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February 11th 2010
Published: February 12th 2010
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Mooching through Molesworth

Additional maps: Mooching through Molesworth

230,000 Volts!230,000 Volts!230,000 Volts!

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.
“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.

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 ValleyGrape Vines in the Awatere ValleyGrape 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.

Historic Cottage

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
Grazing HorsesGrazing HorsesGrazing Horses

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
Road BuilderRoad BuilderRoad Builder

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.

Additional photos below
Photos: 16, Displayed: 16


Upcot SaddleUpcot Saddle
Upcot Saddle

The climb up came at the end of a hot day. But as always, the scenery was spectacular and I was able to camp at the bottom.
Cob Cottage RestorationCob Cottage Restoration
Cob Cottage Restoration

Built from a mixture of wet clay, reinforced with dung and tussock. When I asked the DOC ranger if he was using cow dung, he told me he wasn't. "The recipe's a secret," he said, "known only to me and the brotherhood." He has an old sheet over the wet mixture to try to slow down the drying process in the hot sun. "It's almost too hot for us Pakeha boys to work," he said.
Motor Home Dwellers - How Do We Vote?Motor Home Dwellers - How Do We Vote?
Motor Home Dwellers - How Do We Vote?

Graham and Susan were a delightful couple I met in the DOC campground next to the Acheron Accommodation House. They have been living the motor home lifestyle for 12 years and love it. But currently they are having trouble enrolling for the next election. Because they are of no fixed abode, they can't register. They do have a postal address, but it's only a box number. It is not where they live and that is not enough to satisfy the powers-that-be. They could just give an address - say their daughter's - but that would be lying and they believe they shouldn't have to do that. They believe the system ought to be able to accommodate them and other motor home lifestylers.
Wards PassWards Pass
Wards Pass

At 1145m, the pass is often closed by snow during the winter months.
Isolated FlatIsolated Flat
Isolated Flat

The corrugations were terrible at times.
Sad HistorySad History
Sad History

A DOC pamphlet tells the tragic story of Ivanhoe Augarde, who is buried in the stand of pines and willows in the background. He was courting a woman called Miss Kate Gee, and wrote her a letter which he gave to "German Charlie" to deliver. But Charlie opened the letter and "entertained various groups of men along the way with its contents." When Augarde learned of this, he shot Charlie dead and then carried on to Red Gate where he shot himself. A nearby mountain is named in his memory.
Blue BorageBlue Borage
Blue Borage

(I think - someone correct me if I'm wrong) Anyway, if it is blue borage, it attracts bees which produce honey - see hives behind.
Acheron Accommodation HouseAcheron Accommodation House
Acheron Accommodation House

The roof was made of tussock. When I visited, little noises were audible. Something was living up there.
Jollies PassJollies Pass
Jollies Pass

The clouds swirled in as I approached the pass. On the right of the picture are a few mountain beech trees - proof that this western edge of the Molesworth route gets more rain than the countryside to the east.

12th February 2010

Dad and Mum went thru Molesworth a couple of times and i do want to go thru there...but not by bike!!! Road might shake our sleeper van to pieces! Am about to email Judy as am wondering about sharing your rental from ChCh to Ashburton! Want to get a campervan for the week. Have a great w/e with Judy.xx
12th February 2010

Cool Dad the photos are great! Hope you have a lovely weekend with Judy! xoxo
17th February 2010

One more "Wow"
Quite exciting and interesting! Enjoy furthermore! Maybe see you anytime in Queenstown, will work there till mid of March. :)
23rd May 2010

Molesworth Road
We have just returned from a 2 day tour through Molesworth - I admire you cycling the road - but can imagine the enjoyment you had in doing so. We travelled from Hanmer to Blenheim and then the next day from Blenheim over to St Arnuds and down the Rainbow Station Road eventually arriving at Lake Tennyson and onto Hanmer. That is an AMAZING trip and the Lake is beautiful - like all South Island lakes are. Would recommend this trip to everyone.

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