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December 2009



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Dec. 27th, 2009


2 November 2009 - Epic Road Trip, Day Three

I was up and ready to hit the road by 7a.m. Chris had left for the river earlier, so I called in there to say good-bye on my way out of town. It was a damp drizzly morning, much like the day before had started out. I had decided to take the slightly longer route home, via Greymouth and Arthurs Pass - it turned out to be a good decision, as the scenery was, what can I say - stunning.

From the rainy coastal drive to Greymouth. . .


. . . through Kumara, of which I have only ever heard in relation to the Kumara Nuggets gallops race meeting (yes, they race for gold nuggets), the Otira highway, and that amazing feat of engineering, the Otira viaduct. . . 

. . . and through to Arthurs Pass, and on to the Canterbury Plains. The rain and cloud disappeared almost the instant we cleared the Otira summit, and it was gloriously sunny for the rest of the trip. I am just blown away by the scenery - around every corner in the road there is a fresh, amazing vista.

If I hadn't stopped at a road-side car-park area (beside what turned out to be the Waimakariri River) to give the dogs a break, I would have missed the Arthurs Pass National Park sign, and the view behind it!

As on the trip over the Lewis Pass two days earlier, I came upon a cycle race of significant size! I found out later that the Tour of Southland had started by then, so these guys couldn't have been in quite the same league, having their own little race - although it did seem weird that they were doing it on a Monday.

I arrived home in Christchurch in time to drop the dogs off, unload the car, and get to work by 1pm as planned.  

Christchurch to Westport via Lewis Pass - 336km
Tripping around - 128km
Westport to Christchurch via Arthurs Pass - 348km
Total - 812 km

I love looking on Google Maps after a trip such as this, and seeing where I've been - picking out the features, seeing where the road cuts through the landscape, what the terrain was, etc.  I'm going to do it all again sometime - perhaps in the opposite direction, to see the scenery that unfolded BEHIND me this time.  I had an absolute ball, an Epic Road Trip for sure!  I'm truly in awe of what we have in this beautiful country of ours.  


Photos, Day 3



1 November 2009 - Epic Road Trip, Day Two

After a morning at the river (and watching the cement trucks as much as anything - they run from the cement works at Cape Foulwind to the silos at the port, 24/7!), we headed north after lunch.  (Holcim cement works is the largest employer in Westport, manufacturing cement from local limestone and coal.  Ships carrying cement are the main user of the port, although some is also carried by train.)

Chris explained the struggle to effectively drain and clear what little flat there was, for farming, and varying degrees of success could easily be seen.  I did remember this from secondary school social studies/geography - the infertile pakihi soils - but I hadn't realised the magnitude of the "humps and hollows" drainage structures.  ["Humping and hollowing (H&H) is a land development technique used in situations where vertical drainage through the soil structure is impeded by the soils low permeability or iron pan formations. The objective is to improve the soil drainage and structure by removing the low permeability solids, breaking through to the iron pan, and mixing and overlying soils with sand and gravel. A uniform surface is created with the hollows serving as a drainage path".]

It was a dull misty day, and unfortunately not worth going up the hill to Deniston from where, on a clear day, there are marvellous views of the coast. But the hills were shrouded in cloud, so we kept to the flats. We went as far as the Stockton mine rail-siding/depot where the coal bins come down the hill from the mine, on aerial cables.


The West Coast is known for its rugged scenery, and this part of the coast is no exception.  Just a short distance north from Westport, the coastal plain starts to run out, and the mountains are almost on the beach.  The drizzly weather, while making long-range views impossible, gave the scenery a primeval rain-forest feel, and it was stunning in its imposing, raw bleakness (but difficult to capture on camera!).


 After dinner we returned to the river, and while Chris fished, I took some evening photos - "The Buller at Dusk"! - oh, and of the dogs, too, of course.  And watched the cement trucks still going back and forth across the bridge.


Dec. 3rd, 2009


31 Oct 2009 - Epic Road Trip, Day One, Afternoon

After lunch, and the packaging of the morning's catch into 1lb bags for the freezer, we headed off to see some sights of Westport. I wanted to go to the river mouth - apparently it's called "the tip head". Each side of the mouth of the Buller River (the entrance to Westport Harbour) is protected by a breakwater of granite, quarried from nearby Cape Foulwind. A road extends along the top of each breakwater, and you can drive right to the tip on either side of the river. We went to the west side (the harbour entrance faces north), along Tiphead Road which is accessed from Cape Foulwind Road (and no points for guessing where that road goes!).

