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Maroi Pai and the cliff that ended my shortcut

We discovered French cooking in Akaroa

Josie Martin's masterpiece

As close to the crater as we dared

February 18, 2017


43'48 S 172'57 E

The return to Christchurch found us at the Quake Museum dedicated to the 2010 and 2011 catastrophes that leveled this city. Of note was that 2016 marked a record year with 32,828 attendees recorded nationwide. The museum did an excellent job of educating me on 'liquefaction' which happens when the top level of soil and rock are rendered into a fluid like dust by the quake's reverberating shock waves. This, and not the ground opening up, destroys the stability of the surface which brings down buildings.

A film played citizens telling their stories. A teacher, on break in the lounge when it happened, returned to her empty rubbled classroom, hung her sweater over the back of her chair and searched the desk for her cell phone.

A policeman, guarding prisoners in basement cells, handcuffed them together and led them through the wreckage to the park evacuation zone, grabbed sheets of blank paper and found a judge among the gathered survivors who signed scribbled orders to release two offenders judged to be safe and send the others to the prison. He then drove the bad characters to the penitentiary.

Allen returned to help us cast off our lines as we were leaving. I asked him for his story. Lyttelton had been the epicenter.

Allen did not work at Lyttelton then. Instead he was at motor vehicles testing new drivers in Christchurch and was on a test. He was sitting in the passage seat with a young man attempting to parallel park while the vehicle slid and crash sideways into vehicles in front, behind and across the street.

'I flunked him.'

We sailed out of Lyttelton for Pigeon Bay followed by a huge cloud of black smoke from an out of control brush fire consuming houses in the hills just to the south. Pigeon Bay was too smoky and we continued along the coast circling the peninsula to the other side upwind of the fire. We anchored in Flea Bay, a marine reserve that featured Hector's porpoises, Little Blue Penguins and fur seals.

We arrived in Akaroa the next day, a much larger arm formed from a volcano crater and anchored off the town which was originally settled by the French. Tthey arrived in 1840 on the Comte de Paris expecting to establish a colony. But the Treaty of Waitangi had just been signed giving their promised colony to the British. Their promised estates evaporated.

The disappointed settlers now had no money to buy the promised land and without a ticket home, the settlers had to support themselves by growing food and selling what they could make to the whalers.

Tourists come today to see the charming town, walk the hills, discover the sea life and visit the Giant House, an extraordinary art work by Josie Martin. Her work is a joyful explosion of Miro, Dali and Chagall.

The cruise ships bring in landing fees of $ 15-20,000 each time one anchors in the harbor to unload deep-pocketed silver-haired passengers. These ships arrive five days a week in season. The town needs to upgrade their health care facility and wants to double the levy.

With a cruise ship scheduled in today we slipped the anchor and moved a few miles to Robertson Bay and now we have a light drizzle. After so much dryness the several thousand residents that live just over the mountain where the smoke is coming from must be rejoicing.

February 21, 2017

Flea Bay

43'52 S 173'00E

After drizzly days which dowsed the fires, the sun came out and we rowed the dingy to a derelict dock to explore a Maori Pa at the end of steep peninsula. At the time of Captain Cook the Maoris prized flat topped high grounds accessible by a narrow neck of land which could be easily guarded.

I lead up the well-worn path and soon was climbing and crawling on all fours up a foot wide path with steep drops to rocks and the sea on both sides. After a hundred meters, wondering why the Department of Conservation would fashion a trail that clearly endangered trampers, I reached a dead end cliff and realized that this was a mistake from the beginning. We retraced our path and found an easy trail wide enough for a 4x4 that took us signposted to the Pa.

After a lunch at the Harbar, a waterside restaurant, and provisioning I suggested that we sail to Scenery Cove and then spend the night in Flea Bay. Scenery Cove was highlighted in the cruising guide as a chance to see an underwater volcano crater and the distinct geology formed by the activity. We nosed Onora into the designated spot but the surge was too high to go in far into it. We backed out for the second time that day and sailed on.

This peninsula was once covered with trees but has long been denuded into grazing land. It is still impressive. The land undulates in high brown pastures that halt as cliffs falling into the sea. The bays that are not crater formed are sunken valleys. At the head of each stands a remote farmstead that would have been reached by the sea but is now connected by road from Christchurch.

For us it is a bucolic scene that we know few are able to experience as the sea here can be treacherous.

- [ Part II ] -




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