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|Touring New Zealand 2014 - part 2|
Spring Creek Camp Site: We arrived in Picton on the ferry at 1730 and by the time we had been unloaded and on the move it was 1800 so we went straight to the Spring Creek Camp Site we have used a number of times before. The last time we had been very disappointed at the quality of the room we got but it seems to be in new hands and we had a much better room at a lower price - it was normally reserved for long stay visitors but was fortunately available to us and first class - clean spacious with fridge, kettle, toaster with double bed and spare single for $50. We had some more of the meat from Woodville - the steak and sausages were equally as good as the Venison and we will make a point of stocking up there every time we pass.
After we had finished eating we walked round the edge of the site by the creek and had a look at the eels which gather in one location where they know they will be fed. We have seen them before but never so many together. They were lying with their heads on the bank and mouths open almost on top of each other whilst ducks trampled them hoping to get t to any bread first and a huge trout cruised back and forth. We came back in the morning hoping to get better pictures and with some bread but the ducks got so excited it was impossible to photograph through the disturbed water.
The morning was crystal clear and hardly a cloud in the sky all day - just right for a day round the vineyards. It was Pete's turn to drive so Pauline had the some of the best of what of what New Zealand has to offer to choose from. It ended up as a mixture of old favourites and some new acquaintances which we are sure will also turn out to be old friends in due course.
Cloudy Bay Winery: Our first stop was at an old favourite Cloudy Bay. We were recognised as soon as we walked in and we waited to chat to Wendy, the manager and find out the latest news. . Whilst waiting we looked at the new areas round the building which have comfortable settees, hanging chairs and even a Petanque pitch. They still have a couple of the beautiful deck chairs outside - we must follow up on them with the information Wendy found for us last visit. Once Wendy was free we found Cloudy Bay have extended the range they offer and it was mostly in stock and for sale. Previously we have visited in February and there were only a selection available. It so much better to visit before the Marlborough Wine and Food event takes place. The range has expanded too - with four methode champenoise, the standard sauvignon blanc, Te Koko, and chardonnay, pinot gris, late harvest riesling and now three Pinot Noirs. As well as the 2011 pinot noir which we can buy in the UK, there is the Te Wahi from Otago (from contract growers in Bannockburn, Bendigo and Lowburn) and the Mustang from two new vineyards in Marlborough. Wendy marked their location for us on our map but warned that there may be no signs
Allan Scott Wines: Between our tasting at Cloudy Bay and the drive looking for their vineyards we visited Allan Scott which not only has excellent and award winning wines (which you can sometimes get in the UK) but also has a very good vineyard restaurant called the Twelve Trees after the trees that shade it - we have been many times and never been disappointed. The main courses tend to fairly light with hot or cold "meat" on a salad base with, of course, a wide selection of their wines by the glass or bottle. This time we tasted their Riesling and Pinot Noir, then had lunch accompanied by The Hounds Pinot Noir. Pete had a main course seafood soup which was excellent and Pauline had a salmon salad. The desserts were also very good and pauline had a huge Tiramisu with fresh strawberries and Pete and ice cream concoction with lemon curd and hokipoki - supper looked unnecessary.
The Safe Air Argosy: On the way we went to see the Argosy which used to be operated by Safe Air which is outside a restaurant opposite the airport. It has been tidied up and preserved a lot although it is unlikely to every be restored enough to fly – all the electronics were taken out by chopping through the wiring. We have written about it previously and bought a book on Safe Air on a previous visit. Last time we spent the best part of an hour on board, much of it watching the video of Safe Air and the last flight of the Argosy and bought a copy – all in a good cause as well as being interesting. Safe Air Developed a palate system for freight and also had a clever Passenger Module which was loaded into the aircraft when required in place of some of the freight palettes.
