...and another mountain to climb
31.05.2006 20 °C
Tuesday 30 - Wednesday 31 May
Another long morning's drive from Te Anau eventually brought us to Queenstown, a large, bustling, tourism-driven city on the shores of Lake Wakatipu.
It was lunchtime and we were hungry, so we pulled into the nearest car-park to town, paid for three hours' parking and promptly noticed that our hostel -where parking is free- was about 200 metres away.
Never mind. Queenstown is a friendly, lively place set beneath a backdrop of mountains and beside yet another beautiful lake.
Funny how, just strolling around these faraway places, you can always see something vaguely familiar that reminds you of home...
Anyway, once having lunched and moved the car we spent a pleasant afternoon exploring and visiting every 'outdoor' shop we could find in search of a decent pair of walking boots for Sharon (I'd already nabbed a bargain pair in Christchurch). Inevitably, the afternoon culminated in 'tasting sessions' at a number of good local hostelries, including the sister-pub to the Dux Delux microbrewery pub which we sadly didn't visit whilst in Christchurch.
Wednesday 31 May
As mentioned, mountains form the backdrop to Queenstown and today we fancied doing a spot of walking. Not far behind our hostel lay a gondola ride leading to the Skyline Visitor Centre, a launching spot for paragliders, and a smaller 'ski-lift' rising to a luge circuit and the start of a few walks.
We had intended to do a couple of the shorter walks, but on arriving at the top we found the ones we wanted to do closed and roped off. All that seemed to be open to us was the (gulp) five-hour return walk to Ben Lomond; a towering peak quite some distance ahead of us. We decided to take the gradually ascending walk as far as the Saddle, below the peak of Ben Lomond itself.
Already, at the start of the walk, the scenery awed us.
The morning was bright and warm, with low clouds hanging over the surrounding mountains and heavy frost clinging to patches of grass as yet untouched by the sun.
After a couple of hours walking we finally reached the Saddle, and stopped for a rest. Here we met a group of four walkers who were heading for the summit of Ben Lomond, and who kindly took this flattering piccie of us:
From here, Ben Lomond looked tantalisingly close
and we knew that we'd almost certainly regret it if we turned back now. Anyway, the path looked nice and easy...
... and so, for a while, it was. But gradually, wide path turned to stony scramble which eventually gave way to snowy incline. Was the final push over ice-laden rocks to the summit of Ben Lomond worth all our efforts?
We think so.