Nearing Queenstown was not the end to wows and gapes for Southern Lakes or Southern Alps. As more of vast green fields with irrigation water showers appeared, starting with Arrowtown, a quaint town of early settlers of gold rush period, yet another landscape was to follow, another diversity, landscape with a new dimension, hilly terrain with quaint houses, an aura of romance rendered with a thrill, an adventurous spirit, all against the backdrop of the Remarkable ranges and the beautiful Lake Wakatipu. That is what is unique about Queenstown, a tourists perfect dream resort or an adventure capital. Queenstown, a gateway for more than a million tourists arriving every year offers everything a tourist can ask for: hotels, fine restaurants and cafes, shopping centers, but most of all an array of activities like bungy jumping, river-cruise, heli- skiing, horse riding, water rafting, Gondola.
We couldn’t have asked for more, with our lovely lodge on top of the hilly terrain and one whole extra day to soak in the enchantment of Queenstown. However, it was not the adrenalin rushing activity or melancholy of a cruise or even the joy of scenic flights over snowy alpines that we looked forward to, but, for my girls; their hearts had a different calling. Queenstown meant something more; a doorway to their mythical middle earth of the trilogy. And what other time could have been better than this, with 2003, worldwide being the year of the famed Peter Jackson, Trilogy, Lord of the rings, Return of the king, and they both were still living in the characters, having watched the premier show the previous night of departure to New Zealand A day in this mythical region had to be with Middle earth of Glenorchy and nowhere else.
So off, we were to Glenorchy early, the next day. Success of LOTR, a national pride, shone on the face of every New Zealander, who, on enquiry would readily come out with the exact directions of the film locales. Glenorchy, is an hour drive along the LakeWakatipu, where you can jet boat on braided rivers to the Wizards Vale of Saruman or take a walk in the ancient forest of Lothorien or four wheel through the Rees valley. A striking contrast of scenery, to our previous journeys. Grazing sheep over vast areas of greenery, a river (Dart river), flowing between two peaks and at another place, vast regions of barren and swampy lands with misty mountains in the background, Valley with weedy and yellow flowers and the forest. Nothing short of the location of middle earth for LOTR, but it was all very intriguing as to how Peter Jackson could gather the crew and the huge cast in those inaccessible places and shot some of the best scenes of the movie.
Driving next day to yet another fascinating city of Dunedin, towards the east, passing some bustling towns with early morning bazaars and shoppers, enriched with some of the very scenic spots, little did we expect to see some more colors of nature, this time entirely new and very different, rare wildlife conservation, colony of Penguins and Royal Albatross.
Dunedin city, set amidst a magical landscape edged by the sea, of the deep south of South Island, at the head of beautiful Otago Harbor, is a historic city of rare charm. Otago Peninsula, an hour drive along the scenic seashore, is home to incredible wildlife, of worlds rarest penguins, breeding colony of royal albatross, rare New Zealand sea lions, and magnificent Lanarch castle. Wild life eco-tours operate guided tours taking tourists for close encounters with the rare creatures. Being just in time to board the last bus to the Yellow Eyed Penguin Reserve, after alighting, we had to climb along a higher terrain, which appeared to novices like us as north or a south pole. We had to see through lenses and small openings to get a glimpse of the penguins, their lifestyle, in their most active to their laziest forms. Most interesting story by the guide was about the family with father and children enjoying in the ocean water, while the conscientious mother went for grocery shopping!
Yellow Eyed Penguin (Dunedin)
Another drive took us to Taiaroa Head or Royal Albatross Centre, the only mainland colony of albatross in the world, which offers tourists a 60minute tour with an Albatross insight and an observatory viewing of the seabird. We were astonished at some of their family and social lives like parents devotion of their chicks, adolescents display, courtships, lifelong partnerships despite long separation in sea. There is however exception to this, such as the one naughty Albatross, quipped the friendly lady guide, who changed husband every time she flew over a continent.
The otherwise ordinary looking birds give an ecstatic sight of soaring and speeding as they fly at 100kph with their open wings spanning 3 meters across.
.Returning back to Dunedin city,retiring into our motel, after this extraordinary journey, probably, a new chapter had to begin, with all its colors and shades