Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Into The Interior- Journey to Edoras; Part 2

Continuing on from Part 1

After lunch at Lake Clearwater we carried on up the valley, we've another 21kms of gravel road to travel before we reach the end of the road.'s not long before I've shouted out 'Stop!' (ever so nicely) yet again. These unusual lines have formed in the sheep tracks as the snow has melted away. I think I've mentioned it before, but you may notice a colour difference sometimes in my photos (see above & below). This is due to the photo above being taken through the tinted windscreen of the ute...and me not having time to adjust them all as I process the photos. 

Our next stop is at a lookout point- it's not an official lookout, but going by the rough gravel pulloff area just before the road drops down into the valley, it's a place that many people stop to take in this breathtaking view (click to enlarge).

Ahead of us is the spectacular braided Rangitata River plain, the Rangitata (which means 'close sky' in Maori), is made up of several rivers that flow from their headwaters high in the Southern Alps, that spine of mountains that runs down the middle of the South Island. The eagle eyed amongst you will spot a hallowed Middle Earth location, the rest will have to return to check it out once they've finished reading the blog post.

The Potts River, contained in a deep narrow valley, sweeps dramatically around from our right to join the Rangitata below us.

It's so hard to get perspective in these huge vistas, here's another pano with the road we've just driven down on the right. It's absolutely stunning scenery!

We carry on and as the road (sealed on this downhill/uphill section) drops to the valley floor I can't possibly shout 'Stop!" again so make do with another shot through the windscreen.

We pass by an old friend, the Te Araroa Trail. We've criss-crossed the trail so many times on our journey through the South Island. There'll not be anybody walking it at this time of the year, there are many places that are inaccessible during winter.

We called in to check out Mt Potts Station, a large farm station nestled below the rugged Potts Range and overlooking the river valley.

Mt Potts also offers lodge accommodation and has tent and powered motorhome sites available too. There's plenty of activities to do for anyone staying. During the winter there's heliskiing or skiing at the Mt Potts skifield, farm tours, hiking, fishing, hunting, rafting, biking or just relaxing and enjoying the spectacular scenery. Unfortunately we wouldn't get 'Out There' up the driveway, the overhanging pines are too low.

There's another reason Mt Potts Station is also popular with visitors, along with it being not too far a walk off trail for Te Araroa walkers to spend a night, it's also home to Mt Sunday.

Mt Sunday, that small brown rocky hill in the centre of the valley has been made famous by Sir Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy and has become the El Dorado to die-hard LOTR fans, a must visit while touring the country.

Mt Sunday was the set for Edoras, the fortress city of the Rohan people in the Lord of the Rings. The Golden Hall and surrounding buildings were built at the top of the sheer cliffs, with the gatehouse and more buildings at the foot. And even though the area was returned to its natural state once filming was finished, Mt Sunday still attracts hundreds of people on a pilgrimage, they come to see it, walk it, touch it, photograph it, and then to go home and be able to say they have journeyed to Edoras.

Unfortunately we didn't have the time to walk to the summit of Mt Sunday, a 3km, 90 minute return walk, we carried on up the road stopping again to take in the views. In this panorama shot you can clearly see Mt Sunday in the middle of the river plain. Mt Sunday is a 'roche moutoné', a low rounded hill of bedrock, left behind by a glacier as it's retreated up the valley.

I couldn't get enough of the spectacular views in every direction; just to stand there and take it all in was breathtaking (not least because of the cold air!). 

The sheer vastness and how remote and untouched it was; we are but just small fry in this land of splendour. I love how the mountains rise so sharply from the valley floor. 

We haven't much further to travel before the road runs out. We're heading to the base of that mountain ahead of us. But first we'll cross Jumped Up Downs, those gentle slopes leading down to the braided river below (I wonder how they were named).

Long before Edoras there was Erewhon, a huge 14,000 hectare high country station world famous in New Zealand, and one of the main reasons why people ventured to the top of this valley. Erewhon's name is a play on the word 'nowhere', and it must have really felt like that when early settlers, and then later; farm managers, shepherds, musterers, shearers and their families arrived to work on the farm.

Samuel Butler wrote in his classic novel Erewhon, a great description of this harsh landscape. "Never shall I forget the utter loneliness of the prospect- only the little far away homestead giving sign of human handiwork, the vastness of mountain and plain, of river and sky; the marvellous atmospheric affects sometimes black mountains against a white sky, and then again, after cold weather, white mountains against black sky”. 

We drove through to the turning bay, I'd have loved to have carried on and seen the homestead and farm buildings but I couldn't twist my conservative other half's arm. I had to make do with seeing some of the Clydesdales the Erewhon is famous for in a paddock beside the turning bay.

The Station runs Merino sheep (the only breed that can survive in these harsh conditions), Hereford cattle, deer and has a Clydesdale Horse Stud.

Most of the Station's tractor work is done with a team of of Clydesdales, all the stock work is carried out on foot or horseback and in this unforgiving environment, horses are quicker to ride places and can cross the rivers even when in flood. In the summer the Station offers visitors accommodation, a backcountry farming experience, wagon or saddle rides and overnight treks up the valley. I'm so coming back here!

