New Years Day – we left Rangiora and drove westward for a drive. Checked out the Public Domain in Cust which was OK but we wanted to travel a little further and ended up in a large Rest Area just out of Oxford for the night.
Next day we headed to Sheffield via the Waimakariri Gorge Bridge. A great free camp there overlooking the river, which we will put into our memory-bank for another time. Watched a lone fisherman standing in the river casting for ‘the big one’ but if he did get it that day…we missed the action!
Retraced our steps back through Oxford and went to investigate the Ashley Gorge and Glen Tui areas. Forecast rain had well and truly set in however, so the ‘beautiful’ picnic areas and walks were too sodden to enjoy…oh well…another day!
Took refuge in the DOC camp a bit further along at Wooded Gully. A great site with an awesome view looking back down the hill towards the coast. Stayed there two nights and finally got rewarded with the view, when the rain decided to stop, as we moved out on the morning of the third day.
Ended up back in Rangiora for a couple of nights while we explored Woodend, Pines Beach and Kairaki where the Waimakariri River empties into the sea (obviously a popular fishing spot). Then passed through Kaiapoi to look at the settlements on the other side of the river: Stewarts Gully (lots of ramshackle huts) and Broadlands. The Broadlands area is Red Zoned following the earthquakes and has basically been ‘dismantled’. Just fenced off empty land, abandoned houses and deserted rural streets to see. A few houses are still holding out (probably the ones that didn’t have any insurance cover) but the area is so depressing and sad I felt like crying. To us ‘out-of-towners’ the news coverage missed these smaller areas and how the earthquakes impacted on them – so it was a bit of a reality shock to us.
It wasn’t till we arrived at Spencerville a bit further down the coast that we started to see any building remedial work being carried out. We lunched in a large public park at the end of the road and there were lots of people about having picnics, walking or cycling in the forest and the Holiday Park here also appeared to be quite busy.
Came across a German couple frantically trying to straighten out a crumpled bumper on their rental motorhome before they took it back to the Depot later that day. We tried to help as much as we could with a few tools but it was still very noticeable and no doubt they would’ve had to fall back on their insurance cover in the end.
Arrived in Christchurch on 06 January and spent two days shopping and searching for ‘things’ we needed and also purchased a couple of new bicycles. We just bought ‘cheap’ ones as they are going to get ‘filthy’ on the back anyway, so we won’t be crying over ‘expensive’ ones going the same way!
We took advantage of the Christchurch’s new Freedom Camping Bylaw and found a couple of local parking spots in the suburbs where we stayed overnight without incident.
We also spent five days with my Brother and Sister-in-Law in the Waimairi Beach area and it was great catching up with them and their family. They have a great garden and we gorged on fresh picked strawberries, raspberries, apricots, cherries, plums and nectarines…yumm!
Enjoyed a visit to the Air Force Museum at Wigram – my Brother is ex-Air Force and most of the aircraft on display are ones he worked on during his Service time. He had information and ‘stories’ to tell as we walked around which made it all the more interesting.
We parked up on my nephew’s empty section just around the corner from my Brother’s house. He’s waiting for all the ‘red tape’ to be completed before building can commence on his new house. Just as they get one issue resolved with Council – more issues crop up. All very frustrating for sure. We did enjoy our ‘exclusive’ parking spot though and joked that we were going to advertise camping space on Facebook and collect a fee (hmmm…imagine what the neighbours would have thought of that…or my nephew for that matter).
Before leaving Christchurch we visited the Orana Wildlife Park – a place we’ve ‘shelved’ on previous trips. They have some animals on display that we have not seen in other zoos…African Wild Dogs, Tibetan Yaks to name a couple. All the animal feeding times are well spaced so that you can follow them around and get to see them all if you wish…lions, hippos, giraffes, cheetahs all in the mix. The gorillas were pretty cool…the way they stare right into your eyes…you just can’t look away and wonder what they are thinking??
A new area is being prepared for Orangutans which looked almost complete so that shouldn’t be far away from opening to the public.
We over-nighted afterwards on the northern side of the city at The Groynes, adjacent to the Waimakariri River. It’s a vast public park area with lakes, streams, large picnic areas, walks and a dedicated dog exercise/play section. We ended up staying there an extra night due to a wind storm over the city that was blowing down trees, lifting roofs and whipping up dust storms down the Rakaia River, causing visibility issues on SH1. We were careful to park in an open area which was a wise choice as next morning the park was liberally strewn with branches and debris.
Moving out of the ‘big smoke’ today (16 January) and proceeding southwards again.