Backpacking Pensioners travel blog

Quail Island behind the mist

Quail Island jetty

A view from Quail Island

The granite cliffs on Quail Island

The ships grave yard

Views from Quail Island

Views from Quail Island

The quarantine station in the grassed area

The entrance to Lyttelton Harbour

Louise, our helpful shipping agent

Views by the River Avon in Canterbury

A view of the River Avon

Some new Christchurch residents

The Christchurch Gondolor

Christchurch and the Canterbury Plains

The crater from the rim

It's a long way down

Sylvia's Comments

Saturday dawned and it was a lovely day with just a hint of sea mist over the hills. We had been told that the boat took people to Quail Island at the week-end and as today looked promising we decided that we would head off there. Quail Island is situated in Lyttelton Harbour, about a 10 minute boat ride from the docks. The boat drops passengers off on the island and we were free to do as we wished until we were collected 3 hours later. We chose to do the round the island walk which takes 2 hours to complete.

Lyttelton Port was used as a staging post and supply base for all the early explorers going to the Antarctic. As we sailed out of the harbour it was strange to think that the SS Discovery, now berthed in Dundee, had sat in these very docks over 100 years ago.

When we got off the boat we had a steep climb up to the top of the hill to the small visitors centre. Here there was a display of information detailing the history of the island, the fauna and flora and the present work being undertaken to return it to its natural state and then re-introduce the native animals and birds. Quail Island was named after the New Zealand Quail bird that lived here and is now extinct.

We set off on our walk and were treated to some stunning views back over the water to Lyttelton and the crater rim behind the town. We found a nice seat placed strategically to give great views over the port and thought we would have our picnic lunch here. Unfortunately we had not taken account of the strong wind, and the seat was at the top of the cliffs, we did not stay there long. We continued across the island until we came to the shipwreck area. The boat staff had told us that at low tide we would be able to view the ships wrecks in this area, when we saw six ships lying about the beach or under the water we thought this must be a very dangerous area. Then we read the information board which told us the ships were brought here at various times to be scuttled, at least there were no deaths on them so no ghosts to haunt us whilst we had lunch.

After lunch we carried on along the path and past the quarry where the local prisoners would dig out the rock to be used as ballast on the sailing ships returning back to their home ports, after discharging their cargo at Lyttelton. Further round there is a small cemetery where one young man is buried, as a result of dying from leprosy. In 1909 the island was used as the first and only leprosy colony in NZ, and at its peak there were nine people housed on the island. The poor soul who died had come from one of the South Sea Islands to visit a relative and contracted the disease, a sobering thought for visitors to ponder.

As we neared the end of the walk we came across a large grassy area, which is now used as a picnic area, but was the place that in 1901 and again in 1910, Robert Scott and Amundson quarantined their dogs and ponies before setting off on their trips. A trip that was to result in triumph for one man and death for the other, and the opening up of Antarctica

We returned to the jetty and were collected by the launch and returned to our home to sit out on the deck and watch the sun set. The next day was a complete wash out with plenty of rain and the hills completely hidden from view. A day to catch up with e-mails, reading, being lazy and feeling thankful we had chosen to go to the island yesterday.

The alarm went off at 2.50am and I was up and out of bed with the TV on to watch the big match, Scotland v The All Blacks. I had been debating with the local crowd in the pub a few nights ago how it was definitely Scotland's turn to inflict a heavy defeat on the NZ team. One man, an English man had a good laugh at me, so I had to point out his team were lucky to score no points against South Africa. Out came the teams, the anthems were sung, the Haka performed and we were off. It was difficult to know who was who as both teams were nearly in identical strips, but when the tries began to be run in it was soon clear which team was which. We was 'gubbed' good and proper, how can I face them in the pub now?

Later in the day we had to head into Christchurch to meet with Louise, who is organising our motorhome shipment. She required some signatures on custom clearance forms. It seems our van has arrived today, 5 days earlier than expected. Now begins the process of getting it through quarantine, customs, roadworthy checks and registration before we can get it. Also money has to change hands, leaving ours and going to the shipping agents and the NZ Government. We have to place a bond down to prevent us selling it here; this is returnable when we ship it out at the end of our year.

When the form was duly completed we returned to Christchurch were we had a walk along the banks of the River Avon. It is very pretty as all the spring blossoms are out on the trees and the daffodils on the banks, we were even lucky to see some baby ducklings pecking away at the side of path with mum watching over very carefully.

Tuesday morning saw us hurrying up the hill along from our home to see if we could spot our motorhome sitting in the dock area, but we were not rewarded with any sightings, let's hope it really is here and not still in Melbourne. For our afternoon entertainment we took a ride up on the Christchurch Gondola to Mt Cavendish (500m) and the café-restaurant complex at the top. Here we got 360-degree views of Christchurch, the Canterbury Plains, Lyttelton Harbour and the Southern Alps in the distance. After looking at the views and travelling in the 'Time Tunnel', we set off to complete the crater rim walk. We had decided to do this walk, return to the café for a coffee and then take the bridal path walk back down the hill to home. We walked along the top following what we thought was the path but ended up at the bridal path, the one we would go down on. We had not seen any path going off to the right and it had not been very well sign posted, so a discussion was called for. Looking back up the hill to the café, which was now a long distance away, and as it was very cold and trying to rain, we both decided that we were not that thirsty and we would get a coffee at our favourite café in town, so down we went.

We had mistakenly thought walking down would be better than walking up but the path was very steep and our knees began to soon feel the pressure, the one good thing was that Lyttelton was getting closer. When we reached the end of the bridle path we hit the tarmac road, literally speaking, and found this even steeper. A little way on we met up with Arthur and Sylvia who were walking down from another trail. Unlike us they had walked up earlier in the day, walked one of the trails and were now on there way back down. We completed the journey with them and left them on the main road as we had reached our destination, The Stand where we had a warm drink and a piece of Tod's lovely home made cheesecake. And yes it was very nice. Fortified once more we headed home.

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