Exploration looking for Cloudy Bay vineyards: We easily found the first block of grapes down Brancott Road but although we drove all the way down to The Barracks none of the blocks were marked as growers for Cloudy Bay
Highfield Wines: The Highfield's winery, which is built in an Italian style with an impressive tower, caught our eye as we were driving by and when we checked the ANZ Awards booklet we realised where we had heard the name. It had produced the Riesling Trophy for 2013
The name Highfield originates from the Walsh family, who hailed from Ireland. They purchased their 365-acre Marlborough farm in 1935 and named it Highfield after an area near Galway Bay in their homeland. On Highfield farm the Walsh family grew crops, grazed stock and bred horses, eventually handing over the reins to their son Bill and his wife Barbara. Bill was of an entrepreneurial nature, always ready to consider a new venture, and in the mid ‘70’s when he heard that a major New Zealand wine company was considering planting grapes in Marlborough he decided to try his hand. In 1990 he opened the winery and things took off. Soon after though, Bill decided to pursue a quieter life and began to look for a safe pair of hands to pass the winery on to. He ended up finding two pairs of hands in a Japanese fire fighting industrialist, Shin Yokoi and a Bristol business man, Tom Tenuwera. A wine aficionado, Tom had always been entranced by the spectacular beauty of New Zealand and the warmth of its people. It was a sentiment shared by his old friend Shin, along with a particular interest in the ‘Champagne Trinity” of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay and they bought it in 1991.
Shin’s company was Champagne Drappier’s sole agent in Japan, and he invited Michel Drappier, scion of the House of Drappier, to help guide Highfield’s Méthode Champenoise, Elstree. The first Elstree Cuvée Brut, made in 1993, won a gold medal at the National Wine Show of Australia in 1996. Success followed success with ensuing years earning gold medals and awards for the Elstree, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Alistair Soper, a talented Kiwi winemaker, crafts Highfield’s wines with a commitment to consistency of quality and style. He makes a small and focused range of wines: Elstree Cuvée Brut, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. The wines are only available at a handful of outlets in New Zealand, some goes to a few high end restaurants and most is exported - some to the UK via an agent in Colchester.
We were particularly interested in the 2012 Highfield Riesling which has won the Air New Zealand Trophy for Riesling and many other accolades. It was remarkably good and we bought two bottles. Summarising their notes: "The grapes have very restricted yields and the grapes were carefully selected, resulting in a finely textured wine of exceptional quality. Made in an expressive fruit driven style and stop fermented, the medium residual sweetness is finely balanced with citrus. It was fermented
100% in stainless steel and the fermentation stopped at an alcohol level of 10% leaving a residual sugar of 9.1g/l" This makes it very similar to the old style German Riesling we used to enjoy and very different to the kerosene style Rieslings so often produced in New Zealand. It is already excellent drinking now and Highfield believe it will continue to develop through 2014. The vineyard was pointed out to us from the winery and the lone gum tree marking the corner of the vineyard is illuminated at night.
We bought an Air New Zealand 2011 Trophy Pinot Gris which we eventually tried in an evening at Naseby. Pete is not a great fan of Pinot Gris but even he had to admit it was very good - much more full bodied than most with great intensity and depth and we could see why it was a trophy winner- we could even understand their description of "a finish of Nougat and Apricot" to which we would add Manuka honey! The only problem was that bottles seem to get smaller with time. We thought we ought to try this years Pure Gold 2013 Sauvignon Blanc - well deserved and we also tried the Pinot Noir which we would have added to our collection if had not already grown too big - fortunately Spy Valley is readily available.
Nautilus Estate Wines: Nautilus Estate was on our must visit list as they had won the trophy for best sparkling wine and the Champion Wine of Show for their Nautilus Cuvee Marlborough Brut NV. They have been making this wine for over 20 years now and have had tremendous success with this wine in the last 3 years – winning trophies in both NZ & Australia but a trophy at the Air New Zealand wine awards had always eluded them until now. The style of Nautilus Cuvee Marlborough Brut NV has always been a Pinot Noir dominant blend with the balance being Chardonnay. It is aged for a minimum of 3 years on yeast lees before disgorging with a low dosage – resulting in a serious, rich but elegant dry style of sparkling wine. The grapes come from specific blocks on 3 vineyards in the Rapaura sub-region. They are all hand harvested & chilled before being whole bunch pressed. Nautilus is family owned and has the benefit of generations of experience through the highs and lows of wine-growing - the owner Robert Hill Smith is a fifth-generation vigneron and the winemaker has been making marlborough wines for 20 years, most of them with Nautilus.
The Nautilus Cuvee Marlborough Brut NV was every bit as good as we expected and we bought a bottle for Pete's Birthday. They also do a Sparkling Vintage (2011) Rose. Pinot Noir has always been the basis of the Nautilus Cuvee blend and in 2003 they planted new dijon clone Pinot Noir (115 & 777) on an estate vineyard suited to sparkling wine and its natural fruity character got them thinking about a 100% Pinot Noir Cuvée Rosé. After a number of trials they laid down their first tirage in September 2011. It was also very good but not exported to the UK otherwise we would have considered it for our Ruby Wedding Anniversary party this year. We have used the Cloudy bay Pelorus for some of our previous serious anniversaries. We also tried their Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, both were good but our stocks were already too high to add more.
