Four Peaks track allows us access to a spectacular 13,500 acre (5400Ha) freehold property owned by long time farmers Steve and Jo McAtamney. It offers a unique combination of unspoiled high country farm experiences, a wonderful walk with breathtaking views and a taste of the region's most defining history.
While there are many stories and legends your guide will be able to tell you, there are a few that stand out. We spend our first night at Station Hut, once the homestead for the farm, built in the early 1900's. Our second night is spent at the Pleasant Gully Hut, built in1897, the third at Sutherland's Hut, built in 1866 (the oldest backcountry hut in New Zealand) and the fourth night at Devils Creek Hut which also dates back to the early 1900's. All huts are upgraded for comfort and cosiness. You can expect flushing loos, hot showers, spring bed bases with mattresses, pillows and pillowcases. This is roughing it in comfort! We can provide a sleeping bag if you don't have your own. It's all included in your tour package price.
The huts are fully equipped with gas cooking facilities, flush toilets and hot showers (it's amazing how a hot shower can reinvigorate a tired body). However, the huts still retain all their rustic charm and have plenty to tell us about their fascinating history.
It certainly seems that right from the start this isolated and wonderfully wild place offered plenty of challenges for the early settlers. Within a year of Sutherland arriving, the first shepherd to live here, South Canterbury recorded its worst snowfall in living memory, burying entire farm buildings under its weight and causing huge losses across the region.
Photos show that the roofs of the huts were originally thatched tussocks and instead of glass in the windows, there was only netting to keep the birds out. The foundation stones are massive, rolled up from the river, with clay and river sand for mortar. A hard life indeed.
We are so lucky to be able to soak up the beauty of the land and learn about its history thanks to the McAtamney family, who have restored the huts, connected the old trails and given them a new purpose.
Four Peaks station was once part of a much larger property, Orari Gorge Station, and Sutherland along with other shepherds was initially employed as the farm's 'boundary keepers’, a hard and lonely life. It would be another decade before the ‘American wire’ (barbed wire) would arrive in New Zealand to help keep the straying sheep from wandering and keep lambs safe from treacherous terrain.
Sutherland, originally from Scotland, was well up to the job. Indeed, Scottish shepherds were considered perfectly suited to New Zealand high country, as it was so similar to the Scottish Highlands. Their most important ‘tool’ and best friend was undeniably their dogs. The dogs of boundary men, also known as border collies, due to the important role they played.
With its undulating terrain, rugged peaks, steep tracks and long spurs this track is certainly not for the fainthearted, even today, but your knowledgeable guide, convenient luggage transport, and comfortable beds, means you can truly enjoy and appreciate this experience.
Walking in the shepherd’s footsteps will give you a rare glimpse of what it must have been like back then. Sleeping inside thick stone walls, seeing the blackened fireplaces and tiny windows, listening to the quiet of the open spaces outside, hearing the creek chattering in its bed of stones nearby, the whisper of stories and legends in the air, and a faithful bark fading away in the wind.
Four Peaks High Country Track, South Canterbury - YouTube
Jo McAtamney, Owner of Four Peaks Station
Have you seen the guided hiking tours we offer on the Four Peak Track?
These are our tour dates:
08.12.2020 - 12.12.2020 FPT0812
03.01.2021 - 07.01.2021 FPT0301
24.01.2021 - 28.01.2021 FPT2401
09.02.2021 - 13.02.2021 FPT0902
25.03.2021 - 19.03.2021 FPT0301
Interested? Click here for more information