I have a fascination with Little River/Awa-iti¹ on Banks Peninsula. It may stem back to when my older sister worked on a farm near there in her older teen years, and I used to stay with her during school holidays. I loved it. Every so often, but not often, we’d drive into Little River for supplies or to do errands. It felt like an excursion. There was virtually nothing there back then in the early 1970’s, although it had had a more thriving history in the past, as the ancient old fossil farmer (probably around sixty years old) used to recall to us.
It was also where I went to the pub for the first time. I was fifteen, and my sister would have been eighteen. The age limit to drink in a boozer back then was twenty-one. No one blinked an eye at my appearance, and my sister was served alcohol without comment, as she had been every other time she went in there. I got schickered, of course, after almost no drinks at all, and remain to this day a cheap drunk, in spite of a slight improvement in my quaffing abilities for a while in my younger years. The only thing in my favour was that I never knew what a hangover was until I was about forty, no matter what I drank or how I mixed it up. That was blind luck, and nothing else.
I also have a fascination with libraries. It’s more than being only about books and reading. However, I don’t try and justify or analyse it anymore – I just like and enjoy libraries, the end. As it so happens, Little River has a library that eventually became imperative for me to visit. It’s open week days and for two hours on Saturday mornings, and seeing as all my visits to, or through, Little River since my teens seem to have been on a Sunday, or not conducive to stopping, I decided on an excursion on Saturday morning to finally visit that library. It had been beckoning me for a very long time.
Little River is forty-five minutes’ drive from Christchurch, so very doable on a whim. And these days the village is thriving. It’s still little, but a bike trail from Christchurch that runs through it revived it, and now it’s quite a wee hub of activity. It has a great art gallery/gift shop that sells only work from NZ artists and writers, many of whom are local, where I bought this piwakawaka (fantail bird) pictured below, and a separate craft shop where mum – in the days when I used to bring her here on a Sunday – bought the last present for her mokopuna nui (great children) she ever bought. A pink knitted pig, from memory. After that she kind of forgot she had grandchildren, or how many of them, or where they lived, or their names, etc, etc.
Library done – and yeah, I loved all its unexceptional personality, quiet understatement, and secrets – and book checked out with a real live librarian, I turned my mind to doing one of the walks around Little River while I was there. The day was one of those brilliant sunny winter days, but, townie that I am, I forgot that after rain the countryside is wet and sneakers for footwear won’t cut it. So I deferred to walking on paved paths instead, and did something else I’d also never done there – I walked off the main road. True, there wasn’t a lot off it, but at one stage I did think that I’d finally found the little river that Little River was named after, but it turned out to be called Police Culvert. I’m not sure if there is just one little river in this area, actually, but several.
I’d have to say that Little River does a quirky line in places to stay. There’s the Silo Stay² on the main road, and off further down through the valley there’s Okuti Garden Stayᶟ, with yurts, tipis and a house truck. I checked that place out once, thinking I might spend a weekend there in one of the intriguing accommodations, and walked all around it with no other soul there, until I came to a bigger building where it looked like a small event was underway. Okuti Garden Stay has been there for quite a long time, so I’m guessing it makes its owners a living, in spite of my ‘ghost camp’ experience.
The idea of lunch got abandoned when I had to wait too long in the queue at what I have to admit is a very good café in Little River. But it’s also a busy café, so I got too impatient and decided to just have the coffee I’d brought from home out the back of the car park on the one and only picnic table. Ambience-wise, it was the better choice.
Oh, and forget about Facebook when you’re in Little River, unless you want to use up all your phone data on it. The craft shop does a good trade in second-hand books as well, I believe.
My jaunt to Little River library has planted the idea that more jaunts to libraries may be in order. Perhaps I’ll get an obsession. Never really had one of those before 🙂
¹ Maori had names for places and areas long before Europeans settled in New Zealand, but because Maori had no written language and were colonised, places were often officially given English names (although not always). However, the Maori names for places are now frequently recognised alongside the English names, hence Little River/Awa-iti. Little River, New Zealand – Wikipedia
Header pic: Banks Peninsula with Christchurch in the top left corner.
The piwakawaka (fantail bird) I bought at the art gallery/gift shop.