Blog 166 The Last stretch 9th – 15th May
We say our goodbyes to Colin and get a great send off by the foundry workers. Thanks Colin. He has recommended a good stop for lunch in Palmerson used by all the miners so good value for money.
The only thing worth stopping for between here and Christchurch we are told is Moeraki boulders. We park up and walk down to the beach where we find ‘the giants have been playing marbles’. The boulders are only on this stretch of the beach. You can even tell where the giants got a bit enthusiastic and one of the ‘marbles’ broke open revealing all the colours inside.
The perfectly spherical Moeraki Boulders are believed to be 60 million years old and are scattered along the beach. Others can be seen emerging from the sandstone cliffs. Each boulder weighs several tonnes and is up to two metres high. According to Maori legend, the boulders are gourds washed ashore from the great voyaging canoe Araiteuru when it was wrecked upon landfall in New Zealand hundreds of years ago. Scientists explain the boulders as calcite concretions formed about 65 million years ago. Excerpt from Wikipepia – “The main body of the boulders started forming in what was then marine mud, near the surface of the Paleocene sea floor. Their spherical shape indicates that the source of calcium was mass diffusion, as opposed to fluid flow. The larger boulders, 2 metres (6 feet) in diameter, are estimated to have taken 4 to 5.5 million years to grow while 10 to 50 metres (30 to 150 feet) of marine mud accumulated on the seafloor above them. Crystallization of calcium and carbonates around charged particles gradually formed the boulders in a pearl-like process that took as long as four million years. After the concretions formed, large cracks known as septaria formed in them. Brown calcite, yellow calcite, and small amounts of dolomite and quartz progressively filled these cracks when a drop in sea level allowed fresh groundwater to flow through the mudstone enclosing them.”
The soft mudstone containing the boulders was raised from the seabed around 15 million years ago becoming what is now the cliff face. The waves, wind and rain are excavating them one by one. This gives the impression that they are rolling their way to the sea. The sea ultimately destroys them as well by cracking them open along the seams of calcite which cause weaknesses in the rock. We admire them, stand on them and photograph them before having an ice cream in the nearby cafe.
Back on the trail to Timaru we pass through the township of Oamuru, I spot a sign which points down to the ‘historic town’ and the building I spy at the end of the street looks intriguing. We turn back and park up. It turns out Oamru has a wealth of imposing historic commercial buildings, the local limestone proved an unbeatable building material as it was soft enough to saw into blocks and shapes but it hardened when exposed to the air. The town flourished and there is a mosaic of styles from Gothic revival to neoclassical Italianate and Greek.
The building that initially caught my eye is the steampunk HQ building which has a highly modified steam engine outside. The crane in the back yard is equally modified. The town also houses Oamru Cycle Works a small unassuming building amongst the grandure that you might think is just for show until you read the sign and realise they are still a specialist penny farthing manufacturer and supplier. We wander round the streets marvelling at the grandeur, Kiwi’s always say they have no history but a lot of British historic buildings have been subject to ‘renovation’ in the name of progress. It is a delight to see this thriving town as it may have looked in the 1800′s.
It is now late and we push on towards Timaru and Colleen and Jack, the lovely couple who befriended us way back in Greymouth on the way to Arthur’s Pass. We said we would try to catch up again before we left. They had almost given up on us assuming we had already left NZ. Colleen has cooked a big lamb roast which reminds us of Sunday dinners at home with Kev’s mum and is just as yummy. We are shown our room and I instantly feel like a princess it is all girly and purple with dolls everywhere.
We wake to the reminder that Christchurch is still shaking they had another 5.3 aftershock last night but we felt nothing out here. We have to push on as time is tight but it was so good to catch up again and have time to chat this time round. It’s a fairly easy run to Dave and Nancy in Templeton and we arrive 2.30 ish.
Nancy saw us coming and comes out to greet us along with Penny their lovable jack russel. They also have Oscar and Georgie two Burmese cats who think they’re dogs. After tea and yummy home made cake we set to emptying the various panniers and cleaning the contents ready for shipping.
