In the company of giants
The remote, beautiful land at the head of Lake Wakatipu richly deserves to be called Paradise but I discovered, with some disappointment, that it is so-named not for the heavenly scenery but for the eponymous duck!
Despite its remoteness, the magnetism of Paradise has been a magnet for adventurous travellers since the 1880s when hundreds used to sail up Lake Wakatipu from Queenstown by steamer. Disembarking at Glenorchy, they would travel by dray and coach to Paradise Homestead where owner Granny Aitken used to feed 120 for lunch and host as many as 28 overnight guests.
Justine and her brand new Wisper Wayfarer ebike en route to the Greenstone Valley. Picture by Justine Tyerman
The spectacular landscape has also attracted the attention of film-makers from all over the world. The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit, Mission Impossible, X-men and Vertical Limit were all filmed amid the region’s breath-taking mountains, rivers, lakes and forests.
The dramatic terrain was sculpted by glaciers in the last Ice Age. The deeply-weathered silver schist face of Mt Earnslaw, the tallest mountain in the area at 2,830m, dominates the landscape, while wedge-shaped Mt Alfred, 1,365m sits right in the centre of the valley, dividing the Dart and Rees rivers. Surrounding the valley are the magnificent Richardson and Humboldt ranges... and many mountains named after Greek gods.
Over the next few days, Chris and I spent much time in the company of these mighty snow-capped giants and became familiar with their many faces – sparkling silver after a frost, rosy pink with the sunrise, glowing gold at sunset or veiled in diaphanous mist just before dawn.
We explored the region on our brand new Wisper Wayfarer ebikes courtesy of Electric Bikes NZ. It was such a novelty for me to be able to cycle effortlessly uphill and keep up with my super-fit husband.
Let me in - it's cold out here! Justine is keen to warm up at the end of a long day's cycling. Picture by Chris Tyerman
We headed for Kinloch and rode along the shores of Lake Wakatipu to the Greenstone Valley. Lake Wakatipu is seldom like a mirror but that day, the whole lake was glassy calm.
The only traffic we encountered on the back country road was a 4WD vehicle and a young mum out for a walk with her baby and dog.
The undulating gravel road took us through beech forests and across clear mountain streams. I was busy congratulating myself for managing to stay dry while fording the streams but the last one was deeper than the rest and I panicked and stopped half way across. Hubby heroically came to the rescue so we both ended up getting wet. Fortunately, it was a mild day and we dried out fast in the sunshine.
We also paid a visit to Paradise Trust Lodge to see the rebuild of the property after fire destroyed the historic homestead in 2013, a few months after we had stayed there on our first-ever cycle trip with Matt and Kate Belcher’s Revolution Tours.
The lodge has been painstakingly rebuilt retaining three stone chimneys as a memorial to the original homestead.
We cycled a loop track through the forest, past rustic cottages with outside baths and saunas to a vantage point high above the Dart River as it carves its way from deep within the Main Divide. Here in Paradise, we were literally in the presence of the gods, surrounded by mountains named Chaos, Poseidon, Nox, Cosmos, Minos, Pluto and Cosmos.
Thanks to our zippy Wispers, we covered a huge distance in no time.
While in Glenorchy, we were delighted to hear that Ngai Tahu Tourism-operated Dart River Adventures are due to reopen in December so their powerful Hamilton jetboats will once again be thundering up the river and deep into the heart of the Mount Aspiring National Park and the southern reaches of the Main Divide. Encircled by the magnificent mountain peaks of the Southern Alps, gleaming glaciers, frozen waterfalls and hanging valleys, the park’s outstanding natural beauty has earned it UNESCO World Heritage status. It’s an outstanding experience - I’ve done it twice and would do it again in a heartbeat.
There’s a lake-edge DoC (Department of Conservation) camping site at Kinloch so we parked our Maui motorhome there for the night, keen to linger in this exquisite, remote and tranquil part of Aotearoa. Nearby Kinloch Lodge serves superb cuisine if you feel like dining out. The historic lodge, a mecca for travellers since 1868, retains its authentic, old-world charm... and it has an outside hot tub. Bliss at the end of a long day cycling.
To be continued.
Justine Tyerman travelled courtesy ofin a and rode a courtesy of
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