We had no interest in bungy jumping or the other adrenaline activities that fuel Queenstown, so we drove right through the town and past it, along the shore of Lake Wakatipu towards the small village of Glenorchy that sits at the head of the lake. We would be spending the next several nights at the Kinloch Lodge, which has been in this remote location since 1868.
Used to be that you could get here only by boat. It was a popular destination for the well-healed who would arrive by paddle steamer from Queenstown. Now it’s an hour drive away: just head to the town of Glenorchy, then go a further 26 kilometers around the head of the lake. The last 9 kilometers are unsealed. You’ll want to stop at Bennet’s Bluff for the sublime views of the snow covered mountains, which you can’t see from Queenstown itself.
After a good sleep in our small, but comfortable room, we woke up to a sunny morning and planned our day. After debating taking advantage of the clear weather and doing the strenuous hike up Mt. Alfred, we decided to take it easy instead.
Our first stop would be Paradise. If we could find it.
Paradise’s claim to fame is that it played the role of the Elvish forest of Lothlórien in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of the Lord of the Rings. There are lots of tours that go out to the filming location and we figured we’d do the same, but on our own.
Along the way, we passed through beech forest that reminded us of elvish forests indeed, and we passed some grazing horses, including a white one that looked by Gandolf’s Shadowfax.
Alas, the road to Paradise was blocked to us. We drove as far at the dirt road would allow. The ford at Cassel’s creek was as far as we dared take our little rental car.
From there, we walked along an easy track through red beech (tawhai raunui, Nothofagus fusca) forest to Lake Sylvan, where we discovered a small lakeside beach where we spent hours watching the trout jump, wading, reading and enjoying the views. Our solitude wasn’t disturbed a single time. We had the lake to ourselves. This was our own version of paradise.
[Behind the scenes: how do we take those photos of us with nary a soul around?]