flowering ice plant sprawling over a hedge, with red flowering gum trees behind. Near the bottom, a young woman passed me pushing a pram upwards, with her baby inside. I'd trekked down in 30 minutes and had swigged 1.5 litres CocaCola before I'd reached my car. I couldn't stop singing John Bunyan's words:

"There's no discouragement
Shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent
To be a pilgrim." (The Summer Ships, Colin Amodeo, The Caxton Press, Christchurch, 2000).

Coda: During the 2010-2011 earthquakes, Christchurch, Heathcote Valley, Lyttelton & Castle Rock were quake damaged.

Content & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont

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