Glenorchy, NZ

Glenorchy, New Zealand, where I’ll be for the next 8 weeks, sits on a lake that is 100 meters deeper than the surface of the sea and is fed by runoff from mountains named the Remarkables. The lake, Wakatipu, is shaped like a dog’s leg and Glenorchy is on the hip end at the north. If you zoom out to gain the perspective of a satellite,  you’ll see Chukotsky, the eastern most region of Russia to the north; the Ross ice shelf of Antarctica will be to your south; moving due east or west, you will cross Patagonia; and if you follow a true diagonal through the earth, you will bob up in the ocean a few miles off the coast of A Coruña, Spain.

Back at ground level, Glenorchy is a quiet town of 200 residents, whose main street supplies the basic needs of a modern life.

There’s good food at the Glenorchy Cafe…

clothing…

energy…

and emergency service.

Like the establishments that provide basic services, the cultural venues are similarly no frills, like the old town library.

There are a few sites of historical interest, like this monument to those who died in WW1. The poignancy of the memorial is not lost in the battle with necessary things like power lines and loo signs, but the clash of the extraordinary and the commonplace on Main Street makes for a small shock, like static electricity in a favorite blanket.

The source from which this settlement draws its life has always been the land. Since the nineteenth century, settlers came to raise sheep and pan for gold. The gold rush was short lived, but the sheep are still here. Now the town draws on the drama of the landscape for an income.  The story here is light, space and sky, all played out on the sides of mountains. It’s an old story, but still a good one. And as a friend said, “It is perhaps the best story, and we just keep struggling to tell it correctly.”

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