An expedition to one of New Zealand’s most remote sheep and cattle stations.
Updated: Sep 2, 2021
Sitting in the cool quiet of the cob musters quarters at the Muzzle homestead is the perfect place to read the book ‘Life on the Muzzle’. The Authoress of the book Fiona Redfern, known by her family as O, and her husband Guy live and raise their family here, in the heart of the tall and craggy ranges of the Southern Alps of the South Island Their sheep and cattle farm station is one of the most remote in the New Zealand. Isolated and majestic between the rugged seaward and outer Kaikoura ranges, with river crossings by 4WD vehicle and helicopter flights and every day and necessary event.
Last night around the big kitchen table I was reminded of my rural childhood when shearing gangs came to visit our home at French Pass in the Marlborough Sounds. Hard working guys and gals line up for tucker and a beer and in no time the yarns start rolling and we all forget the petty troubles of the outside world. We are family. Nola tells how her dress got caught in the workings of a seed driller and the unsympathetic response from her hubby, Guy holds up a toe damaged by a similar incident, we are all in stitches. O calm and serene brings out the apple crumble and real cream, little Arthur her 8 year old son watches from the door wishing he were grown up.
Yesterday I discovered a whole new definition of steep, in our trusty Toyota Fortuna we climbed to top of the saddle into the Clarence Reserve. We happily munched on our bacon and egg pie and swigged on soup as we try to take in views to every compass point, spanning from the green flats of the Kaikoura Coast, the sweeping pastures of the Clarence Reserve rimmed by towering mountain ranges and in the distance the magnificence of the Molesworth Station.
Touching down into the Clarence Reserve we approached our first river crossing, the Fortuna is fit for purpose, complete with snorkel and our guide Lance Godfrey has forded this river more often than we have had hot dinners. But it was thrilling to see water inching up the door of our vehicle and was a relief to get to the other side. Phew only 17 more crossing to go.
Lance, right hand man of the Redferns and Fiona’s parents Colin and Tina, has first hand knowledge of the life here. He showed us a good swimming hole at the river with nearby trees to escape the heat of midday, and took us to must see places of interest with evocative names like the elephant trap and the ‘diamond’ mine. We are so lucky to have Lance as our guide with his wide experience, humour and easy going nature.
It is impossible to describe the remote beauty of the Muzzle, with its great winding river valley and silent watching mountains towering above. I have been told there is nowhere better to experience this splendid isolation that on our last night at the Ravine hut. The Ravine hut is used by the Redferns and their mustering team for the calf weaning and other horse back musters. But that is tomorrow’s adventure.
I can hear the throb of helicopter blades, Guy is returning from work, both Guy and O have pilot licences and own a plane which they use for trips to town, even the new ram gets a ride! I go outside. Arthur is running around in oversized boots with the dogs, his little sister trailing behind. O has Muzzle Station beef sizzling on the bar-b-que. This is Life on the Muzzle.