About a week ago we decided it was time to get out of the city and into nature and so, with friends Anne & Scott, we went on a Sunday outing to Castle Hill. The morning wasn’t looking so good, with overcast skies and drizzles, but we were ready for a road trip and off we went.
About 40 minutes outside of Christchurch we stopped in the small town of Oxford to check out the Oxford Farmers Market. True farmers markets where local farmers/growers sell their wares (no crafts, just produce and artisan products) are somewhat of a new concept here in New Zealand. Farmers Markets New Zealand Inc has only recently formed and is serving to coordinate the network of markets springing up around the country and is trying to bring awareness to local communities. Scott has been working all summer with a group of folk in Lincoln (next to Christchurch) to bring a farmers market to this rapidly growing community and we’ve spent lots of time talking with Scott about his experience in this process. After battling with some nay-sayers, the Selwyn farmers market finally kicked off with much success!
While the Oxford market was quite small (only a dozen or fewer vendors), there was nonetheless lots of yummies and we each came away with some treats. We managed to pick up another handful of plants for the garden while Scott & Anne came away with some lovely vinaigrettes. As we stood chatting to one of Anne’s co-workers whom we bumped into (very small world here in NZ), we looked out into the distant hills which were enshrouded in mist. Our big promise of a hike was not boding well.
Oh well, onward ho.
The Castle Hill Basin region is in Cantebury’s high country, about an hour’s drive from Christchurch. One of it’s draws is a vast outcropping of huge limestone rock formations which attracts both the novice and experienced rock climber. There were plenty around.
We were blessed with the perfect weather for alpine hiking. Overcast skies but no rain. The ground was dry. We hiked along through the 20′ and 30′ tall limestone rocks, meandering through secret alcoves, weaving through small ponds. It was lovely. We hiked all the way through and up to Castle Hill ridge where we had 360 degree sweeping vistas of the mountains. The photo below shows our hike in from the road (by the brown patch in the background), through the limestones, and on our way to the summit. We sat and had lunch and pondered the beauty of New Zealand.
On the way back to Christchurch, the skies opened up. It rained most of the way home. What a good day!