River: Avon River, Christchurch, NZ
River Conditions: 1.59 cumecs at Gloucester Street bridge. Water mostly clear. Grade 1.
Weather Conditions: Warm, sunny & strengthening easterly winds.
Number on Trip: 1 person.
Time on River: 1 hour.
Comments: I’d wanted to get a paddle in over the weekend but no real opportunities came up, so when we completed our game of disc golf in the Red Zone on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, I decided to take the kayak to the Antigua Boatshed and then paddle home. I quickly got ready, tossed my gear in the car, put the Blitz on the roof rack and hit the road in order to make sure I still had time to cook dinner when I got home. Drove down to the boat shed and found a park nearby and put some money in the meter to see me through until 6pm. Pulled on my paddle jacket and spray skirt, picked up the boat and paddle and wandered down to the river.
As I stood on the jetty, I watched a eel swim lazily over to check out if there was any food on offer, the punt operators were packing up, as the last tour of the day floated up and off loaded its cargo of tourists. I took a few photos and squeezed in to the Blitz and struggled to get the deck on. I launched off the jetty and floated down the first set of riffles that marked the site of the old weir, where I had first surfed in the Blitz.
I paddled on into town, passed the earthquake memorial with its fresh wreaths from the February 22nd quake anniversary, a sad reminder of events now nine years distant. Under the Bridge of Remembrance and passed The Terrace with its busy bars, restaurants and cafes. Down more riffles, the bottom of the kayak occasionally scraping on the shallow river bed, low after a dry summer.
Viewing the city from the river provides a different insight in to city life, it is a peaceful and detached transition, a quite passing through the busy, bustle or a float through the city’s quiet places where eels swim and water fowl gather.
There is a lot of work still happening along the river banks as the city moves towards its final, post-quake form. I paddled passed the new convention centre, with its mosaicked skin partially covering its still visible steel skeleton.
On through Victoria Park and passed the repaired Town Hall and its signature fountains. New building have sprung up but many sections are still in quiet holding patterns, as sites wait for repairs or new development.
Down through the Poplars and passed the Margret Mahy playground, on passed the twisted steel of the firefighters memorial, passed the grassy bank where our cat Agnesi is buried, on passed the pool where we used to launch our kayaks when we lived on Peterborough Street. The Avon Loop section is a peaceful oasis in the Four Avenues, as the river winds passed the Barbadoes Street cemetery, where many early settlers of Christchurch, rest. The opposite bank used to be home a suburb full of lovely only cottages, all now gone when the area was Red Zoned after the quakes. Currently this area is being landscaped, with new paths being added and even a new boat launching spot to replace the old jetty, twisted and broken in the big February quake. We’ll be interested in exploring this development as this was an area we used walk around regularly when we lived across the river.
Passing Pomeroy’s, home beckoned and I paddled strongly, chasing ducks and geese from my path. As I neared the Swanns Road bridge, I spotted a single female Shelduck sitting on the bank, I said “hi” as it might have been Greta, who had recently returned to the neighbourhood (but fortunately not to our home), but she didn’t really respond so it may not have been her. The evening sun made everything look so beautiful and it was a privilege to be on the river. I chose to clamber out on the bank instead of using the jetty on the other side of the river, making for a quicker walk across the Red Zone to our front door.
I put the boat and gear away, got changed in to my cycling gear, put the rice cooker on and thawed out some stir fry beef, so dinner would be partially ready when I returned with the car. The ride back to the car loosely followed the river, riding through the Red Zone to Fitzgerald Avenue and then cutting down Chester Street to cut off the Avon Loop and re-joining the river at the Poplars. Riding through the cities new shared spaces was interesting, as there don’t seem to be rules or obvious cycle ways, and tourists seem to wander around randomly, looking at the sights, while being completely obvious to anything else going on around them. Still it was good to see some of the new developments from a cyclists perspective and to actually get at least one ride in for the Aotearoa Bike Challenge, that is running over February. It took about 15 minutes to get back to the car, somewhat quicker the one hour in the kayak. After putting the bike on the rack, I went down to the river for another look, spotted a smaller eel and then back to the car and home directly though the city centre. Put the bike away and managed to get dinner on the table shortly after 7:30, feeling somewhat tired but happy.