It’s not every day you can say you crossed the River Jordan and entered Paradise.
Yesterday I did exactly that, but we’ll get to that later. The family lent me their little car yesterday and turned me loose. After a careful ice removal process, I drove cautiously towards Queenstown (the family live near Lake Hayes). I was disappointed as I drove beside the lake that the wind had created a hammer-glaze surface of no great photographic value.
The town was full of bright young people walking hand in hand, and wearing the latest and brightest in designer-label snow field apparel. I am completely devoid of any fashion awareness so am unable to report further.
Through town, I took the road to Glenorchy and to my great joy, the water on the Glenorchy side of the lake was smooth, relatively untouched by the wind. Far down the lake, to the right of the Humboldt Mountains, and behind the conical lump of Mt Alfred, the East and West peaks of Mt Earnslaw were peering through the cloud rolling in from the Tasman.
A little further along the road, nearer to Glenorchy, Mt Earnslaw was even more imposing as it towered over the lower peaks of the Forbes Range.
As I came around a corner I glimpsed what I thought was a strange bird. It turned out to be a hang glider. What’s more, it was on an aerotow from a microlight.
That poor little 64 hp two-stroke engine was working its heart out to lift its own airframe and pilot plus overcome the drag of a two person hang glider. It soon became clear that this was a regular feature of operations from the Glenorchy airstrip and while I stood at the boundary gate and watched it did at least half a dozen such launches alternating between two different hang gliders.
What a spectacular landscape for such activity. And then I heard something more powerful. A New Zealand Aerospace Cresco equipped for skydiving was firing up. Soon it too was airborne and it seemed to circle endlessly to perhaps 14,000 feet (the aviation industry remains stubbornly un-metricated).
After what seemed a long silence, a black dot suddenly flowered and first one, then another canopy opened, and two happy parachutists enjoyed their tandem ride back to earth.
After an excellent coffee in the township, I drove up the Rees Valley and decided that the though the scenery was wonderful the light had gone flat (those clouds rolling in from the Tasman, remember?), and this was an ill-maintained country road which was quite unfair on my daughter-in-law’s tiny little city commuter car. So I turned North towards Paradise, and forded the River Jordan to get there. Though I got there, I was defeated by the drab conditions. Back to Glenorchy for a fine pumpkin soup and a beer in the local alehouse. On the way this beautiful bird made an appearance. I thought, indeed hoped I had caught a New Zealand falcon. Alas, expert advice tells me it is a female Australasian harrier.
On the last leg of the homeward journey, up Frankton Road beside the lake, I was delighted to see that the wind had gone and the Frankton Arm was now a perfectly reflecting mirror. The heavy roar of one of the many tourist jet boats promised a bit of spectacle.
I had a great day.
* How great thou Art (English version words by Stuart K Hine)