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I had finally arrived in New Zealand. Long near the top of my list of “must see” countries, I was absolutely ecstatic. However, I still had one more flight to take, as I had decided to start my journey through New Zealand on the South Island in Queenstown, then work my way back north to Auckland for my departing flight two weeks later.
I had a couple of hours in Auckland after my Malaysia Airlines flight arrived, so I walked to the domestic terminal. There are buses in between the international and domestic terminals at AKL, but it was nice out, and I’d just spent 10 hours on a plane, so I enjoyed the walk.
The domestic terminal was small & crowded. I decided to have a snack, so I had a steak & cheese pie. I love savory pies, so it was nice to see that they are ever-present in New Zealand. I would have many of them during my time there.
Finally, it was time for my flight to Queenstown. I was in economy class on an Airbus A320 with Air New Zealand. Since I’d just been on another long flight, I sprung for a seat assignment and ended up getting in an exit row for $10 or so. The exit row wasn’t particularly wide, but I wasn’t expecting luxury. My seat was originally the aisle seat, but nobody else was in the row, so I shifted over to the window in order to admire New Zealand’s gorgeous scenery from above.
Air New Zealand is known for their cool inflight safety videos, so the nerd in me was excited to get to watch one while on a flight. It was this surfing video I had posted about a few months prior.
Most of the flight was uneventful. The mountains we flew over once we reached the land of the South Island were indeed beautiful.
We were given a small snack of a cookie, plus a hard candy closer to landing. That’s a nice little touch since it helps open your ears.
While 90% of the flight was uneventful, things took a dramatic turn as we began our descent into Queenstown. I’d been paying some attention to where we were, and based on the GPS on my phone, I knew we were starting to get close. I spotted what looked like a small airport off to our right, and wondered if that could be Queenstown.
Suddenly, the aircraft banked to the right, and we started to descend sharply. Hearing the engine noise get quieter as the plane begins to drop like that is an interesting experience. A woman behind me started shrieking. I was admittedly a bit scared myself, but two things kept me sane. First, I was glad I’d been at the window so I could see that we were indeed approaching the airport, then, I noticed the strong New Zealander guys across the aisle weren’t reacting at all. I figured they’d done the trip many times before, so they were used to this approach to the Queenstown airport.
During the flight, I had been listening to the wonderful debut album from Julien Baker, “Sprained Ankle”, which had topped my list of top albums of 2015. Somehow, it all fit together with the scenery and the flight. I would end up listening to it a lot throughout my trip to New Zealand. Here’s one of my favorite songs from the album, “Something”.
The descent was thrilling, from the standpoint of the feeling of falling out of the sky, coupled with the scenic mountains we were now getting closer to. For the last miles of the flight, we were actually in a valley, passing lower than the summits of the mountains on both sides.
There was a bit of turbulence, but nothing that the Air New Zealand pilots couldn’t handle. It’s certainly one of the scarier flight experiences I’ve had, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary. Still, I was glad that I was going to be on the ground for the next couple of weeks. I had arrived in Queenstown, New Zealand, one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
Read below for all of my posts about my trip around the Pacific Rim!
A trip around the Pacific Rim – Introduction
OneWorld Business Lounge Los Angeles LAX review
Cathay Pacific Business Class Boeing 777-300ER Los Angeles LAX to Hong Kong HKG review
Cathay Pacific Business Class Airbus A330 Hong Kong HKG to Kuala Lumpur KUL review
Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral review
A layover in Kuala Lumpur – Street markets & Petronas Towers
Cathay Pacific Lounge Kuala Lumpur KUL satellite review
Plaza Premium Lounge Kuala Lumpur KUL review
Malaysia Airlines Golden Lounge Kuala Lumpur KUL satellite review
Malaysia Airlines Business Class Airbus A330-300 Kuala Lumpur KUL to Auckland AKL review
Air New Zealand Economy Class Airbus A320 Auckland AKL to Queenstown ZQN review
Queenstown Motel Apartments – Queenstown, New Zealand review
Queenstown, New Zealand – A Lord of the Rings tour
Day trip from Queenstown, New Zealand – Milford Sound
Queenstown, New Zealand – Skyline Queenstown
Craft beer in Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown to Franz Josef, New Zealand by bus
Hiking to Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand
Franz Josef to Nelson, New Zealand by bus
Fellworth House – Nelson, New Zealand review
A beer & wine tour through Nelson, New Zealand
The best craft beer in Nelson, New Zealand
Nelson to Wellington, New Zealand by bus and ferry via Picton
A nerdy day at Weta Workshop in Wellington, New Zealand
Exploring the museums & parks of Wellington, New Zealand
The best craft beer in Wellington, New Zealand
Wellington to Auckland, New Zealand by bus
New Year’s Eve in Auckland, New Zealand
A rainy New Year’s Day at the Auckland War Memorial Museum
A rainy day at the Auckland Art Gallery & New Zealand Maritime Museum
The best craft beer in Auckland, New Zealand
Emperor Lounge Auckland AKL review
Malaysia Airlines Business Class Airbus A330-300 Auckland AKL to Kuala Lumpur KUL review
Le Meridien Kuala Lumpur review
A layover in Kuala Lumpur – Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia & Jalan Alor
Malaysia Airlines Golden Regional Lounge Kuala Lumpur KUL review
Malaysia Airlines Business Class Boeing 737-800 Kuala Lumpur KUL to Hong Kong HKG review
A visit to Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong for dim sum
A rainy day in Hong Kong – Science Museum & Kau Kee noodles
Hong Kong – Victoria Peak & more great food
More dim sum in Hong Kong – Din Tai Fung & Dim Sum Square
A day trip to Macau from Hong Kong
Grand City Hotel Hong Kong review
The best craft beer in Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific The Cabin Business Class Lounge Hong Kong review
Cathay Pacific The Bridge Business Class Lounge Hong Kong review
Cathay Pacific Business Class Airbus A330-300 Hong Kong HKG to Osaka KIX via Taipei review
A layover in Osaka – Ramen, sushi, & exploring the city
JAL Sakura Lounge Osaka KIX review
JAL Business Class Boeing 787 Osaka KIX to Los Angeles LAX review
I start all of my flight & hotel research on Kayak to find the best deals!