We head back down the road pulling over to have a cup of tea at the same spot as before, overlooking Mt Sunday. And why wouldn't we?

Well, David would say because it's too bloody cold, there's an ice cold wind blowing so we rug up with jackets, gloves and hats and rather than sit on the tailgate like usual, we jiggle about trying to keep warm and keep our tea in the cup at the same time. I know it's hard to believe it's that cold when you look at the photos, but believe me it is freezing, perhaps 2-3c with a minus degree of wind chill.

At the far end of the valley, the Rangitata River disappears around the end of the mountains on the left and passes through the Rangitata Gorge. Another famous farm station, and twice the size of Erewhon at 30,000 hectares, Mesopotamia Station is on the other side of the river, centre right. Mesopotamia is at the end of the Rangitata Gorge Road, we've not been that far up the road, making it just past Peel Forest when we explored up that side of the river a couple of years ago.

While we were having our afternoon tea we spotted two vehicles driving along a track heading to the top of Mt Sunday. They belong to a LOTR tour company that is allowed to drive to the rock; the vehicles pulled in behind us when we were at the lookout. It's not long before we see little ants walking about at the top of Mt Sunday.

Mt Sunday gained its name because boundary riders from the surrounding high country stations used to meet there on Sundays for a cuppa and a catch up. Makes perfect sense! 

The cold eventually gets the better of us and we hurry about clearing up before climbing back into the warmth of the ute and head off towards home, stopping one more time just before the lookout so I can get a shot of the Potts River Bridge. You can see Mt Sunday, centre right, way in the background (remember to check out the photos I took at the lookout for Mt Sunday too).

Not far past Lake Clearwater, we do a quick drive-by (in and out) to check out two more of the Ashburton Lakes, these ones are side by side; tiny Lake Roundabout...

...and quite a bit bigger Lake Emma, two shallow depressions in the surrounding tussockland.

I wonder if that's the historic musterers/fishing hut across the water, where the old dinghy was based, the one that's now on display at the historic Hakatere farm buildings.

We had a fantastic day tiki-touring, and if you haven't already guessed it, we thought the scenery was absolutely spectacular. We didn't know it yet but this wasn't to be our last visit to the Lakes.


  1. Brilliant. You journeyed to Edoras! :) I was gutted not to have made it there on our last trip to NZ. I hear now they even have a car park and swing bring over to Mt Sunday.

    1. Yes indeed, just for you! And yes, there is a good sized carpark and a swingbridge (which I would have liked to have added to my 'swingbridge photo collection').You can actually see it in the pano if you zoom in a thousand times, it's middle left above the foreground matagouri tree.

    2. Haha..thankyou.:) How long would you say it would take someone...(with smaller hire car wheels) to get there from off highway 72? Just awesome scenery whether you are a LOTR fan or not. I love the reason for the name of Mt Sunday too.. lol.

    3. About an hour without photo stops....those can take you forever! :) If the road is badly corrugated (late summer usually) then add another 15-20 minutes.

  2. Congratulations to your 700+1st post! Many people congratulated on your 700th, I want to be a bit eccentric and stay off the beaten track, so here I am, hope to surprise you ;). Moreover the places in this post are ultra special to me. I left my heart there. If my plan didn't fall through, I was there to witness their beauty with my own eyes and may have bumped into you there again this winter! I've always wanted to revisit Hakatere in winter. I especially wanted to see Lake Heron which we missed last visit. Did you go there? How I wish you have part 3 in store for us.
    Many many thanks for all your beautiful photos and whimsical writings, they help me through the past few hectic months. That said, I also enjoyed someone else's writing about you :)

    1. Offstone! What a wonderful surprise to see your name pop up this morning, you've made my day. I have missed your comments and was a little worried for you (as was David & my Mum & Dad, who have all asked after you). I hope you received my email I sent a couple of months when it suddenly dawned on me a familiar name had been missing for a few weeks. It's lovely to have you back (no pressure though, you just read away when you have the time!)

      Thanks for your good wishes too on my 701th blog post. Very funny! And I'm thrilled you got to see your special place through my lens. Lake Heron? You'll have to wait and see :)

    2. Strange, I didn't receive it! I scoured my Yahoo & Gmail mail boxes but found nothing. Not sure whether it ended up in spam and was deleted later. This happened once to my own email sent to Wanaka friend. Lucky enough we noticed something missing and she finally found and salvaged it from spam. It's a pity I couldn't find it, I treasure your mail :). Would you mind sending it to me again if you still have it?

    3. I've just sent it again today, to your dental gmail address. Hopefully it'll be there.

    4. Yes I've got it, at last. Please send our regards to yourfamily. We are fine, thank you all so much for your concern!

  3. Awesome in every degree....I've said this before...and will do again.

    1. Thanks again Jimu, I think this is one of my new favourite blog posts. I just love the huge scenery.


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