Sunday, February 1, 2009

2009. Worsleys Track, Port Hills

2009. Farm Gate Sign, Cashmere Valley, near Worsleys Road, Christchurch

Worsleys Track: a great white gash up Christchurch Port Hills, with trackside gorse, broom, thistles, Pinus radiata, no native plantings. I drove up steep Worsleys Road, passed below a line of pylons, which took me halfway up the Port Hills, and parked my car at the end of Worsleys Road.

2009. Start of Worsleys Track, end of Worsleys Road, Port Hills, Christchurch

On the left roadside, pines behind a fence shaded my car. On a nearby metal letterbox a sticker warned about Security Systems. On the right roadside, flax and young poplars grew. A yellow, black sign on a wooden pole stated:


Below the yellow sign, a white, black sign stated:


I walked up gravel Worsleys Track past a gate, and the track soon became deeply rutted, like a mass grave. Sunday afternoon heat was 31 degrees C, and the southerly blasted white clay dust off Worsleys Track while I climbed. I passed a concrete reservoir on my right with a pine forest on my left.

Near their MTBs, two men lay on their backs in the shade. They looked dead after battling up Worsleys Road in the heat.

On a fence beside Worsleys Track a red, black, white sign warned:


2009. Worsleys Track, looking at Sugarloaf, Port Hills, Christchurch

Through a break in the pine forest, I snapped Sugarloaf in the distance. Worsleys Track became rocky and more rutted. Some ruts were more than a metre deep, caused by MTBs, 4x4s and erosion. For most of Worsleys Track I followed a rusty, old electric cable, partly buried in a side rut.

Behind me Canterbury Plains were hazy with dust, so I couldn's see the Southern Alps. Pushing their bikes, the resurrected MTBs followed me up steep Worsleys Track. They lagged further and further behind. I passed below a second line of pylons, and felt the sun's heat reflected off white clay dust into my face. Wind blew my white hat off, which became useless to wear as my sweat smeared dust.

In the distance on my right I saw snot-green Lake Ellesmere. Near Worsleys Track top, hidden by pines on my right I saw shacks with SUVs parked nearby - weekend slummers. Ruts lessened for the last few hundred metres, but Worsleys Track still steepened (aptly named "The Body Bag") till I reached a row of pines on top, after climbing for 50 minutes.

I didn't bother to walk down to Summit Road, as I'd driven that way many times while admiring Lyttelton Harbour views.

2009. Mountain Bikers in the Body Bag, Worsleys Track, Port Hills

I sat on a rock overlooking dusty Canterbury Plains, enjoying cool gusts, and swigging Sprite lemonade which washed clay dust from my teeth. I watched the two MTBs slogging upwards. They stopped often for rests in gusts of dust - from dust to dust in The Body Bag. I watched a fit male MTB pedal past them, upwards. They looked exhausted.

Also going down, three teenager MTBs passed me, biking carefully from rut-ridge to rut-ridge. A male jogger smiled while jogging upwards. He wore a backpack like me. A young couple passed, walking upwards. Their car was near mine. My dusty walk down Worsleys Track took me 35 minutes.

2009. Sign on Cashmere Road going to Halswell Quarry, Christchurch

Content & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

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