Snow in Summer

After the Fellowship of the Ring lost Gandalf in the Mines of Moria, they rested briefly at Dimrill Dale. In the movie, this scene was filmed at Lake Alta, an alpine lake high above Queenstown up behind the Remarkables ski area (side question: why does Remarkables have an “s” at the end? It drives me crazy.). I have a strange desire to search out Lord of the Rings sites; I think that the movies were so beautiful, and so powerfully place-based, that it’s hard to resist the urge to see where things were filmed.

I can’t say that we were able to replicate the movie experience. When we started the day at the bottom of the mountain, it was clear; but as we wound up, up, up, we could see clouds hanging overhead. We also passed this sign warning hula hoopers (or maybe surfers) that rocks might fall on their heads:IMG_7140.jpg

Though we were hardly prepared for alpine weather, the gloomy-looking skies did not deter us. And there were tiny patches of blue up above that made me hopeful as our hike began.

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The first half of the Lake Alta hike goes up ski-resort dirt and gravel roads. It’s pretty poorly signed (tip: when in doubt, pick the road to the right). When the road breaks out into a path, it looks like this (you’ll see Prescott up on the trail if you squint):

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I love the tiny alpine ecosystems that bravely grow along the way…

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The lake itself was a beautiful turquoise…

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…though we never did see it in the sunshine.

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Instead, we huddled up in a roofless hut to try to keep out of the wind (at nearly 6,000 feet, the wind can really bite)…

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… and then the weather started getting worse …

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… and then it started snowing!

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Wow, were we cold. We hightailed it down the hill and headed back to our Airbnb place for hot showers. We had this view down the mountain as we drove:

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Back in the land of normal people, the skies were blue and the day was perfect. We drove along Lake Wakatipu up the road that connects Queenstown to Glenorchy, which was probably the most beautiful drive we’ve had all trip (our first day on the Coromandel Peninsula on the North Island would be the only other contender).

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You can stop at little lake beaches …

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… and ooh and aah at the amazing scenery at every stop.

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Glenorchy itself is a tiny town — it feels lost in time in the best of ways. We arrived on a race weekend (it was like being at a mini-county fair) …

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… which meant that you could see scenes like someone riding horseback while Prescott got gas at an old-style pump…

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… and that there were horses tied up under the trees:

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We loved Glenorchy. We had tea from The Trading Post by the lake …

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… and then sat and read our books (trying desperately to get out of the prodigious wind) until dinner time. It was a lovely, lazy afternoon.

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We had dinner outside at the Glenorchy Cafe, which only stays open past 5:00 pm for pizza dinners on Saturdays in the summer. How can you not love a restaurant with hours like that?

If you keep driving north from Glenorchy, you see plains where two major rivers meet:

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Our drive back south took us past views like this …

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… and then we decided to stop when we saw signs for an “art garden” called Little Paradise. Little did we know what lay in store. Our first sight was this:

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When we walked in (and paid — this art garden doesn’t come free), one of the owners told us that the property has been developed over the past 26 years by a Swiss gentleman who loves to build and plant and tinker. He is definitely an outsider artist. Among other developments, he has built an outside toilet with fish above it …

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… and a sink that starts running as soon as you flush the toilet …

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… and a spiral staircase halfway up a tall tree:

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He has built statues of a variety of sorts all over the property:

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… and directional towers …

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… and water features, one of which comes with this unusual sign:IMG_7263.jpg

There are flowers everywhere! A sign says that there are 3,000 roses.

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And I loved the lilies:

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The owner also has free-range ducks, geese, peacocks, and at least one enormous turkey on the property. And we saw peacock chicks!

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Signs indicate that this artist is concerned with population growth, that he likes yoga, and that he takes a great interest in the 45th parallel, which is marked with a line of white stones that run through the property…

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… and with this circle:

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This place is fascinating. They also run five wildly decorated rooms as a lodge, so you can stay there if you want. And the place is for sale! Anyone want to buy it?

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