Last week we headed for Paradise.
On the way, we stopped off in the town of Queenstown and while Robert attended to some family matters there, I spent some time in the Queenstown Gardens.
For me, water lilies symbolise the idea of ‘walking on water’. Lily pads; launch pads. An allegory for faith in dreams and future plans, unformed and invisible. Take a step of faith, be the dragonfly on a lily pad.
From Queenstown we travelled to Glenorchy, a town at the head of Lake Wakatipu and where we stopped for a picnic afternoon tea. As Covid is still a factor to consider when out and about in New Zealand at present, we are choosing to take our own food and to be self reliant as possible.
We are both fully immunised and going to cafes etc. would theoretically be fine, however, taking the ‘better to be safe than sorry’ route is a personal choice that gives us peace of mind.
Hopefully it’s not going to be the case for much longer. Although, have to admit, having a thermos coffee in a space like the one above, does not feel like hardship.
Then we started ‘on the road to Paradise’. The first part of our journey was on a tar sealed road; but farther down it becomes a gravel road, complete with the corrugations I remember so well as a characteristic of the road from Queenstown to Glenorchy not so long ago. Thankfully that road is now tar sealed. Progress is not always a bad thing – I am not sorry to say good-bye to dust-choked, bone shaking, car sickness-inducing, horror car trips on gravel roads.
Once we checked in at the Paradise Trust office, we were given instructions to where to go for our accommodation for the night. I had booked us into the Garden Of Eden hut. Well. I’d call it a cottage or a cabin rather than a hut.
It was something special to be going there again. Last time I stayed in the cottage was in the summer of 1969 when I was invited along by my friend and her family, who regularly holidayed there.
My friend and I were 15 years old. We travelled the dusty, corrugated gravel road in her family’s large black, 1950’s Plymouth. Her parents stayed in the cottage and we slept in a canvas tent.
It was a holiday I will never forget – memories of soft rain, fearless black robins hopping right up to us, the cool fragrance of a southern beech forest, mountain views, reading books – Georgette Heyer, Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart – writing (beginning my very first novel … didn’t get far back then needless to say) going for tramps, soaking up sun, swimming in Diamond Lake and (of course) sand flies.
As my father had died only two months before, I gratefully accepted this gift of a holiday in Paradise – its solace and healing of a kind only trees, lakes and mountains and close friends, can offer.
Last week when R and I drove into the Garden of Eden site and parked beside the little cottage, I couldn’t believe how unchanged it all was. It was just as I remembered.
We lit the wood-fired range for cooking and heat and settled in.
Another connection with this place is knowing that when my husband’s Scottish grandparents emigrated here about a hundred years ago, they lived in the Garden of Eden (maybe in this very cottage, although we cannot know this for a fact). The other fun fact – R’s grandfather’s name was Adam!
Before the sun disappeared behind the alps, we went for a walk on part of the Loop Track. The square-topped mountain to the right, is Mount Alfred /Ari. A swarthy, dependable looking mountain standing guard. A mountain that asks you to tip your hat, to say hello. A mountain that makes you feel all is well. Makes you feel protected.
Sundown colours in the grass add to the feeling of peace in this place that feels so very far removed from trouble.
Looking towards the Southern Alps with horses grazing in the foreground.
A young red deer in the grass beside the cottage, takes its time to check us out.
With no electricity, we were cooking on the wood stove by torchlight. We kept an eye out for the bats that can be spotted wafting along the treetop line. But didn’t see any. (I do remember seeing them fifty years ago.) A relief to know they are still around. I also remember us spotting an owl in the branch of a tree close to the hut. There are glow worms to see along the track a bit (but we had no luck finding them this time).
The next morning we headed away, stopping to take a photo of Diamond Lake, a wrap of mist around the hills.
Although we chose to spend a night ‘off the grid’ in a cottage without electricity, there are other accommodation choices in Paradise. Check it out. Link below.
We highly recommend a visit and / or stay in Paradise. Contact the Paradise Trust for details.