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.

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