Photo essay: Over the hills, far away?

One place still bustling is Lyttelton, and the road over the Port Hills from Christchurch. David Williams takes a look

It’s Christchurch’s playground. Or should that be neighbourhood?

The Port Hills are the towering yin to the flat city’s yang, a paradise for those on two wheels or two feet, boasting public or private reserves almost all the way along, as well as the Adventure Park.

It seems it still is, for some.

Cyclists take to the Summit Rd, just up from Sign of the Kiwi. Photo: David Williams

A couple of road cyclists amble to the Sign of the Kiwi, 332m above sea level.

It’s a four-way intersection overlooked by a historic café, where motorists reach a crest and head down towards Governors Bay. Many cyclists head along the Summit Rd towards Sumner.

“I’ll quickly jump over here,” one of the cyclists says, so he can text two other people. “Although they’ll be ages away. I’ll give them a call.”

Gridlock in lockdown at Sign of the Kiwi. Photo: David Williams

On the way up Dyers Pass Rd there had been about as many bikes as cars, but that only meant a handful. A female runner raced up the steps opposite the café. The bike trails below the road, and walking tracks above it, are empty.

Suddenly there is “congestion”. Well, what passes for congestion in the lockdown. The cyclists are joined at the top by two cars, seemingly joyriding.

The rain comes in and the “crowd” disperses.

Taking advantage of a break in the traffic on Norwich Quay, in Lyttelton. Photo: David Williams

Down the other side, through the bays and past Rāpaki, lies the port town of Lyttelton, which is abuzz with activity.

A steady stream of trucks rumble along Norwich Quay – except, that is, when a skateboarder takes advantage of a break in traffic.

A train pulls towards the port, where straddle carriers can be seen plying the corridors between stacked containers. Huge piles of logs are dotted around, including on open rail cars. An angle grinder can be heard at the dry dock.

Lyttelton's London St lined with parked cars. Photo: David Williams

Wharf-hugging ships loll, dreaming of the far-away places they’re registered – Nassau, in the Bahamas, Majuro, in the Marshall Islands, and the Italian port of Trieste. The turquoise waters beyond are broken by a single vessel, the almost-empty Diamond Harbour Ferry.

Lyttelton’s main street, London St, is chocka with parked cars, concentrated near the supermarket and pharmacy. Outside the dairy – “Only one customer allowed in store at a time”, the sign on the door says – a silver-haired woman returns to her ute.

“I’m loving it,” she says of the lockdown. “I probably shouldn’t be, really.”

The lonely looking interior of The Lyttelton Arms. Photo: David Williams

Sweeping up from the port, the beautifully smooth 2.6km stretch of Sumner Rd is almost completely deserted. A single mountain biker struggles towards Evans Pass. An elderly couple take in the harbour from the lookout.

This road had its own lockdown, enforced by the 2011 earthquakes. It was showered with boulders and part of the road just crumbled down the steep hill away.

After 30 months of work costing $40 million, it re-opened in March last year.

Kiwis will be bracing for an announcement from the Government this Monday, about the pace of their own re-opening, as it were.

It's smooth sailing down to Lyttelton along the rebuilt Sumner Rd. Photo: David Williams

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