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Z's journey Down Under, part 1

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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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

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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.

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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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Comments

( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
matchboximpala
Jan. 27th, 2014 02:15 am (UTC)
That is so amazingly gorgeous and now I want to go there very badly.
zubeneschamali
Jan. 27th, 2014 03:44 am (UTC)
It was really spectacular. If you ever get the chance to go, you definitely should!
cassiopeia7
Jan. 27th, 2014 06:47 am (UTC)
Those photographs are STUNNING. No other word for it. I particularly love the color and mood variance of the set you shot from your hotel window.

That landing, oh, my! Fun! (That was a HELLA steep turn around 5:00 where you're almost looking straight down at the ground, and I didn't think commercial jets were allowed to do maneuvers like that. Now I see the reason for the special training!) Stapleton in Denver has similar "fly over the runway, then drop-drop-drop" landing procedures, also because of mountains. Never noticed any crazy-steep turns, though. :)

. . . and you flew on an A380?? I'm jealous. Insanely jealous. (Got any more photos of her?)

Have a lovely time in NZ! Do share more of your photos? :)

Edited at 2014-01-27 11:35 am (UTC)
zubeneschamali
Jan. 27th, 2014 05:44 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I'm so pleased with how those turned out...my camera doesn't always handle bright light so well.

Coming into Denver is always bumpy because of the mountains, in my experience. I only flew into Stapleton one time, but since it was the first flight I ever took, I have no idea how it compares to anything else!

No more photos of that one, I'm afraid, but I did walk through one at the Oshkosh air show a few years ago and so it close up and ridiculously big. I'll try to come back and add some pics later. :)
big_heart_june
Jan. 27th, 2014 07:09 am (UTC)
WOW! LOVELY LOVELY PICS!! and oh my god that landing!! I'd LOVE to go to New Zealand, thanks for sharing and ENJOY the rest of your stay! ♥
zubeneschamali
Jan. 27th, 2014 05:45 pm (UTC)
Do go if you ever get the chance. It's awesome. Just maybe fly into somewhere other than Queenstown. ;)
harrigan
Jan. 27th, 2014 09:50 am (UTC)
This brought back wonderful memories of my own trip to New Zealand. Are you still in Queenstown? This was our favorite restaurant of the entire trip: http://www.thecowrestaurant.co.nz/

One of my favorite day trips included a stop in Glenorchy, where the public library is just a little bigger than a shack and is only open Fridays from 1-3.

Anyway, your pics are *gorgrous* and I look forward to more!
zubeneschamali
Jan. 27th, 2014 05:46 pm (UTC)
Oh, cool! No, we're not there anymore, but the restaurants we did go to were quite good. And we didn't make it up to Glenorchy, either. That's so cute about the library!
galwithglasses
Jan. 27th, 2014 10:21 am (UTC)
Absolutely stunning photos. I really like the misty cloudy one from your window. One looks a bit like "they're taking the hobbits to Isengard." What a climb.

I have been known to let out a yell during turbulance so that landing would not be for me.
zubeneschamali
Jan. 27th, 2014 05:47 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I was amazed at how low the clouds were in that pic.

Everyone on the plane was reeeeeeally quiet. Except the two flight attendants strapped in in the back who kept chatting through the whole descent. Must be normal for them, I guess. *boggles*
wendy
Jan. 27th, 2014 11:17 am (UTC)
So amazingly gorgeous, WOW.
zubeneschamali
Jan. 27th, 2014 05:47 pm (UTC)
Thanks! :D
(Deleted comment)
zubeneschamali
Jan. 27th, 2014 05:47 pm (UTC)
Some of those hillsides would definitely not be for you. :) Or kasman. But you should definitely come here some day!
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zubeneschamali
Jan. 28th, 2014 03:40 pm (UTC)
Slow and steady is all it takes!
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zubeneschamali
Jan. 28th, 2014 03:40 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I would highly recommend it. :)
deirdre_c
Jan. 28th, 2014 09:59 am (UTC)
So incredible!! I'm so jealous and thrilled for you. Those views are simply astonishing. *_*

Edited at 2014-01-28 01:59 pm (UTC)
zubeneschamali
Jan. 28th, 2014 03:41 pm (UTC)
It's sooooo pretty. :)
dugindeep
Jan. 28th, 2014 11:04 am (UTC)
Incredible views! I'm so, so, so jealous.

Though not jealous of the flight issues and the landing in Queensland. Or the hiking and sore muscles LOL
zubeneschamali
Jan. 28th, 2014 03:42 pm (UTC)
OMG, I hurt so bad after each of those hikes, esp. the mountain climb. Yay ibuprofen!
bugmcsnug
Jan. 29th, 2014 04:09 am (UTC)
Gorgeous photos! You know, I'd love to visit Queenstown one day. And it is ridiculous that I haven't given I live in the North Island. But us Kiwis do have a bit of a saying about how we always see the world before we see home ;)

I hope you enjoy the rest of your NZ vacation!
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )