Monday, January 26, 2009

2009. Nine Heathcote River Bridges

While my sons did basketball training at Pioneer Stadium, I'd sometimes walked besides Heathcote River along Ashgrove Terrace. As I wanted to walk the opposite bank, Cashmere Road side, I parked at a bend in Heathcote River by Cashmere Road Bridge. From the end of Ashgrove Terrace, I walked below silver birches and looked at ducks in turbid waters. By Ashgrove Reserve entrance on a rock a bronze plaque stated:




I circled through Ashgrove Reserve on stone and gravel paths past black, lifeless ponds amongst grey stones beneath native trees. I crossed Smarts Bridge 1933 on Fernihurst Street, and joined a wide tarred track on Cashmere Road riverside. Beneath exotic trees I passed a footbridge over Heathcote River and several hustlers soliciting trade. By a car, a red and white board stated:


2009. Raspberry Seller beside Heathcote River, Christchurch. Cashmere Road & Princess Margaret Hospital behind

By a trailer, blue lettering on a board stated:

3KG = $6

On the roadside a lady held up a similar sign while traffic whooshed-whooshed-whooshed by Princess Margaret Hospital. By a SUV, a blue and white signboard stated:


Beside the Heathcote, shady trees were mainly exotics: oaks; birches; flowering cherries; lindens; redwoods; sycamore maples - Acer pseudoplatanas; London planes; deodar cedars; ashes - Fraxinus excelsior; swamp cypresses - Taxodium; willows, walnuts; red beeches; and more...

By the time I'd passed Princess Margaret Hospital and crossed Fairview Street Bridge 1931, I stopped examining trees and enjoyed dawdling. As it was a hot Sunday afternoon, picnickers enjoyed shady wooden tables, and Heathcote River Track was busy with walkers; joggers; kids on bikes; adults on bikes; a man on a wheelchair; an old lady on an electric wheelchair. The whoosh-whoosh-whoosh of passing cars on Cashmere Road annoyed me, so I switched off my hearing-aid and dawdled in silence.

2009. White Wooden Footbridge across Heathcote River. Cashmere Road behind

2009. Zeroes on Cashmere Road, beside Heathcote River, seen from Ashgrove Terrace, Christchurch

I crossed a white wooden footbridge to Ashgrove Terrace again, and below an alder I snapped Zeroes cafe across Cashmere Road. Patrons seated at tables watched more patrons walk across Cashmere Road and enter Zeroes. I recrossed the footbridge and dawdled the tarred track again. I passed CASHMERE PLAYGROUND for kids, seen on the same roadside as Zeroes.

2009. Yellow Wooden Footbridge across Heathcote River to Ashgrove Terrace, Christchurch

2009. Footpath beside Heathcote River, near Barrington Bridge, Christchurch

I liked crocosmias and flax seen on Ashgrove Terrace bank. I saw only a few native beeches and a sophora amongst many exotic trees on Cashmere Road side. I passed a yellow wooden bridge, then by Barrington Bridge 1935 native plantings increased, like cabbage trees, flax and toetoe (similar to exotic pampas grass). On busy Barrington Bridge, I waited for a gap in passing cars to snap a round, white sign with a stylized pic of Barrington Bridge over Heathcote River and a black eel in the river. The sign stated:


2009. Barrington Bridge over Heathcote River. Cashmere Road left, Ashgrove Terrace right

2009. Concrete Footbridge over Heathcote River in Ernle Clark Reserve, Christchurch

Beyond Barrington Bridge, Heathcote River Track became gravel. I passed an overgrown electricity sub-station; passed a grassy bank below Cashmere Road which veered right, while Heathcote River flowed left. Willows, poplars, alders and a mature "English wood" increased beside the river.

I passed riverside houses and a gum tree leaning over Heathcote River. By a concrete footbridge, I watched two old ladies and two shirtless men throw bread to ducks in the water. In the "English wood," ERNLE CLARK RESERVE info board stated:

"Charles Clark arrived at Lyttelton in 1856 on the Egmont...

Ernle Clark (1906-1964) was a grandson. In 1936 he flew solo from England to New Zealand, the second person ever to do so. The last hop, across the Tasman Sea, took 12 hours 50 minutes. After landing briefly at Blenheim, in his Percival Gull, he then flew to Wigram, receiving a tumultuous welcome from an estimated crowd of 20 000 people.