Satellite image from Google Maps - you might need to click on the image to enlarge it so you can read the labels:


Tip Head Photos

From there we went to the Cape Foulwind area to get some mussels from a reef accessed by climbing down to the beach from the cliff-top.  There is a formed path with steps, but it's a far cry from your average domestic (or commercial) stairway, and as we went down I was already dreading the climb back up!  The cliff and rock formations formed natural barriers surrounding the beach, so I let the dogs off-lead for a run while Chris went along the reef to get our legal quota of mussels (25 per person).  The girls had a blast, doing the typical sprint laps around the beach, then mooching about in the water and checking out the rocks.  As predicted, the climb back up from the beach just about killed me, and while Chris took the confident Lainey, I was happy to have Shan with me - she wasn't too sure about negotiating the steps, and it at least gave me a chance to catch my breath as I 'encouraged' her.   The trouble was every time she got a bit of confidence I'd hold her back because I couldn't get up the steps myself, so she probably became quite confused about what she was meant to be doing. 

 Cape Foulwind - the circled area is enlarged in the next shot:  


Close-up of the beach we climbed down to - the reef is on the right of the photo, stretching out into the water from the base of the cliff: 


We went on around to Tauranga Bay, and another beach, lined at one end by huge rocks.  While we were there a surfer went into the water off the rocks, a fairly tricky operation.  Westport reputedly has plenty of surfing action. The breakwater at the mouth of the Buller offers a good beach break, and Shingles is a unique freshwater beach break 1 km inside the river mouth, but requires a real north-west storm surge to make it perform well. We saw surfers both at the Buller, and in Tauranga Bay, but neither group seemed to be having much success catching a wave.   

Photos of "Mussel Beach" and Tauranga Bay

We drove on as far as the Okari River mouth/estuary, then home for a feed of whitebait and mussels.  Yum!!!


Nov. 22nd, 2009

Christchurch & Alps

31 Oct 2009 - Epic Road Trip, Day One, Morning

Chris had long-ago invited me to the West Coast during whitebaiting season - he travels down from Levin every year and stays at his great-aunt's house in Westport for as much of the season as he can. I didn't make it to "The Coast" last year - weather and circumstances getting in the way. This year I was going, no matter what.

Sat 31 Oct - I left Christchurch at 8:15am, and travelled via the Lewis Pass. I hadn't been on this road since 1971 when our 7th-form trip met its demise in the form of a rolled mini-bus (Ford Transit) near Maruia Springs. Thenceforth we had to rely on public transport . . . but that's another story, as they say. On our honeymoon in 1982, Ian and I had gone via Picton, Nelson and Murchison to Westport and so didn't take the Lewis Pass.


Anyway, back to the present - the weather was fine and sunny, and the scenery stunning. Travelling north initially, one has the perception that one is finally heading west after turning left to leave S.H.1 and get onto S.H. 7 - but after a few minor hills (Weka Pass) the route continues in a general northerly direction through more plains until just the other side of Culverden. At just over 100km into the trip, it still feels like it's just the beginning. Once through Mouse Point the highway travels inland alongside the Waiau River - the Hanmer Springs turnoff comes up fairly soon, and then we're into more interesting stuff. Now this is more like it!!


No sooner does the road enter the Lewis Pass National Park than the vegetation changes to beautiful beech forest. Immediately - as if the park sign is the boundary for its growth.

091031 Beech forest, Lewis Pass

The roads were fairly light on traffic, the only holdup being a cycle race through the pass. (WHY would anyone want to do that much hard work!??) The field was well spread over several kms, and pilot vehicles got out of our way as they could, so it wasn't too bad. Caught up with the leader just past the summit - he was the only cyclist I met on the downhill side, and he was going too fast for me to creep past on the winding road!

Cyclist on Lewis Pass

The Lewis Pass road has its highest point (907m) just beyond the Canterbury/Westland boundary then drops into the Maruia valley and heads for Reefton. Then there's more northerly travel towards a left/westerly turn into the lower Buller gorge, and more mountainous surroundings and beautiful scenery.

Hawk's Crag:

Hawk's Crag

The freaky thing here is that I know I'm getting near the coast, but there still appears before me row upon row of ranges - I can't imagine when they will end! Suddenly I'm out the other side - and it was just about then that I saw the first two of several weka that I would spot over the weekend, and a small black goat that leapt deftly up from the roadside berm into the ferns and bush overhanging the bank.

As directed by Chris, I pulled into the paddock just before the bridge that crosses the Buller into Westport, and walked down to his 'possie', at 12:45 - a 4.5hr trip. We went back to the house (tides and fishing were over for the day - and it turns out that was the worst day's fishing of his whole stay), had lunch then went tiki-touring around Westport.

More pics here

Oct. 17th, 2009


15 October 2009 - Shan follow-up

Shan's stitches came out today, and everything has healed nicely.

