Sunday, March 8, 2009

2009. Toxic Tracks Below Cass Peak and Mount Ada

2009. Students at Sign of the Bellbird carpark, with Mount Ada & Hoon Hay Hill backdrop, Port Hills, Christchurch.

Around midday on a sunny Saturday afternoon, when I could clearly see the Alps beyond Canterbury Plains and the Pacific beyond Banks Peninsula, I parked my car at Sign of the Bellbird, as I wanted to explore tracks and Ohinetahi Bush below Cass Peak and Mount Ada.

In the carpark a white bus stood with a busload of students ready to "measure things" in Kennedys Bush. I walked in the opposite direction to the track information board on Ellas Track.

I memorized tracks I wanted to walk, and walked down Ellas Track then Cass Ridge Track which I'd partly walked before. I zigzagged through patches of tussock grass, flax, bracken, gorse and mountain akeake, Olearia avicenniifolia, till I came across an aluminium sign on a wooden pole which stated:


I did, and saw O'Farrells Track going south beyond the bushy gully and Coopers Knobs. Splashes of orange-berried karamu, Coprosma robusta, contrasted with the green bush.

2009. Karamu, Coprosma robusta, with orange berries, Cass Peak Ridge, Port Hills

2009. Cass Peak & bush gully seen from Cass Peak Ridge, Port Hills

Admiring Mount Herbert backdrop, I passed thistles and found a signpost with O'FARRELLS TRACK SOUTH pointing right and CASS RIDGE TRACK pointing left. I went left. By that stage my legs were wobbly from braking down Cass Ridge. I passed more blackberries, thistles and gorse patches, and passed kanuka and purple-berried mahoe, whiteywood, Melicytus ramiflorus.

2009. Whiteywood, Melicytus ramiflorus, with purple to black berries, on Cass Ridge Track, Port Hills

2009. Cass Ridge Track / O'Farrells Track south junction with Mount Herbert & Mount Bradley backdrop

2009. O'Farrells Track with Mount Herbert & Mount Bradley backdrop

By a farm fence, I came across CASS RIDGE TRACK and O'FARRELLS TRACK junction signs. On the latter, a POISON LAID skull and crossbones sign was stapled to the right. Someone had written "Cholecalciferol and Brodifacoum" on the sign. On the left an aluminium tag stated:


2009. O'Farrels Track view over Governors Bay & Lyttelton Harbour

I walked left towards Governors Bay down O'Farrells Track, which also continued below Cass Peak and Coopers Knobs in the opposite southerly direction. I passed along windy grassland, broom and kanuka towards Ohinetahi Bush below Mount Ada.

While enjoying views of Lyttelton Harbour ahead, I walked towards a pine forest on my right. It took me one hour from Summit Road to reach the signpost with aluminium tag options:

<- SUMMIT ROAD (I walked this section of O'Farrells Track).

BELLBIRD SUMMIT ROAD (From whence I came).


It would take me another three hours to walk towards Governors Bay, explore tracks, climb Crater Rim and return to my car.

I walked along O'Farrells Track, then zigzagged down WAI-ITI TRACK which looped below O'Farrells Track, but was overgrown with blackberries, bracken, poroporo, gorse and long grass. Low on a kanuka trunk I found a white plastic poison dispenser with a red lid and Brodifacoum blue-green pellets inside. Before finishing my walk, I'd see many more poison dispensers attached to tree trunks.

I hopped over a fence into a pine forest. One pine trunk had two wooden TRACK arrows pointing in different directions. I swigged Sprite lemonade by a pine trunk which had another poison dispenser.

On Wai-iti Track I caught up with a bearded, sweaty man, his billy half-full of blackberries, his hands red with juice, reminding me of my raspberry / strawberry picking days at Prebbleton twelve years before. "Watch out for wasps!" he said. "I've been stung." He showed me red stings on his leg. Wasps zapped past, but didn't sting me.