Blenheim town: We left in the morning to first go into Blenheim to look round and to do some shopping for food. We went into the information office to get information on the Molesworth Station backroad - the weather forecast was not good however and it is very much a fine weather road unless you have 4 wheel drive so we decided to pick up the information sheet but to put it off till our return towards the North for the ferry. We found it difficult to find a butcher but it was suggested we stopped at Riverlands on the way past which we did where there was a good one. It was just off the main road so we missed the turn and had to do a U turn to get back but it was worth it - they had some corn fed (last 90 days) aged for 30 day marbled beef which was vacuum packed and some equally good looking lamb - we added a black pudding and some sausages and we were set for 3 or 4 days with meat. We tried ringing ahead for a booking at the Waipara Sleepers but they did not seem to have one of the carriages so we said we would drop in and see the 'backpackers' accommodation or put up a tent.
On the way we passed a sign to the Greystone vineyard and Pauline suggested there was just time to do another U turn and go back - she had recalled the name and on checking we found that was because they had produced the Trophy Pinot Noir in the 2013 BNZ awards, a major achievement as Pinot Noir is a fickle grape. It turned out to be an interesting visit and it was Peter's turn to finally do a tasting. The 2012 Greystone Pinot was everything one could expect and we had the chance to compare it to the matching Muddy Waters 2012 Pinot which is a completely organic wine form 20 year old vines whilst the Greystone vines were planted much more recently. They were both good but the Greystone was drinking now whilst the Muddy Waters would benefit from an extra year or so. The Muddy Waters was normally $40 but on offer at $29 and the Greystone $36 with all the prizes. We ordered a bottle and at that point we were told we could have that also at $29 so we had an extra bottle! Pete then tried the Riesling which had some botrytis grapes and was very much in the old German style and will be something to look for in the future. They had also won prizes for the Muddy Waters pinotage, but there was none available to taste - later we bought a bottle in Geraldine. Pete finally asked them what other wines they were particularly proud of and they said their Syrah so he tried that and again we would have bought a bottle but the car was getting very full of exceptional wines.
Greystone Winery and wines: The Thomas family, after searching the world for the perfect place to grow cool-climate wines, established the Greystone Vineyard on the slopes of the Teviotdale hills in the Waipara Valley in 2004. They initially planted 39 hectares of the 153 hectare property of predominantly north-westerly facing land, concentrating on matching blocks with clones and varieties. There were many options with a range of altitudes from 60m to 150m above sea level and soil profiles from light clays through to those rich in limestone content. While Pinot Noir makes up over 60% of the plantings they could see the potential for other varieties in the region and planted blocks of Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and even a small block of Syrah. The viticulturist Nick Gill planted the vineyard and he initially hired Dom Maxwell initially to assist in planting the vineyard. Dom went on to not only become their winemaker but was awarded New Zealand Winemaker of the Year at the annual Winestate Magazine awards in 2011. Greystone believe in the importance of a synergistic relationship between the person growing the grapes and the person making them into wine. Both have to truly understand each other’s roles, have respect for them and share the same vision for the finished wine which is definitely the case with Nick and Dom. The result is that only seven years after establishing the vineyard Greystone was named one of New Zealand’s Top 20 Wine Estates in Decanter Magazine and have been consistently winning international trophies for Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Noir. They are often asked about the secret of their success, and their answer is there is a great synergy between people and the place. They have a significant commitment and connection to this piece of land. They acknowledge those who have come before, and see themselves only as the current caretakers of this unique place.
