* Due to fluctuating exchange rates, prices may vary at the time of booking if a tour is based on a different currency from its home country currency.
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Tours run: November - April (Tuesdays - weekly)
An average level of fitness. Walk 7km, Bike 15kmWell formed tracks and roads with very little incline Mild
An average level of fitness . Walk 12km, Bike, 25kmWell formed tracks and roads with average incline Moderate
Above average level of fitness. Walk 20km, Bike 45kmFormed tracks and roads with average to steep inclines at times Challenging
Above average level of fitness Walk 20+km, Bike 50+kmPartially formed tracks and roads with some steep inclines and possibly some easy river crossings
“Very relaxing, beautiful scenery-really away from it all. Excellent guide and hostess. Felt like a longer holiday”
“A great trip for anyone with a good fitness level who wants to get out in the high country for a good look, hear the history, see the geology, botany and enjoy being with like-minded folk. I was sorry when it was over-thank you Tuatara Tours for organising it”
The Mesopotamia High Country Walk is an awe-inspiring four day fully guided walking tour, which includes Mesopotamia High Country Station and the spectacular Peel Forest Scenic Reserve. You will be captivated by the grandeur of soaring landscapes, snow-capped mountain ranges and wide open tussock-covered tundra. Be inspired by stories of hardship and survival, explore the land New Zealand’s pioneers fought to tame, and enjoy the peace and isolation of one of this country’s most iconic high country farms- the true Middle Earth.
Terrain and access The Mesopotamia High Country Walk takes you across Mesopotamia High Country Station, a privately owned, family run farm originally established by the English writer Samuel Butler in 1860 and purchased by the current family in 1945. This is not a public trail; we walk over farm tracks, paddocks and tussock lands as we explore the farm. Walks can include some hill climbs, small stream or creek crossings and walking on varied and uneven terrain, so is classified moderate.
What's Included - All accommodation - All meals - Fully guided - Free Tuatara Tours kit bag - Luggage transport each day - Walking poles - Comprehensive safety systemsItinerary & Map
Tours run: November - April (Tuesdays - weekly)
We can customise tours to suit.
We can help prepare and evaluate your fitness.
After meeting your fellow walkers and your guide for the next four days, you depart Christchurch and enjoy a scenic drive out across the Canterbury Plains to Mesopotamia High Country Station, situated at the headwaters of the mighty Rangitata River. The drive takes approximately 2 hours and on arrival at Mesopotamia High Country Station you will collect your packed lunch and your walking gear and head out for today’s walk, a journey across “The Brabazon”, one of the large blocks of farmland on the Mesopotamia property.
Your walk takes you up and back into the hills behind the Mesopotamia Homestead, with stunning views back down the Rangitata River Valley, over the surrounding mountain ranges and on to the Southern Alps in the distance. You will enjoy your picnic lunch beside one of the many small streams or on a comfortable tussock cushion as you take in the view.
After lunch, you continue to explore Mesopotamia Station. Keep your eyes peeled for a variety of small sub alpine plants, birds and butterflies, and if luck is on your side, a sighting of a deer in the wild.
Returning late afternoon to the cottages, you will have time to freshen up before a hearty home cooked dinner prepared by your hostess and a relaxing evening in front of the fire with your fellow walkers.
After breakfast we head out to continue exploring Mesopotamia Station. Today’s walk concentrates on the trails around the homestead, and along the top terraces of the station, with a backdrop of the majestic “Two Thumbs’ mountain range of the Southern Alps. From here you can admire the views that attracted the writer Samuel Butler to the region, and which was the inspiration for his satirical novel “Erewhon”.
Mesopotamia Station covers an area of 25,000 acres and is home to over 11,000 merino sheep, 3,000 farmed deer and 500 beef cattle. The circular route today will take you from your accommodation, through the game park where you are likely to see magnificent fallow deer, red deer, chamois, thar and elk, and back to the cottages mid-afternoon, where you can relax until dinner.
For those keen to explore further, the farm outbuildings, the local school house and the site of Butler’s house all make for interesting historical landmarks. You spend a second night at the Mesopotamia Station Cottages.
After breakfast we take a short walk to the final resting place of Dr Andrew Sinclair, botanist and Colonial Secretary to the New Zealand Government. Dr Sinclair was travelling with his good friend, the geologist Julius Von Haast, when he was swept away and drowned in the flooded Rangitata River, beside which he now lies.
Mid-morning we prepare to leave Mesopotamia Station and drive to Peel Forest, where you will walk the trails of the Peel Forest Scenic Reserve. Many of the original settlers of the region are buried in the small stone church that the original owner of Mt Peel Station, J.B A Acland, gifted to the community. We make a short stop at the church on our journey through to Peel Forest this morning.
Your walk today takes you on a journey through the Reserve, with its canopy of towering podocarps, rich in bird life. The Reserve has 500 hectares of virgin native forest, with several totara trees said to be around 1000 years old. Its mild moist climate is also ideal for ferns and around 36% of all native ferns grown in New Zealand are found in this area. You will be refreshed by the sound of birdsong and the fresh, cool air of the forest.
This evening we relax and dine at a comfortable country lodge and chalets in Mt Somers
Known for special extra touches such as complimentary beverages, designer linen, hand crafted accessories, boutique wines (may vary at each property)
Today is our last day in the High Country, and our longest day of walking. After an early breakfast in your chalet, we journey by coach to the head of Lake Clearwater, travelling up the northern side of the Rangitata River Valley.
