Tuesday 22 March 2011

#blog4NZ - Queenstown

They built Matakauri Lodge in the wrong place: it ought to be in boring old Palmerston North. It certainly shouldn’t be tucked away on the edge of Lake Wakatipu just ten minutes out of Queenstown. It’s far too hard to tear yourself away from the smooth sheets in the soft bed, the comfortable chairs in front of the log fire, and the sumptuous bathroom – any further, that is, than the elegant dining room where wild mushroom consommé and manuka and Earl Grey smoked beef medallion might be on the menu. All that magnificent scenery out there, the adventure activities, the shops and vineyards, they’re all wasted. You might just as well be hunkered down in Palmy.

Except – and this is a master-stroke – our stone villa had only three walls, the fourth being floor to ceiling glass so that the lake and the mountains were right there, in all their spectacular glory. We looked straight across to Cecil Peak’s rocky slopes; to the left were the Remarkables, to the right Walter Peak where we could just see the jetty and homestead, the only signs of human habitation in the entire 180 degree view – if you don’t count the TSS Earnslaw fussing back and forth trailing its plume of smoke, or the brief busy roar of a jet boat heading to the top of the lake for a spin and a swirl of spray in unfeasably shallow water.

I’ve seen Ayers Rock go through its famous colour range as the sun set and been impressed, but Queenstown’s mountains, though less gaudy, are just as fascinating to watch as the light moves across them, constantly changing in mood and colour. It’s a sight I didn’t want to miss, so how satisfying to be able to lie back and enjoy it wherever I was in the villa: sprawled on the cushions on the window seat, tucked up in bed or even wallowing in a deep and fragrant bath, bubbles popping under my chin. If it had been summer, I could have slid the bathroom window wide open and really communed with nature; but autumn has its pleasures too, and the crackling logs of the living room fire were cosy and comforting.

It was hard, but I dragged myself out to Glenorchy at the head of the lake for a two-hour ride along the Dart, a braided stony river between flats of luminous golden grass where Oscar, a well-mannered bay, allowed me to indulge a Rider of Rohan fantasy. Many scenes from the Lord of the Rings were filmed here and Emily, our guide, was full of insider information. That last long canter was maybe a mistake, but back at the villa Anna was waiting with her massage table, oils and soothing music to put things right again.

On second thoughts, Palmy just wouldn’t be the same.

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