The drive in is a journey in its' own right. Following SH73 towards Arthur's Pass, the main highway takes you up over Porters Pass before descending past Lake Lyndon and through the Castle Hill basin, winding its' way along the foot of the Craigieburn Range before passing Lakes Pearson and Grasmere. Then, leaving the highway, you follow a gravel road for 23km, passing through farmland, to reach the carpark. It's a slow trip down this road, there's 17 gates along the way with all except for one of them being shut on the day of our trip, as well as plenty of stock running loose at the roadside - take it slow, and enjoy the trip!
There's a marked carpark where normal cars should park, while 4WD vehicles can drive all the way to the hut. This requires driving through the main river, which should not be taken lightly.
Leaving the car, we set off. It's only 2km from the carpark to the hut, so it was only a short wander. Initially the track runs alongside the rail tracks for a short distance. If you're lucky, as we were, you may encounter a train passing by.
After a few minutes we came to a gate, with the track leading down the slope beyond it. The gate is marked with a large orange triangle and was easily spotted.
Through the gate, the track descended down alongside Slovens Stream, where we passed under the impressive rail viaduct spanning the gap above us. A couple of minutes later and we were out into the river stones of Broken River.
As we made our way out towards the river, we got our first glimpse of Avoca Homestead, located about 200m upstream and on the opposite side of the river. We wandered up river slowly, looking for the best crossing point. While only running slightly high, the channel through the middle of the river was deep and swift enough for me to take a bit of time assessing the river. Eventually I decided that the best point was almost opposite the homestead, where the river ran slightly wider.
It was obvious that neither Toby or Lincoln would manage the crossing unassisted, so first Toby and I went across. Leaving my pack there, I came back for Lincoln. The first crossing had made it quite clear that there was no way Lincoln would manage it, so he hopped on my back and I ferried him across. Then it was back for Julia. A wet exercise, the river being mid-thigh on me, but the safest way of doing it.
The area has a long history of human endeavour. The Avoca run was first taken up in 1857. In 'The Early Canterbury Runs', Acland describes it as being "rather inaccessible", which still holds true today as access is quite dependent on river levels. Prior to the woolshed being built in the 1920's, sheep were usually driven across Broken River up to Craigieburn Station. This task, and that of transporting the wool out, was made easier by the construction of a stock bridge (now derelict but visible in the river) in 1922. Acland records that the run changed hands rather frequently, perhaps an indication of how difficult it was running such a remote station.
Built in 1906, Avoca Homestead was treated to a major restoration in 2006. The restoration job that's been done on the hut is superb, and it maintains much of its original character. The hut contains 6 bunks, laid out in 3 bunkrooms with 2 single beds in each, as well as a living area with large table and fire, and a separate kitchen type area with a bench.
There are information panels lining the walls, which give an interesting insight into life on the early station.
We enjoyed a leisurely hour or so having lunch and exploring the area, before it was time to head on out. The old woolshed proved of interest to the boys as we passed it, then it was back down to the river to repeat the crossing exercise before making our way back up the track to the car.
|Setting out along the railway tracks|
|Goods train passes us by|
|Heading down the 4WD track, some impressive erosion in the area|
|Approaching the viaduct over Slovens Stream|
|The viaduct towering above us|
|A sense of scale with us beneath it|
|The derelict stock bridge, built 1922|
|Arriving at Broken River, looking for the best ford|
|Looking across Broken River to Avoca Homestead (rear) and woolshed|
|Toby and I fording Broken River|
|Lincoln managed to keep his feet dry|
|Lincoln and I about to enter the deeper middle channel|
|The larder in Avoca Homestead|
|Bunk room in Avoca Homestead, there's 3 like this|
|Main living area|
|Modern (and safer) stove|
|Group shot at Avoca Homestead|
|Avoca Homestead and grounds|
|Woolshed near Avoca Homestead|
|Much on the interior is in good condition, but...|
|...the same can't be said for this part!|
|Back alongside Broken River|
|Lincoln beside Broken River|
|Julia and I tackling Broken River|
|Back on up the 4WD track|