At first I was reserved about how the weather of today would be, but when Ivy arrived at about 10:00 am and took me to a different breakfast house the beautiful sunny clear weather returned. This was going to be the “road trip” day.
I was having a passion about going to the famous Milford Sound, one of the seven wonders of the world, but the road network to there from Wanaka is incredibly detoured and could have taken us 5 hours in each direction. Where we did go to proved to not only beautiful but much more important in the spirit of pilgrimage, though i did not know this until I returned.
Our “road trip” from Wanaka was to Glenorchy, at the northern end of the long Lake Wakatipa.
Until the making of Lord of The Rings, Glenorchy was a world unknown village seemingly hidden in an Avalon style place in a shangri-la among the heights of the Southern Alps of New Zealand. Barely a road with tarmac for miles and the smallest wooden buildings for library, church, school etc.
About 50 km before Glenorchy is Queenstown with its exploding tourism industry after being the HQ of the Lord of The Rings production. Before heading to Glenorchy, Ivy and I found a quaint lakeside cafe with the most outrageous range of home made ice creams. Lunch immediately became a combo of exotic ice creams and sensation stirring coffees. Maybe we were already under the Tolkein spell. Consuming these Shire wonders by the lake we looked over to Deer Park Heights across the water and visioned Gandalf riding across the top to Gondor with the refugees escaping from Rohan.
After our unique lunch it was off to Glenorchy passing Lothlorien, the shores of the River Anduin and the slopes of the Dimrill Dale.
After a “potty stop” at Glenorchy it was another 30 km deep into the wilds of the mountains, creeks, plains and knotted wood forests blasting up a shield of dust behind us as we sailed our car over the dusty tracks, no tarmac in these parts. We had now entered the world of the “trampers”, long distance hikers who spend weeks travelling these alps and staying in some of the many “huts” hidden in this vast wonder, world wonder and 1000s of sq. klms of wilderness without roads.
We decided to have a small taste of “tramping” through rocky paths, over deep gorge rope bridges feeling the trees watching us, embracing the sun from clearings as it reflected on the glacier mountains around us too. Sometimes there was the wonder of looking into mystical pools of emerald water.
On our return, before leaving this hidden treasure middle earth world I stopped to make peace with an unusual brown spotted horse, like dalmation dog spots, who ran over to me to make his acquaintance too. A wonderful peaceful moment beside a pure white sand beached creek bordering a mysterious row of large rich green mounds that the merino lambs were enjoying playing “king of the castle” on.
We left this world content with the day to travel and stopped at a quaint small surreal town called Arrowtown where Ivy had been recommended a wonderful Indian restaurant, which turned out to be extremely accurate.
During an outstanding meal and the best New Zealand wine I had ever tasted, I found myself contemplating how such remarkable beauty has somehow lost its culture. Much of Ireland’ s spirit is its mythology, Scotland its folklore, Australia with its Aborigine culture but the Maori culture of New Zealand seems to be veiled and even exorcised, at least on South Island.
However, the Maori names are still here with Wanaka, Wakatipu etc. Where have they gone?
Surprisingly, compared to races in Australia, Ireland etc. the inhabitants of New Zealand seems to be more recent, starting around 1200 AD, though I do find this hard to believe. Its feels this land was blessed well before then.
The earliest Maori inhabitants were aid to have settled where we travelled today between what is now Queenstown and Glenorchy to mine and shape the green stones of the area for tools and healing. I find this quite remarkable in this time when knowledge of alchemy was well advanced around the world. Was there alchemy here. Is it coincidence that the Lord of The Rings trilogy was filmed here.
Despite the outstanding beauty, light design of the few buildings and the warm friendship of the people here I found myself disturbed by what seems to be almost a complete sweep of the ancient spirit from here ….. yet its presence is still here.
The “proud” history of this area seems to be its gold rush of the 1860s and it does look like a piece of Alaska here too. The rivers of the area made this the second most lucrative gold bearing river region of the world after California. Today, the surreal Arrowtown is still a heritage of this time as not only is its architecture preserved but its tree lined avenues still includes trees planted by these gold mining settlers.
From Arrowtown its was the winding road return to Wanaka reflecting on the two wonderful days we have just shared, my daughter Ivy and I.
Tomorrow, I must be on my way again. Its a bit tearing leaving this place back to a more familiar humanity of Christchurch and then on the plane to Wellington, North Island.
I am looking forward to meeting up with Claire again and my next Blogcard will be from Wellington unless I have words to say from Christchurch. However, these past two days have touched me deeply. I am so glad to have been here for a short time, a lifetime short time, in this “middle earth”.