Words by Tamsin Kreymborg
There are many places I have yet to explore in New Zealand. Despite being born and raised there, and staunchly proud to call myself a Kiwi, there are areas I haven’t had the opportunity to see. I’m sure there are countless natural wonders that frequently enchant the eyes of foreigners, that I don’t even know exist. Until recently, Glenorchy was once such place for me. I recently took my German boyfriend to New Zealand to visit my family, with the promise that we’d travel around the country. Chris is a photographer, so he didn’t need very much encouragement.
A friend of my Mother’s recommended that we drive the Queenstown-Glenorchy road, up to the north end of lake Wakatipu. With a free day in our Queenstown itinerary, we decided to do it. Neither of us spoke much during the 45-minute drive. Words cannot describe the breath-taking landscape through which this narrow road twists and winds. At the point where the sealed road ends, and our travel brochure advised us to turn around and head back, we encountered a most pleasantly unexpected village. Glenorchy is a small cluster of homes, perched at the north end of lake Wakatipu, and sandwiched between noble, imposing mountain ranges.
Turning left, the road gives way to a camping area, from which a wharf extends into the water. Glenorchy is a windswept place, and this day was no exception. Trees are permanently deformed by strong winds, and the wharf is worn from the elements. It is rustic and captivating. Next to the wharf sits a humble little cottage, painted red and its doors opened wide, proudly offering visitors information on the history of the town and the lake.
Walking back into the village, we came across the one and only cafe, a place to warm up and dry off. Except “The Trading Post” is more than just a cafe; alongside the nice lady selling fair-trade hot drinks and homemade cakes, there’s an eclectic collection of coffee table books, children’s books and classic novels from New Zealand, as well as 100% Kiwi-made cosmetics and toys.
Outside, the nearly empty roads feel somehow safe and far away from stress. Life seems simple, and separate from all things negative. It’s easy to imagine residents in Glenorchy spending their days chopping firewood, and in the evening driving their boat out on the lake. I’m sure they cook with fresh organic vegetables from the garden, or maybe hold a barbeque party on the street. It is a small community that isn’t interested in the problems of the world.
As we crossed the road to the gas station, a rickety “Open” sign squeaked eratically, and a cat crossed the road without losing a thought to the possibility of being run over. We wandered across to the tourist centre, which looks like an original Western Saloon. It felt like we’d arrived at the end of the world and, contrary to expectations, it is beautiful and peaceful.
Glenorchy is clearly a close-knit community. As one elderly lady’s purse fell from the bicycle basket in front of us, we wanted to rush over to help, but before we could react a woman appeared from the nearest house, wearing yoga pants and exclaiming “Oh Barbara, what’s happened?”. It is a little paradise. Funny, because a few kilometers further up the gravel road, we actually did arrive at a place called “Paradise”. I can well imagine that a typical Glenorchian would take his picnic there and go swimming at Diamond Lake. Glenorchy, Paradise and the Diamond Lake in fact provide the backdrop for the critically aclaimed mystery series, “Top of the Lake”, which incorporates the stunning landscape and township artfully into its story line.
Since our visit to Glenorchy, we’ve often shared fantasies about moving there, buying some land and building our own little house. How nice would it be to live modestly and simply, and to have bold, unashamed nature literally on our doorstep. If someone is looking for us in 20 years or so, they probably won’t find us in Germany. Maybe they’ll find a “Sandbox Studio Photography” logo on one of the the letterboxes in our favourite little village at the bottom of the world.