- Car park to tarn, 4hr; return, 2hr
- Rangitata Road from Peel Forest, turn left at Mesopotamia Station. Contact Malcolm or Sue at Mesopotamia Station for permission (03 696 3738)
Mt Sinclair tarn, Mesopotamia Station, Rangitata Valley
When I came across a picture of the tarn just below Mt Sinclair, I immediately filed it under ‘to be done soon’. As it happened, the trip ended up being a late birthday present to myself.
After asking permission to cross Mesopotamia Station I left my car at the end of a farm track about 1000m east of one of the scores of Canterbury hills called Sugarloaf.
Carrying gear for a night out, I followed the farm track for a little while before heading straight up the slope. The views over the Rangitata easily take your mind off the unrelenting climb on an unmarked yet technically easy tussock slope. I chose the left shoulder of a triangle that is formed by the slope with the tarn at its top.
I took some time reflecting on how different life out here must have been in the 1860s when English writer Samuel Butler named the place after the middle-Eastern Mesopotamia, ‘the land between two rivers’. Butler, who lived in New Zealand for 15 years, wrote an essay about his life as a sheep farmer at Mesopotamia Station and drafted his novel Erewhon here before selling the farm and returning to England. What must have been a rough journey on horseback for him is a convenient 1.5hr drive from Ashburton today.
Once I had made it to the tarn, I took a refreshing dip in the freezing waters. I just about managed to make myself presentable in time for the arrival of tahr hunters who had reached their camp for the night as well. Over a cup of tea I learned that tahr have become quite a pest in the region and DOC is quite keen for hunters to apply their skills. The guys certainly looked up to the task.
Once I had made camp and enjoyed my dinner, I watched the sun slowly sink below the horizon. The first stars rose while the sky was still inky-blue from a magnificent sunset. Once the blackness of night took over, the Milky Way and the Southern Cross enchanted me for hours.
All that stargazing made for a late start the next morning. Not-so-gently woken by gunshots I decided I might as well get up. By the time I was packed up and good to go it was way too late in the day to summit Mt Sinclair – an excuse for a return trip sometime in the future.
Thanks to spotting a promising looking scree slope on the way up, I made good time on my way out and was back at my car in less than two hours.