46. One Foggy Day on the Port Hills

We had a fast trip back to Christchurch from Kakanui as we have a few dates and commitments back home in Nelson, where we’ll be on and off for about two months. We stopped in Christchurch over Easter for two days – apologies to anyone we didn’t catch up with there – yikes! Then we carried on.

We found this work of art, dripping in dew, outside the caravan one morning.
We had a day on the city tops in the fog and mist – it kept looking like it might rain but never actually did.
This building is the function centre The Sign of the Takahe, part way up the road onto the Port Hills, built from some of the Port Hills volcanics. It was begun in 1918 and took 30 years to complete, some of the challenges being the arrival of World War One, inadequate funding, the desire for perfection and finally along came the Depression of the 1930’s – the Sugarbag Years. Still, persistence paid off as there it stands, beautifully towering over the smaller buildings around it.
At the top of the hill where the cafe sits at The Sign of the Kiwi, we turned south along the Summit Road, past Omahu Bush and on to Gibraltar Rock, a short sharp peak of volcanic material. This is a 45 minute return walk which looked as though we might find it fun!
At the carpark we could hear voices of different tones ringing through the mist – a group of people were climbing Cooper’s Knob on the opposite side of the road to Gibraltar Rock.
Our track led first through a short stretch of bush, prior rain ensuring a taste of great old NZ mud! Haven’t seen much of that for a while being such a dry summer everywhere – must’ve been missing it!
Then through grass…
A final scramble…
And we’re there!
A small carved pou marks the summit.
Views of other hills around us…
The basalt of Gibraltar Rock, easy to see as the rock is continuously eroding to show new surfaces.
Coming down from Gibraltar Rock we passed the voices we had heard earlier – they belonged to two families with several children between them. Having climbed Cooper’s Knob they were now knocking off Gibraltar Rock, having loads of fun along the way – awesome!
Heading back to the carpark, Cooper’s Knob in the background.
These peaks and the walking and biking tracks along the Summit Road are cared for by the Summit Road Society, which runs on volunteer labour to maintain tracks and clear out weeds, so plenty of points to whoever is involved – loved the opportunity to do this walk!
Driving back along the Summit Road we got our clearest view of the day – this one of Lyttleton Harbour.
Back at The Sign of the Kiwi Kevin waited while I took a solo walk in a figure of eight using The Sign of the Kiwi as the central point, another route taking less than an hour. I started off in Coronation Reserve to the south, and looping around on a small part of the Crater Rim Walkway.
The bays of Lyttleton Harbour ducked in and out of sight.
It led past huge volcanic boulders.
That’s the road leading up from Governor’s Bay to The Sign of the Kiwi, so I’m nearly back at my mid-point – which was also my start and will be there at the end as well!
I walked past The Sign of the Kiwi and started up the other side, looking back to the circle just completed behind the cafe.
The tracks on this side are part of the Sugarloaf Reserve. I started on Mitchell’s Track then switched to Cedric’s Track when the sign for that came up.
Those are the mountain bike tracks of the Christchurch Adventure Park in the distance. It was badly burned in the fires of 2017 so it’s still pretty bare, but the trees are slowly growing back.
You can just make out the radio transmitter tower on Sugarloaf Hill.
For the final stretch back to the cafe I switched again, this time onto Gilpin’s Track.
There were birds singing in the bush and flaxes!
And there it is…back at The Sign of the Kiwi for the last time – so, time to return home to our sweet little caravan.
One more stop after all! When we drove back past The Sign of the Takahe we decided to take another road branching up to Victoria Park. The Visitor Centre there was small but fabulous, giving information about the five stages of the volcanics of the Port Hills, each one separated by one million years (more or less), finally ending about 6 million years ago. Great read! There was some social history as well, including about Harry Ell, who was instrumental in building The Sign of the Takahe (and also The Sign of the Kiwi, Bellbird and Packhorse), and for putting in the Summit Road resulting in all the tracks, routes and trails of today.
Before leaving Christchurch we had a quick trip past Sumner to Godley Head – looks great! We’ll definitely get back here at some point and take a longer walk.

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