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Published: November 20th 2011
Looking out into the harbour on our way to lunch.
Though we haven't had the opportunity to take any long excursions during our time in Christchurch, we have been able to experience some wonderful adventures in the form of day trips. Here are some short explanations of some of the fun we have managed to have.
On October 24th New Zealand celebrated Labour Day, so with the unexpected holiday we sought out something fun to do with our day off. Several of us had previously expressed interest in bouldering at some point, so we used the day to head to Castle Hill – one of Christchurch local’s favourite bouldering spots. Situated up on the hills, the massive maze of rocks provided ample spots to climb for all experience levels. We drove out with Dayna, Caryn, Jason, Pete and Jared and spent the afternoon climbing our way through the rocks and challenging one another to take it to the next step. The rock formations at Castle Hill were created when the softer limestone rocks eroded and left the harder rocks behind. Pictures don’t do it justice with the magnitude of it all in an expansive 360 degree view. Those unfamiliar with the spot can easily get turned around when
Up in the Hills
Making a stop to enjoy the scenery while driving along the crest of the hills that make up Bank's peninsula.
trying to find their way back to the car park. Hide-and-go-seek and trying to identify the shapes and faces you can see in the rocks are just a few of the other possibilities that Castle Hill has to offer. After a beautiful afternoon, the Nor’eastern winds started picking up and the clouds came rolling in. Gutted to call it a day, but we were all happy to get back on the road and into town with the weather coming in. There are never a shortage of adventures to be had here.
On Saturday, October 29th we awoke to a beautifully sunny day and were excited for our planned trip to Akaroa. Liza had mentioned Akaroa as a destination we should attempt to reach, and we were pleased to find out that on this particular weekend, Akaroa was hosting their annual French Festival. The tiny harbour town of Akaroa was originally formed as a French settlement, and each year they celebrate that heritage with food, drink, and cultural displays.
We made the 1.5 hour drive south from Christchurch. The road took us up through the port hills, offering magnificent displays looking down towards the many bays that protrude
Off the Beaten Track
Taking a moment to enjoy the beach at one of the less frequented bays.
into and provide the beauty of Banks Peninsula. We arrived in a bustling Akaroa and took a walk through the one-street town to the park where the festivities were taking place. We wandered from display to display and took in a couple of on-stage acts before heading back through town towards the pier. We found a restaurant on the water and took a seat on the patio to enjoy a delicious lunch. We felt it only fitting in a small fishing village to indulge in a seafood lunch, so Liza and I shared a platter that featured battered fish, squid and prawns, smoked salmon, oysters, mussels, a salmon pate and a number of dipping sauces. If it sounds delicious, I can assure you that it tasted even better. If it doesn’t sound delicious, you need to get checked out. We proceeded to wander back towards the festivities, found some ice cream for dessert and then jumped into our car to explore some more of the region.
We found a scenic road that took us up into the hills, showing us spectacular views of one bay after the other. We took advantage of opportunities to turn onto side roads that
wandered down from the crest of the peninsula into the bay-side settlements too small to hold place names on a map. We wandered a couple of beaches, enjoying the serenity and the beauty of the day. From one bay to the next we made the day last as long as we could before making the return trip back to Christchurch. It was the kind of weather that would have made anything we had decided to do a wonderful experience. Nonetheless we are extremely happy that we got to experience Akaroa, the French festival, the many bays that make up Banks peninsula, and that we were provided with the sunshine and heat to magnify our enjoyment.
On Sunday, October 30th we got to enjoy an experience that highlighted the unique opportunities to experience the outdoors that exist in New Zealand, and how they all seem to be right at your doorstep. Jared suited us up with wet- and/or dry-suits before driving a little over an hour inland to Cave Stream, on the road to Arthur’s Pass. Equipped in our wet gear and with our headlamps we hiked to the bottom of the cave and stepped into the darkness.
Liza rounding up the toys for the afternoon.
As the name suggests, the cave is filled with a raging stream which was hip-deep most of the way through, but chest-high at the deepest points. It was pitch black inside, so the headlamps were crucial. We waded our way upstream through the darkness, taking in the sights along the way. The cave was quite narrow, you could touch each arm to a wall the majority of the time, with an extremely high ceiling. At various points passageways branched off the main cave providing us with more opportunities to explore. The hike wasn’t too demanding, although certain points required careful footwork or challenging climbs fighting against the rushing current. It took us less than an hour to find daylight at the other end. Although it was exciting to reach the finish line, a big part of me wished it would have lasted another hour. We had a beer outside the car to celebrate our adventure while getting out of the wet clothes and then made our way back into the city.
Hanmer Springs is a tiny little town nestled into the mountains and is about a 2 hr drive directly North from Christchurch. Although relatively close,
Liza had only ever driven through Hanmer and not had the experience of the renowned Hot Springs. Hanmer Springs is a hot tourist spot where both foreigners and local unite for a relaxing soak in the thermal pools. Although we had been to several thermal spas on our trip in the North Island, the one in Hanmer was much more of an ‘action’ spot than the previous ones. The park has 3 decent sized waterslides, a mini lazy river, 3 large pools all cascading into one another, one pool with massive jets to get all those kinks out, several rock pools, as well as a regular chlorinated pool. We had a fantastic day relaxing in the pools with the sunshine beating down on us. The pools were of varying temperatures, so moving around and testing out the waters in each was a great way to spend our time. I think the unanimous favourite though was the pool with the jets – there were even handrails all the way around so you had something to hold on to. After we had been sufficiently water-logged we dried off and went in search of a restaurant for a snack before heading back on
Sharing the Bay
It may be sleepy now, but that seal knew exactly where we were the entire time.
the road. We found a nice little tapas restaurant just down the road and had a delicious snack of calamari and nachos. A perfect way to end the day.
On a sunny Saturday, November 5, we were able to experience another kiwi adventure that would not have taken place without the knowledge and generosity of our New Zealand friends. We packed up the car and headed south from Christchurch towards Bank's peninsula to enjoy some surfing and camping. After a little less than an hour's drive on the state highway, we turned onto a gravel side road that led up and over one of the many hills that make up the peninsula. It was the first real difficult test for Jose, our 1989 Toyota Corona, since we purchased him shortly after arriving in Christchurch. Although he was unable to keep up with Jared's truck, he managed the hills just fine.
We arrived at Te Oka Bay to find a couple of other surfers and nothing else but the beautiful seascape. We quickly piled into wetsuits and spent the afternoon surfing, kayaking, body boarding, and hiking among the rocks lining the narrow bay. We shared the
experience with a not so friendly seal family, trying to get as close as possible without triggering their aggressive territorial nature. Pete managed to get himself isolated on the shore by a seal, who then kept a close eye on him and subsequently found him when he re-entered the water and escorted him back to shore. Although it was a troubling psychological experience for him, Pete managed to escape unscathed.
After enjoying the water, the afternoon sunshine, and the stunning beauty of the bay, we huddled around our campfire and enjoyed sausages and beers before packing into the tent for the night.