It seems awful quiet when photographer Bevan Conley and I pull in to Mellonsfolly Ranch in Ruapehu's remote Ruatiti Valley.

We passed some tepees on a hillside and three elderly horses grazing in a paddock on the way in but the place seems deserted.

A woman clad in black velvet with a red rose in her hair steps off a veranda and greets us with a "Howdy."

Then the stillness is shattered by a gunshot and a Mexican bandito from a Sergio Leone film steps up to greet us.

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"I'm Rosita and this is Pancho," says the woman.

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Deep in the heart of the Ruatiti Valley is Mellonsfolly Ranch, home to the Old West Town.
Deep in the heart of the Ruatiti Valley is Mellonsfolly Ranch, home to the Old West Town.

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Rosita's real name is Sarah Bartley and she has worked at this remote wild west town for more than a decade.

Her family now own the property founded by Charles Mellon (aka John Bedogni) and she lives here full time.

Pancho is otherwise known as Miguel Leguizmon and Bartley found him in his native Argentina and brought him back to Mellonsfolly.

Rosita and Pancho provide a warm welcome for guests at Mellonsfolly Ranch deep in the Ruatiti Valley. Photo/Bevan Conley
Rosita and Pancho provide a warm welcome for guests at Mellonsfolly Ranch deep in the Ruatiti Valley. Photo/Bevan Conley

The couple has a 17-month-old son named Chico (his real name) and they run their specialist accommodation and entertainment business together with the help of a few talented staff and contractors.

One of those is Isobel May (aka Miss Belle) who arrives in costume at the Lucky Strike Saloon where Rosita offers hot drinks and her light-as-air scones with homemade jam and cream.

Belle brings Chico, dressed in his own little western costume, and her friendly brown labrador Halle.

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The saloon, like all the rooms at Mellonsfolly is opulent and kitted out with authentic and beautifully cared for furnishings.

The story goes that the town was founded by Charles Mellon who discovered gold in the valley and the boarded-up mine entrance and old sluice can be seen at the end of the street.

"He went over to the States and brought back containers full of antiques to make the town authentic," says Rosita.

"He wanted it to look like an old west town in Wyoming."

Charles Mellon may have moved on but the current owners have stayed true to his vision and have made only a few changes.

"We renovated two cottages on the property for staff accommodation and the tepees are a recent addition.
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6 weeks of summer
6 weeks of summer

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"They are equipped for sleeping but they are there to add balance and give a native American presence."

The former Bedogni residence is now part of the accommodations at Mellonsfolly and the themed rooms are all named for legendary wild west personalities such as Billy the Kid, Annie Oakley, Chief Sitting Bull and Wild Bill Hickok.

Everything is done with just the right amount of restraint and Rosita says Bedogni's wife Kenda is the New Zealand agent for Chanel responsible for much of the decor.

A modern commercial kitchen, high tech sound system and underfloor heating are all cleverly concealed within the framework of the buildings but each one also houses a beautifully crafted and engraved potbelly stove.
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Deep in the heart of the Ruatiti Valley is Mellonsfolly Ranch, home to the Old West Town.
Deep in the heart of the Ruatiti Valley is Mellonsfolly Ranch, home to the Old West Town.

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Mellonsfolly Ranch has accommodation for up to 26 people and includes Clinton's Billiard Saloon (the ultimate man cave says Pancho), Texas Rose's Bathhouse, Western Costume, the Waterfall Mountain Courthouse which doubles as a conference room and movie theatre, E.T. Bedogni & Sons General Store and Miss Nancy Ann's Hotel Parlour & Library.

"I teach people how to lasso, throw horseshoes and shoot with bow and arrows," says Pancho."

He also takes care of the buildings and says there is a lot of maintenance involved in caring for a wild west town in the middle of New Zealand bush.

"The climate in Wyoming is very dry and the moisture here takes a toll on wooden buildings."

"Those wagons over there show what can happen to wood that is not looked after."

Delicious aromas of well-oiled leather and timbre mingle with the scents of the surrounding bush at Mellonsfolly.
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Inside Miss Nancy Ann's Hotel for Single Girls.
Inside Miss Nancy Ann's Hotel for Single Girls.

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Even If you don't fancy roping and riding or the delights on offer inside the buildings, Mellonsfolly is worth a visit for the olfactory pleasures alone.

To learn more about Mellonsfolly Ranch visit oldwesttown.co.nz