Thursday, February 07, 2008

Waitangi Day

Waitangi Day celebrates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand's founding document, on that date in 1840. Or in other words, a public holiday in summer to go and enjoy yourself. After a few days of low 20's shrouded in cloud, today is a beautiful blue sky day albeit slightly windy.

Lou and I decide to pack a picnic and take a drive north up the coast. Unlike other parts of the country, there is no coastal road and instead we follow Route 1 as it mirrors the coastline a few kilometres inland.

We pass Woodend where Keith and Jen took us a while ago which they initially found taking (or in their case, not taking) a turn off towards Oxford and my cousins House in West Rangiora. By the way, I have placed a map link on the left hand side of the blog as a reference to some things I will mention and other things I will remark upon so you might be more clued in as to who, where, how and what I am talking about since it will prove useful to those reading this outside New Zelaand and to those thinking of coming over to visit and places they might like to visit on day trips from Christchurch.

There are two beaches notated on our map north of Christchurch, Leithfield and Amberley beach, located around 35km and 45km from Christchurch repsectively. We decide to stop at Leithfield on the way to Amberley mainly because we are hungry and the beach has an adjoining motor campsite. Taking a brief walk onto the beach, it is empty, windswept and ultamitely not very interesting. It is certainly no good for picnicing on and if I had to camp here it would be because our tyre had a flat late in the evening and the spare was missing.

We reverse and drive back down the unsealed road gravel road back towards the highway. Incidentally, the roads in New Zealand or at least the roads off the main roads are not up to the same standard as in the UK and Ireland. Most are covered in stones and require driving along them at 20-30kph (unless you drive a 4WD and don't care about blasting past other drivers scattering stones to the four winds under your wheels).

We take another right turn further down the road and make our way to Amberley. Unforunately this beach makes Leithfield look like a gem and there is no beach to speak off except rolling waves pounding the shoreline. Nevertheless we take out our lunch and watch the surf as it breaks and seagulls fly against the wind fighting to land on the rocky beach. Ironically this place has more visitors as car fulls of teenagers compete with loner drivers only there to soak up whatever atmosphere they can and read the paper and contemplate (possibly why they came there in the first place).

Undeterred by our somewhat futile journey we head back to Christchurch. Put positively, this informs us where not to go for a day drip and will save us a 100km roundtrip as now we know that Woodend is not only closer but infinetly better. It is a beautifully sandy beach and has several amenities such as a cafe and (comically awful) crazy golf course.

The remainder of the afternoon is spent relaxing under a hot summers day reading the paper and sipping on gin and tonics - a decidely better end to this part of the day. I begin a new book less than 2 weeks after finishing Whit by Ian Banks. I have never read more than since arriving here and I can only wonder how this voracity will be maintained once the internet finds its way into the house.


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