We have arrived at my last full day in Christchurch. As you can see, I packed a lot into this relatively short trip, but it was wonderful. I got to revisit a lot of places I’d been long ago and also had time for some things I’d always wanted to do but never got around to.
I knew I had to head up to the Port Hills before I left. That was one of my favorite spots when I studied at Canterbury and a place that has always been part of my mental picture of Christchurch. The Port Hills are a short bus ride outside the city and encircle the picturesque Lyttleton Harbour. You can take a gondola up to the top or hike several different paths, the shortest (and steepest) of which is the Bridle Path. I wanted to take it all in and do some exploring, so I chose to walk up the Bridle Path.
I made it up to the summit road that runs along the tops of the Port Hills and took a much needed breather.
I then made my way along the road to Castle Rock. I had never taken the time to head over in that direction when I visited several years ago, but it had always remained in my mind, maybe because of the fact that its name contains the word “castle.”
The jagged rocks were impressive up close, and the views were fantastic. You can see the Bridle Path winding up the hillsides below. In the 19th Century, European settlers used to have to hike that route any time they traveled from Lyttleton to Christchurch and back.
My tripod came in handy up here.
I’m not as close to the edge as I look, Mom and Dad.
Castle Rock was giving Wellington a run for its money when it came to wind, so I headed back to the road and towards the lodge at the top of the gondola.
I came across some brilliantly pink flowers, which stood out against the stark brown and yellow of the hills.
Someone forgot to tell these flowers it’s Autumn.
As the path skirted the Port Hills, Lyttleton Harbour came into view in all its turquoise glory.
I didn’t try to match it on purpose, I swear.
I could see the lodge looming up ahead, promising shelter and a warm drink.
I climbed the last steep bit up to the lodge, turning around to admire the view every now and then.
At last, I was there.
I sat down at the cafe inside, which has wraparound windows that offer a lovely view of Lyttleton Harbour, Christchurch and the sea beyond. I had a green tea and thought of the times I had been there before.
After I was done, I walked along the porch outside for more amazing views.
I had a brief look through the souvenir shop downstairs, and when I took a bathroom break, I felt the walls shake. It happened so fast that I didn’t have much of a chance to react. I told myself that it was probably just the gondola docking and causing the lodge to shudder, and since no one else had reacted, I decided not to mention it. Later on, however, I checked online and saw that there had been a 3.8 earthquake. The epicenter was directly below the gondola lodge, so I wasn’t imagining it. I can’t believe I never felt an earthquake the entire time I lived there or since I’ve been in Wellington, but I feel one when I visit Christchurch for a weekend. After that minor shake, I can’t imagine what the big ones feel like.
I got a couple cheap souvenirs and headed back down the Bridle Path, saying farewell to Lyttleton Harbour, my old friend.
The walk down was quick and very quiet, as most people had already left for the day.
While I waited at the bus stop, a young guy and girl approached me and offered me a ride back into town. Yet another reason I love NZ. People go out of their way to be helpful on a regular basis.
On my last morning in Christchurch, I had time to visit the botanic gardens again before I had to head to the airport.
I went straight back to my favorite tree.
Then I did a circuit through the rest of the grounds.
Christchurch is known as “The Garden City” for a reason.
There were flowers in bloom everywhere, but I loved the giant trees most of all.
Other areas in the gardens were clearly showing signs of Fall.
So peaceful in the early morning.
Reluctantly, I headed back into town and caught a bus to the airport. When my plane took off, my window seat provided me with some stunning photo ops. The Canterbury Planes spread out below me like a patchwork quilt.
The colors of the sea beyond were incredible.
I could see the volcanic Banks Peninsula, home to Akaroa, reaching out into the distance.
Again, that water!
Less than an hour later, we made our descent into Wellington.
My trip down south flew by, but I was excited for my adventures to come when Melissa, my friend from home, would come to visit a couple weeks later. Much more on that soon!