Posted by: cousindampier | 13 February 2014

From The Journal: Queenstown

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I am standing on the beach in Queenstown.

It is not much of a beach. New Zealand is moving towards early fall, and today is messy. The wind blows in off Lake Wanaka, and my jacket is zipped up. My hair is still pretty long and I think I left it long for most of the year I spent in New Zealand.

(Now, having spent the winter in Almaty, I understand the value of both long hair and beards).

The rocks are slick. The wind is pushing the water closer and closer to me, as if trying to attack my shoes. And it is an odd place to stand. Queenstown stands out amongst the cities of New Zealand – it is the one not on the coast. It rests in the middle of the South Island, a few hours from either the Pacific Ocean or the Tasman Sea, but it rests on a massive lake.

Yet here, on this tiny peninsula, I get to stand watching the storm roam into the city from the lake. The sun is setting over my shoulder, so the water appears purple with whitecaps and the wind runs in from the lake valley beyond, channeled here because there is nowhere else to go.

And behind me, through a short path of trees, is the Queenstown Gardens, sheltered from the lake, with a frisbee golf course and a pond and trimmed hedges.  It’s quiet there, different from this small path along the lake in every way possible.

The walk through the Gardens is a little strange. You can hear the water closeby, but the trees block a clear vista. There are people out, walking and feeding ducks and enjoying themselves, but as the wind blows harder it more begin to head back towards the city.

And then you follow the path into the trees and around a bend and in just a few seconds you stand feeling isolated on wet rock looking out over Lake Wanaka.

I took the path along the shore back into the city. It ran straight and dark, with the park blocking the setting sun. With the wind at my back and the yellow brightness of the city ahead, I wasn’t sad to leave that corner of the earth – but at the same time, that corner of the earth was more massive than I’ll ever be.

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