We traveled around the North Island of New Zealand for a week and now we are spending some time catching up on school and enjoying the very popular Queenstown and our first look at the South Island. Queenstown is an adrenaline junkies dream come true, summer or winter. If you can jump off of it, climb up, down, around or through it, bike, paraglide or ski down it, you can do it here. There are also enough mountains to keep Scott happily on the move for months and so our first hike, or tramp as they are called here, was the Ben Lomond Summit.
We are staying right in the middle of the downtown area and easily walked to the trail head within ten minutes. The Tiki trail is mostly dirt road that crosses the mountain bike paths and leads up to the Skyline Gondola where you can bungee jump. paraglide, ride New Zealand’s answer to an alpine coaster, zip line, have lunch or sit in the bar and enjoy the view. You can also skip the Tiki trail and ride the gondola up to save about an hour, but then you miss dodging mountain bikes and listening to the screams of zip-liners.
This rock was ten minutes up the trail and it begged to be conquered. The three little mountain goats are signed up for a rock climbing class while we are in Queenstown, a serious, “let’s learn about rock climbing all day expedition” and I was not invited. I understood this of course at the time of the reservation, but then I changed my mind and decided that it might be good for me and so I told Scott that I wanted to go. He didn’t say much but when we arrived at this rock he said, “This is your ticket to climb. Make it up and you can go with us.” The rock does not look that intimidating, I know, but I couldn’t take that last “leap of faith,” that last weight transfer, and trust that I wouldn’t fall. I tried twice and would have continued trying but we had a mountain to tramp.
There were many fun distractions on the Tiki trail and we took our time. The trail was part dirt road and part hiking path and I had remembered to bring my hiking sticks. I was surprised at all of the flip flops I saw coming down the trail. One couple in flip flops walked past us at a particularly steep stretch of trail and I could hear them begin discussing that maybe they should get some hiking sticks. Hiking sticks? How about shoes that stick to your feet? The Germans drink beer and hike and the Kiwis hike in flip flops; who is the toughest?
It took us about an hour and twenty minutes to reach the Skyline Gondola area and the Ben Lomond trail head. The trail begins in the pine tree forests which are actually invasive here and are being removed as you can see by the line of brown trees in the top right corner of this picture. The Wilding Pines grow incredibly well in this environment and choke out native plants and animals, completely changing the alpine ecosystem.
It was a steady climb.
The kids were mesmerized by this baby goat. It was calling for its mama and we watched as she searched the steep mountainside until they were reunited.
It’s a good thing that the views were spectacular because the trail was relentless. The summit is the peak to the left.
That is Wakatipu Lake, New Zealand’s longest lake at fifty miles long. Queenstown is out of view, but it is to the left along the shores of the lake.
This sign is about 1 1/2 hours from the Skyline Gondola and all uphill.
We rested and had a snack at the park bench with the best view. Lake Wakatipu and Queenstown is behind us.
We met people from all over the world on this trail. The girl that took this picture was from France and she was traveling with people from England and Australia. At the summit we met a girl from Germany. New Zealand seems to attract quite the global crowd.
From our park bench to the summit took us an hour of hardcore, uphill huffing and puffing and scrambling, Scott and I anyway. When we finally arrived, the kids were chatting with other hikers and Grant was happily snapping photos of this funny little fellow called a Kea , while Ashley gave him directions.
Lake Wakatipu in the background and a few gorgeous mountains.
This photo looks like it was taken in front of a backdrop, but it’s not. That is Queenstown below us.
We ate our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and enjoyed the view, but it was cold and windy and we were sweaty from the trek up.
Mountains everywhere and for as far as you can see.
I could not resist the quintessential mountain trekkers pose. Since I’m going to have to start paying my photographers, I need some sponsors…Patagonia? Mountain Hardware? Kühl? Salomon? I’ll let you know if I get any!
And down we go on shaky legs with the promise of a gondola ride down the last mile or so. Scott never tells me the details of things until afterwards but that is okay because I don’t want to know. A high level of fitness is recommended for this hike as you will ascend about 4,500 feet over four miles if you hike from Queenstown. Then you have to hike back which I always think is the worst part. The views are absolutely worth the workout though and you can even look forward to the gondola ride to get you back down the last of it.