If you haven’t driven over the Molesworth Station yet I would encourage you to do so. The gates at the Cob Cottage in the top eastern corner and the Acheron Accommodation House at the southern end open on Labour Weekend until Easter. The road through between these two buildings to Hanmer Springs is all metal and suitable for 2 wheel drive vehicles. No buses over 7 metres or towing trailers is allowed. The road up the western side of the station is really only suitable for 4 wheel drive vehicles. The station is the largest farm in New Zealand at 180,000 hectares stocking over 10,000 beef animals in the winter. It originally was a sheep station until the run holder went bust and it was taken over by government. It now runs at a profit.
We repacked our car with all we would need for a three day trip over the station. Our mattress and bedding in the back and food, extra clothing and cooking equipment in our over head storage space. It worked out really well for that short space of time.
Our bed in the back of our SUV. It’s much more comfortable than it looks with enough room to stretch out. Judy is still in there. That’s her hair by the drivers seat. Photo taken at Lake Tennyson.
Leaving our caravan at Rita Tuckerman’s POP we left Blenheim on Tuesday morning and travelled down state highway for 15 minutes to the Awatere Valley Road. The Molesworth is 100 km down this road and it took us about 2 3/4 hours to cover that 100 km. The road starts as tarseal through vine yards and becomes metal twisting and turning up and down the hills. Eventually through the gate and into the station and the Cob Cottage. This was the initial homestead built from mud mixed with manure and tussock grass. The outside lime washed. The building has a fence around it to keep the cows away. They like the salty taste of the lime wash. The roof was initially thatch but has now been covered in corrogated iron.
The Cob Cottage.
A view through a window into the Cob Cottage. A fire place both ends. The many willow trees for firewood and fruit trees surrounding the Cob Cottage and Acheron House were planted by the early settlers.
After lunch we proceeded the 70 odd km through the station with Judy hopping out occasionally to open and close gates as we progressed. Half a km in is a good lookout over the current home station area. There are 5 permanent farm staff, 5 stock men and their dogs and 1 weed control person. Then it’s on and over Wards Pass, a steep and winding stretch of road. Through the Isolated Flat, the road following the Acheron river and the power pylons. This area is the headwaters of the Acheron. From the Flats the road goes over the Isolated Saddle to Red Gate, though there is no red gate or even gate. The scenery is just stunning. Large steep snow capped mountains with scree slopes and the surrounding flats covered in the alpine flora. It must be something in January when the white gentian and the introduced blue borage flower. Not far from Red Gate and down a road not opened until later in the year is the grave of Ivan Augarde and a very sad and tragic story. I will not go into it unless you dear reader should pester me.
There is much to see as we travelled south, the Pig Trough Suspension bridge, the Lower Acheron Suspension bridge all with their own stories. And it was along this stretch that a couple of birds caught my notice. We stopped and I was able to watch the chukars through my binoculars run up a steep scree slope and into some scrub at the top. A new and stunning bird for me. After nearly 3 hours from Cob we arrived at the Acheron Accommodation House where we were to spend the night. The house is made from cob again with iron now covering the thatch. It was initially a stop over for travellers and stock drovers and like the Cob Cottage in poor condition internally. We parked up here for the night, cooking up a feed from our little stock of store bought tramping meals. Quite tasty and surprisingly filling. A few birds paid us a visit hopping around on the lawn outside our car window. The dunnocks were the most notable not being seen up north in Auckland. And so we settled down in our bed in the back of the SUV. It was quite comfortable but cold when we woke up. And so passed our first 24 hours.
Inside the kitchen. Won’t be using that stove again. Chimneys are missing also. Sad to see the buildings in such disrepair though lucky to still have them.
At the top of Isolated Saddle. Judy reading all about Ivanhoe.
This bridge over the Acheron River replaces the previous bridge that was washed away. It was designed and built by engineering students in 1944. The previous bridge was 1 sheep wide but this one is 2 sheep. Just imagine getting 15,000 sheep over this bridge.
Down the Acheron Road
Wednesday after breakfast we were back on the road again and the 26 km to Hanmer Springs over the Jack’s Pass. It’s quite a drop down from where we were to Hanmer. It does really register that we were so high up. At Hanmer we soaked in the hot pools for a couple of hours, had lunch at the pool cafe and a fight to keep the sparrows off our food, checked out the new water slides installed since we were there last, topped up our diesel, and headed back up Jacks Pass to the Molesworth. At the top of the Pass we turned left away from Acheron House and headed down the western side of Molesworth to Lake Tennyson 34 km away. The road follows the Clarence River and is suitable only for large 4 wheel drive SUVs it being littered with very deep potholes and short areas with large rocks that have tumbled down the slopes above. It took us an hour and a quarter to travel the 34 km. Once there the trip is worth while. Fantastic alpine scenery. Enormous mountains topped in snow surround the smallish lake. A furious freezing gale blew over the lake that made us leave the lakeside and seek some shelter further up the bank. We had a neighbour here, Ross, who had a very nice self built unit on his 4 wheel drive ute and towing a trailer with storage, push bike, kayak and climbing gear. A couple of Banded Dotterels scuttling around kept us amused and some Black Fronted Terns soaring and dipping. Both birds endemic to the area. The weather being as it was we stayed close to our car and it’s shelter. Made a cup of tea then later dinner. Got in some reading and enjoyed the scenery. In the morning it was -4 degrees and the car covered in ice from the light rain that had fallen in the night. Started the engine to warm things up and melt the ice on the windscreen. The surrounding mountains had taken on a further light covering of snow during the night. Another wonderful start to the day.
Lake Tennyson. Sun just coming over the eastern mountains. The head waters of the Clarence River start up this valley and flow out of this lake.
Thursday we retraced our path back to Acheron and on to Cob Cottage. We stayed here the night. There was also a small van and a lone push bike rider who had been sampling some of the cycle tracks here.
Friday and it was time to do the 3 hour trip back to Blenheim, our caravan and its relative comfort. If you’re thinking of coming down and sampling the Molesworth, check out their website and download the brochure. This will be a lasting memory for us both.