Last Day in Queenstown
For my last day in Queenstown I decided to hike up to the Ben Lomond peak. The hike itself wasn’t too long, maybe 6 miles one way but the one way is mostly straight up. They recommend 8 hours to complete the hike, but in my usual fashion I started at noon.
The walk began in dense pine forest. I could have skipped this part since the Skyline gondola carries tourists and mountain bikers up to the end of the pine forest. But at $27 for a roundtrip I decided just to walk.
Running along the side of the hiking path were various downhill mountain biking paths. Similar to a ski slope, the paths ranged in difficulty from green circle to double diamond. The double diamond paths are basically straight down over cliffs and rocks. The people that bike them are basically insane. I met one guy named Kelly who has been riding his whole life. He is sponsored and spends his time traveling the world competing in downhill mountain biking competitions. At the present moment while I was hiking, he was busy making videos for GoPro by riding along the ridge line of the mountain with 200 ft cliffs on each side. He would run the ridge, stop 100 yards down, carry his bike back up and do it all over again.
Eventually I passed the biking paths and emerged suddenly above tree line. In LOTR I always thought it bizarre how in places the grasslands would just end and the forest would begin. I thought this was the result of some computer editing. But in reality that is how the forests work here (see picture below).
After a brutal uphill climb I finally made it to the summit. The view was spectacular. Below me I could see Queenstown. I could also see a good portion of the lake surrounding Queenstown. Lastly I could see the snow covered peaks of the Southern Alps behind me.
The walk back was straight down but took a quarter of the time. I finished the walk around 6 pm and because I was lazy, I decided to treat myself to a sit down dinner. It was my first sit down dinner in a month!