A NEW ZEALAND HIDEAWAY
Lombardy cottage in New Zealand' Central Otago is a perfect hideaway, an ideal base for exploring the unusual region … or both.
A coating of ice covers every single blade of the golden grass tussocks that eke out a living among shattered schist rock. The wind has a fierce penetrating bite. Grey clouds are flying across the sky. Their shadows are rushing, as in a time-lapse video over the ridges, peaks and steep slopes of the Hawkdun Range. Even when the sun throws its fleeting spotlight onto you there is no warmth. And yet, being up here, exposed, vulnerable, and reluctant to move too far away from the warm Range Rover, is an invigorating experience.
One that in a sense highlights what is waiting below the mountains: An old miner’s cottage built of local stone. Hidden in a valley off a valley. A lupin-framed creek mumbling through knee-deep meadows. Soft warm light falling out of windows at dusk. A free-standing bathtub filled with steaming water. Wind ruffling poplar and oak tree branches. A vegie garden with lettuce, rhubarb, carrots, herbs. A warm, cosy and stylish interior. Copses of birch trees. Total seclusion. Poppies, peonies, pansies. Very, very comfortable beds. Splendid isolation … From the exposed mountain ridges to the protected domain of the cottage, the contrast couldn’t be bigger.
I’m talking about Lombardy Cottage and it should come with a warning: Do not go there alone. It’s simply too beautiful not to be shared with someone you are close to. It’s located in the most unlikely of places: Central Otago, New Zealand. Go through all the famous landscapes the small but mind-blowingly diverse nation has to offer, and you’ll find that Central Otago isn’t one of them. Google the map of Central Otago district und it will become clear that everything with a big name on the South Island is somewhere else. Queenstown, thrill seeker capital of NZ, is close however.
While the gold rush is history in Central Otago, you might come to the realisation, as I did, that with discovering Lombardy and Central Otago, you have struck gold anyway. You could be lucky in more ways than one. Get some gold washing pans out of the shed and try your luck at Lombardy’s little creek. It is said that there is still gold in there!
Australian Country travelled with assistance from Air New Zealand, which has daily departures from all Australian capitals for Queenstown. For more information visit airnewzealand.com.au.
This story was originally published in the September 2015 issue of Australian Country. Order the back issue here.
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Words and photography Don Fuchs