After an early breakfast we were ready for a big day in Big Country travelling through New Zealand’s largest farm, “The Molesworth”, at 180,787 hectares it’s about the size of Stewart Island/Rakiura. Owned by the Crown, leased and farmed by Landcorp and managed by DOC, the station is made up of four blocks - Molesworth, Tarndale, St Helens and Dillon. The station once ran 95,000 sheep but when rabbits were introduced it quickly became severely eroded and uneconomical driving the first farmers off the land. Now up to 10,000 cattle are farmed successfully on the property.
We are lucky enough to be taken on our own private tour in a four wheel drive coach guided by Rick Stirling of Trailway Safaris Molesworth Tours which Rick founded 40 years. We are also fortunate to be the only people allowed into Molesworth on this particular day as, due to very dry conditions, it was closed to the general public. (The Molesworth is normally open to the public in the summer months.)
Coming over Jacks Pass the views are amazing looking back to Hanmer, out towards the rugged mountains behind Blenheim and the Seaward Kaikoura ranges which has the highest mountain, Mt Tapuae-o-Uenuku, 2,885m, outside of the Alps. We stopped at the Acheron Accommodation House built of cobb in 1863 as an overnight carriage stop between Nelson and Christchurch. While we checked it out Rick was laying out morning tea of homemade scones and cake.
Following the Awatere River we eventually arrived above the station’s homestead and farmyards. A truck was slowly making its way up the hill towards us, as it drew closer to everyone’s surprise on the back were several farm horses standing there enjoying the ride on a truck with normal sides, we'd never seen that before! It was just one of many experiences on this great day in an isolated region not a lot of New Zealanders get a chance to see and that evening another relaxing soak in the hot pools capped it off.