During World War 11, as a pilot in the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit in the RAF, he saw service in France before the German occupation. There followed service as Chief Test Pilot, in Ferry Command, reaching the rank of Squadron Leader..."

2009. Ernle Clark Reserve Information Board, Christchurch

In Ernle Clark Reserve below the old "English wood," were pc plantings of native understory. Ernle Clark Reserve opened wide into a grassy glade where three blokes wandered across to a wooden picnic table in the far corner, and lit up. I wondered what they were smoking?

2009. "English Wood" Tree Preservation Notice in Ernle Clark Reserve, Christchurch

2009. Entrance to Ernle Clark Reserve from Ernlea Terrace. Ashgrove Terrace seen beside Heathcote River

At the end of Ernle Clark Reserve a laminated plastic sign, tied to a tree, warned that behind the fence mature trees would be chopped down to make way for a new housing development beside the Heathcote River.

At another riverbend, Ernle Clark Reserve became Ernlea Terrace (different spelling) which intersected Colombo Street by South City Library where we sometimes borrowed books. On Colombo Street / Ernlea Terrace corner a chestnut grew above a rock amongst ivy. On the rock a bronze plaque stated:

31 OCTOBER 1989

2009. Colombo Street / Ernlea Terrace Intersection with Port Hills backdrop, Christchurch

I'd dawdled for nearly two hours from Cashmere Road Bridge near Ashgrove Terrace to Colombo Street Bridge near South City Library. I didn't cross Heathcote River on the rickety wooden footbridge alongside Colombo Street Bridge, as Ashgrove Terrace looked hot in the afternoon sun with no shade below few trees.

2009. Heathcote River & Colombo Street Bridge. Ashgrove Terrace left

In half an hour I walked upriver to my car, the way I'd came. On the gravel path I followed wet pawprints and spray from an unseen weaving dog. The three blokes emerged from the glade and followed me. On the tarred track again, I walked barefoot and zig-zagged onto cool grass when tar became too hot.

At 10 o'clock that sultry night on our way to pick up Luke from his girlfriend's home on Bengal Drive, Leah and I drove along Ashgrove Terrace. We were amazed to see a girl in the moonlight jogging through trees beside Heathcote River. "Peace is tangible here," said Leah.

"Fear is tangible in SA," said I.

Content & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Monday, January 19, 2009

2009. Alpine Passes, Gorges and Nelson Wedding

In Nelson NZ, we attended the wedding of a daughter of a SA expat family we'd known since our East London days.

Canterbury Plains were hot while I drove north from Christchurch, past Waipara vineyards, past Frog Rock on Weka Pass, then stopped for a pee and icecream at Culverden. In the Alps, beyond Hanmer Springs turnoff I drove up Lewis Pass, filled with roadside daisies, lush beech forests, roadkill possums and skull-and-crossbone signs warning about 1080 poison for killing possums near Maruia Springs.

We stopped for gas and lunch at Springs Junction and were stung by sandflies. We followed Maruia River past Maruia Forest to Murchison, where we stopped for another pee and icecream. The public loo was painted red, and a sign forbade overnight camping or stopping in the loo carpark. Parked by the loo was a bicycle with four panniers waiting for its owner. Over the years we'd seen many cyclists trekking NZ on their sturdy bikes.

At Nelson the wedding was in St Peters, an old wooden Anglican church in Nelson's Founders Heritage Park. After the wedding service, we ate snacks and drank punch below a white marquee. It was the first time I ate whitebait muffins.

2009. Founders Heritage Park, Nelson, NZ

Next day on our return trip in the rain, our Toyota Corolla was tailgated for miles by a speeding lilac truck. I couldn't pull over as the soggy roadside was too narrow and ditches were alongside. If I'd braked hard the truck would've flattened us. At Westport / Buller Gorge turnoff the truck hurtled past in a wave of spray. The trucker confirmed my belief that Kiwi truckers were the world's worst.

I drove down spectacular Buller Gorge through rain, past more beech forests and tree ferns. We didn't stay long at the suspension bridge over Buller River as the ripoff price was NZ$5 per adult and NZ$2 per child to walk across the wobbly suspension bridge. Sandflies stung too.

South of Westport on the road to Punakaiki I drove through squalls from the Tasman Sea, which obscured the sea stacks, flooded the road and misted up our car's windscreen. "Tornado country," I said. "Last year, roofs were blown off Greymouth houses." Later we heard about a simultaneous deluge flooding Christchurch streets and a waterspout swirling off Scarborough Head.

