Sunday, March 29, 2009

2009. Gibraltar Rock and Coopers Knobs

One Sunday afternoon I drove my car up Dyers Pass in the Port Hills, turned right into Summit Road at Sign of the Kiwi, passed several Crater Rim peaks, passed Sign of the Bellbird, and parked my car near the southern end of Summit Road overlooking Gibraltar Rock, which I wanted to climb.

2009. Summit Road southern view of Gibraltar Rock, Port Hills, Christchurch. Lake Ellesmere & Canterbury Plains backdrop

An MTB greeted me when he pedalled past. I walked through a gate, where I saw a lamb skeleton, and through a sloping paddock which overlooked Lake Ellesmere to the east, Canterbury Plains to the west and pyramid-shaped Gibraltar Rock in the middle.

On the lower north-facing slope I climbed beside an old stone wall, then scrambled up Gibraltar Rock. At one stage I took off my jandals to get a grip on the rock with my bare feet.

2009. Gibraltar Rock south-east view: Omahu Bush, Lake Ellesmere & Pacific Ocean

2009. Gibraltar Rock south-west view: Canterbury Plains & Southern Alps

On top of Gibraltar Rock I quaffed Schweppes Sparkling Raspberry, while watching cars on Summit Road drive past my car. I admired 360 degree views: South-eastwards I saw snot-green Lake Ellesmere, Kaitorete Spit and blue Pacific. South and westwards across Canterbury Plains I saw the smoke of several fires forming haze on Canterbury Plains, and Southern Alps stretching from Kaikouras in the north to Aoraki Mt Cook in the south.

By Crater Rim I saw Coopers Knobs, Cass Peak, Sugarloaf, The Tors, Lyttelton and the Pacific again. Eastwards below Gibraltar Rock was Omahu Bush, and beyond Crater Rim I saw Mt Herbert on Banks Peninsula. I felt like "The Eagle" in Tennyson's poem:

"Ringed with the azure world, he stands..."

2009. Gibraltar Rock westwards view: Canterbury Plains & Southern Alps

2009. Gibraltar Rock northern view: Crater Rim, Port Hills, Christchurch

On top of Gibraltar Rock a concrete slab had "1993" incised on it, with an erect wooden beam bolted to it with with two loose bits of iron. On the concrete a bronze plaque stated:

16 APRIL 1993



Looked like someone had trashed the "cross" with a chainsaw.

2009. Gibraltar Rock 1993 Memorial. South-west Canterbury Plains & Southern Alps backdrop

2009. Gibraltar Rock north-eastwards view: Omahu Bush, Summit Road, Coopers Knobs, Mt Herbert, Mt Bradley

Despite irritating flies on top of Gibraltar Rock, fresh breezes cooled me. On the sunny western slope, I scrambled down broken rock, through bracken, flax, matagouri and bush-lawyer, which scratched my calves. Halfway down, I came across a sheep path which went round to the stone wall on the northern slope again.

2009. Northern Stone Wall below Gibraltar Rock. Omahu Bush, Summit Road, Coopers Knobs, Mt Herbert, Mt Bradley backdrop

2009. Gibraltar Rock seen from below Summit Road, Port Hills, Christchurch

Back at my car, I'd completed Gibraltar Rock climb in an hour. I also wanted to climb the highest Coopers Knob (573m) across Summit Road.

2009. Five-Finger Pseudopanax arboreus, Crater Rim Track, Coopers Knobs, Port Hills, Christchurch

2009. Crater Rim Track south of Coopers Knobs, Port Hills, Christchurch

From Summit Road, I climbed wooden steps and a mown track through open bush, where I passed purple-fruiting five-fingers, Pseudopanax arboreus, bracken, hebes, flax, NZ broom, gorse and a dead rabbit, with flies sucking its eye. Someone had sprayed poison leaving trackside bracken brown and dead - futile as masses of bracken covered hills above Summit Road.

2009. Dead rabbit, Crater Rim Track, Coopers Knobs, Port Hills, Christchurch

2009. Gibraltar Rock seen from Crater Rim Track below Coopers Knobs, Port Hills, Christchurch

I turned right along Crater Rim Walkway, then soon turned left along a grassy path beside a fence towards Coopers Knobs. The path took me along Crater Rim where I passed a windy gap above a precipice between craggy Coopers Knobs, then went around the crag base to the highest Coopers Knob overlooking another gap and precipice.

The well worn path went up an easy rock-hop to the top, making the highest Coopers Knob easier to climb than my Gibraltar Rock climb, which had no paths. The rock was sprinkled with tussock and gorse. The poisoner would've been better informed had he sprayed the gorse.

