I drove up Major Aitken Drive, parked at Westview Place and walked to the top of Huntsbury Avenue where Huntsbury Track began - a hard, stony track climbing a ridge to Summit Road in the Port Hills.
2008. Tethered Highland Cattle by the start of Huntsbury Track, Port Hills, Christchurch
Midday: At the beginning of Huntsbury Track on my right by Tussock Hill, I looked over a fence at two tethered, long-horned Scottish Highland cattle. On my left, in the distance I saw Montgomery Spur, and close by near an open gate and a concrete reservoir, I saw a 1992 black Mazda Familia, registration number XM 3470 - jacked up, wheels gone, door hanging open, window smashed, dumped. A young couple passed me, going down, hot and unfriendly.
2008. Dumped Mazda near the start of Huntsbury Track, Port Hills, overlooking Christchurch
2008. Gates & Stile near the start of Huntsbury Track. Sugarloaf & TV transmitter beyond
I walked up the wide gravel track to two locked gates and a wooden stile, behind which a green sign stated:
STOCK GRAZING IN THIS AREA
MUST BE ON LEASH AND UNDER CONTROL AT ALL TIMES
I climbed over the stile and looked at Sugarloaf in the distance on my right. Huntsbury Track got narrower and steeper as I passed a young macrocarpa hedge on my left, with sheep sheltering behind. Electric pylons stitched the track in pairs and threaded wires across the valley from Farm Track on the next ridge. On a pylon, a black, white and red sign stated:
DO NOT CLIMB
LIVE WIRES 220 000 VOLTS
2008. Gate along Huntsbury Track, Port Hills. Mount Vernon behind
Mount Vernon loomed ahead, and the pylons continued across a valley towards Bowenvale Tracks on my right. I sweated through tussock grassland, with Californian thistles beside Huntsbury Track, to another closed gate with two signs on both sides of the gate stated:
PLEASE SHUT THE GATE
PLEASE CLOSE THE GATE
2008. Lone Cabbage Tree beside Huntsbury Track, Port Hills
I passed a small dam on my left, and a rocky knoll and solitary, skyline cabbage tree on my right. I had hot Huntsbury Track to myself, and saw native bush and plantings at the bottom of a valley on my left. Along the tussock track, I came across a third closed gate with a sign:
PLEASE SHUT THE GATE
Sheep grazed in the next paddock: a shorn ram, with unshorn, staring ewes, with red and yellow plastic tags in their ears. And unshorn, wary lambs. My silent communion with sheep - some trotted away, most stayed put.
2008. Sheep near the top of Huntsbury Track overlooking Christchurch
After another closed gate (signless) near the top of the track, I left the track and followed the fence upwards, and crossed Bush Head Track which contoured below Summit Road. Joggers and a cyclist passed me on Bush Head Track.
2008. Natal Iceplant (Hottentots Fig) Carpobrotis acinaciformis & NZ tussock grass below Summit Road, near Huntsbury Track
Carpobrotis acinaciformis iceplant smothered an old fence below Summit Road. The last time I saw bright purple iceplant flowers from Natal, was thick iceplant ropes hanging on the cliff above Edwin Mouldey Track.
2008. Tussock Grass near top of Huntsbury Track, overlooking Christchurch
I climbed on a rock, hopped over a fence and briefly walked along Summit Road towards Sugarloaf. Looking down the valley towards Bowenvale Track, I saw cabbage trees and flax plantings.
I came across Crater Rim Walkway, which circled me back above Summit Road through Scott Scenic Reserve's cool pine forest and some gums and purple foxgloves beside the path. In the forest, just above Summit Road I sat on a stone bench with a spectacular view over Christchurch and Huntsbury Track. On the bench backrest a bronze plaque stated:
The walk from my car to the top took me 75 minutes.
After the pine forest, across Summit Road a wooden sign stated:
MOUNT VERNON RESERVE
LAMAR TRACK 650m
2008. Behind Mount Vernon with Witch Hill, Castle Rock & The Tors beyond
Behind Mount Vernon, I snapped Witch Hill, The Tors and Castle Rock. Over Crater Rim, I snapped Cass Bay, Quail Island, Diamond Harbour and Banks Peninsula.
2008. Behind Mount Vernon, Port Hills, overlooking the Crater Rim to Cass Bay, Quail Island, Diamond Harbour & Banks Peninsula
On top of Huntsbury Track a green sign stated: ATTENTION ALL DOGS... Another sign forbade cyclists riding wet tracks, as it wrecked tracks.
On my 45 minutes walk down Huntsbury Track, the nor'wester came up and cooled me. The track was mine again, and sheep had hardly moved since my upwalk.
Near the pylons I found dumped Toyota engine parts, bleaching like sheep bones. At the open gate near the dumped Mazda, a male cyclist whizzed past.
Near my car, a man in a green tractor cab gave me a friendly nod, while he mowed a verge with his tractor's extension-arm-mower. Grass flew, and all I felt were vibes.
Content & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.