This morning I awoke in Queenstown to a pink sunrise with brooding clouds west towards Glenorchy and a sprinkling of snow on the mountain tops. Of course I knew the snow, and the continuing cold front, would be there because weather reporters like to make a big deal of the first ‘real’ autumn/winter storm. They claim it’s to help the farmers take care of their stock, but I’m sure the farmers don’t need to be told, they can smell it in the air. I think they’re just exploiting our obsession with the weather… but I’ll save that theory for another blog.
|An early morning view of the Remarkables, with a hint of snow up high|
So with the new snow on the hills, rapidly shortening days and a brisk dash to the shower every morning to remind me of the changing seasons. Why am I so chirpy? (Yes, I’m always chirpy, despite not having good central heating).
Queenstown has four very distinct seasons. Right now the view from my window represents a watercolour painter’s dream; in fact it is a watercolour painting. Crimson and golden leaves cover every footpath and the air is refreshingly crisp. We’re in the midst of autumn and it’s hard not to feel upbeat. And better yet, it’s not a matter of savoring the goodness whilst it lasts, rather it’s enjoying the brilliant vistas with an appreciation for what they represent: impending snow, a new wardrobe, intimate social settings, deserted hiking trails and green-on-brown-on-white contrasting landscapes.
|One of the infamous swing bridges on the Copland Track|
I can’t put my finger on it, but something this morning sparked a memory from the beginning of last year’s winter season when I was able to join the second half of an Active New Zealand Winter Rimu trip (it was probably the connection with the fresh snow that we experienced on our last day of that trip and the corresponding spectacular views). There’s something magical about travelling the South Island in the middle of winter, particularly off the beaten path, where you really do feel like you’re the only souls for hundreds of kilometers. There’s also the heightened satisfaction of reaching your shelter when the temperature is dropping and the light is fading, which in my case was the soon-to-be-cozy Copland Hut. I’m sure it would be argued fiercely amongst our Active New Zealand team as to who picked the Copland Track to be the crux of the Winter Rimu trip, but whoever it was deserves some sort of worthy accolade, as it’s just the best hike ever!
|Welcome Flat hot springs, Copland Track|
Ever since a mate lent me (I think I still have it on loan) ‘Hot Springs of New Zealand’ I was drawn to the Copland Track and its lure of a relaxing soak at the end of a challenging hike. So in June last year, I wasn’t disappointed when, together with seven group members and two guides (Ken and Gwyneth), we rested our packs at the hut, undressed with little dignity and hopped down the trail to the natural thermal springs. Once you get passed the squelching mud between your toes (probably some people like this), your muscles start to relax, and you take in the view of the surrounding mountains and notice the equally satisfied faces finding their own spots around the springs. If you’re a veteran hot springs enthusiast or have two within your ranks like we did, you’ll be armed with a glass of mulled wine to top off the occasion.
With this on my mind I travelled into work this morning with a healthy energy necessary for the start of the working week. Admittedly, I was scheming ways to hijack another Winter Rimu to get my fix of hot springs and to sea kayak in Milford Sound (which I have only done in summer) surrounded by snowy peaks in winter.
Maybe I could take some inspiring photos and videos – we’re somewhat addicted to these in the marketing department… Maybe I could test-drive some new outdoor equipment… Or maybe it’s as simple as keeping a finger on the pulse. (Help me out here, folks!) After all, we can’t get too comfortable in the office right?
|Traffic in the South Island, in the middle of winter!|