Since 'The Incident' I've kept the dogs separated in my absence - i.e. if I'm not home, or if I'm in bed. When I go out, to work, etc, Lainey gets shut in their normal room on her own (baby gate), and Shan has the lounge/dining/kitchen area. At night, they tend to swap over - Lainey chooses on the bed in the living area and Shan uses their bedroom - so that's how I leave them for the night. They've also become more guarded over their food too, so they now get fed separately - one in the kitchen, one in the dog room.

More trouble than a bunch of kids!

Oct. 11th, 2009

Christchurch & Alps

11 October 2009 - Band trip to Ashburton

Christchurch City Corps band went to Ashburton today to lead the morning meeting (service), have lunch provided by the Ashburton Corps, then do a 45-minute concert at a local rest home. It's about an hour's drive from Chch.

The day was as glorious as they get in the Canterbury Spring, and made up for the rubbish we had had the week before. Of course, there's nothing to impede the view from the (boringly straight) State Highway 1 to the Southern Alps, and they looked stunning, covered with snow to VERY low levels.

Photo taken on my cellphone from the rear passenger seat of a moving car on the homeward journey - probably not worth even showing you!! Actually, I've noticed the different effect the light has, being on the east side of the mountains, compared with being on the west side "up home". On the way down in the morning, in particular, the alps almost looked fake.

It was a good day. The afternoon was so warm that uniform jackets were discarded during the outdoor concert.

Oh yeah, and I was asked (pre-warned) to share my testimony at the morning meeting.

Christchurch & Alps

5 October 2009 - Il Divo

I went to "An Evening with Il Divo" at the Westpac Arena (next to Addington raceway - only 3km away - quite handy by city standards!).


If you've been living in a cave for the last few years and don't know who they are: 4 obligatorily nice-looking young men, opera's answer to the boy band, put together by American Idol's Simon Cowell after a world-wide search for the right talent. Two operatic tenors (American and Swiss), an operatic baritone from Spain, and a French pop singer.

The concert was due to start at 8pm, and I was seated by 7:30 - and only 6 rows from the front. The concert was late getting underway, though, at 8:15, so marks off for that.

With a 5-piece rock band and 20-piece orchestra, the opening bars surprised me with their volume - I hadn't expected the orch. to be mic'd (I don't know why!!) But it was awesomely loud, and I was unexpectedly deeply moved.

OK, to some extent I have to agree with one US critic I have read, referring to a 2006 concert, who pointed out the repetitive nature of the musical arrangements - "Song after song gets cranked up in the same numbingly repetitive way. The voices don't so much build on one another as coagulate in dense, assaultive chords and melodies that go marching up to their obligatory climaxes" - and the contrived lack of spontaneity - "The choreography, if you could call it that, has a somber, solitary cast. The singers slowly migrate away from one another, reassemble and process up and down a set of risers...." Except that in one song, one of them forgot to move, and got a good ribbing from the others at the end of the song. They are not robots after all! Also, the sound in the arena became distorted at the higher volumes, losing clarity, and the one non-classically trained singer amongst them sounded quite nasal at higher volumes.

On the other hand, one could say that the presentation was very polished, "the boys" appeared relaxed and at ease, and looked as if they were enjoying the music and each others' company. If the smiles they exchanged with each other during the songs were merely acted, then credit to them for making it all look like such fun. (And I was glad that they didn't play too much on their perceived "appeal with the ladies" as they had done during one concert I have seen on DVD.) And of course, there was the singing. For all the criticism put forward by the purists, it was powerful stuff.

They were on stage for just shy of two hours in total. I had a blast - it was a fabulous night.

And now here's a touch of the extremes that make life interesting - this same night, Scott was in Auckland at a concert featuring Megadeth and Slayer.  (Thrash/metal.)

Hmmm. (And I simply HAD to make their pic smaller than Il Divo's!)

3 October 2009 - Dispute

The stupid dogs had a 3 a.m. argument over sleeping space, and Lainey bit Shan. It would have been a single chomp, resulting in a single puncture wound on the top of her nose, and a tear under the throat. Initially it didn't look too bad, but on closer inspection I decided a visit to the vet was called for. Seeing that her dental check and clean is due in December, I asked the vet to do that while she was under anaesthetic. I went back in the afternoon to pick up the patient - wound all stitched up, teeth cleaned, and 6 loose incisors extracted. ("The back teeth are actually quite good.") Discharged with 6 days' worth of antibiotics, and instructions to go back in 5 days for wound and gum check, and stitches to come out a week after that. $586 thank you very much.


30 September 2009 - Staffing, part 2

Details to come.


21 September 2009 - Family Store

Details to come.

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