The Fellowship of the Ring of Fire Part 2: Queenstown
Next, we flew to lovely Queenstown, the Aspen of New Zealand. Queenstown is an upscale tourist destination on the south island. It's spotless, just like the rest of New Zealand. The people are exceedingly friendly, just like the rest of New Zealand. And it's beautiful, just like the rest of New Zealand.
There is a gondola that takes you on a 5 minute ride to one of the mountain peaks where there is a building with a theater, bar, and luge tracks. The bird's-eye views are wonderful. You can see the town surrounded by mountains and lakes that seem like they've never seen a spec of rubbish. At the top there are walking tracks you can take. Some of them take 15 minutes, others can take days. We opted for the shorter ones.
The walking tracks begin just above the building where you are met with a wall of trees where the forest starts. As soon as you walk in, light begins to fade. All man-made noises get sucked into the trees until all you can hear is your footsteps and breathing. It was also sprinkling, but you wouldn't know from within the forest. We walked by a man later, but other than him, it was just us.
We came across a sign that pointed up the mountain further. It said it was another 10 minutes to the hang gliders' jump-off point. It was a bit steeper than the tracks we had taken a few minutes ago, but I thought the views would be even better. Stephanie stayed behind. 15 minutes later, I reached the top, or so I though it was the top. Coming out of the forest, it was like I was in another world. My own world. I had reached the jump-off point, but just beyond, there was another path that led further up the mountain top. It was so inviting. The top didn't look too far either. I had already been gone long enough that I knew I was alienating Stephanie who was waiting alone in the middle of the forest on top of a mountain, but I would've regretted not going up. So I went up.
Not only was it steep, it was a bit slippery. There were even patches of slushy ice. From the bottom, it didn't look as narrow as it did when actually walking the path. We had been walking for a few hours already, and I had just climbed the steepest path of the day. Climbing still steeper, my fear of heights made me breathe even harder.
Up above, I saw a billboard, but it was angled facing just away from me. The front was covered in trees. I was determined to see what was on the other side. I had to take a few breaks to catch my breath on the way, but I finally got there. I stepped to the other side and looked up at a blank billboard. I kept climbing up.
I hadn't looked back much because I was a little afraid of what I would see. I kept climbing and climbing. Eventually, what I thought was the peak was overtaken by yet another peak beyond. I said enough. I turned around, my whole body shaking, and pulled out my camera to film what I saw.
Not surprisingly, the climb down was more difficult than the climb up. Not only that, it became more apparent that I was on a ridge. Slipping here could be bad. It began to rain a little harder too. I put my camera back in my bag. I took my time going down, even though I was in a very big rush to get back to Stephanie who I knew would be worried.
When I got down, I started to run back towards the forest. It was getting dark, but by the time the forest gets you, it's more than a little dark. I finally got back to Stephanie who, had she lost any more composure, would've probably been traumatized. I had been gone for more than 30 minutes. After waiting for so long, she didn't know what to do: climb up to find me, walk down to find help, or just stay put.
It took another 20 minutes or so to get back to the building where we took the gondola ride back down and another 20 minutes walk to our hotel.