On to my wonderful stay at Lochmara, which was recommended to me by friends who had been for the day. What a cool place! As soon as I saw the entrance, I knew this was going to be a quirky, awesome place to spend the night.
I don’t know how so many people have spare shoes to hang up here, but it does make for a memorable gateway.
I wound my way down the paths of the Wildlife Recovery Centre, past alpacas, chickens and eels. The property was covered with unique decorations.
I passed an enclosure filled with New Zealand parakeets, also know as kākāriki. They’re very bright and wonderfully photogenic.
I even caught one daintily lapping up water with its small tongue.
I enjoyed some french fries and coffee (interesting combo, I know) at Lochmara’s restaurant before checking into my room.
After freshening up, I decided to wander the property. I encountered some lazy pigs and piglets making hilarious noises in their sleep.
Adorable. The one on the right just looks so content.
Of course, there were signs aplenty.
And a sofa sculpture that reminded me of Gaudi and my family’s trip to Barcelona.
Next was “Crumpy’s Camp.” For those of you who don’t know, as I didn’t, who Barry Crump is, here’s a quote from Wikipedia: “Barry Crumb was a New Zealand author of semi-autobiographical comic novels based on his image as a rugged outdoors man.”
It was a great setting for some interesting shots.
Heading further uphill, I stopped at a replica whare (Maori meeting house).
I’m fairly sure it was designed for hobbits.
The views from a nearby bench were incredible on this gorgeous day.
I knew I had to stop by “Hammock Heaven.” Wouldnt you?
Lochmara has hammocks scattered all around the property, and hardly anyone was taking advantage of them. It’s ok though. I did plenty of relaxing for everyone.
This spot was called “The Observatory,” and I made a mental note to return here at night for some stargazing.
While heading towards the part of the property marked “Punga People” on the map, I walked by a lot of outdoor art. Most pieces were for sale, but this one, “Nature’s Detail” has to be my favorite. Mother Nature really is the ultimate artist.
The Punga People were part cool, part maybe-going-to-haunt-my-dreams creepy.
Maybe they’re relatives of the ents.
As evening began to close in, I made my way back towards the main lodge to explore a little before my dinner reservation at Lochmara’s restaurant.
The lighting couldn’t have been more perfect, and all the daytrippers had thankfully departed on boats back to Picton.
I was really happy to have booked a night at this amazing spot, and this was all before the wonder that was to come after sunset.
The best experiences usually turn out to be impossible to photograph. Even if a camera could capture them, it often cheapens the moment. This is how I’d best describe my nighttime adventures at Lochmara. Around 9:30, when the sky had darkened enough for the stars to appear, I set out through the rainforest to The Observatory, alone with my headlamp. I lay in my chosen hammock beneath the heavens and gazed up at the Southern Cross and an upside-down Orion. The sky is still so foreign here, yet familiar in many ways. It never fails to put everything into perspective and make miniscule worries fall away.
When I headed back down the path towards the lodge, I spotted some twinkling in the forest off to the right. Lo and behold, a ladder happened to be there, and I climbed it to find myself nearly blinded by a galaxy of glowworms all around me. Words really fall short here. I’ve seen them before, but never alone and never so many. I just sat silent and tried to visually capture this moment to keep for all time. There really is magic in this world.
As if this all weren’t enough already, I headed to the beach to test out the waters. The receptionist at the lodge had told me the tide could sometimes be phosphorescent, and I knew I had to see this for myself. I splashed around in the shallows, and the droplets of water turned to brilliant stars before my eyes. I couldn’t believe it. Nature has never taken my breath away more than she did at this moment – stars above me in the sky, below me in the sea and beside me in the trees.
It was hard to retire to my room after this experience, but I had a long day of hiking ahead of me in order to make it to the end point of the Queen Charlotte Track for my water taxi back to Picton the next day. All of that to come.