31 October 2017

Bridle Path

The Bridle Path (or if I got to name it, 'The Brutal Path), is steep - very steep, but it's so worth the effort. Even though it feels like the summit doesn't get any closer despite how long you've been slogging it out - when you do reach it - it's totally worth it. The view is stunning.

I parked the car in the small carpark for the track walkers. It's on the city side of the Bridle Path, just below the foot of the gondola. The walk starts off at a gentle gradient (but don't be fooled, it's a trick- it gets steeper and STEEPER).

This historic and popular walk was originally created in 1850. 

In December 1850, eight hundred British Settlers arrived on the first four ships. At that time there were only a dozen houses in Lyttleton and Christchurch. Sumner Road was being made but hadn't been completed, so the chief surveyor, Captain Thomas cut the bridle path.

The early settlers carried essential household goods on their backs over the track, the heavier items went by boat across the Sumner Bar. Early in 1851 the path was upgraded for horses to use (that's how the name Bridle Path came about). Over the next 16 years thousands of immigrants walked this track until the Lyttleton rail tunnel opened. 

The walkway has a few memorial seats, in remembrance of the pioneers and the first four ships. These were welcome places to stop, admire the view and catch my breath.

Yesterday, when I walked the Bridle Path, it was midday and scorching hot. There was hardly any shade so I was looking forward to reaching the summit. I'd been told it was a steep walk and I'd read about that too, but despite my lack of fitness I was determined to get to the top. 

To highlight my fitness level (or lack of), some lady in her bright pink, lycra gym gear lapped me. Yes, she passed me going uphill and passed me again going down. Shame.

And then one lovely lady, who was walking down hill and looked to be about my fitness level (i.e. staggering, puffing and sweaty) stopped to chat and offer Oakly and I a drink. She said I was almost at the top (I truly thought she was tricking) but she wasn't ... and about 100 metres more of steepness, I made it. Then I heard cheering from below, and there she was yahooing and clapping my accomplishment - what a cool lady!
I made it to the summit. Yay!

The view overlooking Lyttleton was spectacular. I was lucky enough to reach the summit the same time a local man did. He told me he walks the Bridle Path three to four times a week! He pointed out a few landmarks and shared some history. 
Looking at the photo below - the mountain just to the left of the yellow broom (underneath the lowest white cloud ) is Mt Herbert.

Near the centre of the photo is a dark green clump of pine trees, that's Diamond Harbour (a small settlement on Banks Peninsula).

Legend has it, Diamond Harbour got its name from an early settler, who after observing the sun reflecting on the water said it looked like a thousand shining diamonds.

A ferry connects Diamond harbour to Lyttleton, which residents use to commute to the city.

Looking to the centre, far right of the photo below, you can see an outcrop of land. That's the east side of 'Quail Island'.

Europeans farmed the island for a short time in 1851. Then it was used as a quarantine station in 1875, and later a small leper colony from 1907 - 1925. It was also used as a hospital during an influenza epidemic.
Quail Island was also used for training dogs used in Antarctic expeditions in the early 20th century. 

Nowadays it's a reserve with safe swimming beaches. A ferry service is available to take visitors over to the island.

Oakly and I spent awhile sitting at the top, overlooking Christchurch and then Lyttleton on the other side

It was so much easier walking back down - although I had to watch my step as the gravel was dry and slippery and STEEP.

30 October 2017

Air Force Museum

Last week we visited 'The Air Force Museum in Christchurch', it was the perfect way to spend a drizzly afternoon. Actually, no matter what the weather's doing, it's definitely worth a visit.

There's so much to see ... exhibitions, galleries, displays, memorials, film clips, hands-on experiences, a POW interactive exhibition,a flight simulator and so much more.

A spacious foyer with planes suspended above is the first thing you notice when entering the museum.

Bernie went on the 'Mosquito Mission Flight Simulator'. His mission was to search for battleships in Norwegian Fiords and destroy them.

This teddy (photo below) caught my eye - I enjoyed his story. His name is Flight Lieutenant Henry B. Fanshaw. His rank insignia and brevet indicate he is a flight lieutenant and pilot. He was the mascot of No. 75 Squadron RNZAF and lived in the Squadron's crew room at Osaka. He'd often accompany them on exercises and social events. Fanshaw was often abducted by other units with postcards, letters and hostage notes being sent back to Squadron 75. He traveled across the world and now lives in retirement at the Air Force Museum. 

The aircraft hall, originally built as an aircraft hangar during World War 2, is home to 13 vintage aircraft which are displayed under theatrical lighting.

The museum offers a free half hour guided tour showing work behind the scenes and an opportunity to see aircraft, vehicles and engines in the reserve collection.

Below is the Spitfire and the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, which kiwi fighter Johnny Checketts bailed out of in 1943. The wartime crash site was rediscovered and the engine was uncovered and brought back to New Zealand. Johnny's son Chris Checketts donated the engine to the museum.
Spitfire with the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine recovered and brought back to N.Z.

The 'Bell UH - 1H Iroquois', one of the worlds most iconic helicopters and famous for it's role in the Vietnam War.
There's also an option for a group of friends to take a tour. The guided tour through galleries will show historic aircraft and share captivating stories of the men and women of the Air Force.

