oceania · travel

Meeting Ben Lomond

Jump-off for the Ben Lomond Trail
Jump-off for the Ben Lomond Trail

I haven’t actually started on the proper track yet, and I’m already lost. I backtracked to the last sign I chanced upon for the Ben Lomond trail, and saw the shaded path that I’ve missed. The thick canopy of bare-leafed pines looked ominous, as if I were Little Red Riding Hood who should have known better than to wander alone.

Out of the blue, the trail suddenly opened up to a great vastness of sky, sunshine and meadows. The green horizon met the wild blue yonder of the heavens for almost the whole trail. On every spot you stood upon, you can freely admire the range of the Remarkables, glimpse upon the near green and yellow rows of trees, smile at the intense blue-green of Lake Wakatipu.

Ben Lomond Trail

After hiking for about a little over an hour, I was fairly sure that I got lost somewhere, as there were almost no other soul in sight. I pushed on, wowed again and again by the vista. After the first few signs back at the head of the trail, no other trail sign followed, and as I came upon the Nth fork in the road, I wondered for how long my luck could last.

Ben Lomond Trail

It's not so far now!
It’s not so far now!
I present to you, THE bench.
I present to you, THE bench.

I finally made it up to the saddle, and came upon the most inviting bench I’ve ever laid eyes upon. It was simply perfect for enjoying a well-earned lunch and celebrating my reunion with the grand affair of walking.

The trail up to the summit.
The trail leading up to the summit.

Back in the real world, I booked a seat in the Maori cultural show for the afternoon, so I had to hurry back to the base of the trail shortly; thankfully, I made it with some time to spare. There were a lot of things to keep me occupied at the Skyline base — the luge, the short trails and especially the spectator platform by the bungy ledge. I was hoping to chance upon just one or two jumpers, but the bungy station was teeming with avid faces — exactly how many people are really eager to leap and dangle over a ravine in this town? Based on the screams and vicious yells, a lot have been waiting to do this for a long time.

Hanging around the AJ Hackett Bungy Ledge at the Skyline
Hanging around the AJ Hackett Bungy Ledge at the Skyline
If you're not up for a crazy leap, how about zipping down the mountain in a luge cart instead?
If you’re not up for a crazy leap, how about zipping down the mountain in a luge cart instead?

I shimmied off just in time for the Maori show at the Skyline station. The guys in the hostel told me that it wasn’t the best haka performance you could see in NZ, but it definitely wasn’t anything shabby. I enjoyed the program, and appreciated that strong women dance side by side with the warriors. One part that I didn’t expect though is that this show wasn’t for lazy people — the dancers called on members of the audience to stand on stage to learn and perform the haka, too! As we flicked the pois and try to sway to the right timing, I realized that the Maori performers made it look really easy; I was hardly hitting the beat! It was certainly an experience that would have been a shame to miss.

How's that for a Haka face?
Not everyone can just pull off a mean Haka face.

All that excitement in one mountain. We got off at a shaky start, but the day definitely got sweeter and sweeter. It was great to meet you, Ben Lomond!

The Ka-ching Rundown

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