The Secret

Paradise Road – Why it is so aptly named..

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Our mind is still a nomad. Its ability to wander off at the slightest possible excuse is unparalleled. Just the other day, while registering for a website, the webpage prompted me to “please select a Secret question”. The drop down menu presented a list of questions. The first one asked me – “which city would you like to retire?”

Almost instantaneously, the subconscious conjured up a slideshow of jaw-dropping images of a place we had been to and at the same time, remembered a question asked on the same trip,  a question quite unusual and yet earnest – “Can you keep this a Secret?”..

Almost three years have gone by since our visit to New Zealand. My wife and I reminisce about the trip often, marvelling at how lucky a country can get. He must have been in an extremely generous mood when He created this island, placing it in one corner of the planet which perhaps led to it being populated with so few people, and perhaps one reason why its beauty endures to date.

One of the most vivid memories of that trip came out of something we hadn’t even planned for, as it happens quite often. On the day we were scheduled for sky-diving, we woke up with a spring in the step and butterflies in the stomach. I guess jumping from 15000 feet had something to do with that.  But a phone call from the agency informing about a 99% chance of cancellation due to inclement weather was hugely disappointing. Nonetheless, the 1% chance of the weather clearing turned us into Andy Dufresne in the Shawshank Redemption, filling us with hope…

And so we set out,  knowing that in all likelihood, the highlight of our trip was about to turn into a nondescript footnote. A few kms out of Queenstown, the highway showed a fork approaching to the left, veering towards the high mountains visible in the distance. The GPS lady, aware of the same, directed to turn left after 500 metres on to Paradise road. Paradise Road. I repeated to myself. Let us see where does this lead to…

The road, which began with a gentle slope, gradually started to ascend as the mountains forested with tall trees and crowned with shimmering snow showed itself on the right. The road firmly hugged the imposing mountainside, as if afraid to let go of its shelter and comfort. On the left, suddenly out of nowhere, the dense green canopy gave way to the icy blue waters of Lake wakatipu. Straight ahead, we could still see the clouds looming, gradually descending, eager to kiss the mountain tops. It was an image I had dreamt of numerous times. In all probability, we would have painted it when we were kids – a road curving around a mountain, running alongside a lake…

I found it difficult to keep my eyes on the road, much to the concern of my wife. Sensing her worry, a few minutes later, a shoulder opened out on the road towards the lakeside, wide enough to park a few vehicles and ogle at the vista on offer; the blue of the lake and the green of the mountains yonder. We obliged gleefully as we trod gently on the soft gravel to the edge of the lake. The elements had worked hard on the pebbles, giving it a wonderful smooth roundness. I picked up a few flat ones and as I threw them into the lake, I felt my heart leap as it bounced once, twice, thrice and Splash!  And after sitting on the shore, hand in hand with my wife and only the gentle sound of the waves for company, another image from childhood flashed across my mind..

A cold gust of wind shook us out of our reverie and we continued on our journey. The clouds were now descending rapidly and just a few moments later, enveloped everything in its path. We felt like we were in a cotton field as the clouds wafted past. A few twists and turns later, they gave way to a drizzle, and that surely washed away the 1% hope with it. But we decided to carry on. Paradise road, with its bewitching views was too compelling to resist. The scenery was consistently spectacular as the roads went up and down past mountains, streams, dense forests and green fields on one side and the Lake on the other. The gentle rain and the car wiper played with each other, making a nice symmetrical pattern on the windshield…

The appearance of a few houses suggested that the town was now not far away. We passed a couple of relatively busy junctions and brought the car to a halt opposite a quaint looking cafe, which seemed straight out of a western movie set. It was still drizzling slightly and the weather had turned cold and nippy. We zipped up our jackets, hands shaking and teeth chattering. We called the skydiving agency only to hear what we already knew. They were sorry about the cancellation. We thanked them and smiled to ourselves. The disappointment had long gone… If it were not for that one percent hope the agency gave us, we would have not made this journey..

We stepped inside the cafe ordering coffee and hot chocolate. As we took our seats inside the cafe amidst the laughter of people, we realised how sometimes the best moments are the ones which aren’t planned. Obviously the baggage of expectations was missing which could be one key reason for the delight in the unknown. You could plan all you want but in the end, you may still fall short. As the beverages arrived, my wife echoed the cliché running in my mind; “so that’s why wise men say, the journey is sometimes far more important than the destination and to enjoy the little moments that lie enroute..” The first sip of hot chocolate was almost like nectar as the warmth seeped through the bones. I smiled as I dunked a soft juicy marshmallow in the hot chocolate and took a bite, “perhaps the wise men were not aware that hot chocolate and marshmallows awaited them at the end of the journey. They might have changed their mind..”

As we were paying the genial lady behind the counter, she asked us where we came from. India. And it was then she smilingly asked us to keep this place a secret despite knowing the futility of her request. To keep this gem a secret would be doing a disservice to this wonderful place. The road to Glenorchy deserves to be driven on and experienced. And whoever chose the name, chose wisely indeed. Paradise Road. It is the closest to paradise you might get…

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