Lower Kimi Akau (Shotover) Trail

A track to explore in the Queenstown area is the recently developed Lower Kimi Akau Trail, a scenic track that follows a section of the Shotover River.  It is a shared-use track for walkers and for cyclists (single track for experienced cyclists only).


Click to enlarge

The complete Lower Kimi Akau Trail is approximately 10km.  It winds its way from near the Arthur’s Point end of Littles Road down to the Old Shotover Bridge.  On this occasion, we walked a 7km section of the trail, shown by the solid red line, beginning at Fitzpatrick Road (an alternative access point) .  The broken red line leads from the Arthur’s Point end of the trail. The trail is mostly within sight of the Shotover River, dropping down to the river at times.  There is an exposed section where it would be advisable to supervise young children.

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Weka Pass Railway

Weka Pass Railway is an historic rural railway in North Canterbury, 60km north of Christchurch.  It uses vintage locomotives and carriages on the 12.8km line, previously part of the Waiau line which was closed in 1978.  The Weka Pass Railway Society purchased the section of line from Waipara to Waikari in 1983, and the totally volunteer organisation has been dedicated to the preservation of New Zealand’s rail heritage.  The locomotives and carriages are representative of those which operated on rural Canterbury Branch Lines in the heyday of New Zealand Railways.

Glenmark Station, the southern terminus and starting point

Glenmark Station was built in 1910 and served as the Mina Station on the Main North Line.  It was transported to its current location in 1987 after a local resident raised funds and made donations to preserve and transport the building.  A new roof was constructed, new foundations were made and a verandah fitted.  It has been in use since 1988.

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Day trip to Arthur’s Pass after a spring snowfall

In late September  we took a day trip on the section of the Great Alpine Highway (State Highway 73) from Christchurch to Arthur’s Pass, about 150km.  The highway over Arthur’s Pass had been closed the previous night due to the snow fall, and was only just opening between Arthur’s Pass and Otira when we arrived late morning.  


Follow the orange line (click to enlarge)


West of Springfield

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Highline at Castle Hill

In early June 2020, a highline (a type of slackline) was operating at Castle Hill.  The non-commercial highline was 145 metres long and set above magnificent weather-sculpted limestone boulders. The Castle Hill Basin sits between the Craigieburn and Torlesse Mountain Ranges, which appear in some of the images.  Castle Hill is about 95km west of Christchurch, on Highway 73. (Click any image to enlarge.)


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Mt Peel Church and the Himalayan Lilies

The Mt Peel Church is on Mt Peel  Station, in South Canterbury.  The station has been farmed by six generations of the Acland family since the station was established in 1856.  The church is open for visitors throughout the year.  The original homestead is open only on nominated days.  The  Himalayan Lilies among the trees can be seen in early December.  Nearby there are a number of walks.


Church of the Holy Innocents, Mt Peel

The heritage-listed church and the cemetery sit  below Mt Peel and have been witness to floods, droughts and heavy snow .  The exterior was constructed from greywacke boulders from the Rangitata River.  It was named in remembrance of four infants who died between 1864 and 1869 and are buried in the cemetery.  The land for the church was donated by the Aclands, and the first service was held in 1869.

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Black-billed gull colony in Central Christchurch

Central Christchurch has undergone transformation since the devastation of the 2011 earthquake, with many buildings being demolished and replaced.  However the partial demolition of one building has had unexpected consequences.  The remnants of the Price Waterhouse Cooper (PWC) building have become home to a colony of 300 rare black-billed gulls (not to be confused with the common black-backed gulls).  Prior to the earthquake the PWC building was the third highest in Christchurch with 21 floors.  Now, the remaining concrete beams  have about 150 nests perched on them.  The area is fenced and this provides a level of safety for nesting.



Found only in New Zealand and mostly in the South Island, the endangered black-billed gull (Maori name: tarapuka) usually lives on braided rivers and streams with gravel beds.  The number of birds has been in rapid decline.  Chick deaths are mostly from predation by introduced mammals such as ferrets, stoats, cats and hedgehogs.                    


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Christchurch’s Riverside Market

Inner city Christchurch is buzzing with the opening of the Riverside Market, on the corner of Cashel Street and Oxford Terrace, near the Bridge of Remembrance and, of course, close to the Avon River.  The $80 million investment is the brainchild of developers Richard Peebles, Kris Inglis and Mike Percasky, who started working on the concept four years ago.  It is an attempt to continue the rejuvenation of the central city after the devastation of the February 2011 earthquake. It is a seven day operation, opening Monday to Saturday 9am to 6pm, and Sunday 9am to 4pm.


Covering 3500 square metres, under one roof, there are food outlets, stalls and a food collective, with rooftop bars and restaurants to open soon.  The Market is linked to laneways containing boutique shops, restaurants, cafes and bars.


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Leo Tolstoy’s home in Moscow


“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy and his wife Sophia, (Repin 1907)

Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (know as Leo Tolstoy) was born into Russian aristocracy in 1828.  He became one of the world’s most famous authors, with novels such as ‘War and Peace’, ‘Anna Karenina’ , the semi-autobiographical trilogy ‘Childhood’, ‘Boyhood’ and ‘Youth’, also ‘Sevastopol Sketches’, based on his experiences in the Crimean War.   In the 1870’s, he  experienced a spiritual awakening, resulting in his becoming a pacifist . He also took up many humanitarian issues related to common people.  His writings continued, including dozens of short stories and novellas.    His ideas on nonviolent resistance, in such works as ‘The Kingdom of God is Within You’, had an impact on  influential 20th century figures including  Mahatma Gandi and Martin Luther King.

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St Petersburg on foot



Sapsan at Leningrad Station in Moscow

Our visit to St Petersburg started in Moscow, where we boarded the Sapsan  for our  trip northwest. The name Sapsan is derived from the fastest bird in the falcon family, and with a top speed of 250km it took us less than four hours to cover the approximately 700km.  With modern comforts such as internet available, and plenty to watch out the window, the time went quickly.

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