Wednesday Landscape — Road From Paradise

“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say”
—J.R.R. Tolkien from The Fellowship Of The Ring

This is the road out of Paradise, suitably sunlit beneath a gathering storm. Where will this road take you? Into the mountains of Mount Aspiring National Park via Paradise, a tiny hamlet, the last vestige of civilisation before the traveller is swallowed up in the very same wilderness that Peter Jackson used to recreate Saruman’s breeding ground of evil orcs at his fortress of Isengard in The Lord Of The Rings. Travelling this road I found it easy to immerse myself in the world of Middle Earth, the jagged peak of Mt Aspiring disappearing into the clouds above a forest of gnarled and ancient trees. Was there ever so apt a setting for a Tolkiensque world of elves and ents, dwarfs and dragons? Needless to say, this road does not go ever on and on. Follow its winding path through a dark and mysterious forest, ford a bubbling stream and you will reach the Dart River where this road ends. But the adventure does not. If you don’t want it to. This area and that of the nearest town of Glenorchy, a 50-minute drive from Queenstown along the banks of Lake Wakitipu, acts as a staging post for jet-boating and some of the finest tramping (hiking) routes New Zealand offers: the Routeburn Track, Greenstone and Caples tracks and the Rees-Dart Track. The justly famous Routeburn is a 3-day, 32-kilometre adventure that takes the hiker through some of the finest scenery in the country to Milford Sound, across mountain ranges, and forested valleys adorned with plunging waterfalls. This walk has the lot, so I’m told. Maybe one day I’ll do it, with eyes alert for secretive elves and wandering orcs. As for the photograph, we had just passed though Paradise in weather that appeared unrelentingly threatening, when suddenly the sun burst through briefly illuminating the road ahead; a road whose destination was wrapped in the dark foreboding of a storm about to be unleashed. When it comes to moody or dramatic landscapes, I’m a complete sucker, and this was Paradise for me!

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