None of that explains the relationship between Greystone and Muddy Waters and we had to spend time on the Internet to sort that out. Until recently they were two distinct vineyards with Greystone being younger but larger. Greystone only recently acquired their vineyard neighbour, Muddy Water. Muddy Waters is the direct translation of the Maori place name wai (water) and para (mud or sediment) – is known for its pedigree in producing outstanding wines, including some of the best rieslings ever to come out of New Zealand. Merging the two brands was very logical. Greystone had some amazing large new vineyards and a Cellar Door but no winery – over the fence at Muddy, they had tiny organic vineyards and a large new winery just itching to be used to capacity. Both brands are now sold from the Greystone cellar door and the winery over at Muddy Waters is used to make both wines. All the Muddy Waters wines are grown and processed organically and everything is done by hand. Wild yeast ferments are used and the rule is as little intervention as possible. Greystone is still working towards being fully organic.Waipara Sleeper: In the morning we had checked to see when the Weka Pass railway was running and found it would be running on Sunday but in the summer they now have to use a Diesel locomotive rather than their steam engine - the last steam train had been two weeks ago so we were not too inclined to go on it. We then reached Waipara Sleepers, a campsite which also has a number of cabins built into old railway carriages and stopped to have a look to see if there had been any cancellations and found there was still one of the old guards van available for a night. There are three vans, sitting in a neat row, each on a short length of railway track. Two were already booked,including the one we had in 2012 which has a brass double bed, a seating area with three original red upholstered railway seats, and an additional balcony built on the side with table and chairs. Our vans very similar but with double bunks.
In the evening we used the barbeque to cook some of our steak with a barbequed sweet corn - the best way. We had some of the Greystone Trophy winning Pinot Noir which is made in a rather different way to most wines. The fruit (as with all Greystone wines) came solely from fruit from Greystone vineyard from three North-West facing blocks sloping and steep in places with wind blown loess over clay and limestone deposits. These blocks are protected by altitude and aspect and so enjoy a long growing season and have 2500 vines per hectare on VSP two cane trellis. A warm growing season in 2012 gave ripe fruit flavours but also intense terroir-driven characters such as dried herb and spice characters.and was harvested at optimum ripeness with the grapes in healthy condition. Bunches were de stemmed before small batch fermentation around 1.8 Tonne. It was kept cool for 5 days before the fermentation started naturally with 100 % native yeasts - a much longer cold initial soak than we have ever heard of before. Post fermentation maceration was continued for up to 3 weeks to allow ripe fruit tannins to soften, flavours to deepen and gain in complexity. It was then placed in French Oak barrels of which 25% were new. Extensive blending trials were finally carried out to produce this superb wine. To quote "A wine that speaks loudly of the vineyard in which it was grown. Perfumed violets and damson plums on the nose. Dark cherry and cacao on the palate, campfire coals. Succulent, juicy fruit provides lusciousness up front and lingering acidity creates a long and svelte finish". We could not put it better and it went down very nicely with our barbeque and some cheese to follow. We saved a little to compare to our next wine.
One of the claims of the site is that one wakes up every morning to the smell of fresh hot bread baking which is “ to just to help you kick start your day and it's free first in first served.” - there are “fresh eggs at the chickens convenience.”. We couldn't’t miss the opportunity, on the basis that if no-one eats it then there will be no bread making next time, so we were up early and secured one of the three eggs and lots of the lovely crisp white bread to go with it before we left for Christchurch.
Christchurch: It was then on to the Adorian Motel close to the centre of Christchurch. We have used the Adorian several times before - it used to be run by Sushi a Siamese cat and her assistants Diane and Tom but it is in new hands. and survived the earthquakes without major damage unlike several properties down the same road. We stayed at the hotel opposite two years ago shortly after the earthquakes. The first major earthquake was in September 2010, with epicentre at Darfield some 44 kms west of Christchurch and at depth 11 kms. It was magnitude 7.1 and was followed by a serious of aftershocks. This caused the original damage and the spire of the cathedral to fall. Then the next serious earthquake was on 22 February 2011 at 12.51, with epicentre close to Lyttelton and only 6 kms from the CBD and at a depth of 5 kms. It was magnitude 6.3. It happened while we were in Hastings, just before Pauline went to the dentist to get emergency repairs done. Again it was followed by aftershocks, and more recently there was another significant earthquake on 23 December 2011. Experts say it is not unusual for there to be a 6 month gap as there had been between the 7.1 earthquake and the 6.3 magnitude aftershock. That is no comfort for those people trying to re-build their lives in Christchurch who begin repair work and then have to start again.
Lyttelton and the Steam Tug Lyttelton: We first went to Lyttelton where we hoped to see or get a trip on the Steam Tug Lyttelton which has survived the earthquakes and is is still fully operational doing regular Sunday afternoon cruises as well as specials for weddings, business functions etc. She can carry over one hundred passengers as well as a minimum crew of 12 needed to operate her safely - four in the engine room, two on the bridge as well as crew for handling mooring etc. She probably has one of the best qualified crews almost regardless of size in the world and often has four with full skippers tickets as well as the now increasingly rare engineering staff with steam tickets. It does not need to be said that they are all volunteers operating and maintaining this lovely old ship.
