Okiwi Bay

Okiwi Bay is located in the Rai Valley on the northern coast of the south Island approximately half way between Nelson and Havelock. The locals describe it as, ‘a quaint little drinking village with a bit of a fishing problem’.

My brother picked this for our final stay before returning to Christchurch. We arrived around lunch time and sorted out our cabin. Then off to explore this gorgeous little village. The only retail therapy in town is at the caravan park, which has as a tiny general store with a few basic supplies. Don’t expect to get your weeks shopping there though. I think they sell a few chocolate bars, ice creams, milk, and possibly they may sell some bait too. Being a village with a bit of a fishing problem, i guess that’d take care of the important stuff for the regular holiday makers.

After almost two weeks of clear blue skies, and hot summer’s days, the weather while in Okiwi Bay was overcast with low cloud. Clearly, swimming was out of the question.

cloud hovered low over the hills

A pretty little bay

It would have been a lovely day for boat fishing

Now I know what to do when my agapanthus drop their flowers

 

The bay on one side of us, and this little water way on the other

And a bridge leading you to a walk track

Its a shame we only had one night here. Definitely the prettiest place on our trip, I would have liked a few days to wind down and relax. I’m sure Paul would have appreciated tossing a line in the water too. Perhaps next time…..

 

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The Abel Tasman walk

After a couple of days in Christchurch we headed north to begin our three day guided walk of the Abel Tasman National Park, approximately 36kms walking in total.

We had a couple of overnight stops on the way, and a few short stops to visit places of interest. Paul walked down to capture this next photo – I was busy trying to fend off a very friendly bee. Note to myself – don’t wear blue when visiting NZ, the bees think you’re a flower, or so I’m told.

A pretty place (shame about the friendly bees)

Then onto our pick up point in Motueka where we sorted our luggage ready to begin our three day hike. There’s a tidal crossing towards the end between the Awaroa lodge and Totaranui, and the tides weren’t going to be favourable for us at this crossing if we were walking the track from start to finish, or from finish to start. Instead we started somewhere around the middle. A boat trip took us to our starting point approximately a 7km walk from Awaroa lodge, our first nights accommodation.

A well maintained, fern lined track

Looking down on turquoise bays

A bit of a beach trek and we arrived our first nights accommodation and were allocated our rooms. We were ever so surprised to discover ours was the room at the top left – only the best room in the place. How lucky were we!

Our room – top left

 

view over the bay from our room

We had been told we could do as little or as much of the walk as wanted. Paul’s a lot more capable than me, so he managed the full hike. I only did around 1/3 of it in total.

I chose only to do the first part of our 2nd days walk,  approximately  7km. The tide still wasn’t right for us to walk across the crossing, but fortunately the water was deep enough for us to be transported across by barge to begin day twos walk – around 17kms for those completing the whole walk.

Despite being told we could walk it at our own pace, the pace needed to meet the boat at Totaranui was considerably faster than my natural bush walking pace. I was to stressed at trying to keep up that I found it hard to enjoy any of the sections I did complete. I’ve never enjoyed walking with experienced bush walkers and this walk has only re-enforced my desire not to share a bush walk of any length with anyone other Paul. Paul understands my limitations and, although he’s able to walk considerably faster than me, he also doesn’t mind matching his speed with mine. We both manage to enjoy walking together without pressure, and without stress when on our own.

With a lot of prompting to speed up the pace from our guide we did manage to meet the boat at Totaranui, with more than a few minutes to spare. Phew! (didn’t enjoy that much). The boat then dropped me at our second nights lodgings, and continued on with the rest of the walkers to the previous days’s starting point for commencement of the walk in the opposite direction.

Even if I couldn’t stop and relax to appreciate the views, the walk as seen through Paul’s camera lens did offer some pretty sights.

The track wound up and down between pretty bays

 Arriving at our lodge around 5 hours before the rest of the party allowed me to enjoy the solitude, and wonder at our room allocation. Yes, again the best room in the house. Apparently we were the first ones to book, and the rooms are allocated on a first in, first served basis.

Torrens lodge – our room on the top left (again the best room in the house)

View from our window – what did we do to deserve this

The next day the walking group left around 9am. I waited until lunch time when a water taxi took me to meet the walkers at their lunch stop. From here I walked with them to the walks completion.

Nearing the end

The start of the Abel Tasman walk – or in our case, the finishing point

A coach met us to take us back to the office in Motueka where my brother and sister-in-law met us to take us back to our digs.  The walk is labelled as one of New Zealand great walks. The track is well maintained, winding through shady forest landscape and overlooking gorgeous turquoise bays. For experienced bushwalkers I’m sure it’d be a pleasure. For me, well I enjoyed the accommodation, and apart from that all I can say is – seeing that coach at the end – what a pleasure that was!

A little bit more about the Avon River – Christchurch NZ

The Avon River

I love this little river, and little it is – as far as depth goes anyway. Meandering from it’s source in the Western suburb of Avonhead, and winding it’s way gently through the suburbs to the Central Business district of Christchurch, I doubt the water would reach above knee-deep at any one point.

Shallow, and narrow

Perhaps that’s why so many Christchurch children have spent some of their childhood paddling their own canoes down it’s tranquil waters. It’s safe.

$12 will hire you one of these for an hour

As children we would make our way to the Antigua Boat sheds on a warm summer’s day. The cost of hiring a kayak (or single canoe as I’ve always called them) was very cheap. Goodness, it’s still only $12 an hour. Did we bus into Cathedral Square and walk out to the sheds, or did we cycle from home? I really don’t remember, but I suspect we probably cycled. That’s what kids did in the 1960s. We wouldn’t have locked our bikes up either, we didn’t need to. What a different world it is today for kids.