2009. Punakaiki Pancake Rocks & Stormy Tasman Sea, West Coast, NZ

2009. Punakaiki, West Coast, NZ

2009. Punakaiki, Tasman Sea, West Coast, NZ

2009. Punakaiki, West Coast, NZ

2009. Weka & Nikau Palms, Punakaiki, NZ

At Punakaiki, we walked tarred tracks past flax and nikau palms, while waves pounded Pancake Rocks forcing spray up Chimney Pot blowhole. The storm soaked us while we walked Punakaiki tracks, but weka birds loved it, lowering their heads and running across the main road in front of passing cars.

At Greymouth we looked at fishing boats, hired a cabin at Top 10 Holiday Park, and searched for jade pebbles on the beach. At Top 10 campsite, Pohutukawa trees were in full crimson bloom. SA Crocosmia fire lilies and Agapanthus blooms brightened the West Coast too.

2009. Fishing Boats, Greymouth, NZ

2009. Pohutukawa Tree, Top 10 Holiday Park, Greymouth, NZ

Next day I drove to Kumara Junction, then up Otira Gorge, up to the top on Otira Viaduct. I'd driven up and down Otira Gorge several times on the old road: 1994, while driving a hired 850cc Suzuki car on my Look-See-Decide trip; later in our Subaru 850cc two-stroke with Gillie; several times on the old and new roads driving our Toyota Corolla. Whatever cars we drove, Otira Gorge precipices, waterfalls and Otira River impressed us. Metrosideros umbellata red rata blossoms, which Aussie possums hadn't chomped, glowed red in Otira Gorge.

2009. Viaduct in Otira Gorge, near Arthurs Pass, Southern Alps, NZ

Arthurs Pass village had a new carpark and toilets by the train station. We stopped for tea and watched four busloads of tourists spew out with cameras, leg-stretchings, even a zimmer-frame dame, while waddling off to the toilets or Visitor Centre, before packaged thrills in Otira Gorge.

2009. Arthurs Pass Visitor Centre & Beech Forest, Southern Alps, NZ

We'd trekked Arthurs Pass - Porters Pass - Canterbury Plains - Christchurch route many times, past beech forests, roadside lupins and foxgloves, past farms, past braided rivers, past ski resorts, past lakes Grasmere, Pearson and Lyndon, past karst landscape near Castle Hill. After Porters Pass we passed Canterbury Plains towns: Rewi Alley's Springfield; Sheffield; Darfield where we stopped for dairy chips near Christchurch. Our 1000km round trip took us four days.

Content & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

2009. Coronation Hill and Sugarloaf, Port Hills

2009. Top of Coronation Hill overlooking Cashmere Valley, Christchurch & Alps. Dyers Pass & Harry Ell Walkway on the right

I drove to the top of Dyers Pass in the Port Hills and parked at Sign of the Kiwi. For a 20 minute warmup I walked around, up and down the small hill in Coronation Hill Reserve behind Sign of the Kiwi restaurant. Along the way, I looked down Dyers Pass which zig-zagged towards Governors Bay, with Quail Island and Banks Peninsula beyond.

On the hill plateau, I snapped pics while buffeted by winds from Canterbury Plains, with Marleys Spur on my left, Cashmere Spur on my right and Cashmere Valley between. By the top of Dyers Pass, I saw the top of Harry Ell Walkway which I'd walked before.

2009. Top of Coronation Hill overlooking Quail Island, Mount Herbert & Mount Bradley, Banks Peninsula

2009. Sign of the Kiwi, Top of Dyers Pass, overlooking Banks Peninsula

By Summit Road carpark, I examined a bronze plaque featuring Christchurch, Canterbury Plains, rivers and the Southern Alps before me. I examined the information board by the Sign of the Kiwi: a carved kiwi on both sides of a wooden board, hanging from a red stone plinth, with 1917 carved on a red base stone.