The Tug Lyttelton was built by Ferguson Bros. of Glasgow and was sailed out under her own steam in 1907 taking 69 days - the 6 stops for bunkering took 15 of those days. She remained in service for over 60 years and shortly afterwards the preservation society was formed. A year of work was required to recommission her and to add the extra equipment needed for her to obtain a Marine Department Passenger Survey Certificate.
She is 124' long and 25' beam and is powered by two twin compound steam engines each of which is rated at 500 HP although they did significantly better on her commissioning trials. They each drive one of her twin screws and are supplied a single four boiler with 4 fireboxes. The boiler is identical to those used on the Mauritania also built in 1907 - the difference is that she had 27 of them. Her bunkers hold 32 tons of coal and she consumes half a ton per hour at full power. She was designed to be capable of salvage use and is fitted out to a standard we found surprising with very well appointed accommodation for the officers which now provides a luxurious saloon for passengers (max 150). There is a small on-board museum with a number of interesting marine artifacts, most unfortunately not from her operational life.
A couple of years ago we had an excellent trip out to the Heads and back with a couple of slow-ups to give passengers a chance to look at rare Hectors' dolphins which are found in the Lyttelton harbour. Pete spent a long time down in the engine room. The engines have not even needed a re bore yet and bearings are inspected and adjusted every 5 years. The boilers have had new tubes 9 years ago, a major but routine operation. Overall a superb afternoon on a gloriously and beautifully maintained classic ship - may thanks to those who spent so much time talking to us. It is surprising she is not better known and advertising is perhaps deliberately kept low key to restrict her to enthusiasts - they knew nothing of her in the Christchurch Information Office or the Motel. We were disappointed to find she was doing a special trip when we got there and the next public sailing was too late in the day for us.
Lyttelton Town: Lyttelton itself was badly damaged in the 22 February earthquake and was at the epicentre. Fortunately the tunnel remained intact although the buildings at the portal were damaged. Lyttelton itself suffered and many houses on the hillside are insecure or falling and buildings in the centre are damaged or demolished. The information office has moved to a modified container and likewise some of the banks. There is a pub, again created from containers, in the main street. It is very much better than when we came two years ago and there is however a great spirit in the town and little parks have sprung up and there are Plenty Share stalls where people share produce on the main street. To quote " Food Swap Stall - Bring, exchange and share your homemade and homegrown food. Leave goods on the stall Anytime - Take what you like Anytime"
Lyttelton Timeball Station: A major loss has been the Timeball one of the properties owned by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust that we joined many years ago - it has reciprocal rights with the UK National Trust which we find useful in the UK. Accurate timekeeping is an essential part of navigation and finding the Longitude was not solved fully until the invention of the chronometer in the latter half of the 18th century. The accuracy of the chronometers was essential to navigation (1 second error corresponds to about 460m at the equator) so they had to be checked whenever possible and visual signals became an important feature of many ports. The visual signal was often a large spherical ball, the Timeball, which was dropped at a known time. The first Timeball station was built at Greenwich in 1833 and gradually others were built around the world. The Lyttelton Timeball, built in 1876, was the third in New Zealand and the only survivor. It was one of only a small number still operational in the world. The Lyttelton Timeball Station is unusual in that it has a dedicated castle like building built of Oamaru limestone and local Scoria (volcanic stone) sited so it was visible from all of the port and most of the town. From 1876 to 1934 a ball dropped from the mast at 1300 (sometimes 1530). The mechanism was from the German firm Siemens Bros. and the astronomical clock was from Edward Dent and Co of London. The operational use was discontinued in 1934 when it was replaced by radio although the use of flags form the same site used for notifying the arrival of ships continued till later. The tower itself was severely damaged and much fell to the ground - the remainder is being dismantled stone by stone. The mechanism is apparently relatively unscathed although the building was damaged. The road up to the area was closed, so we do not know how much demolition work has taken place, but there was no evidence of anything on the corner on the hill.
