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May 2011 Issue
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Sunrise along Port Hills

Watching the sunrise over Lyttelton Harbour from Coopers Knob. Photo: Pat Barrett
Time
1hr
Grade
Easy
Access
A marked trail leaves the Summit Road 8km south of Sign of the Kiwi on the Port Hills. The upper part of the track is overgrown
Map
Banks Peninsula

Often when you are out and about on the trail in far off places you neglect the perspectives gained from locations close to home. So it was that after at least two visits to Coopers Knob with the family for easy day walks I identified this eroded volcanic feature as an excellent balcony from which to catch sunrise over the head of Lyttelton Harbour and more distant points. There’s a regular track to the base from the Summit Road with a final steep rock scramble to gain the top and that all important view – it’s quite a scene.

The knob sits squarely at the end of the harbour and feels for all the world like a grandstand seat over a great fold of landscape from the heads and beyond to the Kaikoura mountains, and far to the south Aoraki/Mt Cook, not to mention the broad plains of Canterbury at my back.

There’s a heavy frost in the harbour basin and just a wisp or two of mist but otherwise all is clear and cold. Strong dawn light is flooding in from the harbour heads where the sun is edging over the horizon, the light as yet has not reached the harbour floor but the Port Hill summits are illuminated. A rocky knoll lit by the sun beneath my photo-point introduces a great foreground element and so I include this in my composition and manage to convey more depth to the picture which would otherwise be lost with just a straight view shot.

Centrally positioned on the horizon is the great bulk of Banks Peninsula, dominated in this quarter by Mt Herbert and neighbouring Mt Bradley, always popular day trips for Christchurch walkers. I continue to click the scenes, rotating my tripod and gear around the cramped space available on the summit block to capture the gathering pace of sunrise out along the Port Hills and over the plains to the Alps.

Once the work is done I collect my gear and hunker down out of the sharp breeze rushing upwards from the Lyttelton basin to enjoy a moment of warmth and a hot drink from my flask.

A moment’s reverie to capture the real essence of the landscape as the daylight grows and other duties call.

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