The flight to Queenstown was actually one of the best flights I have ever had. We were told by the captain that we would have to circle around for a while and what a view. We had clear skies and views of all the mountains and lakes the area has to offer. We could see the rivers, the vineyards, the lakes, and the snow-topped Mt. Cook and it was well worth the slight delay in landing.
We hopped into our rental car, a Toyota SUV, and drive to our first apartment, St. James Place. We were pleasantly surprised at how large and clean it was and they had a laundry in the building. Whoo Hoo! We quickly unloaded as we would be here for a few days and went to walk around town.
Queenstown reminded us of the town of Canmore, Canada, just outside of Banff National Park, as well as the US town of Aspen. It is an active ski town during the winter and the summer holds a lot of water activities as well as hiking. There were many people, a lot of cute little stores and a lot of restaurants. We found our second favorite ice cream store and enjoyed the views over the lake as the sunset.
Queenstown is set in the valley of the Remarkables mountain range, several very high peaks, and along the shores of Lake Wakatipu, Nz’s longest and third largest lake. It is very deep and the bottom of the lake is actually below sea level and it has that glacier blue color we have come to expect and enjoy. I would have some pictures of the town, but alas, we are missing 4 hours of pictures. We are not sure what happened but that is sometimes a chance you take with bringing several cards and trying to upload too many at once to the computer.
We decide to take a walking/tramping trail to the top of the local mountain. Luckily, you get a boost by riding up in a Gondola. It goes up fast and it is steep! Thinking this will make our hike sooo much easier. Ha! Was I wrong. It is only 1700 feet that we would be hiking but we would end up 4265 feet high overall.
Once at the top of the gondola, you have great views of the village of Queenstown and a bit of the lake. There are also a couple of luge runs and they were fun to watch. I really wanted to go down once at least, but we had to get going on the hike as it was going to be a long one.
At the start of the hike, Shawn ignores the trail marker and starts walking down this dirt road.
Me: “Are you sure you want to go that way?”
Shawn: “Maybe. Why?”
Me: “The trail starts here. Where the very large green trail marking sign is located.”
Me: “That is the service road you are walking down. Big clue with all the tire tracks.”
I swear this guy will get lost in the woods one day. He can navigate on water but on land? Not so much.
The entrance takes you into a forest that is dark. Very dark. The pine trees are so tall and all their greenery is at the top, blocking out all the sunlight. You would think it was 5 o’clock in the afternoon walking in there. I can see why people of earlier years would think a forest held creepy little goblins in them. Walking through on the trail I kept waiting for the trees to wake up and give me a ride.
The path we were taking was a pretty steep hike that just kept going, well, up. Shawn kept telling me that we only had 600 more meters to go to the next stop. Which was on a side of a mountain. Not a stop, just a breath catcher. Huff…puff…wheeze. Again, the views are spectacular. We are overlooking Queenstown and Wakatipu lake. Operating on the lake are a few dinner/day cruise-type ships and one is an old steamer. We did see that one with all its huffing and puffing smoke drifting in the breeze. It was the vintage steamboat, the TSS Earnslaw, which was used to carry people and goods from Queenstown to Glenorchy, where gold was found. There were no roads to Glenorchy for a long time so the steamship was the only way to get there.
As we walked higher, we realized that on this hike we are the oldest ones out here walking. The only people we have seen here are in their 20’s and 30’s. Everyone says hello as they zoom past us and one cheeky girl said “good luck!” Now, what did she MEAN with that statement???
We are not walking up to the peak but to Ben Lomond Saddle, a bit lower than the peak. If you are thinking that sounds Scottish, you are right. It was named after Ben Lomond in Scotland by the early New Zealand shepherd Duncan McAusland. There is also a Ben Lomond mountain in Scotland and it is one of the most popular Munro’s to hike.
The saddle, which is really a flat top area, gives us a view of the backside of this mountain and we have a clear day so that we can see what seems like forever. The view includes Mounts Earnslaw and Aspiring and was well worth the trip. Took us about 3 hours with a 20-minute break for lunch and the hike to the peak is another 2 hours from the saddle. We are already at 4265 feet so it gets really high. It looks to be straight up and a bit of a scramble and we did see all those 20-year-olds struggling to climb. They were as small as ants, but we saw them! Now to get back down.
We treated ourselves to dinner at Botswana Butchery restaurant for dinner. They had a wonderful selection of beef and lamb and it was a wonderful dinner. Their front door handles are butcher knives! Last dinner out for a long time. We find a grocery store in the morning to stock up and head out to Glenorchy.