Up a Mountain, Down a Beer!

Trip Start Sep 09, 2004
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Trip End Ongoing


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Thursday, April 14, 2005

I don't know where the last week or so has gone, I really don't. As well as being the extreme sports capital, Queenstown is also the big, bellowing, buzzing nightlife spot too. It also possesses a mysterious curse that switches everyone into party mood as soon as they arrive. The girls have been here for weeks now and have pretty much partied non-stop. It's incredible. I guess my time here has flittered away along a similar vein, but what's really good is that I've been able to catch up with the guys individually. It's been well worth it. It just can't be kept up though! I'm pleased to have learned they're all doing fine, settled in a nice house/hostel thing with beautiful views overlooking Lake Wakatipu. Traoine and Chicken have been looking for jobs now that they've decided to stay in Queenstown through the winter season. Chicken (bless her) has landed a great little job as a security 'guardess', four nights per week, 8pm till 6am, of which the job description basically states that she 'must be able to stay awake'. She starts tomorrow and she's chuffed to bits as it'll give her chance to read, paint, or whatever she wants in between opening the gates every few hours. She's our little security Chicken. Shiny's getting all excited, serious and focused on doing some serious treks now that she's mobile and 'stickless'. She really is getting enthusiastic too, scouring meticulously through the adventure shops getting all excited by the gear, reading the topo maps and frequently reciting how many hours it takes to leave a hut, pass through a saddle, over a ridge conducting a steady approach to the next hut.

Today, after a much ummed and aaghed discussion about doing it, the four of us took and completed the long hauled trek up to the top of Ben Lomond. Shiny had walked the majority of the track the other day as a self-assessment exercise and had turned back in self-protection after she realised quite sensibly that it was best to leave it under the circumstances of the day. This time, we decided to join her on her quest to revisit it which was great as it's the first walk the four of us have done together. Once again, the rewards were phenomenal.

Ben Lomond stands proud at 1,746 metres, a little higher than Mt Somers. The weather was perfect and I have to say for me personally, the views were much better than those earned from Mt Somers though the trek itself was much less strenuous. It wasn't half as steep, unmarked or anywhere near as dangerous. In some ways Mt Somers was more rewarding due to the sheer intensity of what it took physically in order to acquire those magnificent views. We were up and down in around nine hours, finishing up at the Skyline restaurant for a celebratory pint. 'Mannion the brave' was hiker of the day as she successfully battled through her giddiness and fear of toppling over the edge around some of the particularly tricky parts. I stayed with her right to the top and her little face was a picture when we joined the others to celebrate. I'm not going to try and fumble with words again but the view from the top was simply spectacular. Absolutely stunning. 360 degrees of panoramic magnificence, Cecil and Walter Peaks over Lake Wakatipu in front of us and the ice-capped peaks of Mt Aspiring on the opposite side.

In between was a phenomenal mass of random jagged peaks and winding ridges splayed out below us like a huge carpet of mountains and valleys. It was just like looking at a scale model only this was for real. Tremendous. No buildings, electricity cables or other human spoilage, just its own magnificent grandeur, totally commanding respect and utter admiration. Simply breathtaking. You would not get to see this immense beauty without putting yourself through a day like today, or by covering the terrain in a helicopter. Personally I'd prefer to walk. There's something about these 'rewards' that are worth so much more simply by having to work for it. I kept thinking of the masses and masses of people who have never seen this or who would never even get to see it. At one point during the final ascent Traoine and I were standing, staring out, just awe-struck. We were talking about how tragic it is that this could so easily be missed by so many. It was just mind-blowing. She rightly pointed out that she knows, like me, so many people that have never even ventured out of their home town or country, some of them who never even will. If they were put on this spot right here, right now at this very moment they would probably be physically sick. They wouldn't actually be able to comprehend what was before them, what they were seeing. I mean that. And I find that such a sad, sad truth. We all deserve this. Surely?
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