Christchurch's Cardboard Cathedral: When we last came to Christchurch two years ago most of the central area was still in the Red Zone which was totally inaccessible to locals or visitors and most of the work was in make the remaining buildings secure, or more often demolishing them. At that time there was some controversy over the level of destruction of the heritage of Christchurch buildings but few could argue as there was little information and the aftershocks were still continuing. The Cathedral has always been one of the buildings which every visitor knew and was a symbol of the city.
The controversy has become extreme in the case of the Cathedral. A temporary Cardboard Cathedral has been built at a considerable cost with the scheme, it seems, largely forced through by the Lady Bishop who was brought in from Canada, despite a large amount of disquiet. We have tried to keep an open mind so one of the first things we did was to go to see the new Cathedral which has finally opened. It is clear many of the objectives were good and the architect has done some remarkable work in the past.
The building was designed pro bono by Shigeru Ban, who is is a famous Japanese architect, best known for his innovative work with paper, particularly cardboard tubes used rapid, efficiently, ecologically friendly and recyclable housing for disaster victims including aftermath of the Kobe earthquake. Larger Cardboard projects include the the Japanese pavilion building at Expo 2000 in Hanover. The original concept was an A frame building based on Cardboard tubes above a series of recycled Containers. The concept however ran into a series of fundamental problems, in particular the inability of NZ firms to build the thickness and strength of tubes and the inability to meet the rigorous construction codes in New Zealand. The design was also targeted at a building which put forward as a transitional Cathedral was also envisaged to actually have a life of 50 years. The end result is that the cardboard is now little more than cosmetic in the Cardboard Cathedral and all the structural loads are actually taken by a laminated wooden structure within the cardboard tubes. The same problems had occurred with the Expo 2000 building where again extensive use had to be made of wood making it a hybrid, albeit cost effective, building.
When we approached the building it did not seem that impressive from a distance but it seemed unexpectedly to grow in size and stature as we approached. It is a basic A frame structure cased totally in polycarbinate sheet which reaches almost to ground level with most of the end composed of stained glass sheets. Inside it soars to 70 feet above the altar. The roof appears to be supported by 2 feet diameter cardboard tubes held up by eight shipping containers which form the walls. The foundation is concrete slab. The 96 (78 visible within the church) tubes covering up the laminated wood beams have two-inch gaps between each so that light can filter into the cathedral make it very light and airy with the spacious air added to by the back wall consisting of triangular pieces of stained glass. The chairs follow the theme and are made from laminated wood. Most of the remaining structures are in cardboard tube and laminated wood (similar in appearance to a coarse plywood) with exceptions being the lectern and the Bishops chair which are the only items which were rescued from the real Cathedral before any further salvage efforts were thwarted.
The cost of this Cardboard Cathedral escalated to NZ$5.9m and the Council have refused to transfer the grants for the original Cathedral upkeep to it and the use of the Insurance money made available for rebuilding has been apparently determined to be illegal (The Press (Christchurch). 27 July 2013).
Whilst we were walking round the centre of town we came upon a shop which had become the focus of the efforts to preserve the heritage buildings in Christchurch, including the Cathedral and were putting together a major petition to parliament which seems to be the only place with the powers to over rule the hasty activities which are taking place. Many believe the powers which were put in place when the earthquake took place are now leading to an unnecessary loss of "listed" heritage buildings. A dictatorship, preferably benign is needed when emergencies and war strike but eventually democracy needs to once more replace it and almost everyone we spoke to was concerned that the situation was no longer fully under control. To an outsider some of the decisions seem difficult to understand and a small number of people with strong views on the future of Christchurch seem to be determining the way forwards and steamrolling any people, buildings and heritage which gets in the way of their vision. Even major buildings put up in 2011 exceeding te latest standards are planned to be demolished as they do not fit the master plan and heritage buildings needing minimal work are being allowed to be destroyed. There must be some method behind such madness - at the best it is a communications problem but on the basis of the information we were given we could not understand the cultural vandalism which is being enacted.
That said the progress since our last visit appears impressive with a number of streets and areas restored to normality however much of the appearance of progress is because the damaged buildings have been taken down and much of the "Red Zone" has been bulldozed flat. One sign of obvious progress is that the trams are once more running, in fact it seems they have more historic trams than ever. There are also a number of newly built hotels already in business.