The Air Force Museum is ideal for all ages. Children are well catered for with hands-on experiences and clues to find. Birthday parties for children can be catered for too.

I really enjoyed the interactive exhibition 'Captured.' It follows the journey of a POW in Europe, showing what it was like to be shot down, captured, interrogated and imprisoned. Stories of N.Z. airmen who were POWs are on display and well worth reading. The exhibition gives an insight into everyday life in a POW camp.
The photo below shows a POW room that would have housed 12 men.

The Air Force Museum is open daily from 10am - 5pm and the entry is FREE. We had a fantastic time and highly recommend a visit.

29 October 2017

Lakeside Domain - Lake Ellesmere

The saying 'You learn something everyday' was perfect for me last weekend. I set off to explore Lake Ellesmere and headed for 'Lakeside Domain'. I'd been told it was a good place to stay. However I hadn't been told that it was one of New Zealand's most polluted lakes. Had I known that I doubt I would of let the dogs swim in it.

Lake Ellesmere, also known as Te Waihora (the spreading water) is located west of Banks Peninsula, and is about 40 minutes from Christchurch. It's not actually a lake, it's a shallow lagoon that is separated from the Pacific Ocean by a long, narrow spit called 'Kaitorete Spit' (or Kaitorete Barrier) which is about 28kms long.
Regular openings of the lagoon prevent flooding and maintain fish stocks by letting ocean-spawning fish (such as eels, mullet and flounder) enter and leave the lake.

Lake Ellesmere has no natural opening out to sea. Openings are usually aligned with fish migration periods, however other factors are taken into account, such as ...

* access for traditional mahinga kai, including gathering of swan's eggs. 
* to avoid low lake levels in summer.
* the need to support wetland bird and plant habitats with various lake levels.
* when drain networks and infrastructure is effected by high lake levels.

Advice is given from experts regarding machinery and the forecast for weather and sea conditions are considered when deciding to open the lake. Usually it takes three days to open the lake if conditions are favourable.

Once the lake is opened, The length of time it stays open is determined by weather, sea conditions and how quickly gravel is deposited by the sea to close the channel.

Unbeknown to me (at the time of our visit) this lake experiences toxic algal blooms which are hazardous to people and animal's health. Dogs are especially vulnerable to it. When we arrived I noticed a sign near the entrance showing levels of toxic algae. It indicated the lagoon was at a safe level. I checked before letting them in, tit was free of algae - plus someone nearby had several dogs swimming.

Lake Ellesmere/Te Waihora is Canterbury's largest lake and is an important wildlife area.It covers 20,000 hectares (about the same size as Lake Wanaka). It's an unusual lagoon as it's salty and shallow (an average depth of 2 metres).

We stopped at Lakeside Domain to check the camping area. It's a popular place for boating and other water-based activities. There are showers, toilets and rubbish bins in the domain. The area is spacious, with trees around to provide shade and privacy. And it's free.

There have been 166 species of birds recorded at Te Waihora, with up to 98,000 birds on the lake at one time. At least 37 species breed in the lake and live there during the year.

The lake also has native fish, including whitebait and eel. Basking sharks and stingrays have also been spotted in the lake at times. 

Lake Ellesmere is an area of cultural, natural, historic, recreational and commercial importance to many people. To Ngai Tahu, the lagoon represents a gathering place for food and natural materials.

Plenty of bird life about, but I had the dogs so didn't approach them for photos.
Lots of areas to choose to camp - some spots have rows of trees to provide privacy and shade.

Coes Ford

Coes Ford is located on the Selwyn River about half an hour from Christchurch. It's named after a pioneering farmer, Jack Coe, whose land bordered the river. The ford used to be the main link between Springston and Leeston.

There's a free camping area nearby. It's spacious, with mature trees dotted about offering welcome shade during hot summer months. The campground is on each side of the road, however the western part is closed during winter months.

It's a popular area for picnics, swimming and camping. Water is available but not suitable for drinking. There are toilets and rubbish bins are provided.

Dogs are welcome, and can be run off lead. There's lots of space to exercise them, plus lovely swimming holes to cool off in. PLEASE check the water condition first - this river has a history of water pollution and toxic algae.

Click here to take you to a site about Canterbury Recreational Water Quality, or contact the local council.

The day we visited the water was clean, with a good flow. The dogs loved it - Paddy swam so much that when we got home he was too tired to climb up the steps.


We've heard it can also be a popular spot for those pesky mosquitoes, so if you're planning on calling in, take along some dimp. We must have struck an insect-free day, there wasn't a mossie in sight.

The photo below shows what Coes Ford was like the day we were there. However a few months ago the river was a major concern due to high toxic levels. A newspaper article written in February this year, shares photos and explains how bad the condition of the river was. Click here to be taken to the article.

As we were leaving a lady riding her horse arrived leading a young foal.

Coes Ford is a lovely spot and we had a fabulous afternoon relaxing by the river. Perhaps we were lucky and struck the right time of the year to visit - the river was clean and safe to swim in.