This station, Round Hill, was probably Hakateramea Downs up the Haka Valley, and covered the area west behind Mt Nessing towards the Waitaki and north towards Burkes Pass. The area today has changed little from a century ago when this was written by a young girl. Copied as is so she has probably exaggerated the acreage of the station but today in the area you still find the large stations, the married couples and the young fit musterers with their walking sticks and huntaway dogs combing the open Mackenzie country hills for woollies and where silence dominates and snow grass blows in the warm nor'wester breeze, where the golden speargrass are abundant and beautiful and the air is fresh and the stars bright.
Dear Dot, — I shall endeavour to give you an account of my holiday, though it was only a fortnight to Hakateramea. Well, I left Mosgiel on March 8 by the 7 a.m. train, catching the 8:15 train to Oamaru, where I arrived at 11 o'clock. Leaving that place at 1 p.m., I arrived in Hakateramea at about 6.30 p.m. I met four D.L.F. girls in the Kurow train. I stayed with an aunt in Hakateramea for three days, then I journeyed 25 miles in a grocer's cart up the Haka Valley to Rocky Point, where I was met by my uncle who drove me to his place, 15 miles farther on. I left the township with the grocer in the morning at 8 a.m. reaching my journey's end at 3.30 p.m., after driving 40 miles. On Sunday, my uncle and aunt and cousins and I drove to the top of the Hakateramea Pass about 3600 ft above sea level, where we got a, beautiful view of the Mackenzie country. We saw Mount Cook in all its grandeur, also Sefton, Tasman, and the Hochstetter dome besides several other peaks. Away in the distance we could see Pukaki and Tekapo Lakes. It was a magnificent sight to see the Alps covered with snow, which shone and glistened in different places where the sun struck it. After boiling the billy and having lunch, we started for home, very tired after our walk to the top of the Pass. Straight in front of the Round Hill Station, which place my uncle is in charge of, rises Mount Nessing and from the top of this mountain a beautiful view can be obtained of the surrounding country. On a very bright day, you can see from Akaroa Heads to almost the Waitaki mouth. Timaru and the surrounding places. Geraldine and Temuka, can be very distinctly seen when there is no mist about I did not go to the top of Mount Nessing as it takes a good two hours to walk up, and I cannot ride, so I had to be content to stay where I was and long for what was to me the impossible.
When I say that the Round Hill Station is about 2800ft above sea level. you will know that there is plenty of fresh air up there. The station where uncle is shepherding is one of the largest in New Zealand, containing about 200,000 acres and running about 75,000 sheep. There is a woolshed there for 20 shearers. I had the pleasure of seeing sheep dipped for the first time. I shall try to describe a dip for the benefit of those who have never seen one on a large scale First the sheep are drafted then any belonging to another station are amongst them, they are put to one side till the owners come for them. Then the station sheep are run into the dip yards and up a narrow race up a turned incline, which ends off abruptly at a sloped piece of iron, which goes down towards the dip. The sheep are pushed down this, and in they go head first. The dip here contains nearly 3000 gallons, and is 50ft long and 4ft wide. The sheep have to swim along the dip, on either side of which 2 or 3 men stand with long poles with a shaped piece of iron on them. These are called crutches. With the crutches the men dip the sheep's head under and help along any that get exhausted and are sinking. The sheep go up steps out of the dip into dripping pens, to be allowed to drip and all the water which runs off them goes back into the dip. My auntie has a lot of baking to do here when the shepherds are up as there are usually 10 or 11 extra men and her baker's oven holds only 29 loaves at a time. When I was at the top of the pass I gathered some flax flowers, speargrasses and snow __hes. The speargrasses were a little awkward to get and I had to stand on them to cut them. I may mention that this station runs from near Burkes Pass to the Waitaki, about eight miles from Kurow. I had good warm days all the time I was at Round Hill. Uncle told me that during the last big snow in 1903 the snow was 3ft 8in deep all round, and that there was a terrible loss of sheep caused by the snow. The nearest neighbour's is three miles from Round Hill, and the next again is six miles off, so you see that it is very quiet up there but I did not feel the the least bit lonely in fact I was sorry to come away. I had not seen my uncle Jack at Round Hill for six years, and had never seen either of my aunts or any of my cousins. I also saw bullock waggons with 12 in each team and I was ignorant enough to think that the screeching of the brakes was the bellowing of the bullocks. My aunt gave me some edelweiss which came from the top of Mount Cook. As this is a rather long epistle I think I had better say good-bye. D.L.F. CUPID.
Otago Witness, 12 June 1890, Page 39
Dear Dot, — We live 30 miles from a railway station and 25 from a school. The leaves are now very nearly all off the trees. Nearly every drive or ride we go we can nee Mount Cook, and very big and white he looks. The Waitaki river is about 12 miles away from here, and we can see the Tekapo, Pukaki, and Ohau, the three rivers which form the Waitaki. I have a garden with no flowers out in it, but I have a lot in summer. I learn music. We killed a bullock last Saturday, and it is the biggest one papa had. I am reading Harper's Young People, and there is such a lot of reading in it, and I have a lot of other books. We have a new dog called Jack. He is black, and very good at catching rabbits. We are going up to Christchurch in July for a month, and I think I shall like it very much. — Yours truly, James W. Grant. Gray's Hills, June 1.
