It rained on Friday night while we were all tucked up in our respective beds, and Saturday dawned dull and grey, and threatening to rain again at any moment. Nevertheless I was keen to show Megs the land where I grew up and she was just as keen to discover it. The photos on the blog were taken on her camera, so there might be some things I mention but don't have photos for.
Mesopotamia Station sits right at the very head of the valley and was originally settled by an English scholar and author, Samuel Butler.
Samuel Butler's Original Homestead
Butler named the place 'Mesopotamia' after ancient Mesopotamia which lies between the Euphrates and Tigiris Rivers in what is today Iraq. The word is greek, and is made of mesos meaning 'between' and potamos meaning 'river.' -ia is a suffix which denotes the name of a place. Therefore Mesopotamia literally means "the land between two rivers." In Iraq these were the previously mentioned bodies of water, and here in South Canterbury, New Zealand Butler refers to Forest Creek and Bush Stream. Not rivers perhaps, but romantic and fitting. But Mesopotamia has never really been resistricted by the Bush Stream, though Forest creek is in fact its southerly border.
He also named the land directly on the other side of the river too, and even wrote a book about it. The name of the country across the river is called Erewhon, even today. The origin of the word Erewhon is not greek. I challenge readers to tell me what it means. If you already know then don't spoil it for the rest!
My grandfather was employed as a manager for Mesopotamia when it was owned by the bank (long after Butler was gone) and then later bought it from the bank and ran it himself (with a myriad of sheperds and other farm hands...). When his sons were grown the massive station was split into three farms, and given to three of those sons. My Uncle Laurie took over the main station, still called Mesopotamia, my own father owns the farm next door "The Tui" Station, and my Uncle Ray and his family took over Garondale Station, which borders Forest Creek. (This has since been sold and renamed Forest Creek Station.) As I was growing up I went to Mesopotamia Primary school - school roll of ten - and learned a great deal about the history of the area I called my home.
The one-room primary school is situated right next to the site of Butler's original homestead and you can still see the outline of the sod-walls were they have sunk into the ground with time. I wish I had a photo. More impressive is the ruins of his dairy, made of stone and crumbling next to the homestead. The door frame (though wooden) is still there. But not all the history (and I'm sure the brits reading this will be laughing at my idea of history, but New Zealand is very young so you have to gove her a chance.) is about Butler. The wagon in the picture below has never been out of the shed as long as I have been driving past it on the way to school or visit my cousins, but my Dad can remember a childhood with it in full service.
After visiting the school we ducked a few hundred metres up the road to drop in on my cousins who are now running the station, and on the way back my brother was good enough to take Megs and I in the truck out the back of The Tui.
My Dad farms perendale sheep, aberdeen angus cattle and red deer - all for meat. Megs and her husband hunt wild fellow deer in the North Island, so she was impressed to catch sight of our magnificent specimens, and she even heard one of them having a good roar! She tried to get some photos of them without the fences, all to show her husband and make him jealous, but unfortunately the ones we were looking at were in quite a small paddock.
Two stags and their hinds.
(hind = doe)
Easter Sunday dawned beautiful and sunny - perfect for a picnic. The sandwiches were made in no time, the billy packed and off we went. We were going to help Megs discover Middle Earth. I'm not sure if I have mentioned this, but there are two places - one over the river by Erewhon (have you figure it out yet?) and one further up the river on Mesopotamia. Mt Sunday lies across the river from us. Compared to all the mountains around us it look like an insignificant mound, but this little glacial remenant was the site of Rohan's Edoras.
The picture above is almost split in two horizontally. Tussock and black matagouri in the foreground, and mountains and sky in the background.
From the left of the photo, follow the line along the top of the black vegetation, just inside the edge of the picture is a little hill lying in front of the larger hills behind it. It doesn't even stretch into the middle of the image. That is Mt Sunday, and perched atop was the village of Edoras.
But before we reached our destination we came across a little two (TWO!!) roomed musterer's hut. This is known as the Black Mountain Hut, but is also sometimes refered to as the Alma Hut. The hut itself is rather boring to look at from the outside, and inside there is a fireplace, bench and some bunk beds. There are more bunk beds in the tiny ajoining room. There is no running water and for a long time there had been no electricity. But now if you want to bring a generator with you then you can run it outside and you'll have lights at night. As far as hygeine is concerned, there is a shielded space designed for you to hang up a bladder of water for a shower and pictured below is the loo-with-a-view. A long-drop, or 'dunny' as its refered to in NZ, is a hole in the ground with a seat build over it. This one has three walls and the view fortunately faces away from the hut. Megs took a photo of the back of it.
After a poke around and watering the dog, we headed on for another ten minutes or so to reach the mouth of the Alma Stream, and Helms Deep.
Get the dog some water.
Boil the Billy.
Boiling the billy is a Kiwi term for boiling water and making a cup of tea. The Billy is the soot-black pot you can see swinging over the fire. The water is boiled then a handful of tea-leaves is thrown in (almost literally) and the 'billy' stews.
Then it's off-the-fire! with anything that's handy and poured straight from the billy into your cup. So the next time you turn on the jug for a cuppa, have a think about the effort it took us to make this one!
But finally the tea was drunk, the sandwiches eaten and we made our way up the Alma to where it emerged from the gully. This was were Peter Jackson had the studio-built replica of Helms Deep transposed by computer. I tried to get the magnificent (and I really mean that) MAGNIFICENT arial view of the fortress from the movie, where it is full day and you can see the fort nestled right inside the valley - an impenterable marvel of design and build. Unfortunately the internet only seems to have dark, night-time, stormy pre-battle images, so here are the two for your comparison;
I really think the angles are all wrong!
You can only just see the edge of 'old' Mesopotamia under the mountain on the very right of the picture. As you must really have been able to appreciate - where I grew up there are mountains all around!
Notes on copyright for last two images:
Eowyn (Miranda Otto) niece of King Theoden, stands at the magnificent Rohan capital of Edoras Photo by Pierre Vinet/New Line Productions 2002 - © 2002 - New Line Productions - All Rights Reserved
Lord of the Rings: The Two TowersPhoto by Pierre Vinet - © 2002 - New Line Productions - All Rights Reserve