There’s double canoes, family row boats, or you can even hire a Punt with it’s own skilled Punter to propel you slowly along the water.

They didn’t have these when I was a kid

The river is lined with weeping willows, their long, gentle fronds reaching into the water and forming little curtains for canoeists to steer their vessel behind so as to  hide from a fellow friend – such are the games that children play. If you’re like me, you could mistakenly believe that a tree as prolific as the weeping willow on the banks of the Avon belong, and have always belonged there. How surprised was I to read about their origin.

The weeping willows can be traced back to a cutting taken from Napolean’s grave

What a surprising piece of history that was. I’ve tried to find out if, not being a native tree, is the weeping willow is a menace. I haven’t been able to find anything to indicate they’re  any cause for concern. Phew! Thank Goodness. Along with the Cathedral, the weeping willows lining the of the banks of Avon river just seem to belong there don’t you think?

I couldn’t imagine the river without the willow’s fronds gently sweeping the water’s surface

So tranquil – what a pleasure!

 

 

 

Akaroa – The Giant’s House (for my good friend Toni)

Akaroa Harbou

Situated on a deep harbour just 75 kilometres from Christchurch lies the French settlement of Akaroa. The drive around Banks Peninsula to get there offers some stunning hilltop views with gorgeous bays dotted every which way you look. Once there, you’ll encounter a small village with streets bearing french names, a gorgeous harbour and a veritable feast of things to do, places to stay, and delicious food options. It was one of my favourite destinations when I was a teenager, and remains one of my favourite New Zealand destinations to this day. It’s no wonder it’s a favourite port of call for the multitude of cruise ships traversing the New Zealand coastline.

We’ve walked the streets before, canoed on the harbour, and picnicked in many a park. This time there was something new, something we hadn’t seen before – The Giants House.

The most colourful house and garden ever

Located a short up hill walk from the village at 70 Rue Balguerie, lies what must surely be the happiest and most colourful garden on earth. Full of unique sculptures and incredible mosaics, I’m not going to say anymore. I’ll let the pictures tell the story.

A steep, pretty, garden walk up to the entrance doesn’t begin to hint at what awaits

A close up of that grand piano

There were plenty of mosaic seats on which to rest

Circus troopers

Topiary, and colourful flowers – there wasn’t a leaf out of place

Animals

Another circus figure (or perhaps it’s the mad hatter)

This one is definitely for my friend Toni. Anyone who knows Toni would think of her when seeing this

 

 

Believe me when I say you just have to go to this place. It needs to be on the very top of your list of ‘Must sees’ in Christchurch and the surrounding area. It’s art at it’s most colourful. I have only shown you a snapshot of all that is to see at the Giant’s House. Don’t forget, you won’t regret it – put it on your list. What a delight to visit this amazing place full of so many amazing works of art. One of life’s memorable pleasures for sure!

A very different Christchurch

We arrived into Christchurch on a February afternoon to a warm family welcome on a bright summers day. The first evening was spent  eating, drinking, chatting and catching up – as you do….

After a good nights sleep the sight seeing began. First thing on the agenda was to visit Christchurch’s city centre. Nine years on from the devastating earthquake that took 185 lives and seriously injured another 164 people, an unrecognisable city greeted us.

First stop on my brothers personally guided walking tour was Antigua Boat sheds. The colourful sheds are still standing after nearly 140 years I’m pleased to say, and the river remains relatively unchanged.

Antigua Boat Sheds

Weeping willows line the peaceful meandering Avon river

Many days during my childhood school holidays were spent rowing down these tranquil waters. Single person canoes were the thing, and to this day I’m still a single person canoe person. I can’t get the rhythm that’s needed to share the rowing in a double canoe. So literally – I like to paddle my own canoe!

Next onto a restored Bridge of remembrance. I believe this was severely damaged in the earthquake, and restoration has only been completed within the past year.

The newly restored Bridge of Remembrance

Eventually we arrived into the centre of town, the Cathedral Square. The square centre of the city has always been known and spoken of using the Cathedral for identification. We never caught the bus to the square, it was always, The Cathedral Square.

The once proud cathedral now stands steeple-less and in ruins

The whole of the square,  once clearly bordered by rows of solid buildings roughly at right angles to each other and forming a square, is now stark and airy in comparison. There’s space – lots of space now where shops, movie theatres, and peoples lives and livelihoods once stood.

It’s eight years on since the devasting earthquake on 22 February 2011. The rebuilding of Christchurch is clearly underway, evidenced by the multitude of high cranes towering everywhere you look. Equally as clear is that the rebuilding is a slow process, and sadly, that the city  will never be the same again.

Everywhere we went throughout the south island we were met with signs of what to do in the case of an emergency. We’re all familiar with the usual fire emergency warnings posted in hotels etc. All of these emergency warning notices in NZ now list three things, fire, earthquake and Tsunami. Earthquakes are now accepted as an almost weekly occurrence, and, I gather,  the general consensus is that the worst may not yet be behind them. Yes, the city has changed, and so to have the people. You just can’t live with that constant threat without it changing you to some extent.

But I digress, back to the cathedral. Apparently there’s been several years of discussion and argument as to whether or not the iconic cathedral was to be restored. It’ll be a monumental task, but the decision has been made in the favour of restoration. I’m pleased!