Friday, March 28, 2008
Ain't no mountain high enough
And I thought the view from my hotel balcony was nice...check out the view from Liz's living room.
Liz had the misfortune of sitting next to me on the flight from Melbourne to ChristChurch a couple of weeks ago. "Misfortune", in the sense of, she told me that she lived in Queenstown and that, when I got there, I should contact her. I'm sure she was just being polite and must have thought/hoped that this chatty American would forget or lose her contact info. But, I didn't...
It's funny, when I called her a couple days ago, I heard something in the background and asked her if she had one of those soothing "Sounds of Nature" CDs on and she laughed and said "No, it's just a bird..I have the sounds of nature actually here.". After she picked me up today to join her on her regular hike up into a nearby mountain, we stopped by her home for a second and I got to see where she lives. The pictures above and below show the view that she has from her house...can you believe it? Unobstructed views of another part of the lake and several mountain ranges.
And that's just the front yard. This is her view in the backyard...
Maggie...I think I found your dream house (we've just gotta get Liz to donate it to us).
It was just so beautiful there that I told Liz, even if we didn't do anything else, it would have been just fine to sit and stare at the lake and mountains. But, she still wanted to go hike and, she's no monkey...I'd get me out of her house too. So, off we went, first stopping at a secret "Lord of the Rings" site that isn't on any of the overpriced tours they give here. Peter Jackson bought this particular parsel of land and restricted it...but, Liz knew the one lane that could access it. So, we drove up this long, windy hill into a grove of trees and here it is...
Nice....hill. Liz laughed and said that this is what most of the tours do...take people to little areas that pretty much look like this and say "'This is where the blah blah blah happened or was shot", but there is no set piece or marker there to show the "before". Just an area of land, your imagination and your credit card charge. This particular area had a large columned stone (faux stone) castle on it (from the first movie) and, if you scratch a bit below the dirt in places, you can find wee bits of the dusty foam remnants. I'm glad I didn't pay the honkin' price for one of those tours...
So, we got to the base of the mountain, parked the car, and headed up the nearby trail. This was no sissy-hike, it was a steep, windy hike and I "let" Liz lead for a couple of reasons. One, because she knew where we were going (she hikes/runs this about 3 times a week) and, Two, because I didn't want her to hear the sound of my heart bursting, which I was certain it was going to do at several points during the hike. It was probably good for her, because it shut me up for a bit so she could enjoy the serene setting. But, I actually did a pretty good job of keeping up with her and she showed me a variety of really cool, hidden areas....like this water fall and swimming hole that some people use in the summer to cool down.
Then we wandered up further and she showed me this natural tunnel in the middle of one part of the mountain.
I took my picture and was ready to get back on the trail, when she said "No, we're going through it.", which we did. Not a bug, spider or snake to be found...which is one of the many reasons I enjoy New Zealand. I haven't seen one spider or large bug since I've been here...just a few sand flies, which is something I can deal with. It was like walking through Jurassic Park, but without the dinosaurs, danger or Jeff Goldblum.
We hiked even higher and, before my head had a chance to explode from the lack of oxygen, we came across Sammy Summer's cabin (or Jamie Summers cabin...some summer's cabin). It used to be where an old prospector lived back in the 1800's (there's still some gold in these here hills). So, it's kept up and, somewhat maintained, for people to check out if they survive the climb.
There is even a guest book on the desk that people sign, which is pretty fun. Liz had a group of friends who, when filling out what their destination was, put "Liz's house for dinner" as a joke. Well, a few other random hikers over the next couple of months saw that and also put "Liz's house for dinner" too. So, of course, I put "Liz's house for lunch". Gotta continue the tradition.
We hiked even higher and came across another natural water fall and, sometime, swimming hole down below. I didn't swim, but it was beautiful to see, as everything else was on this hike. So many interesting things to see along the way. Like this huge, twisted tree that looked like where the Keebler elves might live...
This interesting rock sculpture that someone had created.
Liz said she notices them randomly appearing along the trails now and then. I told her it reminded me of the "Blair Witch Project" markers, but, thankfully, without the chicken bones or blood. Then, Liz said that we had one more nice lookout just up the trail and, "nice" was putting it mildly....
Who needs a silly "Lord of the Rings" tour when you get to see scenery like this? Thankfully, we had reached the top of the hike and finally headed back down the mountain, with me snapping pictures of the cool scenery that just seemed to continue appearing around each corner.
Before we hit the bottom of the mountain, I saw this house on a nearby hill...I bet they have a nice view.
Maggie...I'll see if I can get you this house instead. Liz is kind of attached to hers, as you can imagine.
We made it to the bottom and stopped on the bridge, chatting with an unusual local man who was talking about heading up into the mountain to pan for a little gold (and he was serious). Of course, now that I write about that, it occurs to me that maybe we saw the ghost of that Sammy Jamie Summers guy from up in the hill. Insert "Twilight Zone" music here....
We got back to Liz's, picked and ate a couple apples from one of her trees, and headed back into town. I'm so glad that she was kind enough to bring me along and show me the sights along the way. People pay big bucks to see the kind of scenery we saw today, for free. Maybe I'll come back here and give guided tours. Well...after they install a gondola and/or escalator up to the top, of course.
Before leaving, I had to take one last picture of her house, from the back yard this time.
Would you ever leave your house if you saw this kind of view every day?
I don't think I would.