Originally Butler’s Mesopotamia Station stretched over both sides of the river and today we explore the area at the top of the river, referred to more commonly these days as Middle Earth. Our walk takes us out from Lake Clearwater, up into a tussock covered mountain valley to the shoreline of Mystery Lake, where we picnic beside the lake. Keep your eyes peeled for brown trout, the lake is a well-kept secret for local fisher folk.
Returning from Mystery Lake we follow the ridge line down above the Potts River, with amazing views of the valley below, a fantastic panorama back over Mesopotamia Station and the area we have travelled over the last 4 days.
Your return to Christchurch is around 7pm so if you are considering flying home today, please make sure you book a late evening flight to ensure you have plenty of time to spare.
Originally housing farm workers, the cottages now host hunters, tramping parties and family groups. Each cottage has 3 bedrooms, a communal lounge and kitchen, and a shared bathroom. This is basic but comfortable high country accommodation in keeping with the location and feel of the tour.
You will enjoy great local cuisine; continental breakfasts and hearty packed lunches during the day, and either restaurant meals or wholesome home-cooked fare prepared by your host/hostess in the evenings.
If you have any dietary issues or food allergies, we are happy to cater for these, please advise the office of details when you make your booking.
Alcohol is not included in the tour cost, but is available for purchase on night 3. You are welcome to bring a small amount with you for personal consumption on the other nights if you prefer.
Our guides are very experienced, friendly walkers and bikers who love to share their knowledge of New Zealand’s flora and fauna and local history. They all hold current first aid certificates, passenger driving licences and are the very best people to ensure your experience will be one to remember.
To ensure you get the very best out of your journey with the least of fuss, we provide you with a calico kit bag full of useful goodies on the morning of your tour departure.
Tuatara Tours transports all your luggage for the duration of the tour.
All you carry is a small day pack with your personal gear, drink and lunch.
We do the Rest
For your own safety there are a few things that you must bring yourself:
Other things we recommend you bring are:
To ensure maximum safety for all, our guides are certified first aiders and fully qualified drivers. Tuatara Tours operate under a Safety and Risk Management Plan which is regularly audited and approved by a qualified and independent auditor.
On the Mesopotamia High Country Walk we provide you a comprehensive field and history summary of the area.
The station gained its early fame from the first owner – Samuel Butler – the renowned English writer and author of the brilliant satire Erewhon…. which was based on the wonderful landscapes found in the area. Your knowledgeable and friendly guide will entertain you with the history of Butler and the resilient families who broke in and farmed this wonderful land.
Mesopotamia high country station is located in the headwaters of the Rangitata River. The station was named by Samuel Butler from the Greek words mesos and potamos, meaning ‘the land between two rivers’, originally describing the area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (in modern Iraq).
Samuel Butler – Mesopotamia’s founder and most famous owner, set out from England aboard the Roman Emperor in early 1860. He came with the intention of increasing his capital by sheep farming, but by the time he reached Lyttelton all the known sheep country in Canterbury had been taken up.
In effect, he could either buy the goodwill of a sheep station at the current rate of £100 per 1000 acres, or try to find unoccupied land which could be taken up at a cost of £1 per 1000 acres.
He purchased a good horse and travelled to the headwaters of the Rakaia and the Waimakariri without success. He then explored Forest Creek, a tributary of the Rangitata River. Here were some 5000 acres of unclaimed country. In May he added another 5000 acres of unoccupied land on the southern slopes of the Sinclair Range. He now owned the nucleus of his Mesopotamia Station.
In October 1860 he moved to the present Mesopotamia homestead site where he built a sod and a cob cottage and lived there for the next three and a half years. He carted up a piano in a bullock dray, and with his books and pictures he created a small oasis of comfort and civilisation in this remote corner of Canterbury.
‘I went up my mountain in a fog, and then got above the mist; going higher and higher, I would look down upon a sea of whiteness, through which would be thrust innumerable mountain-tops that looked like islands. I am there now, as I write, I fancy that I can see the downs, the huts, the plain and the river bed – that torrent pathway of desolation, with its distant roar of water, oh wonderful! Wonderful! So lonely and so solemn, with the sad grey clouds above and no sounds save a lost lamb bleating upon the mountain-side, as though its little heart were breaking.’
Samuel Butler, Erewhon
Mesopotamia is surrounded by the majestic Two Thumbs mountain range of the Southern Alps and the huge braided Rangitata River.
The surrounding area provided the backdrop to many scenes from the Lord of the Rings movie.
Mesopotamia Station is a family-run and traditionally farmed, working sheep, deer and cattle farm, now diversifying into other high country ventures, including hunting for Thar, Deer, Chamois, and Red Stag.
It is about 457 metres (1800 ft) above sea level rising to 2660 metres (7500 ft). Its size is just over 25,000 acres and currently has 11,000 merino sheep, 3000 deer and 500 cattle. Tourism and hunting concession areas cover some 75,000 acres.
Mesopotamia owners have developed a selected range of 100% pure Merino garments for use in the town or out on the hills. The garments were designed by the farm staff.
Both the design and the colours are specifically chosen to reflect the New Zealand high country – black and deep forest green.
(ASK YOUR GUIDE FOR MORE INFORMATION)