A glorious early spring morning and I’ve got the nose of the Blue Streak (my Nissan Pathfinder) heading up the Waitaki Valley and into the Lindis Pass. This is one of my favourite drives.
The Waitaki Valley with its three interlocking lakes, burgeoning vineyards, dairy and sheep farms all hemmed in with snow-capped mountains, is one of New Zealand’s greatest secrets. The Lindis Pass – 100 kilometres of winding alpine highway – is breathtakingly beautiful, connecting Omarama with Cromwell and hence, North with Central Otago.
Today it’s a road much travelled, by an endless stream of cars, buses, campervans and enormous pantechnicons ferrying people and goods in and out of the scenic wonderland of Queenstown and Wanaka. Most simply drive, eyes focused ahead, oblivious of what they are missing by not stopping to explore.
I love this drive and would happily do it once a week, but today I’m on a mission. I’m visiting Morven Hills Station deep in the Lindis Pass to photograph an enormous stone woolshed built in the mid-to-late 19th century by the McLean brothers.
Today, at 36,000 acres, Morven Hills is a large sheep station (by New Zealand standards) that’s been in the ownership of the Snow family for more than 100 years. But it’s a mere shadow of its original glory when reports of the time had its acreage varying from 450,000 to 500,000 acres!
I’d phoned Richard Snow the night before and left a message on his answering machine telling him what I was doing and that I’d be through the next day. But nobody was home when I arrived, so I mooched around the outside of the huge, T-shaped, schist-and-Oamaru-stone woolshed, one of the largest in the country and a true historic building.
Then there was a whisper overhead as a two-seater Robinson helicopter cruised down the face of the mountains to land near the homestead. It was Richard Snow. He’d been out checking on stock. He’s had a helicopter for 35 years and it’s obviously the most practical way to get around his huge spread.