2009. Blackberry picking, Wai-iti Track

I left the man picking blackberries, passed a big rock on my left and hopped over another fence. In thick bush beside a dry stream, I passed three more poison dispensers attached to trees in Ohinetahi Bush. Overgrown Wai-iti Track went through humid bush.

I passed two more poison dispensers beside the stream, and climbed to O'Farrells Track by a concrete pipe. Two POISON LAID signs were nailed to O'FARRELLS TRACK sign.

2009. O'Farrells Track, Governors Bay, Head of the Bay, Mount Herbert & Mount Bradley

O'Farrells Track went through more humid bush. I crossed a stile and passed another poison dispenser attached to a kanuka trunk. As it was 27C I expected to smell dead possums, but smelt nothing. So much for trackside possum bait. I'd passed a stinking, roadkill possum on Summit Road a couple of hours before.

By a farm fence, overlooking a paddock and Mount Herbert, a blue and white sign stated:


Further along O'Farrells Track an aluminium tag on a fence pole stated:


Another POISON LAID sign was attached to the pole.

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

Further along the farm fence, another blue and white sign: NO TRESPASSING. With views over Lyttelton Harbour, I passed two more poison dispeners attached to kanuka trunks. On another kanuka trunk, a handwritten black and white sign stated:


One man and his wife slogged past going towards O'Farrells Track south. They both wore boots, longs, shirts, hats and huge military camo backpacks. Each used two aluminium ski-pole walking sticks. They were overdressed for the heat.

I wore jandals, shorts, T shirt and small day pack. In hot bush below Mount Ada, I'd already swigged one litre of Sprite lemonade. My two cans of CocaCola wouldn't last much longer.

I passed two more poison dispensers and decided not to do the KANUKA TRACK loop, as I'd had enough humid bush and poison for one afternoon. I needed to find a track up to Summit Road again, but rejected the following:


It looked steep.

On O'Farrells Track I approached Governors Bay through kanuka bush, with a bushy bluff on my left and a stream below on my right. I passed two more poison dispensers, and came across a junction with signs: O'FARRELLS TRACK, KANUKA TRACK, BUSH ROAD TRACK.

2009. Bush Road Track view of Governors Bay & Banks Peninsula

I zigzagged up steep Bush Road Track below Mount Ada, past kanuka and pittosporums and more poison dispensers till I came across TOTARA LOG TRACK, which would take me on a traverse below Mount Ada back to Sign of the Bellbird.

I passed more poison dispensers along dark, humid Totara Log Track. Who was winning - poisoners or possums? Several times I'd seen shredded leaves, chomped by possums.

I passed a BIVVY TRACK junction, and continued along Totara Log Track past ferns like crepe ferns, Leptopteris hymenophylloides, and kawaowao, Microsorum pustulatum.

2009. Bush Road Track view of O'Farrells Track in Ohinetahi Bush, Governors Bay & Lyttelton Harbour

2009. Bush Road Track view of Governors Bay & Lyttelton Harbour

I passed another POISON LAID sign stapled to a sophora trunk, then walked through high grassland with views over Lyttelton Harbour and O'Farrells Track below. Totara Log Track and O'Farrells Track roughly paralleled, on different contours.

Totara Log Track climbed a long V detour around and up a rocky outcrop below Mount Ada. Wooden posts on top of the windy ridge stopped walkers falling down cliffs in the mist. Far above, someone sat on top of Mount Ada.

2009. Outcrop on Totara Log Track with Mount Herbert & Mount Bradley backdrop. O'Farrells Track on Cass Ridge seen below outcrop

Beyond the ridge, Totara Log Track took me through more humid bush and past more poison dispensers till I reached Ellas Track, which I walked Summit Road side for cool breezes from Canterbury Plains.

Back at Sign of the Bellbird, bus and students were gone. Three cars were parked by my Toyota. Three women lay on the grass enjoying the sun, Lyttelton Harbour and Banks Peninsula.

2009. Summit Road looking towards Cass Peak, Port Hills, Christchurch

Content & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont

No comments: