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Hurunui Horse Trek Photo Gallery

Written by Cathy Siegismund
March 2002

On the evening of March 15, I arrived at the Hurunui Hotel, a typical New Zealand pub and hotel, where I would meet the other riders and guides on the trek.

Hurunui Hotel

We spent the evening enjoying dinner, and getting to know each other.

The seven riders on the Mountains to Sea horse trek

We had a great and diverse group on the trek. Grant was a farmer from the North Island of New Zealand, Barbara from Germany, Alana from Colorado, Wendy and Liz from the UK, and Phil from the UK. Our three guides were Camille from Australia, Steve from the UK, and Justin from New Zealand.

The next morning, Rob from Hurunui Horse Treks picked us up at the hotel, to take us out to Hamner Springs where we picked up the horses.

Jam, my horse for the next 9 days

Jam, like many of the trek horses is a Stationbred. These are a Thoroughbred and Clydesdale mix. Many of these horses are bred and raised wild on the stations, and are later caught and broke for trekking or mustering.

We were soon riding up the mountains out of Hamner Springs. The first day we took turns leading the pack horses, although they were not to be loaded with their packs until the second day.

Riding out of Hamner Springs

On the first day, we stopped for lunch and learned the lunch routine. We would tie up our bridles and then as all the horses wore a halter and lead rope under their bridles, we would use the lead rope to tie the horses to the nearest tree or sturdy piece of brush.

Horses grazing while we eat lunch

Our first night, we stayed at a the Acheron accommodation house. This is one of the many huts, free or very low cost places we stayed. These huts range from one room huts, which musterers (Kiwi cowboys) and hunters use, to several roomed structures with showers and kitchens. The two things every hut will have is a fireplace and some water source, either a cistern or a nearby river.


Wendy and Liz setting up our sleeping bags on night one

As the first night's stop had road access, two folks from the horse trek outfit met us at camp the first night and cooked us a great dinner and brought the supplies for the pack horses.

The second day was the first day with the pack horses fully loaded, so it took a while to get everything packed up and ready to go.

Grant leading a pack horse

We began riding into the government owned Molesworth station, the largest cattle station in New Zealand, and began following, and crossing the Clarence River. We also began riding through some very remote and tough terrain, we would be able to see Mount Tapuaenuku, the highest point outside the Southern Alps.


Riding into Molesworth Station and crossing the Clarence River



We repeatedly crossed the Clarence River

Pack horses having lunch

Pack horses, now loose and leading the way

After two days of all of us taking turns leading the pack horses, they were now turned loose. For most of the rest of the trek they trotted along in front, sometimes behind a guide, and other times blazing the trail on their own. Most of our time was spent in the saddle, however, we also did a fair amount of walking. Pretty much any steep hill we road up, we walked and led the horses down.


Leading the horses down the steeper slopes

The second day we had nice weather but we were all pretty tired and ready to stop by the time we reached camp at Cloudy Range hut. This was a musterers' hut, with a kitchen and bunks.

Cloudy Range Hut


Kitchen and bunks at Cloudy Hut, not exactly the Hilton, but we all got a good night's sleep

View from Cloudy Hut

That evening, Wendy's knee was really bothering her, so she and her friend Liz decided to call it quits and the guides arranged for a 4-wheel drive to come out and pick them up, weather permitting. As we were getting pretty far from the beaten path and the forecast was for rain, it was a bit touch and go as whether a truck would be able to get through. The next morning we awoke to pouring rain, and got to try out our long oilskin coats. We all had that real "Man from Snowy River" look but we were also all soon very wet and cold.

We saw beautiful rugged scenery -- the cold weather even brought snow to the higher peaks

We had a long and tiring day, riding up tough country and walking down some very muddy and slippery slopes. We were extremely happy to see Willows Hut.

Our first sight of Willows Hut

Another small musterers' hut, it was a small one room hut but did have running water a fireplace and bunk beds. We built a warm fire, and everyone peeled out of their soaked clothes and draped them around the hut to dry. After a warm and hearty dinner, we had a great night's sleep in the cozy hut.

On the fourth day, we had woke to sunny skies and frost. The day was long and included a ride over an area called the fells which is 900 meters high.

