21 February 2017

Glenorchy. 360° of absolute beauty

Visit Glenorchy and its surroundings and immersing myself in the environment of Isengard.
Glenorchy in Otago, South Island, New Zealand © Claire Blumenfeld

A few kilometers from Queenstown on the South Island, where the Dart and Rees rivers and their tributaries meet to flow into Lake Wakatipu, lies Glenorchy, a small town of just three hundred people. The first inhabitants of the region were William Rees and his family in 1860. Others soon followed, gold and scheelite having been discovered in the vicinity. Until 1962 the only way to reach Glenorchy was mainly by steamboats which sailed on the lake. Then in 1962, the road connecting Queenstown to Glenorchy was opened and tourism became the major resource of the region. Nowadays, Glenorchy is the gateway to very beautiful hikes including the Routeburn Track and Mount Judah Track. The places are so grandiose that many film crews come there to film, as was the case for The Lord of the Rings.

Staying at Glenorchy means enjoying the tranquil rhythm and the beauty of the countryside. The mountains of Fiordland National Park and Mount Aspiring National Park that border the valley and Lake Wakatipu are beautiful. Along the Glenorchy Walkway, a stroll through the village and the marshes, a colony of black swans make somersaults to catch their meal.

For lovers of the Lord of the Rings like me, a passage through Paradise is essential. Located about twenty kilometers from Glenorchy, ten of which on a gravel road, the place was used to depict Isengard, the home of the mage Saruman! So I took my bike and left very excited to discover the place. The road is splendid, zigzagging through the valleys and fields where cows and sheep graze. Typically New Zealand. Diamond Lake sparkles with its extraordinary colors at the edge of the track. Some cows graze on the water’s edge. Paradise appears to be made up of a farmhouse and a superb Victorian-style house. Only that. Shortly after the village, on the edge of the fields, is the Dart river and the place where Isengard was integrated by computer. Even if you have to be imaginative once you are there to imagine Saruman’s home, the place is magnificent. I spend a long time contemplating the landscape bathed in the light and warmth of a late summer afternoon. A true corner of paradise!

From the summit of Mount Alfred the view over the valley is spectacular. Located in the middle of the valley, the Mount overlooks the surroundings and offers a 360° view. The path to get there is not indicated, steep and very difficult. Many fallen trees on the way make the climb quite slow. It took me four hours to reach the edge of the trees. And about thirty minutes more climbing in tussocks and rocks to finally reach the ridge. A difficult ascent but then what a view! At almost 1400m altitude, no need for a helicopter to enjoy the scenery. The Dart and Rees rivers reveal their particular motif and the snow-capped mountain peaks stretch as far as the eye can see. The path continues for thirty minutes on the ridge so that you can see both sides: on one side Lake Wakatipu, on the other side Isengard. In a word: breathtaking.

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