Glenorchy and Paradise


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Oceania » New Zealand » South Island » Glenorchy
December 13th 2015
Published: December 26th 2015
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After our few days in Fiordland, our time on the South Island was drawing to a close. We had just a few days left in which to get to Christchurch before we flew out. It is fair to say that Queenstown hadn't really impressed me and we hadn't planned to spend any more time there. However the road from Te Anau took us back through the area and we spent a few hours retracing our steps to find One Ear. We found him in the late evening at the Twelve Mile Delta Campsite.

When we had visited Queenstown a few days earlier we had not had time to get to Glenorchy, a small town at the head of Lake Wakatipu. We had really wanted to visit here because of its reported beauty and because it featured in both the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

We drove beyond Twelve Mile Delta as the sun was starting to go down. The golden light reflecting off the turquoise water below us was amazing. As the weather was changeable we had heavy cloud as well. From the right direction this gave us an almost full rainbow. The character of the lake was transformed by the glowing light and I found it an utterly delightful drive.

Glenorchy is a quaint little town, which in former days was a hub of mining activity. Back then a paddle-steamer made the journey from Queenstown but now it's only connection is by road. It is obvious that the town's glory days are long behind it but it is reinventing itself and its position on Tolkien tours is helping.

By the time we had arrived in town it was going dark. We drove around and discovered only one campsite. By the time we'd checked in and pitched the tent, the last light of day had faded and the rain had started streaming down. When I awoke in the morning it was still raining though over the next hour or so the final trickle stopped. It was also freezing cold and foggy. Offsetting the misery was the smell cookies of baking in the General Store next to the campsite.

Given the amazing aromas, the store had to be our first stop of the day. We walked in and found a wonderland... this little store had almost anything you could imagine. There was camping equipment and books, electronics and local honey, freshly baked foods and Christmas gifts and of course everything you'd expect to find in a village store. The cookies tasted as amazing as they had smelt in my semi-conscious state.

Outside, the cloud was just starting to lift. We took a wander around the little town and saw the little old hut by the lake front which used to be a warehouse; the ruins of a hotel which was never rebuilt after it burnt down; and a variety of local businesses including what looked to be a high-end print shop. Glenorchy gave me a wonderful feeling of discovery... I was never quite sure what would be round the next corner.

We didn't have long to stay in Glenorchy but we couldn't leave without going a few kilometres further to Paradise. Paradise is a tiny hamlet on the far side of the amount Aspiring National Park from where we had been previously. There is nothing there except some private farmland and a large house. It has become quite a tourist attraction though as the very rough unsealed road through Paradise leads to one of the most iconic filming locations for The Lord of the Rings. As a big LOTR fan I could not leave this part of the country without visiting Isengard! There is nothing there now to mark the location but it was nonetheless exciting to be standing where the wizards and hobbits and ents had been. We stayed just long enough to get a few photos and then started our drive back towards Christchurch.


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