Banks Peninsular and Akaroa: It was then time to go on to the Banks Peninsular and Akaroa. The Banks Peninsular is a very self contained area with a rugged coastline to the south-east of Christchurch. It has a lot of associated history and was originally a French colony, having been purchased by a whaling captain in 1838. The French had sent a couple of ships intending to raise the flag there and claim the whole of South Island for France but were delayed by repairs after a storm and after the French sailors were indiscreet the repairs went slow and there was time for a British frigate to get there a couple of days ahead and raise the union Jack in 1840 shortly just before the French settlers arrived – despite considerable disappointment they decided to continue their plans for the settlement. The permanent population is only 550 but there are many holiday homes. The road down the Peninsular to Akaroa is winding and has lovely views - one needs to allow a good hour and a half for the 80 kms, even without photo stops or the mandatory stop at Barry's Bay cheese factory where we bought a small stock only as it is quite expensive although very good. We did not stay in Akaroa itself but stopped 10 km short at the Duvauchelle Holiday Park which has fabulous views across the harbour and some excellent cabins - we had one which had started life as the changing rooms for the adjacent tennis court so we had a toilet but no shower and basic cooking facilities. It caught the evening sun on the front and in the morning we could move to a sun trap in front of the tennis courts. We also looked at the Little River Camp ground and with its eclectic collection of old huts, a communal tepee, native habitat and even mud slides - the cabins were taken but worth a look if one wants something different.
The next day we decided to take the high road round the Banks Peninsula looking down on Akaroa harbour from all sides of the old crater walls before descending to Akaroa itself. The views all the way round are excellent and we stopped many times and did a number of side trips we had missed out on our last visit. Akaroa itself has a small but interesting museum covering the French background and also Whaling, the original activity in the area. Other than the museum we found the French influence disappointing little in evidence. Akaroa is the departure point for a number of Dolphin watching and Whale watching trips which need to be booked well in advance. Otherwise the town has no more to offer than many other places - the scenic drives are the highlight with the many side roads to small ports to explore. It takes a full day to do do justice to the round trip.
We walked round the old town which still has a French influence. Jewellery made of the unusual and expensive Blue Pearl is sold at the wharf and there are many craft shops and souvenir shops, as well as pavement cafés and fish-and-chip shops. Local seafood, fish, cheeses, beers and wines are delicious. We bought some local very red salmon, both smoked and fresh in the La Boucherie du Village - it is farmed in the sea but has a richer red colour than we have seen previously. The store had an impressive collection of French and European foods including pheasant but at $69 each we decided to pass and keep to the local specialties instead and also bought some Akaroa lamb. Although very close to Christchurch, which is just over the hill, there seemed to be no structural damage although some of the public and historic buildings were closed, awaiting structural checks. the Coronation Library has however reopened since our visit on the Queen Mary last year and we spent some time in there talking to the curator.
Akaroa Lighthouse: Our final visit in Akaroa was to the Lighthouse. This imposing, six-sided, wooden lighthouse is one of the last of the "standard" design of wooden lighthouses particular to New Zealand.The lighthouse was first built on a rugged headland at the entrance to Akaroa Harbour, more than 80 metres above sea level. The site was chosen in 1875 and the lighthouse built in 1878-79, to a design that was developed by an engineer, John Blackett, for New Zealand conditions. The materials were brought in by ship to a landing in Haylocks Bay, near the site, and hauled up a specially built road to the top of the headland. A road from Haylocks Bay was constructed first to allow building supplies into site. The road, 500 metre long was dynamited out of solid rock for nearly its entire length and took 10 months to complete. The lighthouse frame was kauri with a double skin, the bottom half of which was filled with ballast to hold it down after a southerly storm completely demolished the first framework during construction. It was a rugged and bleak site - Mr William Black, overseer of the construction work, died of exposure while traveling from the site to Akaroa Town in 1879.
The light first shone on 1 January 1880. It had clockwork mechanism which required winding every two hours so was always manned. The light was originally kerosene but latter changed to a double bulb system. In 1977, the old lighthouse was replaced by an automatic light. The following year a Lighthouse Preservation Society was formed in Akaroa and bought the lighthouse and equipment for $1. By the year's end the tower had been cut into three pieces and manoeuvred over steep and narrow Lighthouse Road down to Akaroa, where it was re-assembled on Cemetery Point. Its historic equipment, which had been salvaged before the tower was moved, was then re-installed and lovingly restored by The Akaroa Lighthouse Preservation Society. A roster of volunteers 'man' the light house to enable the public to visit and view this iconic historic Akaroa landmark and it is open for viewing Sundays 2-4pm and guess what day it was! We spent some time there looking round and talking as one does.
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