Monday, February 06, 2012

Sign of the Packhorse

Way back in 2007 I wrote a list of list of 27 things to do. I think I was having a rough time and was looking for some inspiring things to do to get me out of the rut. It seems to have been a good idea because I’m now on to a list of 32 things and I get the feeling that the lists will be around for a while yet.

But I’ve had quite a few repeat offenders on the lists over the years that have never been crossed off. One in particular was to spend a night at the Sign of the Packhorse. Now, for those that are not familiar with the Port Hills in Canterbury, there is a series of old stone lodges that were used back in the days when it took a long time to ride your horse from Akaroa to Christchurch. These days, Sign of the Takahe is a fancy restaurant (or was before it was closed with earthquake damage), Sign of the Kiwi is a cafĂ©, Sign of the Bellbird is a cute ruin and Sign of the Packhorse is a Department of Conservation hut. Every year I’ve thought “I should really get around to spending a night at the Sign of the Packhorse” but it’s never eventuated. Until this year, when I was dragged out by two local Poms to escape the election craziness.

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After doing our civic duty and voting, we set off into the sunshine.  Dropping a car at Diamond Harbour, we wound our way through the countryside to Kaituna Valley.  We then shouldered heavy packs and set off up the hill.  Now, one of the reasons I’ve never done this trip is that it really isn’t very far and there haven always been more exciting places to go.  I mean, a two hour stroll up a hill amongst the sheep in the paddocks doesn’t really inspire excitement when you live so close to the Southern Alps.  But it was a pleasant wander and we saw plenty of interesting things, even if the poms spent most of the time photographing weeds like foxgloves and gorse.  Given that we had such a short walk, we had loaded our packs up with ridiculous things and they were a lot heavy than was strictly necessary.  Which required a considerable number of stops.  Which resulted in a considerable number of photographs of somewhat random things. But they were pretty.

Tents had been loaded into our packs in anticipation of the eight bunk hut being full of children.  And sure enough, we were greeted by whoops of childish delight as we crested the ridge, so the tents were gratefully unpack and set up in the wind.  Luckily my list had stated Spend a night at Sign of the Packhorse not in.  

The cooker was unpacked for an obligatory cup of tea and then dinner of spicy noodles and wine soon followed.  Then the evening was wiled away beating Giles and Alex the Younger at cards.  And trying to ignore the obnoxious guy who knew everything about everything and insisted telling us about it.  More annoying were the constant updates about the election results which we had specifically gone bush to escape.  Sigh…..

A somewhat blustery night awoke to bring a glorious day, and after a full English breakfast, we set off up the hill towards Mount Herbert and beyond to Diamond Harbour.  After winding through some nice regenerating bush, we came out into the gorse and the heat and the steep.  But pleasant views out over Lyttelon Harbour and Banks Peninsula.  A quick lunch was had at the Mount Herbert Shelter and then it was downhill towards Diamond Harbour.

It was quite satisfying to catch up with and pass the annoying guy who had left the hut obnoxiously early to rush off and catch the ferry, which he distinctly missed by at least 5 hours.  And then onwards and downwards in the heat, across the hard grassy paddocks, towards the ice creams calling us from the Diamond Harbour dairy.  Those last few steps seemed to take hours out there in the baking Canterbury heat.  But the ice cream was definitely worked for. 

Did this expedition live up to the five years of anticipation?  I think so.  But I shouldn’t really let things linger on the list for that long unless there is a really good reason.  And laziness isn’t a good reason!  Hopefully that won’t happen again!

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