Tim Stead - Fantasy Writer

The Other Side of the Mountain - June 19th 2014

Governors bay Hotel Yesterday was a break in the weather. We’ve had some rough stuff recently with floods in town, some buildings evacuated, carparks awash, and today it is raining again. So we were out and about, getting relief from cabin fever.

The Governor’s Bay Hotel for lunch.

Governors Bay itself is a settlement built in a nook of Lyttleton Harbour. It’s a ten minute drive along the twisty coast road from Lyttleton and clings to the steep hillsides above and below the road. It is scenic. When travelling these parts it’s always worth remembering how much damage they suffered during the earthquake of 2011, and the work on the roads goes on. There are traffic lights scattered along the route.

The hotel itself is full of character. It dates from about 1870, is built of wood and painted white. That’s old for a NZ building. It just above the main road, and the traffic can be a little annoying at times if you sit outside, but the views make up for it.

Sitting outside on the deck – this is winter, but it was a balmy 18C or thereabouts – we had an amazing view. The sun was most obliging and we could see all the way down Lyttleton harbour, across to the settlement of Diamond Harbour, and all the way out to the South Pacific. The food was good, the beer was pretty much what you get from any Monteiths house in NZ, and the service was excellent. Mind you, this was on a Tuesday lunch, so who knows what it would be like on a Friday night with the rugby on.

The Summit Road.

In all the time we’ve lived in the area we’ve never driven the Summit Road. This was a good opportunity to do so, and perhaps get in a walk up on the tops of the Port Hills where the views are stunning in every direction.

The Summit Road is one of those few historical constructions that appears to have been built for non-commercial reasons. Its creator, Harry Ell, wished to conserve what was left of the native flora on the Port Hills, and the Summit Road was designed to link his reserves together. It climbs steadily from humble beginnings and runs all the way along the tops to Godley Head, or it used to. Earthquake damage still has the middle section of the road closed to traffic. At various points on the road you can stand and look down over Lyttleton Harbour to the south and then turn around and see the City of Christchurch laid out like a map to the north. The tunnel that now joins the two runs beneath you.

Along the way there are places, road houses, which were originally designed as stopping places for weary travellers. None are now open (earthquake again). Before 2011 the Sign of the Takahe, the largest, was a tourist attraction and served food and teas. We went there once on holiday many years ago. The Sign of the Kiwi (you’re getting the theme by now) was a café and tea house on the summit of Dyers Pass where the main road crosses Summit Road. The Sign of the Bellbird is a ruin and the Sign of the Packhorse is now maintained as a DOC hut where trampers can stay the night.

We drove up Dyers pass Road and turned right onto Summit Road. We stopped and enjoyed the view several times and found a walk that looked attractive, but got no more than ten minutes down the path when it began to rain. We retreated. After that we drove as far as we could (road closed sign) and then back along the road as far as the Sign of the Bellbird. This last place is greatly diminished and perhaps a little mistreated, but the solid nature of the original construction is still evident.

The summit road is well worth a drive through if you’re in the area. The views alone are worth it, but pick a sunny day.

I forgot my camera, so the image of the governors bay hotel is borrowed from their website for thre purpose of showing what a fine place it is.