18 April 2014

Autumn is amazing in Arrowtown

One of the things I had most been looking forward to on our trip to Queenstown was the opportunity to capture the vibrant autumn colours. Living in Wellington, we have so many native trees that autumn colours are few and far between. And I knew we were going early in the season but I was just hoping and praying and willing there to be a glorious array of russet browns, canary yellows, ochre oranges and burgundy reds on display.

We'd been so favoured with the weather the previous day - a T-shirt and shorts kind of day, that it was quite the shock to the system to wake to a dull, gloomy and chilly day - it didn't get above 10 degrees all day.

Still, this didn't put a dampener on our plans at all. If anything the grey day added to the mood making it seem much more autumnal, and it made us really appreciate the warmth of the times we stepped indoors during the day.

Arrowtown is very famous for its autumn colours. So much so that every year the town hosts an Autumn festival in late April to celebrate their special place amongst the colours of the countryside.

The first thing we did on arriving was take a wander down the main street getting as close to the hillsides ablaze in glory as we could.

This guy came dressed for the occasion.

These boys, this place. Wowed me.

I also loved how the houses here have been kept as they were, so in style with their historic roots.

The leaves in the guttering adding to the character of these quaint wee cottages.

Then the warmth of a cafe and lunch called. We settled on Provisions - which is world famous in NZ for its sticky buns - there are foodie people all over the walls like Peta Mathias and Al Brown who have attested to that fact.

There are a wide selection of homemade jams and relishes on display to taste.

And a range of freshly baked bread that would rival most bakeries.

And the famous sticky buns. We couldn't NOT give them a whirl - and they were pretty out of this world.

Mark and Poppa declared the coffees to be superb. They may or may not have responsible for the caffeine surge that inspired the next photo.

The boys were dead keen to have a go at the gold panning at Dudley's Cottage.

With a little bit of expert tuition and patience....

....some crafty techniques...sloshing the water and rocks here and there at certain angles.....

.....and eventually........gold!

OK so just a few tiny skerricks but gold that they could keep forever in a little vial nonetheless.

They were chuffed to bits.

After this we walked along the river learning about the Chinese settlers who came and worked on the goldfields. What a hard life they must have had. This is Mark inside one of their huts. 

It's hard to imagine someone living in such primitive conditions, especially through the harsh southern winters. It was cold enough here today in early autumn, I hate to think how cold it would have been in the depths of winter with snow on the ground.

These men had often come on their own leaving their families behind in China seeking to earn enough money to send back home to improve their lives. They were often the subject of discrimination here too, it must have been such a hard life. Census records show up to 5,000 Chinese were living in the region during the 1870's, only nine of these women.

Our last stop of the day was the Lakes District Museum. It's a fairly unassuming building from the outside but very worth the visit. The bottom level has a full re-creation of a number of different livelihoods - carpenters, printers, bakers - there's even a school complete with old school desks, inkwells and an abacus. Poppa enjoyed telling us about what school was like in his day.

The boys were also merrily amused by the old sign saying 'lavatory' and when you pulled open the swing door there was a man (not real of course) sitting there on the loo saying 'oi you, can't you see I'm busy'. It gave me quite the fright when I opened the door the first time, so I then had to show the boys who opened the door multiple times giggling away at the rudeness of it.

Then the pull of the colours awaiting pulled us outdoors once more. 

Gelatos at Patagonia Chocolates followed for our brave kiddos who didn't seemed to mind eating cold on a cold day.

And just as quickly as we had come, it was time to leave.

To leave behind memories of golden light, and of the fifteen years of love that led us to this very moment.

These two were a mere twinkle in our eyes the last time we were in this part of the world..

I could never have imagined how much richer, broader and deeper our lives would be for sharing experiences like this with them.

Who knows what their future holds? At this point in their lives, the world is theirs for the choosing.

We hope that experiences like this serve to broaden their horizons and instill in them the same love of life, travel and adventure that has inspired so many of our wonderful wanderlust moments over the years.

It's our legacy to share. 

And theirs to carry on.

17 April 2014

Closer to Paradise

What is Paradise? Is it a place we search for all our lives wistfully hoping to find, or is it waiting within reach but only able to be seen when we really, truly open our eyes? Today, on this day, for one fleeting moment Paradise was closer than ever before.