2009. Crater Rim view over Lyttelton Harbour & Port Hills

2009. Highest Coopers Knob (573m) highest point on Port Hills, Christchurch

2009. Lower Coopers Knob view of Lyttelton Harbour & Banks Peninsula

Coopers Knob had a survey beacon standing in concrete amongst top rocks, with a metal tag:




2009. Highest Coopers Knob view of Coopers Knobs & northern Crater Rim, Port Hills, Christchurch

2009. Highest Coopers Knob northern view of Lyttelton Harbour

I sat on top of Coopers Knob enjoying cool breezes and better 360 degree views than those I'd had on Gibraltar Rock below. Dehydrated by the warm afternoon, I finished the rest of my 1,5 litre raspberry drink. On Summit Road near my car, I saw a biker in black leathers looking up at me while I looked at him. Again I felt like Tennyson's Eagle:

"The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls, ..."

I took north, south, east, west coolpix & texted Leah from the top.

2009. Highest Coopers Knob north-eastwards view of Mt Bradley, Banks Peninsula

2009. Highest Coopers Knob south-eastwards view of lower Coopers Knob, Summit Road, Lake Ellesmere & Pacific Ocean

2009. Highest Coopers Knob southern view of Omahu Bush & Gibraltar Rock, Port Hills, Christchurch

2009. Red Admiral Butterfly, Vanessa gonerilla, Coopers Knob, Port Hills, Christchurch

On my way down, I snapped a Red Admiral butterfly, Vanessa gonerilla, on a Coopers Knob rock.

By Crater Rim Walkway again, I stepped into a dark grove of native bush, an excellent windbreak. I watched two blokes prep their hang-glider and step into the void. "And like a thunderbolt he falls." Tennyson again.

I watched an Asian couple pass towards Summit Road.

2009. Hang-glider on Crater Rim by Coopers Knobs, Port Hills, Christchurch

2009. Coopers Knobs seen from Summit Road in the crater near Gebbies Pass

Back at my car, I'd taken an hour to climb Coopers Knob. In the crater, on Summit Road just before Gebbies Pass, I stopped to look at a macrocarpa and pine plantation, and the spectacular skyline view of Coopers Knob I'd climbed. On my drive back to Burnside, I stopped at Taitapu to view Gibraltar Rock and Coopers Knobs from Canterbury Plains.

2009. Taitapu Port Hills view including Gibraltar Rock & Coopers Knobs

Content & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

2009. Some Port Hills Tracks Above Governors Bay

2009. Bivvy Track carpark, Summit Road. Mt Herbert & Mt Bradley backdrop

I parked my car next to a Gold Band taxi, at the grassy carpark by Summit Road, opposite the end of Kennedys Bush Track. I wanted to walk down steep Bivvy Track, loop along Kanuka Track, then climb Crater Rim abyss via a track I hadn't walked before.

2009. Start of Bivvy Track below Mt Ada, Port Hills, Christchurch

It was a sunny autumn midday with cloudless views of Mt Ada on my right, and Mt Herbert in the distance beyond <- BIVVY TRACK wooden sign, which had a red aluminium sign stating: NO BIKES. Despite midday heat, track grass was wet, and I slipped even before I reached OHINETAHI RESERVE info board.

2009. Ohinetahi Bush Info Board, Start of Bivvy Track, Port Hills, Christchurch. Mt Herbert & Mt Bradley backdrop

In Ohinetahi Bush, on a whiteywood trunk a black and white handwritten sign stated:


2009. Bivvy Track view of Mt Herbert & Mt Bradley

2009. Poison Dispenser, Bivvy Track, Port Hills, Christchurch

Behind the whiteywood a white, plastic poison dispenser was attached to another trunk. I would pass several poison dispensers on my way down Bivvy Track, which was hazardously slippery, while picking my way down stone steps, slimy leaf-litter, mossy rocks, mud and slippery roots.

If I'd tried to go down Bivvy Track in the recommended time of 30 mins I'd've broken my neck. I grasped black matipo Pittosporum tenuifolium trunks and whiteywood Melicytis ramiflorus trunks and branches to slow me down. Despite that, I fell twice on rocks.

2009. Bivvy Track Undergrowth, Port Hills, Christchurch

Down the steep bush gully, I passed flaky trunks of tree fuchsias Fuchsia excorticata, nettles and ferns. Big, red dots were painted on trunks down Bivvy Track - which was easy to follow, without the pimples.

