The time has come for the adventures of Kelsey Squared! Kelsey Barton and I first met back in 2012 in Boston at a house party, where we found out we both worked for the same recruitment company. Since then, she moved to Colorado and I eventually moved to NZ. When she applied for and got a temporary recruiting assignment in Sydney, Australia, needless to say I was pretty excited! Of course, we had to reunite. It had been over two years since she’d last been to Boston, just before I left for NZ.
Kels flew in to Welly in mid-April, and after showing her around the city and Martinborough wine country, we were off to Queenstown for Easter. While in Welly, we’d stocked up on some fabulous American flag leggings, which only added to the epicness of what was to come…
On our first full day in Qtown, we went on an insane canyoning adventure (rappelling/abseiling down cliffs, hopping into deep pools of water, zip-lining, sliding down waterfalls and much much more – definitely recommended). Here’s the “before” shot. Don’t worry, we put on more layers before conquering the icy river water.
There’s no “after,” since we were too busy warming up and being amped up on adrenaline. We had a classically crazy Qtown night out afterwards, meeting some Australians, playing jenga and having an all around fun time.
The next day, we had an early breakfast and set out to climb Queenstown’s most popular peak and Instagram spot, Ben Lomond. We weren’t sure if we’d do the entire thing, but we decided to play it by ear.
Oh, what did we wear, you ask? You guessed it!
We started from our hostel and climbed the trail about 30 minutes uphill to the observation deck at the top of the gondola. We were the first ones there, since the gondola had just started running for the day, but we waited long enough for others to arrive and take our picture.
Even though I’ve been up here a few times before, the view never gets old!
Since our research suggested Ben Lomond can be a six to eight hour return trip, we had to continue on. There was still time to try and get some jumping shots, though.
While Kels and I are certainly on the same page with travel and adventure, we’re not so in sync when it comes to coordinated jumping. Having the camera on a timer doesn’t really help, though.
This next one is the best we did out of the whole trip, despite getting cut off.
Stop while you’re ahead, right? Onward and upward!
As we ascended further into the hills, the view got better and better. It’s easy to see why so many people hike up here. The people running, though? No thanks!
Ben Lomond slowly loomed closer, but still seemed painfully far away. That’s it on the left in the last picture.
As we climbed higher, clouds began to roll in. We got very lucky with weather, though, since Queenstown can be unpredictable this time of year (or any time, really). The clouds never fully obscured the epic view.
Here’s the Ben again.
After about an hour and a half of hiking since leaving the top of the gondola, we’d reached the Ben Lomond Saddle, and decided it was a good time to stop for a break and some nibbles.
Annnd time for some more self-timer shots!
We got a lot of comments on our leggings, from other Americans eagerly greeting us (and believing me for a second when I joked that we were actually Canadian), to some Germans singing “America! F*** yeah!” Others just laughed. Great success!
Now that we were at the saddle, we decided to head a bit further up and see how we got on.
The view looking the other way was incredible, with mountains stretching to the horizon toward Mount Aspiring National Park.
Ok, just a little bit further.
“Let’s juuuust get to that big rock.”
The trail got really steep at this stage, and we decided to turn around. We wanted to enjoy our last night in Queenstown, so we thought it best to spare another two hours of hiking up and down. I mean, could the view even get any better?
All said and done, we made it up to about 4,500 feet (roughly 1,400 meters). Not bad!
Farewell for now, Ben Lomond!
We had a great last night in town, and both had to head to the airport the next afternoon – Kels back to Oz and myself back to Welly. After checking out of our great hostel, Southern Laughter Backpackers (our room was the “Love Shack” haha), we had time to grab brekkie and wander around town. With everything in full autumnal colors, there was plenty to see.
Kelsey’s hair perfectly complimented the changing leaves.
The botanic gardens were gorgeous in the brilliant sunshine. Queenstown always seems to put on the best show on the last day, making it sooo hard to leave!
Down by the lakeshore, Wakatipu was looking fabulous, with the Remarkables looming in the background.
Last chance for a Kelsey photo!
One last jumping attempt? Yeah, nah.
Still love how it turned out.
Just looook at that water! Across the way is Kelvin Heights, where Andy and I went with my parents just before our flight out. The lake is stunning from any angle.
We continued on our loop around the gardens.
Ben Lomond was shrouded in clouds, but you can see the gondola at the top of the hill on the right:
Kels was reminded of Colorado here, and I can definitely see why. You can’t beat the Remarkables or the Rockies in autumn!
Farewell again, Queenstown! I’m sure I’ll see you before long.
As for Kelsey, we’ll be reunited again in three days’ time when Andy and I fly up to Sydney for five days of epic adventures. After I get through my Ohakune pictures from a couple weeks ago, there will be lots of Aussie shots to come. Woohoo!