We started off early and took another round of the city before heading toward Sumner via Woolston where I attended primary school.
The journey of remembrance continued through familiar surrounds as we drove to Ferrymead and then out to Mt Pleasant.
The scene that met us here was dramatic as the cliffs running along the beach roads had collapsed leaving many houses with extensive damage. Some houses that once boasted million dollar price tags hung precariously over the cliffs and debris from houses that had collapsed was hanging from various parts of the cliff face.
Hundreds of shipping containers were lined up at the base of the cliffs and in fact the sight of many rows of containers propping up buildings was now a major hallmark of the whole city. Shipping containers, orange “witches hat” road cones, construction fencing, plywood sheeting, portable toilets and thousands of “keep out, extreme danger” notices are every where, on almost every street, and will be a part of the city for a long time to come.
Behind these sad signs of a devastated city there are also clearly visible signs of the beauty that made the city unique like the gardens and the colours of the sea and the green hills. Many businesses and restaurants have defied the odds and gotten back to work finding places to operate in some cases even from containers.
We soon became aware that the people are just getting on with life and as we observed the city traffic and the commuters we realised that the people are not about to let Christchurch die.
There are no signs of a community wallowing in self pity and even though there has been a mass exodus of people there are still many who will never leave and are intent on rebuilding both the city and their lives even though neither will be the same again.
We drove along the beach to Scarborough and then over the steep winding road to Taylor’s Mistake. Kerrie loved this beautiful place with its wild cliffs overlooking the sea.
We had intended to take the Summit Road and Evans pass over to Lyttleton but soon found this beautiful route over the Port Hills was closed, never again to be reopened. This meant we could not visit Godley Head Lighthouse where my father had lived for years. This was a place I dearly wanted to visit and show Kerrie.
We made our way to Lyttleton via the road tunnel which was miraculously untouched by the quake even though the substantial control and administration building at the tunnel entrance was completely destroyed.
There was a lot of damage in Lyttleton but the historic port settlement still held the fascination that I had always had for this place as long as I can remember.
I spent many hours here watching ships come and go and some of the happiest times of my life were spent here as part of the TS Steadfast Sea Cadet Corp.
I was pointing out to Kerrie the wharf where the first fishing boat I worked on used to be moored and as we drove up to it I couldn’t believe what I saw. The same little vessel was moored in the exact same spot it was all those 35 years ago. The name and the colour had changed but it was otherwise exactly the same. I was so amazed by this I could hardly contain my excitement when I noticed on the hard stand slip way was another vessel – the old Kia Ora.
This was the first vessel I skippered after receiving my Skippers Ticket. I have often thought about this beautiful old vessel with it’s amidships sited wheelhouse and lovely old traditional lines.
I was once told it was wrecked and sunk but here it was in all its former glory completely renovated as a pleasure craft.
I think Kerrie was a bit amused at my excitement over seeing both these vessels that were a significant part of my past right here still as good as new.
As if by a design that had me standing in this place at this time I looked over to the main wharf area and lo and behold there was the WJ Scott yet another vessel I had worked on from out of Nelson. It was renamed repainted and was showing its age but it was unmistakable as the Norwegian built “Herminstral” that was purchased by the New Zealand government in the 1960s for fisheries research. I worked on her when she was on an experimental Purse Seining program to explore the possibilities of developing a New Zealand Pilchard fishing industry.
Here were 3 vessels within 50 yards of each other that had each been a special part of my youth.
Lyttleton was full of huge Russian and Japanese trawlers that have for years fished the rich Southern Ocean Orange Roughy and Warehou grounds.
We moved on from Lyttleton around the hills to beautiful Corsair Bay and then to Cass Bay where the Sea Cadet base still stands almost exactly as it was when I spent the happiest times of my early life there. The old World War 2 ammunition storage base was the centre of my world from age 12 till about 15 and it was here that I would spend almost every weekend sailing and boating and learning Naval based skills.
We drove around the magnificent Lyttleton Harbour as warm sunshine and blue skies enhanced the unbelievably beautiful greens of the meadow like grasses.
At Governers Bay we took a detour up the steep Dyers Pass Road where from the top of the hill we could see the City of Christchurch and the lush and fertile Canterbury plains stretching across to the snow capped Southern Alps.
We decided to double back down the hill and continue on around the bays and inlets of the southern side of Lyttleton Harbour.
By now the countryside was beginning to have an effect on both of us. The colours especially the greens were amazing. The greens of the grasses are a softer more delicate hue than we are used to in Australia and the grass seemed to shimmer and shine in the sun.
Rolling hills of this brilliant green were highlighted by shots of brilliant yellow from countless wild shrubs bearing sprays of yellow flower. Buttercups and delicate white daisies sent further blasts of colour through the shining greens of the fields. This exhibition of colour spread high into the hills surrounding the harbour and was in constant contrast to the turquoise of the harbour and the blue of the sky.
Kerrie was simply spellbound by the sheer prettiness of the scenes as we passed places like Charteris Bay , Hays Bay and Camp Bay. We stopped at Diamond Harbour for coffee and enjoyed the lush gardens and magnificent trees that cascaded right to the harbour’s
On we went to the stunningly pretty Purau Bay, which we viewed from a high vantage point on the surrounding hill track from where we could look down at the tranquil landscape of crystal
clear turquoise and blue water with giant kelp trees on the shoreline extending to the deep ocean bottom and gently drifting to and fro with the tide.
From here we could see Ripapa Island and the Crimean War fortress that still exists there. We used to have Sea Cadet camps on this island and it always fascinated me with its gun emplacement now uselessly guarding the harbour against a non existent foe.
We drove on further now on little more than a narrow dirt track around Pile Bay, Deep Gully Bay and finally Camp Bay before the road became dangerously steep for the little Mitsubishi we had hired.
From this dead silent spot high above the harbour we were able to marvel at the utter beauty of the surrounding landscape of peaceful water stretching out through the heads to the sea and across to Godley Head Lighthouse where my father had lived so happily and across the little bays and inlets to Lyttleton across the other side.
Finally dagging ourselves from this scene we proceeded back to Purau Bay and headed over the hills to Port Levy, Pigeon Bay and Little Akaloa.
It is very hard for me to paint word pictures to adequately describe the beauty of these places. Every turn in road presented another amazing visual treat of colour and unique landscapes. It was literally breathtaking. Kerrie was in constant amazement at the scenes through which we travelled and asked time and again, “Tell me again why you left here?”
We took a dirt track out to Raupo Bay, regretting that time would not permit us to take a walk across a track over the rolling hills to the cliffs surrounding the bay and bordering the ocean. For miles we could see manicured meadows with the ever present high Macricapa hedges planted as windbreaks on almost every farm an always trimmed to perfection giving a uniform neatness to the countryside.
After making our way to Okains Bay we headed inland up steep winding hill roads until we reached the peak of a summit from where we were presented with an amazing panorama of the land falling away across rolling green hills to the sea to the north east and then the beautiful Akaroa harbour undulating to the sea to the south east.
Craggy peaks and the ever present green grass combined with steep valleys and spurs runnin along the tops of the hills to make a landscape that no man has the ability to describe and no photo could ever do justice to.
We heading down the steep pass into the township of Akaroa and booked into a hotel where we would stay the night. It was 7:30 pm but Akaroa was still bathed in brilliant, warm sunshine so we walked around this decidedly French settlement. It was here that Kerrie fulfilled a dream of lying in the grass without fear of ants, snakes or any other biting insect.
She lay in the soft velvety green almost in tears as she revelled in the experience. We ate some oysters for dinner before retiring to the room where we slept soundly after our second wonderfully full day in New Zealand.