Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Green Energy

After 14 months at the body shop, my GT6 is almost ready to collect. It was delivered in September last year, stripped of paint and showing nearly forty years of accumulated dents and battle scars. Joe's welded up a hole inflicted by a forklift, fitted a new section of bulkhead, a dashboard frame and floor pan, and hammered and shrunk dents from every panel (including the roof!). 

Painting the body, though, was delayed by insurance work and a shortage of labour. I haven't been in Mackay in a couple of months, but asked my brother to stop in on his way to the mines. And sitting in the tropical sun, waiting for its doors, was the Mallard Missile.

Word is, it'll be home for Christmas...


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

All At Sea

When you think of the beach, you probably think of blue skies, blue seas and waves lapping on long stretches of golden sand. Well, all that's alright I s'pose...

The Kaikoura coast looking northwards. Straight from a tourist brochure...

Moeraki Boulders, on the way back north to Christchurch. Freaky geology anyone?

Manuherikia Arm, Marlborough Sounds.
The Sounds are flooded valleys, with hundreds of hidden bays and inlets, framed by dark, bush-covered hills. One of my favourite places, rain or shine.

Ngakuta Bay, Marlborough Sounds.

Cook Strait. Sometimes one of the most violent stretches of water in the world, but thankfully not today.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


I'm originally from Christchurch. A lot of visitors to New Zealand fly in or out through Christchurch, and many have lingered for a day or so to admire buildings and gardens influenced by its nineteenth century English founders. In February this year, Christchurch was made momentarily famous by an earthquake which killed 181 people and levelled large tracts of the central city and eastern suburbs. I flew back for a few days in April, but with most of the inner city cordoned off, I found it hard to get a sense of the scale of destruction. What I could see was incredible. Roads buckled, bridges destroyed, houses falling into the streets. People were keeping calm and carrying on, but remained deeply shocked, and upset anew every time an aftershock rumbled beneath their feet.

Six months on, a cold and hard winter has given way to spring. The ground has quietened if not stilled, and most of the worst damaged buildings have been demolished. I don't want to give the impression that everything's back to normal. Thousands of people have permanently left, and thousands more are in limbo as the government and insurance companies argue over whether and how to repair houses. Entire suburbs built on unstable ground may be bulldozed and turned into parkland. Businesses have migrated to the western suburbs and the traffic is far worse than I remember it. But it felt as though the city was turning a corner.

The last weekend in October was notable because the first small section of the inner city was reopened. A new City Mall had been built from shipping containers, and locals flooded in to see. I was in town after finishing the Rail Trail, so went along as well.

The new City Mall. Most of the buildings lining this section collapsed during the February quake, killing and injuring scores of lunchtime shoppers and workers. It was fitting, then, that this was the first area of the "Red Zone" to be reopened. The containers may be temporary and symbolic, but it felt good to be there.

Lichfield St. Once upon a time, this vacant site housed Fazzaz - part classic car salesroom, part auto museum, part motoring model and magazine shop. And one of my favourite parts of Christchurch.

Clarendon Towers, one of the tallest remaining buildings, was badly damaged and may yet be demolished (or 'deconstructed', a word much in vogue these days).

The Canterbury Provincial Council Buildings, like many late nineteenth century buildings, were built in the Gothic Revival style. And although appearing to have been hewn from the earth itself and strong as the roots of mountains, they crumbled.

The Dux De Lux, a famous bar and restaurant, is part of the Arts Centre. It was famous for brewing its own beer, and brilliant live music. Generations of students have misbehaved here into the small hours (me too!) Hopefully it'll get rebuilt, but the structural damage is apparently far worse than it appears from the outside.

Untouched my a@$e!

The botanic gardens. As in the City Mall, spring has produced a riot of colour.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

On yer bike!

Last month's exciting episode had me finishing a job and driving the Herald back to Brisbane. I negotiated a few weeks break before starting my next job, as some friends had invited me on a re-re-re-cycle of the Otago Rail Trail, back in New Zealand. It was my fourth time on the Trail in about ten years - yes, it really is that good!

 I won't dissect the Trail - there are plenty of websites that explain its history and what cyclists face on each section. Instead, I'll tell you why I like it - stunning, ever-changing scenery rolling by, a nice easy trail to ride on, spectacular views from places away from any road access. Silence, apart from the crunch of gravel under your tyres. The smell of wild thyme on sunny hillsides, humming with bees. Great places to stop for an emergency ice cream or beer. Soft beds and big dinners. And best of all, the banter of friends comparing their favourite parts of that day's ride.

The drive south from Christchurch was split into two days so that we could stop at Lake Tekapo. A southerly storm the day before had dumped snow right down to the lake shore. 

My new mountain bike. My old bike is now in Brisbane, so I bought another. Chances are, it'll be back to Otago before too long.

Wild thyme, smelling divine.

The Manuherikia Viaduct, ageing gracefully.

Emergency snack attack!

The Poolburn Viaduct.

This good shed was the subject of a famous painting by local artist Grahame Sydney. When the rail line closed it was relocated, but it was eventually returned to Wedderburn. No Rail Trail is complete without a photo of the green shed.

Generations of travellers on the rail line threw apple cores out the carriage window, and now the track is lined with numerous apple trees. 

Schist, a rock once baked and twisted kilometres beneath the earth's surface, meets ice clouds twisting kilometres up in a cold Spring sky. 

The shape of the landscape causes this lenticular cloud, known as the Taieri Pet.