The Hosts / Story
Your hosts – John & Pauline - are both down-to-earth ‘Kiwi adventurers’ who are well versed in providing genuine Southern hospitality to visitors from far and wide. Originally from Southland, farming runs through their veins. In 2004, they sold their sheep & beef farm on the outskirts of Invercargill and took over the ownership of Kaiwarua Station in South Canterbury.
Running a 6,000 hectare high-country station was a big step up from their initial 240 hectare farm but naturally John and Pauline took it all in their stride – everything that is from mustering 14,000 stock units (which included merino sheep, deer, and cattle) on horseback to attending to the needs of their mustering gangs and running 4WD tours on their property.
Pauline & John are active and engaging kiwi hosts with a passion for New Zealand and interests in high-country farming, fly-fishing, horse-riding, skiing, golf, mountain-biking and motorcycle tours. Together they offer a warm and welcoming country retreat, enriched by their high-country farming heritage and extensive farming networks, many of which provide exclusive access - by foot, horse, 4WD or helicopter - to nearby high country stations, not otherwise open to the public.
Lime Tree Lodge – authentic Southern hospitality & outdoor adventures with comfort, style & taste.
When John and I first arrived at Kaiwarua Station, our two sons were both still of school age. It was the first week of shearing and we all had to work frantically to get the thousands of merino sheep through the shed and back out to pasture as quickly as possible. The ewes were pregnant and needed to be out eating grass.
People sometimes asked why we were so late in getting on with the shearing - this was because the grass growth is much slower in the high country compared to down on the lower farms - the higher up in altitude, the slower the growth rate.
So, it was all hands on deck from the word go, helped by a great team of shearers and shed hands. We also had a superb wool classer who sorted out all the wool fleeces from the merino sheep.
Shearing went for days back then, than it was on to lambing, which was a totally different experience with merino sheep compared to crossbred sheep and another steep learning curve. Merino sheep do not like being disturbed while lambing so after coming out of the shearing shed they are sorted into groups and taken out to their own special blocks.
John and I loved the merino sheep, especially the way they liked to meet up with each other at the top of the hill or mountain at night time (natural instinct) and camp out on the hilltops until morning, when they would head back down to the lower pastures to graze for the day. The following evening, they would head back up to the hilltops for their evening sleep together. If you have ever wondered why the top of the hill always looks so much greener than everywhere else, there’s your answer!
Very early in the morning, at first light and after a hearty breakfast, was the best time to head out to do the mustering. We often saddled up the horses or put them in a horse float in the dark and took the float up to the paddock furtherest away, unloaded the horses and started heading up into the mountains.
They were wonderful days but very exhausting as we always walked the horses down the mountains and steep hillsides. Often the places we spotted stock (cattle, sheep and deer) were too steep for the horses so you would have to leave them and hope that they would still be there when you came back. We would then have to make our own way around some pretty steep faces and whistle up the dogs to have what is called ‘a bark-up’ to get the stock moving. Otherwise, we would use a gentle ‘heading dog’ to get behind the sheep, cattle or deer to begin the long trip back to the main yards or ‘home block’ as it was known.
We all had radios and often a shepherd would be on one side, with one of us in the middle of the block and the other on the far side. We would let each other know by radio where exactly to place our dogs below, as it was easy to overlook stock, especially those that were hiding behind the tussock.
Sometimes when we were all out mustering the cattle, they were long, hard, dusty days, especially at calving time. By the afternoon the cows had became somewhat grumpy and would sometimes charge at you on your horse. On these occasions, it paid to have your wits about you, especially if you noticed a cow looking for her calf in amongst the hundreds. It was amazing how quickly they all paired up again, once you had them on the flat paddocks and settled down for the night.
I could write a book about our days spent up in the high country … the time one of our shepherds stumbled across a pig’s nest while tramping through the tussock and was promptly chased out by a huge sow which was protecting her piglets.
We were 46kms away from our nearest shop and even had our own snow plough and snow mobile, which came in handy when we were out snow-raking with the shepherds. Some years we would have severe droughts but my husband (John) always retained a great, positive attitude and – of course - the rain would eventually arrive.
We also had to share the station with the Bennet Wallaby – a pest which was first introduced into New Zealand for a sport. There were hundreds of them on our station and while our visitors loved catching sight of one, they were sadly responsible for eating an inordinate amount of grass!
We have been involved in tourism throughout our married life. We often had people to stay and many of them ended up working with us on our farm. When we shifted to Kaiwarua Station, we ventured into the high end of tourism and offered fly-fishing and 4WD adventures for our guests. John and I both really enjoyed meeting the wonderful people we had to stay. The fly fishing in particular was a great delight to many of our visitors. I also used to take guests and visitors to the station for a tramp, following the river, then swimming and sharing a picnic together in the great outdoors.
A few years ago, John had an accident on horseback while he was out mustering. After that, the hills became too high and hard on his back so we eventually shifted to Wanaka - arguably one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand.
Here we are surrounded by mountains and gorgeous lakes and rivers, with a small town centre nearby. Our two sons have now finished their university educations and are making their own way in life. They love to visit us in Wanaka and share our passion for skiing, hiking and fly-fishing.
So now we are on to the next chapter in our lives - sharing our boutique luxury lodge and tales of our high country life in New Zealand with the many overseas tourists and New Zealanders who we continue to have the privilege of meeting.