I groggily approached the gondola area at the head of the Ben Lomond Track in Queenstown. Today, the gondola wouldn’t run, meaning the potential to shave an hour off our hike was gone. But, this was at a time when my motivation was high, and I approached the several-hour hike to the peak with a fair amount of optimism.
The southern New Zealand spring still held a chill in the air, and I began my hike in layers–too many, as I would soon realize. The steep trek upward, through forest opening sporadically to intensifying sun, quickly extinguished any sense of cold I’d felt. I was left with a constant layer of uncomfortable sweat on my skin for the rest of the day. After the first hour, the trail truly opened up. Forest behind us, sky surrounding us, and Queenstown spread out to my left.
The peak stretched out before me, within view long before I would reach it–a constant reminder of how long I’d left to walk. Luckily, the path flattened for a time and allowed a bit of leisurely strolling, while taking in mountain peaks at eye level. Steep slopes, rocky and coated with layers of snow and ice, jagged-edged and painted with stripes of dark black where melt water crawled down the sides.
As I inched closer, I found my legs weakening. Too many layers in the heat = a very full backpack. The final push led us up a dramatic and steep rocky path. I envisioned myself slipping on the loose rock, skidding hundreds of feet down the mountainside. Tim pushed me forward, quite literally, as I moaned about my weak legs, low blood sugar, and not-so-justified fear of falling (fully admit to being a baby sometimes).
Finally, the path evened out and the rocky peak was before us. Hikers who’d gotten themselves out of bed earlier had beaten us to the top, and now dangled their legs precariously over steep ledges, or littered themselves across the flat rocks to eat sandwiches, berries, and cheese. We found a spot to do the same, as Tim finally cracked open the soda he’d brought along (he’s a Pepsi man through-and-through, but had to settle for Coke most of the time on the road).
So, we ate lunch with a panoramic view of Queenstown, the Remarkables Mountains in its background, the Southern Alps to the north, and surrounded by rocky ledges littered with proud and exhausted hikers. The journey itself was only partway through, I still had to make it back down, but suddenly my weakness was gone and I was reenergized by the atmosphere and the mood at the top.
Back at the hostel, we celebrated with pizza and beer. It was the second-to-last day of my year-and-a-half of living and traveling abroad. In two days, I would be home in Canada, with my family, again. My emotions mixed: anxious and excited, disappointed that my journey would end, but fulfilled by it happening. I knew that this moment would come to me again and again, in different places, all the time.
Read Tim’s experience on the Ben Lomond Track.
Where was your most memorable hike? How was it meaningful? Share it with me!
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