Otago Witness, 23 October 1890, Page 35
Dear Dot,— I came back from Christchurch about a month ago. I liked Christchurch very much, but it was very wet when we were there. We went to the gardens, and saw a fat kangaroo and a monkey, a magpie, two native companions, and a lot of fishes in little ponds. We were also in the museum. I think what I liked best in it was the monkeys. There was one big one with a tail about an inch long, and that was very thin. We were down at Sumner, and we gathered a lot of pretty shells. We went through Cave Rock, and Alec jumped out by a little hole at the side. One day we all went up the cathedral spire, and when we got to the top we had such a lovely view, and yet we felt so high. I have a nice flower garden, but there are not many flowers out in it yet. We are getting about 10 eggs a day now, and have 33 chickens. I have a little chick of my own. — Yours truly, Jessie C. Grant, Gray's Hills Station, October 7.
A DRIVE ROUND THE MACKENZIE COUNTRY,
Otago Witness, 20 January 1898, Page 29
By Chum and I
The Government rabbit-proof fence runs from the head of Lake
Pukaki to the gorge of the Jolly River, and Mr Elijah Smart is in charge of that
section, and lives in a snug little hut; near the fence line. Smart; is an old
hand in the back country, and knows the tricks of the Tasman and its quicksands
as well as a Mississippi pilot knows the spurs and snags of that mighty river.
Therefore we arranged with Elijah to act as our pilot across the river in the
afternoon. Mr Burnett is one of the few original occupiers of pastoral land in
the Mackenzie Country, and has a nice homestead situated at the foot of a hill
near the junction of the Jolly River with the Tasman. Mr Burnett informed us
that the Jolly had been a little too jolly lately, and had formed a spit at the
mouth of the gorge which had thrown a stream of water towards his woolshed. He
took us to the gorge, and B., who thinks himself a bit of an engineer, gave him
some hints anent the best way of inducing the vagrant stream to return to its
original channel. Miss Burnett and her sister were at the station, and I need
not say we fared well at their hospitable board. Whisky was of course produced,
but having in view the perilous passage of the Tasman we could not be induced to
touch, taste, or smell. Birch Hill station is just across the liver from Mount
Cook station, and we had the pleasure of meeting the new tenants, Messrs James
Burnett and Munro, who have taken up the run since it fell into the hands of the
Government. Mr Burnett, sen., wished us to spend the rest of the day and that
night with, them, but we pointed out that we had, so far, adhered to our
prearranged timetable and were very unwilling to depart from it now, however
much tempted to do so on that occasion. Accordingly we returned to Smart's hut,
and with him mounted on a good river hack, and leading the way, we in due time
forded the numerous streams without mishap and reach Glentanner station in good
time to join Mr Acland at his bachelor tea table. Whisky produced, of course,
and I graciously permitted B. to have a small nip as a reward for his skill in
guiding our fiery steeds across the river. Mr Lachlan M'Donald is shepherd and
general factotum at Glentanner, and is one of the old identities of that region.
Mr Acland has quite a little farm around his homestead, a paddock of good grass
and clover being a great relief to the eye after the drifting sand and barren
shingle of the river bed. He is very proud of his vegetable garden and potato
patch. In this respect, however, Mr Acland is not singular, as we had seen a
clean and thriving plot of potatoes at every homestead visited. By this time I
had come to the conclusion that a water race, vegetable garden, and whisky jar
are three indispensable adjuncts to every sheep Station. I suppose they are
necessary to each other in some way. Perhaps the water is for the garden, the
garden for the man, and the whisky for the water, from which process of
reasoning I fancy a logical deduction can be evolved to the effect that the
whisky ultimately reaches the man in a diluted form. The whiskey may be good for
the water, but I'm afraid that there is a unanimous opinion among the
Mackenzieites that snow water is not at all good for whisky. I found that
lemonade and raspberry is not to be found on the wild side of Burke's Pass, but
though thus deprived of my favourite tipple I found evidences of a good cow at
every stopping place, and therefore a good cup of tea was always available.