Through a break in the bush, I had a good view of Mt Ada, Governors Bay, Head of the Bay, Mt Herbert and gorse on my right, with the steep bush gully on my left.

2009. Fantail, Bivvy Track, Port Hills, Christchurch

I heard bird calls on Bivvy Track. Lone fantails fluttered around, satisfied their curiosity, then fluttered into the gloom. I coolpixed a fantail on a twig.

Below a rockface, I found two black and blue, plastic tarps, under branches - rubbish after someone had "gone bush." Further down Bivvy Track, a dead tree had fallen, squashing smaller trees, letting light into the canopy, and forming a circle of whiteywoods and pittosporums, like lemonwood, Pittosporum eugenoides.

2009. Fallen Tree, Bivvy Track, Port Hills, Christchurch

2009. Bivvy Track / Totora Log Track Junction, Port Hills, Christchurch

I crossed dappled BIVVY TRACK / TOTARA LOG TRACK junction. I descended Bivvy Track accompanied by lone fantails. Slipping downwards, I passed red mapou, Myrsine australis and shaggy trunks of kanuka, Kunzea ericoides, with their tiny, soft leaves.

It took me 1 hour 15 mins to slither down Bivvy Track to O'FARRELS TRACK, where I sidled right to loop down KANUKA TRACK.

2009. Bivvy Track start by O'Farrels Track, Port Hills, Christchurch

For about 20 mins I dawdled Kanuka Track, drier and less slippery than Bivvy Track. Kanuka Track also had big, pimply dots painted on trunks, as well as triangular, red plastic arrows nailed to trunks. The red pimples and arrows distracted from dappled greens and browns of kanuka.

2009. Young Macrocarpas, Kanuka Track. Mt Herbert & Mt Bradley backdrop

Kanuka Track descended to a rocky stream-bed with pools of still water. Across the stream were more poison dispensers attached to tree trunks. Through a bush-break, on my right I saw a plantation of young macrocarpas with a view towards Mt Bradley.

At the KANUKA TRACK / BUSH ROAD TRACK / O'FARRELLS TRACK junction, I sidled back along O'Farrells Track to scoff trackside blackberries, and snap Mt Ada bush spur and outcrops. Hoof-prints and horse-dung showed horses had recently passed. Slipping into the abyss was easy, climbing out was hard.

2009. O'Farrells Track: Ohinetahi Bush abyss view of Mt Ada Outcrops, Port Hills, Christchurch

2009. O'Farrells Track, Ohinetahi Bush below Mt Ada. Coopers Knobs backdrop, Port Hills, Christchurch

2009. Blackberries, O'Farrells Track. Mt Herbert & Mt Bradley backdrop

So far, Bivvy Track, Kanuka Track and O'Farrells Track had been shady and cool. I didn't ascend Bush Road Track or Watlings Track, which I'd climbed before, but continued northwards along O'Farrells Track towards Governors Bay.

2009. Abyss view of Ohinetahi Bush. Mt Ada backdrop, Port Hills, Christchurch

2009. Ohinetahi Bush hiding Watlings Track in gully. Hoon Hay Hill bluffs on right, Port Hills, Christchurch

2009. O'Farrels Track southwards view: Coopers Knobs & Cass Peak, Port Hills, Christchurch

Northwards along O'Farrells Track I passed more poison dispensers. Birds called while I passed through Ohinetahi Bush in a gully below Hoon Hay Hill. Beyond the bush gully, I passed a wooden sign:


Further along O'Farrells Track I pulled out of the bush and saw Banks Peninsula, Governors Bay, Diamond Harbour and Lyttelton Harbour on my right, with looming Hoon Hay Hill crags on my left, view spoilt by trackside gorse. I dodged horse poo too.

2009. O'Farrells Track Gorse, Ohinetahi Bush. Coopers Knobs & Cass Peak backdrop, Port Hills

2009. O'Farrells Track Stoat Trap. Mt Bradley backdrop

2009. O'Farrells Track northwards view of Governors Bay & Lyttelton Harbour

I passed an open gate with a black, plastic stoat trap beside it, and a view of Mt Bradley. I passed NGAIO TRACK junction, where the track went up grassland towards Hoon Hay Hill and down grassland towards Governors Bay.

I passed TITOKI TRACK junction, and went through a gate with a black and white sign:

TRAILS (Picture of two black llamas).

