Quality Queenstown

Trip Start May 18, 2003
Trip End Ongoing

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Thursday, December 1, 2005

Having spent five nights in the adventure capital of NZ it's finally time to move on. I've not done any of the adrenaline activities here yet but I have a feeling that I'll probably be passing through Queenstown again shortly...watch this space!

Big in reputation, small in size, this town has grown on me each day I've stayed; and the hot sunny weather has helped make this pit stop very relaxing.

On Monday I said goodbye to Chris (heading back to Brazil) and then Jørgen (heading onto Asia for his last month of travel). With the glorious sunny weather the temptation to just sit in the park and read was too great, so that's pretty much what I did for the next two days.

Occasionally large shadows silently swoop across the towns greens and streets, and you can always spot the new arrivals here as they look up expecting to see huge prehistoric like birds. No such luck; just the shadows of tandem Para gliders as they leap off one of the hills. I've seen as many as eight in the sky at the same time.

In the evening I hung out in the lounge room at Bungi Backpackers, and played a really long game of chess with Christian (from Sweden). I met a few Austrians afterwards and they taught me a version of Trumps called Vatten. They were using Austrian cards that had Bells, Acorns, Leaves and Hearts instead of the standard four suits.

On Wednesday it was high time for another hike so off I went to climb Ben Lomond (1748m), the local mountain. The first part of this 8 hour track goes past a historic water generator station and then winds quite steeply up through quite dense Douglas Fir forest. At the top of the forest you can turn right for the Gondola ride complex. Just like in Rotorua, at the complex there are luge tracks and a restaurant.

I pushed on to the Ben Lomond 'saddle' and then did the final scramble to the peak. The 360° views from the top were fantastic, and it was surprisingly calm with little or no wind. Seeing as I hadn't brought any food on this hike I had a little nap instead. There is something quite nice about having forty winks on top of a mountain - the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes were the snow capped ranges in the far distance. A nice view to wake up to!

If you don't want to attempt the climb to the peak, or are short of time, the views from the top of the saddle (where the rather out-of-place park bench is placed) were the most rewarding of the day.

On the way back down the track I thought I'd check out the Gondola complex, which is rather fancy. You get the best views of Queenstown from the viewing deck here, so it's well worth the detour. And it's also possible to get a free ride down on the gondola as the ticket booth is at the bottom. I guess they don't expect people to walk up and take the gondola down.

Today I'm off to Manapouri before heading down the Southern Scenic Route towards Invercargill.
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