Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Summertime in Christchurch

It is finally time to leave the southern hemisphere, so this will be my last post, apart from one to put up a few more photos (thanks to Duncan for an excellent job while I was in the deep field, and apologies for the lack ever since).

Yesterday was the usual Pippa-day-off. My bike was delivered to my hotel at 9:30am, and it came with a superb map which included suggested cycle routes, so I headed off for a lap of Christchurch.

I followed the Avon River out towards the coast, and made a sharp turn to the left before it headed into the sea, in the direction of Bottle Lake Forest. This was on a separate map on the back, and careful inspection revealed that the two segments of map possibly joined up, so I merrily cycled off the top of the main map and luckily picked up some signs to the forest.

There followed a fun 2 hours of mountain biking on some flowing singletrack through pine-planted sand dunes - a cross between Culbin and Portugal. It was just the right standard for the keen-but-incompetent rider, without too many rocks or roots to send you tumbling into the bushes. I carried out several 'honourable dismounts' (on steep uphills) and had a few 'lucky escapes' (on steep downhills) with only one ungraceful disaster due to a massive hole hidden beneath grass on an otherwise flat riverbank. The bike and I both survived relatively unscathed.

I'd been cycling for 3 1/2 hours as I hit the north beach, so jumped in the sea for half an hour - this constituted a break! I then carried onto Sumner Beach and rewarded myself with an ice cream in preparation for 'the hill'. I knew the road down from Evans Pass was closed, but I was hoping to be able to cycle to the top for a view down into Lyttleton. Sadly the road was closed from halfway up the hill, so I never made the top :-(

I had to put that ice cream to good use, so I headed back to the coast and picked up the Heathcote River, following this inland for about 10km before shooting back across town to my hotel for a 5pm collection. Altogether I estimated that I cycled between 85 and 90km in around 6 hours, with stops for swimming and ice cream: a typical 'rest day'!!

Christchurch is a beautiful city, but is clearly struggling after the earthquake, and will continue to do so for many years. Large blocks of masonry still lie where they hit the ground in the city centre, and throughout the suburbs there are twisted bridges, pavement ripped apart, and whole streets destined for demolition. This did not dampen my enjoyment of a lovely laid back city with its friendly people, and urge anyone to visit and help the city move forward.

Oh, but remember to put suncream on more than your face (the only skin I exposed in Antarctica), I now have rather pink arms. Oops.

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