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.
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......