12 June 2006

Our First Snow of the Season

A big storm finally arrived late last night and brought with it our first snow of the season here in Christchurch. It rained hard last night, and early this morning everything grew quiet, a sure sign of falling snow! I opened the front door when I got up this morning and was greated by large fluffy snowflakes kissing my face. Snow fell on and off all day, and temperatures hovered around 0-1 degree Celsius. The ground was not quite cold enough for the snow to stick, especially on any paved surface; but, on rooftops and bare ground the snow laid down a beautiful white blanket. This is pretty neat, considering that we live at an elevation of 9 meters above sea level. I went for a walk this morning around town to see what the city looked like. What a relief to not have to get up every hour on the hour to shovel snow from the driveway!

Centre City, Christchurch

Our neighbor's obligatory snowman.

Hagley Park looking northeast towards Riccarton Avenue.

The intersection of Hagley Avenue and Riccarton Avenue.

The Antigua Boat Sheds along the Avon River.

The kitchen garden at The Curator's House.

At the Botanic Gardens looking from The Curator's House towards the Canterbury Museum.

The Botanic Gardens.

Looking east along Worcester Street towards Christchurch Cathedral in Cathedral Square.

A photogenic telephone booth. Don't laugh. There are folks out there with a passion for telephone booths.

Christchurch Cathedral, Cathedral Square

Looking west down Cashel Street from Oxford Terrace.

This was foul weather, at least for this pair of Putangitangi, the Paradise Shelduck.

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11 June 2006

Scarborough Head

Today we decided to get out of the house before the next storm hit. We decided to tramp along the coast on a spectacular cliffside trail from Scarborough Head to Taylor's Mistake. The hike starts out at Sumner, 10km east south east of downtown Christchurch. From near the beach the trail ascends the volcanic cliffs of Scarborough Head (some maps show this peninsula labeled as Sumner Head), winding along the steep cliffs above the sea, just behind some great houses built to take advantage of the great views. The trail winds its way around Scarborough Head, switchbacking up and down a couple of ravines, to end up at the beach at Taylor's Mistake. Near Taylor's Mistake the trail passes by several Baches (simple beach houses) precariously perched on top of the wave cut bench at the base of the cliffs. We were met on the trail by a friendly three legged border collie who seemed to enjoy our company. The weather remained agreeable for our hike and provided some interesting cloud formations.

We returned to Sumner Beach along the same route and had lunch at a restaurant along the beach. After lunch we wandered towards Cave Rock, a remnant of a volcanic headland with a cave which runs right through it. You can hike through the cave at low tide.

For a short note on the history of Godley Head and the surrounding area, including Tayloy's Mistake, click here.

A Topo of Scarborough Head (Topographic Map 260 N36 &N37 Akaroa, Toitu te whenua, Land Information, New Zealand)

A descriptive hiking map from Canterbury Coast: a guide to beaches, bays, and river mouths, by Mark Pickering (pg. 29), published February 2006 by Mark Pickering.

View from Scarborough Head looking towards Sumner Beach.

The trail skirted the properties along the top of the cliff.

Looking southeast from Scarborough Head to Godley Head.

We passed some formidable beasts grazing along the trail.

View of Taylor's Mistake from Scarborough Head.

Baches located just north of Taylor's Mistake.

A sign affixed to a rock above this bach reads: "Whare Moki. The original Cave Dwelling erected by the Hobson Family 1891." Click here to see a photo of the interior of the bach from circa 1910.

These baches have lots of character.

Walking along the beach at low tide just north of Taylor's Mistake.

Our three legged hiking companion.

A burst of blue flowers.

Storm clouds brewing over Christchurch.

Gaby happy that lunch is on the way.

Cave Rock front door.

Cave Rock back door.

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08 June 2006

Steven and Gaby Self Portraits

Yes, these are photos that you may have seen in other posts. I decided to post these photos again in case you have forgotten what we look like. Actually, I just needed to post some pictures to the blog again so I could include them in our profiles :-)

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07 June 2006

We've Got Wheels

Today I picked up our car from the Toyota Dealer. Gaby and I are now the proud owners of a 2005 Toyota Echo, complete with a mighty 1300 cc engine! It's interesting to note this cylinder volume is only moderately larger than the average water bottle we put in our pack when we hike. The Dealer was quick to tell me this car could easily do 180km/hour. I can't imagine how SCARY that would be! Actually, we both wanted a good, economical car, and Toyota had just want we needed. I was very impressed with the whole car buying thing here in New Zealand. The entire process was the antithesis of car buying in the U.S. I simply walked into the dealership, asked to take a test drive, and was handed the keys. The salesman then said, "I'll see you when you get back." When we decided to buy the car, we walked into the office and I asked how much the car would cost to buy, and he informed me that the price on the sticker was the price of the car, with everything included. No taxes. No delivery fee. No extras whatsoever! When I picked up the car today I wrote a personal check for it. Pretty low key.

Note that the steering wheel is on the right.

It's either gear or Gaby when we go on trips :-)

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Caving in Charleston

The first weekend of June is a three day weekend, a celebration in honor of the Queen 's birthday (no, New Zealand is not a monarchy, this is a celebration in honor of the Queen of England). Every year for many years now the Canterbury Caving Group has been the driving force behind a weekend of caving on the West Coast of the South Island around Charleston. This would be our first opportunity to go caving with our own gear!

We had hoped to have our new car by the time we left, but that was not the case, so we rented a car for the drive over Arthur's Pass to the wet - I mean West - Coast. This would be a rather posh weekend, our accommodations being a Motor Park on the edge of town, with a pub just around the corner. We had our own room with a shared kitchen and bathroom.

