They’ll tell you when you’re standing at the confluence and delta of the Rees and Dart rivers that you’re only 20km from paradise.
Yeah, right, you’ll mutter. Spare me the marketing hype.
No, really, they’ll say. Just look at the map. There it is, right there: Paradise.
Due to its proximity to that fabled utopia, Glenorchy, at the head of the western arm of Lake Wakatipu, has been called the gateway to paradise. And in many ways, it’s true – it’s especially easy to believe if you can imagine that angels are manifested on earth as sandflies.
Glenorchy is a picturesque spot, backed by the craggy, snow-capped grandeur that is the interior of the Mount Aspiring National Park. And there’s fun to be had in the area. Lots of it.
Trampers bound for some of the greatest walks in New Zealand depart from here: the Rees–Dart track itself, which performs a loop along the courses of these beautiful, glacier-fed waterways, lined with beech forest; the Greenstone–Caples, which performs a similar circuit of the valleys of the Greenstone and Caples Rivers; and, of course, the Routebourn, which is considered to be second only to the Milford Track as New Zealand’s best tramping adventure.
If the very thought of hoofing it through the countryside makes you footsore, you’re in luck. You can see the Dart by jet-boat, ducking, weaving and swerving in the maze of channels and islets formed by the meandering, braided river.
And once up in the sheer-walled gorge in the wilds of Mount Aspiring National Park, you can choose to drift down the Dart in Funyaks – a very stable, very comfortable sort of short kayak.
However you choose to see it, by land or by water, you’ll doubtless experience a fleeting sense of déjà vu: much of this incredible landscape, as with other particularly photogenic bits of our charismatic little country – was unrolled on the big screen as a backdrop to the cinematic marvel that was Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
But if the big picture is more to your taste, you can get a panoramic view of it all from a helicopter or fixed-wing scenic flight from the Glenorchy airstrip: the rivers in their broad valleys and deep gorges, the soaring peaks and plunging bluffs, the snow and icefields all fall away beneath you.
Welcome to paradise. Any questions?