zubeneschamali: (sydney)
[personal profile] zubeneschamali
Part 1 of my New Zealand adventure!

First of all, it took 36 hours from the time we left home till we were ensconced in our hotel. Commuter flight to Chicago, Chicago to LAX (4 hours), LAX to Sydney (13.5 hours), Sydney to Queenstown (3 hours). This is the A380 we flew on the trans-Pacific flight: isn't she beautiful? Largest passenger plane in the world.


Notice the (little) dude under where the wing meets the fuselage. I am astonished something this big can get off the ground. (And that it can bounce around so much in the air, but that's another story.)

Our final flight was into Queenstown, which means coming in low over the mountains and then turning down a valley where the plane continues to descend below the hilltops. And it was windy. Damn windy. I kind of freaked out a little on the final descent because it was so bumpy and all of my reserves for not panicking over turbulence had been used up somewhere over the Pacific. There might have been whimpering involved. Anyway, Mr. Z agreed that he'd never had such a scary landing, so that made me feel a little better. And then I found out that Queenstown is the most dangerous airport in the country, night flights are not allowed into the airport because of the proximity of the mountains, and pilots who want to land there have to go through special simulator training just for that airport. Here it is, with the usual approach from the top of the picture.


Turns there's a whole subgenre of YouTube videos devoted to the Queenstown approach and landing. This one was pretty much what our landing was like, if you're curious. It's most interesting between minutes 4 and 7:30.

Anyway, we arrived safe and sound. So did one of our two checked bags, LOL. The other bag made it about 30 hours later, traveling via Auckland instead of Sydney. No idea where it got off track, but at least we got our stuff back!

Queenstown was lovely. If you've been to Banff, or Park City, or Estes Park, or some other mountain resort town, this was a lot like that. Amazing views, expensive prices, visitors from all over the world. The only difference was the predominance of adventure tourism, which meant that occasionally you'd hear screams from overhead as tandem paragliders soared down from the mountainside, or see the bright yellow of a parasailer's parachute go sailing past on the lake. No big.

The view from our hotel window at various times of day:


We arrived on Friday and pretty much collapsed. After that, jet lag has been completely nonexistent. Don't understand it, not complaining. Saturday, we took one little hike up Queenstown Hill to see the view from above. This is when I started watching out for Riders of Rohan.


Sunday we rested, just kicking around town and walking by the lake and the small botanic garden. Once again, it was very windy.


Then Monday we climbed a mountain. (As you do.) It was one of the toughest trails I've ever taken because it just. Kept. Going. Up. It was an unrelenting climb from 300m (1000 feet) to about 1700m (5400 feet). If I hadn't spent those months in Providence climbing stair-steep streets every day, I don't think I could have finished. But the view from the top was incredible.


That last one is Mr. Z in the distance. This is my usual view while hiking. :) Going down might have been tougher than going up, because it was so steep and rocky that we had to really concentrate on where we were walking, and the strain on knees and thighs was pretty substantial.

We had one more hike while we were in Queenstown, but it was so spectacular I'll save it for another day. I leave you with some wicked cool clouds.


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