We left early Saturday morning to give us a chance to make some stops along the way. I have not been through Arthur's Pass so we wanted to see it during daylight, rather than leaving late Friday evening. In the pass we stopped at a coffee shop for some well deserved hot chocolate, hoping to catch a glimpse of a kea or two. Unfortunately, the keas decided not to show, probably due to the approaching fowl - I mean foul - weather. Just after leaving the visitor center in Arthur's Pass the sky became grey and ominous. The weather had decided not to follow the weather forecast. It then rained almost non-stop until the next morning.

Out of Arthur's Pass we hit the West Coast at the town of Greymouth, stopped for lunch, and continued north along the coast to Punakaiki and the nearby Pancake Rocks, a picturesque eroded limestone formation along the coast and part of Paparoa National Park. We braved the approaching storm for a chance to see the awesome blowhole there. Unfortunately we missed high tide by about an hour and the prevailing weather conditions were not conducive to big blowhole action, so we contented ourselves with hiking around the very cool track which winds along the seacliffs and over arches and seastacks in the making.

Just a wee bit north of Punakaiki is the small town of Charleston, a relic of a once large gold mining town which boomed in the 1860s when placer gold was found in the area. After unloading our baggage into our cottage, Gaby and I hiked the short distance to Constant Bay, an extremely small, hazardous bay which was once used by ships for an anchorage, although now much of the bay has been silted in from the mining activities.

When we walked back to the house we were met by Alice Shanks who pressed us into making a quick trip into Metro, a cave located not far from our motor lodge. Gaby and I kitted up and practically ran to the entrance, ran around the cave for about half an hour, took a few pictures and ran back out to the motor lodge just in time for a dinner celebration at the pub. A local West Coast caver was being honored with an honorary life membership to the New Zealand Speleological Society. It sounded like a good enough reason to end the day at a pub.

On Sunday, after sleeping in for as long as possible (lately, until about 6:00 am for me), Gaby and I took a hike back out to Constant Bay so I could take some photos of the area before the rain came again. We cruised around the cliffs and then headed back to the motor lodge to sign up for a cave trip.

We joined up with Lindsay Main who expressed an interest in finishing a survey in a little visited cave called Kohatu. This would be a fun cave, as it included just a tad of vertical - a sloping entrance of 20m followed by a 10 m pitch into a rift - cool! We kitted up and off we went. This part of the West Coast has great masses of thick bush; but, as luck would have it, the trail to this cave was fairly easy going, following a small streambed for most of the time, giving us somewhat of a track to follow. At the entrance we waited as Lindsay rigged the pitch, and were promptly dumped on by a short but intense downpour. This gave us incentive to be inside the cave. Unfortunately, the rain did make for a bit of a wet pitch. Once down the pitch we entered a chamber with a small river running along the bottom, but we crossed the room on a sporting rock bridge over the chasm 10m below and followed a rift. The rift closed down to a crawl, forcing us to slither through the layer of mud and muck which conveniently lined the bottom of the passage. I will take mud anyday over hard, pointy rocks bashing against my knees and shins! This passage continued for some 200m or so before entering another chamber which meets the river once again. A quick climb down a slope put us into the stream which we followed for another 30 meters until it sumped out. Unfortunately, we were unable to figure out where the last survey stopped, or where the other passage we were to survey began, so after exploring the stream passage for a while we headed back out of the cave. What a fun cave: a little vertical work, some mud crawling, a good size cave stream and big rooms.

On Monday we decided to take it easy and join a group of folks tramping around some of the old goldfields just outside of town. When placer gold was discovered in the area, miners utilized the local streams for large monitors and sluices. The trail we followed ran along an old water race which was often dug through the low ridges for greater access. The neatest part of this trail was finding some old tunnels which had been eroded over time by the streams, some in excess of 5 meters! They looked like canyons one might see in the mud caves of Anza Borrego in Southern California; but, if you looked at the ceiling you could see the pick marks from the original hand dug tunnel - very cool!

After our hike we returned to pack up and head back over Arthur's Pass to Christchurch. I wanted to get a pretty early start over the pass because I did not have chains and the weather was turning cold, with icy roads a real threat. However, we made it home without a glitch!

Charleston is between Greymouth and Westport on the West Coast of the South Island.

Detail of the West Coast of the South Island between Greymouth and Westport.

Looking North along the West Coast, somewhere north of Greymouth. This is the Tasman Sea.

Yes, that bad weather is heading this way.

Gaby and Nikau Palm.

There are faces in the cliffs.

Gaby and flax.

A large surge pool.

Looking south from Pancake Rocks.

Pancake Rocks detail

Rugged coastline

The trail cuts through the thick bush.

I just had to take a picture of this sign. Yes, that is a penguin.

The entrance to Metro.

Cave pretties

Big passage

There were sections of passage with a white mineral coating on the walls.

Group shot.

Much of the floor of the cave was simply packed mud.

Great formation out of a fracture in the ceiling.

All in a row.

Attempting an artistic shot.

Constant Bay in foul weather.

Two masted schooners used to pass through to anchor in the bay!

Constant Bay and flax.

Steven and Gaby self portrait.

The bush extends right to the sea.


Constant Bay, now silted in a bit. I have seen pictures of two-masted schooners anchored here.

Entrance pitch of Kohatu Cave.

View from bottom of 10m pitch.

Gaby overtaken by a cave nebula. Look what it did to her cave suit!

Exploring the trail along the water race through the goldfields.

The trail passed through several hand dug tunnels.

Believe it or not, there is a trail here.

This started out as a hand dug tunnel for the water race, and the water has eroded the bottom to create tantalizing stream passage through the ridge.

A quarter moon illuminates the snow capped peaks in Arthur's Pass.

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