A Week on Molesworth Station

The road on the Rainbow at Hell’s Gate.

We travelled to Molesworth via the Rainbow Valley road and through Rainbow Station. There has been a recent change of ownership but it is still a toll road with a steep increase in the toll; now $40 per car, one way. The road was in the worst condition that I’ve seen it.  Very rough especially around the Hell’s Gate area. It’s a real pity this road isn’t an open public road and maintained to a good standard as it’s almost a direct route from Nelson to Christchurch. It is public land too but leased. We read about people wanting to make new roads through wilderness areas; (Heaphy Track and Milford etc) but what’s wrong with the Rainbow?

Keep Out of the Rainbow!

Molesworth: the largest station in New Zealand of about 180,787 ha, with the largest herd of cattle  too (10,000 head), owned by the public and run by the Department of Conservation. A road runs through the station, linking Hanmer and Blenheim which is open to the public during the summer period. It has a DoC camp ground at each end and the campgrounds are monitored by rangers to make sure people pay their camp fees, collecting rubbish, cleaning toilets and generally assisting campers and through traffic. I joined Karla in giving a hand at the Hanmer Springs end, at Acheron.

The old Acheron Accommodation House.

The last time we came, the bridge across the Clarence was closed as one of its approaches had been washed away, but it’s all okay now. Our ranger’s hut was nearby the old, partly restored Acheron Accommodation House and within the camping area. The ranger’s hut is quite small, has a shower, gas hob and frig, plus a couple of beds, sink, table and such. Pretty compact but not very well laid out. What it did have though was a wood burner! 

The view from Mt Isobel looking down on Hanmer.

The next day we headed back on the road to Hanmer Springs but stopped on the way to climb Mt Isobel of 1342m. The track is a bit rough and through scrub at the start but soon one comes out along an exposed ridge, gradually climbing up to the steeper parts.  Once on the main rocky ridge there are good views of the area around Hanmer Springs township. It was late Autumn so there was not much in the way of flowering alpine plants although I did spot a gentian in flower. Of concern are the number of wilding pines encroaching on the hills and flats in the area. 

Spreading pest pines, Molesworth.
Mt Isobel gentian.

The first part of the week was fine weather with a trickle of campers staying a night plus many people driving through. We called into Hanmer Springs a couple of times  for a wander around the shops. It seems like a real tourist town now, losing its original charm but the hot springs are still there and are being expanded. Lots of holiday homes, more than the people who live and work there apparently.  

Another day we drove back over Island Pass, all of 1347m, towards the Rainbow and to the Sedgemere Lakes & hut. 

Lake Sedgemere.

We walked past Lake Sedgemere and over to Fish Lake catching glimpses of Bowscale Tarn in the distance. (No, not the Lake District in England but probably named after a tarn there no doubt). Hardly any sign of wildlife except for a couple of ducks quacking on Fish Lake.

Fish Lake.

It is very open country and it appears to be a natural ponding area or moor with several small lakes or tarns scattered about. On the way back we called into Island Gully Hut a little way off the road and then to the Fowler Hut nearby the road edge. We had talked to a cyclist from Wellington at Sedgemere and he asked about camping at Lake Tennyson but we told him the site was exposed and windy suggesting he stop at the Fowler Hut. We headed back for the Acheron campsite and I wondered if we had advised him right as it was quite a ride from the Sedgemere Hut to the old historic Fowler Hut. The next day Karla met up with him passing through Acheron and he thanked us for suggesting he stay at Fowler. It suited him fine he said, nobody else, shelter for the night and it had a fire place! 

Historic Fowler Hut.

One day the station staff shifted several hundred bellowing cattle in a long line of cattle trucks. One after the other the truck and trailer units trundled by, raising a veil of dust. After the dust settled all was quiet once again. Next to no birdlife at all seen or heard. 

Moving cattle on Molesworth.

We had a couple of good frosts so it turned quite cold. But we had a wood burner!  Then the rain came. The campers disappeared so all was quiet for a couple of days. 

Morning sunrise near Archeron.

We visited the nearby Lower Acheron Suspension bridge built in 1945 by engineering students  to the other side of the river (where else?). On the way there we spotted an apple tree laden with apples, but only above the reach of station cattle. The apples being wild, were small but there were enough for us to have stewed apples for breakfast for the rest of our stay. 

The Lower Acheron Suspension Bridge built by engineering students in 1945.

At the end of the week, we drove out down the Awatere Valley, through Blenheim and home. 

Un-Named Cattle Stop north of Molesworth Station.

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