Up in Paradise Valley … Just beside the river of life … It really looks like it could be here… Wow (As Chris says a lot we think since we arrived, lol).
Glenorchy is only about 30 minutes outside of Queenstown and known as a gateway to the Routeburn Track, which is one of the New Zealand Great Walks, and Mount Aspiring National Park (I love these names!).
I fell in love with the “Funky Bunker” on airbnb, a glamping set up from the set of Vertical Limit, just inside a tall row of hedges right in town. It was just enough to be comfortable for us two nights in Glenorchy, before we started our trek on the Routeburn Track.
Ella had really been craving one of Nanny’s home cooked meals (her Daddy prefers mostly ethnic or elaborate cooking), so she had requested almost a week ago barbecue chicken, green beans, mashed potatoes, and sister schubert rolls. Unfortunately, the yeast rolls don’t exist in New Zealand, at least not at the Countdown grocery stores we frequent; but she was happy with the other three for a tasty comfort meal. Dad amazingly pulled off the barbecue chicken on an ancient gas grill he found in the back of the property; green beans cooked up nicely on the gas stove top with a beef bouillon cube we found in the minimal kitchen supplies; and mom pulled off mashed potatoes with a fork to mash, as well butter and milk. It wasn’t half bad, and the view was to die for.
The next morning we decided to travel Paradise Rd to Dart River Track. Really … I mean ridiculous … draw dropping views continuously. No wonder they tell you not to drive yourself in these areas, because watching the road instead is almost impossible.
This area became more well known and caught my eye in The Fellowship of the Ring for the locations of Isengard, Lothlorien, and Ithilien Camp. I could just see Arwen racing through the field from the Nasgul in a valiant effort to save Frodo.
We were a little disheartened to see warnings along the way of flooding on part of the Dart River Track, but decided to still give it a try. However, Paradise Road was crisscrossed repeatedly with tributaries of the river, bringing us to a stop each time to step out of the car and make sure it wasn’t too deep for us to drive. We made it all the way to the last crossing, decided we better not push it, and walked the rest of the way to the trailhead. No matter, the road was as gorgeous as the trail or more so for the kids.
Fields of tall golden grass with bright yellow crops of oilseed rape, with a backdrop of snow capped mountains and the dart river flowing in and out of the scenery. We walked about 4 hours along the track and wished we could catch a Dart River Kayak for a trip back on the one way track.
As we drove slowly back still oohing and awwing, we picked up a young woman from France who was hitch-hiking to Queenstown. We squeezed together, thinking we could at least get her to Glenorchy, where she would have a much better chance of finding another ride. She has just completed her Ph.D in Psychology and was spending a year on work visa in New Zealand. We find this is incredibly common among young travelers we meet here. You only have to work one day! to be able to get a work visa for a year. You see backpacker boards multiple places advertising short term jobs all over the country. She had worked as an au pair for a 6 and 9 year old child for a few months in Christchurch and had been traveling since then. She was headed to Southeast Asia next for 6 months, but she had already spent time in Thailand and Cambodia in the past. Chris and I both enjoyed talking with her about the controversial upcoming elections in France, as well as mining her for ideas for our upcoming stay in France in April. She had lived close to Chamonix and gloried in the Alps and outdoors of her country and was eager to share. We dropped her off at the busy Glenorchy Lake for our last views before we headed out the next morning.
We planned to start the Routeburn in the early afternoon the last day in Glenorchy, so we slept in and ate brunch at the Glenorchy Cafe for the undoubtedly the best meal we have had in New Zealand. I mean … Wow (as Chris said again) …
We sat outside under a blue bird sky, with an adorable chocolate brown dog greeting us off and on, little sparrows twerping excitedly as they feasted on another picnic table, with Southern Alps as a backdrop. Walden had his first NZ pancakes with real maple syrup infused with cinnamon and layers of mascarpone, he was totally in heaven. They let us finish off the milk and oj we had bought, so he didn’t have to carefully drink his drink to last. Ella had a fancy chicken sandwich and chips (or fries to us). I had a BLT croissant with toast, butter, and raspberry jelly, as well as an award worthy mocha. And finally, Chris had the GYC breakfast, which included two sunny side up eggs; several pieces of streaky bacon; sausage; tomato with avocado, relish, and hollandaise sauce; two pieces of buttered toast; hash brown wedges; and a flat white (similar to a latte) to rinse it down. I might say we were absolutely content … and stuffed to the brim with our upcoming four hours starter hike on the Routeburn – uh oh.