Glentanner is about 25 miles from Mount Cook, but as B. and I had "done" the glaciers, &c., on previous occasions we turned our backs upon them, and on leaving Mr Acland early on the morning of the fourth day we steered south for a midday call at Rhoborough Downs. We passed a large number of men at work upon the improvement of the Mount Cook road, involving the expenditure of a Government grant of £1000. It will be a happy day for tourists when all the road is as good as the portion now completed by these co-operative gangs. In parsing the head of Lake Pukaki we observed a Urge number o? willow stakes planted iv the swamp at the mouth of the Tasman by the Mackenzie County Council. They seemed to be making good growth, and by means of our field glass we could trace lines of bushy-topped willows right across to the Braemar side. In the course of a few years those willows will form a dense mass of green foliage, which will in some degree relieve the naturally bare and treeless appearance of the country. We found some of the road rather awkward for our team, as the bulk of the traffic is composed of pair-horse teams, which leave a ridge between the ruts, upon which ridge our leader strongly objected to run. However, we got along pretty well, and arrived at Rhoborough Downs, to find Mr McArthur and all hands but the cook out mustering. The cook gave us a good lunch and the horses a nibble of hay, and we departed for Ben Ohau. There we had a cup of tea with Mr Cameron, jun., who told us that the road to the Ohau Bridge was in very bad order. We found it to be not so o bad as we were led to expect, and soon came to the Ohau Bridge, upon or near the site of the old wire rope and running cage. The bridge is of one span of iron or steel girders, simple in design, but strong and of great durability. The River Ohau flows into the Waitaki from Lake Ohau, and its waters are of a beautiful limpid blue, forming a great contrast to the dirty waters of the other rivers. Across this river we were upon Otago soil, and — to Otago's shame be it said — we here saw the first rabbit in our tour, though we had been driving nearly four days, early and late. Eight miles of good road from the bridge brought us to Benmore station, the centre of operations for about a quarter of a million acres and 85,000 sheep. We were kindly received by Mrs Midldleton, and then made our way to the shed, where we found Mr Middleton, genial and hearty as usual, supervising the shearing board, upon which were28 men all in a row operating as many shearing machines. We were much interested in observing the working of such a large shed and the turbine which conveys the motive power to the long shafting to which the shearing machines are attached.
A pleasant evening and a good night's rest brought us to our fifth day out, and, making an early start from Benmore and its good Scotch whisky and proverbial hospitality, we recrossed the Ohau and made for Pukaki Bridge. There we arrived at midday, and after a good lunch, a smoke, and a stroll to the bridge, which is strong and neat in appearance, being erected by the Mackenzie County Council upon a design furnished by Mr R. L. Banks, the county engineer, we again joked up and proceeded upon our homeward way. In skirting the southern shore of the lake we had a splendid view of Mount Cook and his satellites, the whole of the snow-capped range being clearly reflected in the water of the lake. These reflections had such a peculiar elongated and topsy-turvy appearance that we were puzzled to account for it. Each of us had a special theory by which the phenomenon could be satisfactorily explained, but we could not agree about it at all, and, as the sun was too hot. for a heated argument, we agreed to treat the matter as the Upper House did the Pension Bill, and defer consideration till a more suitable time. At Simon's Pass station we dropped in for a few minutes. Mr Matheson was busy with the sheep, but his good lady gave us such a lovely cup of tea that we did not think of whisky or lemonade and raspberry. Striking southward from the last-named station we had to make our own track down the plain to the Tekapo River, which lay between us and Gray's Hills station, our destination for the night. If there was a sluggish liver in the cart it had a good bumping up for a good many miles. On reaching the Tekapo we found it running pretty strong — in fact so much so that I, being a family man, though well insured, insisted upon taking the leader off and towing him behind the trap. I told B. that if we dropped into a deep hole and turned turtle I should jump on the free horse and pull him (B.) out by the scruff of his neck and let his horse and trap float to the Waitaki. However, we got through the two main streams safely, thanks to B.s coolness and his staunch and steady mare. After clambering up a steep bank we struck a private track which led us up to Mr A. Grant's home station. The sun was very hot, and we were very glad to get into the shade afforded by the fine trees surrounding the house and grounds. Mr and Mrs Grant gave us a hearty welcome, and we soon had our legs under a table loaded with all that hungry men could desire. The next day was so hot that I could not be induced to leave the grateful and comforting shelter of the trees, and poor B had to get a hack and ride some miles down the Haldon road to see a man about a dog or a long-handled shovel or some such pressing matter. He returned, hot and dusty, about lunch time, and after that pleasing function we smoked and lounged about upon the new-mown hay until it became cool enough to face the dusty road again. On leaving Gray's Hills we saw that Mr Grant's oats and turnips on the plain were looking fresh and green, though the rainfall has been light in that part. Our horses were fit and free, and we gaily trundled homeward past Grampians station and Whalesback out-station. About sunset we reached the finger post mentioned at the beginning of this account, and thus struck the main road again, having from that point circumnavigated the greater part of the whole Mackenzie Country. We were still 20 miles from Fairlie, so we decided to pay our respects to Mr Thomas, of Sawdon, and give him the pleasure of our company for the night. We found Mr Thomas at home, and glad to see anybody but swaggers. Though late and unexpected we fared extremely well, and received the inevitable invitation to taste the ubiquitous bottle. Sawdon station is on the civilised side of the top of the Pass and the aforesaid watershed, and has a well-appointed homestead in every respect. The previous owner, the late Mr Sibbald, had spared no expense in building and planting, and if the run and the stock are as good Mr Thomas must have secured a good thing at a moderate price. Next morning, after a smoke and stroll around, we got away in time to reappear at Fairlie at noon on the seventh day from our start. We had covered about 250 miles, and though the horses had had little hard feed they came home as fit as fiddles and as fresh as paint, as the saying is, and I believe they enjoyed the little trot around as much as we did.
Thanks to a good team, good roads, good weather, and. unbounded hospitality we had a most enjoyable trip, and I can honestly recommend friend B to anyone in need of a competent tandem driver.