Published: February 12th 2010February 11th 2010 “This special place encompasses all the beauty, heartbreak and challenge of New Zealand’s high country frontier.” This quote from a DOC information panel seemed to sum up Molesworth Station. It is a place of big landscapes - with mountains, river valleys, vast eroded slopes and a sense of history. The sort of place that makes you feel very small.
Power pylons are never far away. In fact, much of the road was built in the late 1960s to help bring power to the North Island.
Out of Drinking Water
I cycled it from Blenheim to Hanmer Springs, a distance of about 200 kilometres, much of it on a rough, gravel road. Of the 200 kilometres, only 59 are in Molesworth itself - the rest of the time is spent getting to and from.
My route took me from Blenheim over Taylor Pass, a stiffish climb to begin the day. The Beast felt heavy with three and a half days food, and on the outskirts of Blenheim I emptied out a litre container of water to help reduce the weight. It was a mistake, because I ran out later in the day and was gasping by the time I free camped at a spot by the Lee River. It had been a hot, uphill ride for most of the way, culminating in a
Grape Vines in the Awatere Valley
Mile after mile of them, mostly sauvignon blanc and with names like Oyster Bay, Clifford Bay and Vavasour.
220 metre climb over Upcot Saddle. The river at the bottom was little more than a trickle and there were plenty of sheep and rabbits about, so I forced myself to “pill” my drinking supply with the tiny purifying tablets I’d bought at a pharmacy. I had to wait half an hour for the water to be drinkable - my thirst increasing all the time.
Next morning I continued up the Awatere Valley and after about 35 kilometres reached the Molesworth Cob Cottage, the gateway to Molesworth Station. The station is New Zealand’s biggest farm (nearly 181,000 hectares) and is administered by DOC. It’s leased to Landcorp Farming who run up to 10,000 cattle on it.
I spent the afternoon relaxing at the DOC campsite alongside the cob cottage, and a middle aged couple caught me taking a cold shower under the one tap I could find.
Mooching through Molesworth
I knew the third day‘s ride would be the toughest - the 59 kilometres through Molesworth itself. It wasn‘t that far, but the corrugations were terrible and the loose metal was deep in places. The bike slid out
During the mustering season, about 80 horses and up to 45 dogs may be used.
from under me as I descended Wards Pass, but neither the Beast nor I came to any harm. The scenery was spectacular, and that sense of vastness stayed with me all day.
At the end of the day’s ride was the Acheron Accommodation House - another historic building made of cob (a mixture of clay, animal dung and tussock). There was also another DOC campsite, where I settled in and cooked under the tent fly when it began to rain. Later I had an enjoyable evening chatting to a couple who live permanently in their motor home and travel where ever the mood takes them (see picture).
Mountain Bike Option
The ride out the next day to Hanmer Springs was short - probably little more than 20 kilometres. Most drivers take the route out via Jacks Pass, but a couple of fishermen had told me that there was a better alternative for a mountain bike down something called Jollies Pass. It’s regarded as a 4WD track and I could see why - in at least one place there was a ford across a stream where vehicles could easily “bottom”. No such problem with the
A monument at Cow Creek marks the spot where Bill McLachlan and his wife Margaret camped for three years in the 1930s while Bill upgraded the Molesworth Road.
Beast though, and I flew down Jollies Pass at high speed. It was very steep but had a pretty good surface - mountain biking bliss.
There are more photos below