2009. O' Farrells Track, Lama Trail. Lyttelton Harbour backdrop

A red, black and white Dogs Forbidden picture-sign was also on the gate, with a view over Governors Bay. I went through two more gates each with a sign:


2009. O'Farrells Track view: Governors Bay & Lyttelton Harbour

Behind on a grassy ridge, I saw 13 elderly hats-packs-an'-sticks ramblers. I found a nameless grassy fork, and took the upper prong towards Sugarloaf and northern Crater Rim. I coolpixed trackside llamas. On the steep lower slope, I watched a huge crane lifting material for housing development at the end of Governors Bay.

2009. O'Farrells Track Llamas. Mt Bradley backdrop

2009. O'Farrells Track Llamas. Hoon Hay Hill outcrops, Port Hills, Christchurch

I hopped over a locked gate and began ascending FAULKNERS TRACK up Hoon Hay Hill. I passed FAULKNERS TRACK / SOUTH BOUNDARY junction. On a nearby pole, two small aluminium signs:



2009. Bottom of Faulkners Track, Governors Bay

2009. Faulkners Track view: Governors Bay & Lyttelton Harbour

2009. Faulkners Track Crags. Governors Bay, Quail Island, Diamond Harbour, Banks Peninsula behind

2009. Faulkners Track view: Governors Bay, Quail Island, Banks Peninsula

2009. Faulkners Track northwards view: Crater Rim, Port Hills, Christchurch

I zigzagged up Falkners Track, the best maintained track that afternoon. While looking at Port Hills crags above, with a clifftop farmhouse near Summit Road, I thought of Tennyson's poem "The Eagle:"

"He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands...

And like a thunderbolt, he falls."

The giant eagle Harpagornis moorei had slipped into the abyss forever, after Maori settlers had fired its habitat and eaten its moa prey.

2009. Faulkners Track view: Governors Bay, Quail Island, Lyttelton Port

2009. Faulkners Track view: House behind Marleys Hill. Sugarloaf backdrop, Port Hills, Christchurch

Far below I saw a house with a turret. I coolpixed Sugarloaf, northern Crater Rim, Lyttelton Harbour, Diamond Harbour and Governors Bay.

While criss-crossing a fence through bush, I crossed two stiles, then sat on a rock. A woman wearing striped T shirt, shorts and boots passed. She pointed to my jandals.

I followed her, her hands on her hips.

Far above Governors Bay, near the top of Faulkners Track I passed a wooden lookout bench. I saw 10 students standing on top of a crag on Hoon Hay Hill. Later on, I saw them walking down Faulkners Track from whence I'd come.

2009. Faulkners Track: Students on a crag, Hoon Hay Scenic Reserve, Port Hills, Christchurch. Mt Bradley backdrop

An adult couple wearing Panama hats passed me on their way down to the lookout bench.

2009. Faulkners Track top view: Quail Island, Diamond Harbour, Mt Herbert, Mt Bradley, Banks Peninsula

2009. Faulkners Track top view: Governors Bay & Lyttelton Harbour

While I stood on tuff at the top, coolpixing views of Lyttelton Harbour, the woman passed me going down, her hands on her hips.

On top, in Hoon Hay Scenic Reserve I passed another OHINETAHI RESERVE info board. More signs:





2009. Hoon Hay Scenic Reserve, Port Hills, Christchurch

2009. Hoon Hay Scenic Reserve, Port Hills. Hoon Hay Valley & Canterbury Plains backdrop

I crossed a stile and coolpixed sheep in a paddock overlooking Hoon Hay Valley and Canterbury Plains. I joined CRATER RIM WALKWAY going southwards through Hoon Hay Scenic Reserve back to my car. While passing gorse, bracken and native plantings, ahead I saw southern Crater Rim, including Mt Ada, Cass Peak and Coopers Knobs.

2009. Crater Rim Track, Hoon Hay Scenic Reserve view: southwards along Crater Rim - Mt Ada, Cass Peak, Coopers Knobs, Port Hills, Christchurch

I passed a TRIG V -> sign, and crossed a stile leaving Hoon Hay Scenic Reserve.

Along Crater Rim, I snapped <- WATLINGS TRACK sign, with a POISON LAID sign attached, pointing into the abyss and OHINETAHI RESERVE. I passed <-BUSH ROAD TRACK sign pointing into the abyss. I walked over large lumps of Port Hills basalt covered in lichen.

Back at my car, after my 4 hour circular walk, the taxi was gone, replaced by a new white minibus with a mauve door sign: CASHMERE HIGH SCHOOL LEADING LEARNING. Must've been the students I'd seen on the crag by Faulkners Track.

Content & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.