This pretty much takes up the afternoon and all the next day and most of the day after. We also get confirmation of our visas we’re in woo hoo! A lot of the paperwork is coming together we have renewed the medical insurance, we also find the boat is leaving later so we get another days grace. Kev even finds time to scrub his bike jacket and trousers clean. We sort through our stuff and decide to send our handmade knives home apparently Australia is a bit twitchy about knives and we don’t want them confiscated. Having cleaned as best we can we need to deliver the bike to the depot tomorrow. It has been an absolute pleasure to stay with Nancy and Dave. Nancy spent a lot of her life in Australia and has a daughter there we will try to look up.
It’s an easy ride to Christchurch and the shipping depot where we get the bike all measured up and the fee sorted. We ask if we can drop it off later as we want to show it to Drew and his family first. Kev and Drew were next door neighbours as kids back in England and it’s been a while since they’ve caught up. From here we head to the airport to sort the carnet.
We head across town to Drew’s passing a lot of the damaged areas some buildings have been knocked down to start a new. Drew is out near the source of the February earthquake the roads have been re-tarmacked and some bridges are higher than the roads so have little ramps. There are still large quantities of portaloos in the streets although most houses including Drew’s are back on mains and at night most of the houses on the hill are in darkness the occupants having fled to second homes if they had them.
We barely have time for a cup of tea before we need to remove the bags that we will take on the plane and get ready. This time we have to remove the roof and fold down the screen to reduce the height as it’s travelling in a container and we are charged by volume. This done we zoom back off to the depot and drop off the bike. Drew gives us a lift back via a tour of the damage in the Sumner area which is quite shocking in places. Tomorrow is our last day in New Zealand and Drew has said we can borrow his Ute to go out for the day.
The sun is out to give us a good send off and we are driving up to the Akaroa peninsula. We get to drive through the Lyttleton tunnel which has now reopened it is bit like driving into a shipping wharf as there are big containers everywhere, this we find out later is to ensure if the cliff slips it won’t hurt anyone. The drive is beautiful even in a car swooping and coastal passing through bays until we get to the what was the French settlement of Akaroa. England and France were both keen to colonise NZ, this peninsula was as far as the French got.
Parking up we wander around the immediate area there is a fuel station which has obviously been here ‘forever’ as it has two old style pumps next to the modern one. Also in town is an old pump house which looks interesting, we go to view inside the pump house but unfortunately this is barricaded off due to earthquake damage. The town is beautiful and set alongside the harbour it makes a pleasant walk to explore it. There is a French cemetery here and other evidence of their occupation in the architecture.
It is a glorious day not a cloud in the sky just right for an ice cream, we count out the pennies but after putting some fuel in the Ute we only have enough left for lunch as it’s our last day there is no point in withdrawing any more NZ dollars so we have to do without. We jump back in the Ute this time I get to drive and head further up towards the cafes, pier and lighthouse. It is more picturesque here the houses are definitely more colonial. Although it is now a bustling cafe culture sea front town you can see evidence of it’s history as a whaling station by the giant whaling pots used to melt blubber down on the sea front. It would have been a completely different town then.
It was a long drive in so all too soon we have to start back, for a change I take the high road so we get to look down on the bay before rejoining the coast road back. As I haven’t ridden or driven anything for a while it is a pleasure and the road is fantastic.
Back at Drew’s it’s Pork stir fry for dinner, we have an early flight so we will wait at the airport. Drew drop us of early evening so he can go home to relax. We now have 10hrs or so to kill. At approximately midnight we are politely booted out of the departure lounge and into the arrivals lounge, we can go back in around 3am when it reopens. It will give us a chance to catch-up with the blogs as there is not much else to do.
At 3am it’s back into departures and we check our bags in at 4, the flights not until 6am so we manage to snatch a little sleep alternately. Grabbing one last quick picture we step off New Zealand soil for the last time and onto the plane. It looks quite full at the front, we reserved two aisle seats at the back and beauty we both have three seats to ourselves so can grab 3 hours much needed shut-eye.
Landing at Sydney passport control and customs is a breeze and we are soon heading out to the station to catch a train to East Hills where Graham and Cindy have offered to put us up until the bike gets here in a week or so. They give us a nice soft landing and pick us up from the train station before feeding us tea and biscuits to revive us. The sun is shining we have a new city and ultimately a new country to explore starting right now if we can stay awake that is! Hello Sydney here we come!