The day, however, was warm and we had a lovely ride toward Muzzle Station, a huge and remote station formerly Quail Flat homestead built around 1860. Muzzle Station is now owned by a couple who raise everything including sheep, cattle, deer, and horses. The station is so remote they can only drive out 7 months of the year, and the rest of the year they can only fly how by either their plane or helicopter.

We would spend two nights at Muzzle Station in the original mud brick homestead, which now serves as the sheep shearers' hut. Rob and Mandy, owners of Hurunui Horse Trek, would be meeting us at Muzzle, and not only would the horses get a day off, but we would as well and have the chance to take showers and wash clothes.


Beautiful scenery at Muzzle Station

The original homestead at Muzzle Station, our home for two days


     The new house at Muzzle Station                           The girls room, which Barbara and Alana and I shared

Drying out our newly washed clothes and horse pads

Muzzle Stations commuter vehicle

On our day off, after a leisurely morning - most days on the trek we are up before the sun - and a nice hot breakfast, showers and laundry we explored some of the station. We saw some of the their stock, got a tour of their small hydro power plant, which powers Muzzle, and got an education on honey production. A couple who keeps 500 hives on Muzzle station showed us their honey extraction facility, and told us how they work their hives. I was amazed that on a good year, their 1500 hives will produce 20 tons of honey! We also enjoyed two great home-cooked meals at the main house at Muzzle.

One of this year's foals

A group of young Merino rams

The morning we were to leave Muzzle Station, we awoke to pouring rain and blustery thunder storms. As we didn't have a very long day, we had a leisurely breakfast and didn't head out until about 10:00am, when the rain had fortunately stopped.

Steve saddling up a pack horse as we prepare to leave Muzzle Station

We backtracked for about half a day as we left Muzzle Station. After lunch, we left the Clarence and started making our way toward the Seaward Kaikoura Range.

We rode along the river bed of the Herring Stream to Bluff Dump Hut, which was one of the most picturesque.

Riding along the river bed

Unpacking the horses at Bluff Dump Hut

Jam and our last hut of the trek

Barbara and Alana cleaning up the hut

Bluff Dump Hut, was quite small, but did have a fireplace and was next to a stream for water. However, a few of us had to sleep in tents.

A few were sleeping in tents our last night out

Phil relaxing and Steve and Justin cooking our dinner

Our last day of real trekking, was a long one. We awoke very early and set out in the cold morning toward Kaikoura and over the rugged Seaward Kaikoura Range. This trek included a ride past Dead Horse Gully, an old pack horse trail where a mule train had met a Clydesdale pack train and the mules took the inside path; this sadly resulted in the Clydesdales tumbling down the mountain.

Justin, our guide, riding his horse over the final tough pass



Breathtaking views from the Seaward Kaikoura Range

Cath riding Jam up the Seaward Kaikoura Range

Our first view of the ocean on our trek

Cath and Jam posing at the summit with the ocean in the background

After reaching the summit of the pass, we started the long walk and ride down into the foothills around Kaikoura where we would end our trek.

Foothills around Kaikoura

After a long day's ride, we arrived at Kahutara Homestead, a farmstay owned my Nicky and John Smith. After we put the horses away, we were treated to absolute luxury at Nicky and John's. We got to sleep in real beds, have long hot showers, and enjoyed a hearty home-cooked meal. This was the end of our trek, but the next day we were all going on a half-day ride down to the ocean and to go for a beach ride.

Kahutara Homestead

We awoke to a warm sunny morning, and after a great breakfast saddled the horses and took off toward the beach. John, did tell us not to be alarmed if we heard live gunfire, as the New Zealand special forces was holding maneuvers in the area we would ride through to get to the beach. He said "no worries", I'll let them know you're coming. This struck us as very Kiwi and very funny.

We had a great time riding on the beach, including riding the horses down into the surf and having a little race down the beach.

Barbara on the beach - Jam's ears in the forefront

Phil riding Packer

Cath and Jam on the beach

Our last group shot on the beach

Ken was waiting for us back at the Kahutara Homestead.

End of the trek

Although the rest of the group was spending one more night at Nicky and John's, Ken and I decided to leave for Christchurch right after lunch.

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