Perhaps it was simply the build-up of hour upon hour, layer upon layer of beautiful and varied scenery pulling at my heart strings. Perhaps it was being in such a magical place with people who mean the most to me in the world. Perhaps it was more than this. I know what I felt, I know what I saw. I know what I know.

So if we are to get there you and I, to Paradise, then I need to set the scene. You also need to see, to experience the layer upon layer of beauty that I did, to truly appreciate the glory of Paradise when it  presents. And so to begin.....

We awoke to a day bathed in sunshine, and as we'd been driving back and forward along the lakefront the past two days I'd been saying I simply must go down to the lake and take some shots, so whilst Mark went to get coffees for us, Dad and I leisurely strolled along the waterfront enjoying the crisp, still early autumn morning with cameras in hand.

Exclaiming over dappled light filtering through the trees.

And admiring the courage of these early morning para-sailers who must have been rejoicing in their choice of day and time for their experience.

Today was the day we would retrace a journey from our last visit here some fifteen years ago. The drive from Queenstown up to the top of Lake Wakatipu where Glenorchy sits neatly overseeing the valley is one of the most scenic drives in the world you can experience in under an hour.

To begin with as you drive out of town, there are beautiful bays to meander through, and then the road climbs higher through low-lying bush and all of a sudden you come around a corner and find yourself literally gasping in awestruck wonder at this sight spread out before you.

We took a photo in the same spot as the one we took fifteen years ago, and is it wrong to say I think we have both improved with age? A few more grey hairs, crinkles wrinkles and fillings, but still. 

Upon reaching Glenorchy we decided the short hour walk around the lagoon would drum up a decent appetite in us all for lunch. So off we strode.

To begin with, the lagoon was a little, well, lacking in water as lagoons go. Not that it bothered the boys, they just turned it into a competition to see who could make the biggest PLOP in the mud.

The novelty of walking on wiggly, winding boardwalks proved great entertainment. Not so much for Mark who kept having visions of boys falling in the mud at every step.

Along the path, we saw very different rock from what we are used to in the north.

The schist takes on so many different hues and colours, and not unlike pancakes the rocks sit happily stacked like a giant Jenga tower.

And on the return journey, the lagoon views improved dramatically with the addition of water and birdlife.

Although I was kept mesmerised by the reflections, finding a stream to plop rocks off was all these two wanted.

Back in Glenorchy, we ate a cafe lunch with the most fantastic of backdrops. I couldn't tell you if my chicken pie was any good though, I was that distracted by the views.

After lunch, and with the whole afternoon still ahead of us, we headed further up the valley towards the Routeburn track and Mt Aspiring National Park.

Amongst the hills, silent waterfalls snake their way down, appearing and disappearing at will.

And the road winds us steadily deeper and further in.

This area is famous for its beech trees. Poppa was absolutely in his element here, he being QUITE the fan of the NZ native beech trees.

We hadn't driven that far, but it was like being in another land, this was a whole other kind of scenery. Primitive, other worldly, and we could just as easily have been in Jurassic Park, not the National Park.

The very famous Routeburn 4-5 day trek starts from where we did, although our hour loop on the Nature Walkway was not quite as arduous!

The trees here reach high up into the canopy here. It is so very still, so very quiet. With less bird song than one might expect.

Eerie, haunting, yet beautiful. 

On the return walk back to the car, we felt a few spits and made it back to the car just in time before a brief shower rolled in. We couldn't have known that the cloud would in fact make for the most amazing scenery yet on the journey back down the lake.

As we drove, it became apparent there had been an incredible metamorphosis on the lake. The contrast from stunning sunshine in the morning to moody mirror reflections in the afternoon was breath-taking.

When I got out of the car to take some photos I found myself weeping. At the wonder of His creation.

I have never, ever, ever, ever seen reflections like this before.

And I may never do again in this life.

I wept for the perfect symmetry and the crystal clarity.

But mostly I wept for being given this day. This moment.

It was the closest to Paradise I have ever been. And yet I know that one day I will find myself there again.

Only this time I won't be desperately closing tear-filled eyes to commit a fleeting moment to memory as I pass through.

I'll be there to stay.

And I imagine when I gaze upon His beauty and when I finally look upon His face, I will weep then too.

to be continued......


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