The Banks Peninsula is simply gorgeous. Rising out of the plains of Canterbury the volvanic eruptions have created a wonderful network of hills and fingers that punctuate the sea. The land is heavily farmed and much of the native bush has gone. Ninety minutes drive from Christchurch, this short tramp starts at the top of Gebbies Pass and finishes in Diamond Harbour. We spent two days on this with two friends and arranged the cars so we could drive back from the finish.
There is a secure park at the end of a gravel road at the top of the pass, even more secure if you drive a little way up and out of sight of the road. From here the hut is a couple of hours, meandering up through paddocks and forest to a saddle on the main ridge. You can also reach it more easily and quickly from the Katuna valley, but the journey back from the end is longer.
The hut is unusual, a stone hut with three rooms and a fire for the winter. The book hinted of mice and rats so we camped outside. It is in a wonderful spot, high on the ridge with the lights of Christchurch and Lyttleton in the distance and the beautiful mixture of sea and mountains.
I emerged from the tent to see Marcel wandering around. He confessed to a sleepless night once he had realised he had left his car keys in our car. He set off and we waited for three hours, enjoying a leisurely breakfast, as he made the 7km return journey to collect the keys.
As night crept in a front was building from the south and the clouds spilled over the hills. The front never reached us but the morning was filled by mist and cloud as we followed the track around the back of Mt Bradley, surprised by the thick bush on the steep slopes. Emerging onto the ridge we quickly reached the summit of Mt Herbert and headed downhill.
As we descended we emerged from the clouds. The wind was pushing them over the ridges and into the valleys on the lee slopes, leaving the rock outcrops that form the tops poking through the cloud into the sun.
It was an easy but lengthy tramp down to the car at Diamond Bay. The track does not finish quite where the map suggests and it was further to the shop, where we had left the car than we expected. Six hours from. hut to car.
A few days later Gail and I returned to the peninsular and camped in Akaroa for the weekend. This is a lovely small town, full of gorgeous cafes and bars. The French connection is a little overdone and can be irritating, although the visitors from the big cruise ship in the harbour seemed to be enjoying themselves. We splashed out on the trip out into the harbour to see the seals, the dolphins and the penguins. Well worth the money.