Across Summit Road, opposite the bronze plaque, was a cattle grid and an old, stone tollgate-post with a wooden post and metal lamp on top. Four weathered, gargoyle-type heads were on corners of the wooden post. On the stone gate post a plaque stated:


2009. Tollgate Post by Sign of the Kiwi. Sugarloaf backdrop, Port Hills

Across Dyers Pass road I crossed a wooden stile, where a wooden sign stated:


2009. Dyers Pass, Governors Bay, Head of the Bay, Charteris Bay, Mount Herbert & Mount Bradley, Banks Peninsula, seen from Mitchells Track, Port Hills

2009. Mitchells Track overlooking Flax, Dyers Pass / Summit Road intersection, Sign of the Kiwi & Marleys Hill

On the lee side of Dyers Pass overlooking Governors Bay, a huge pine tree stump was surrounded by plantings. Using a steel tube banister I hauled myself up steep stone steps, then zig-zagged up wooden steps to another wooden sign showing CEDRICS TRACK left and MITCHELLS TRACK right.

I went up Mitchells Track and turning around I had windy views of Marleys Spur smothered in pine trees with radio masts on top and Sign of the Kiwi on one side, and Dyers Pass and Banks Peninsula on the other. Ironic, as I'd never seen wild kiwis in Canterbury, and native bush was encroached everywhere by exotics, like pines, gorse & broom.

2009. TV Tower on Sugarloaf seen from Mitchells Track, Port Hills.

Mitchells Track went through native bush on the caldera side of Sugarloaf. At a rocky clearing overlooking Dyers Pass, I crossed wooden stile 2 and snapped the TV transmitter above bush and bluffs on Sugarloaf (496m).

2009. Dyers Pass, Governors Bay, Banks Peninsula & Crater Rim including Mount Ada, Cass Peak & Coopers Knobs

After wooden stile 3 I walked through more native bush, over leaf litter and stone steps, past ferns and mossy rocks. In another clearing, I sat on a stone seat overlooking Quail Island, Diamond Harbour, Governors Bay, Cass Peak and Coopers Knobs.

Gloomy bush smelt of piss and rotting vegetation. Tracking over the steep rocky slope, I saw mainly tree trunks with dim light filtering through the canopy. I saw manukas, five-fingers, hebes, gorse, native broom... while I climbed to Summit Road.

I crossed wooden stile 4 near the end of Mitchells Track and found a bench with a view over Quail Island, Diamond Harbour and Banks Peninsula, with a plaque stating:


I had Mitchells Track to myself, but on reaching Summit Road carpark above Bowenvale Valley 5 MTBs zapped past. I looped back below Sugarloaf on a track higher than Mitchells Track. At a fork on the left, a wooden sign stated GILPINS TRACK. A right track sign stated: SUGARLOAF CARPARK 15 MINS.

I walked right, but on a crest overlooking Summit Road and Bowenvale Valley again, buffeting winds from Canterbury Plains were so strong I returned to Gilpins Track.

Near wooden stile 5 a wooden sign stated: SIGN OF THE KIWI 25 MINS. Gilpins Track went parallel but higher than Mitchells Track through more native bush and more steep wooden and stone steps below the TV tower on Sugarloaf. Near a wooden bench, I looked back and snapped The Tors and Mount Cavendish far away.

2009. Gilpins Track overlooking Summit Road, Scott Scenic Reserve & The Tors backdrop

After Gilpins Track bush, which I had to myself, I emerged in high grassland and flax overlooking Sign of the Kiwi and the hill I'd climbed behind it. I snapped Halswell on Canterbury Plains, with spectacular clouds over Canterbury and the Alps. As someone had mown Gilpins Track grass, I walked barefoot and zig-zagged down to Cedrics Track - Mitchells Track junction, and back to Sign of the Kiwi.

2009. Gilpins Track overlooking Halswell on Canterbury Plains with Southern Alps backdrop

On my way down, I watched a male MTB swigging from a plastic bottle by Sign of the Kiwi. On top of Dyers Pass a speeding car hooted and missed a car turning from Summit Road. A blonde in pink shorts and T shirt looked lost on top of Harry Ell Walkway, and returned to Victoria Park. My dawdle along Mitchells Track - Gilpins Track loop took 1.5 hours.

One late afternoon after three days of 30-40C temps, Leah and I walked Sugarloaf bush tracks. By then labourers had completely mown and pruned the tracks. Four girls passed us on Mitchells Track. An Indian man, his white wife and adult son passed too.

On Summit Road a man and a woman jogged by. On Gilpins Track Leah heard sounds like a jet flying overhead - wind blowing through Sugarloaf TV tower - aeolian harp. Mown grass caused Leah to fall and graze her hand.

Content & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.