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An Engagement to Remember: BOS to ZQN (with a few stops along the way)

An Engagement to Remember: BOS to ZQN (with a few stops along the way)

Old Nov 28, 2018, 11:50 am
  #1  
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Location: PVD, BOS
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An Engagement to Remember: BOS to ZQN (with a few stops along the way)

Background:

This trip report is a bit of a departure from the norm for me. Typically, my TRs here are for my solo trips, but this trip was with my better half. Accordingly, the pace was a bit less frenetic than usual and the destinations a bit more mundane (from my perspective, anyway).

That said, the genesis for this trip started in late 2017. At the time, we were in Hong Kong on a 5 day trip together and discussed the idea of where our next big trip would be. At my suggestion, we settled upon New Zealand. I'd been once previously, but I wanted to see more of the country. My better half had never been and was very keen to see what NZ had to offer. As alluded to in the title, the primary purpose of the trip (aside from vacation) was to serve as the setting for our engagement, as I really wanted to make the event memorable and special for both of us.

With the destination decided, the next step was figuring out flights. Fares to NZ from BOS are crazy expensive on AA (and most other carriers). J was around $8k and Y was $1,800 per person, so I got creative. I waited for QR to have a sale in January 2018 and purchased the tickets at that time. The only hitch was the trip would have to originate in Europe. Living near BOS, TATL tickets in Y are super cheap, so originating in Europe was no problem at all.

Ultimately, we ended up with Y from BOS to Europe on BA for around $500 pp, followed by J from Scandinavia to AKL on QR for $1,950 pp. As a bonus, I'd get to visit Norway and Sweden for the first and second time, respectively. We'd also have long enough stops in Doha for me to see a little more of the city. It was quite a bit of extra flying, but well worth the savings in my view.

Once we ticketed the long legs, the trip plans were firmed up over the next 3-4 months. After many iterations, we finally settled upon a South Island itinerary. Fellow FTers were hugely helpful in narrowing down our plans, particularly [MENTION=101986]CPMaverick[/MENTION] who provided excellent advice and suggestions.


Flight Routing:



BOS-LHR-ARN (AA ticket -- BA Y metal)
ARN-DOH-AKL (QR ticket -- QR J metal)
AKL-ZQN (NZ ticket -- NZ Y metal)
ZQN-MFN (Milford Sound Flights charter)
MFN-ZQN (Milford Sound Flights charter)
ZQN-AKL (NZ ticket -- NZ Y metal)
AKL-DOH-OSL (QR ticket -- QR J metal)
OSL-LHR-BOS (AA ticket -- BA Y metal)



Stats:
  • Countries Visited: 5
  • Miles Flown: 34,000
  • Classes of Service: Economy, Business and Charter
  • New Airlines Flown: 2
  • New Countries Visited: 1
  • Updated Country Count: 48
In this report:
British Airways Economy Class: Boston - London
British Airways Economy Class: London - Stockholm
Stockholm, Sweden
Qatar Airways Business Class: Stockholm - Doha
Doha, Qatar
Qatar Airways Business Class: Doha - Auckland
Air New Zealand: Auckland - Queenstown
Villa Del Lago, Queenstown
Queenstown (Day 2)
Queenstown (Day 3)
Milford Sound Flights: Queenstown - Milford Sound
Milford Sound
Milford Sound Flights: Milford Sound - Queenstown
Queenstown to Mount Cook / Aoraki
Mount Cook / Aoraki
Twizel
SkyScape
Air New Zealand: Queenstown - Auckland
SKYCITY Grand Hotel
Qatar Airways Business Class: Auckland - Doha
Qatar Airways Business Class: Doha - Oslo
Park Inn by Radisson Oslo Airport
Oslo, Norway
British Airways Economy Class: Oslo - London
British Airways Economy Class: London - Boston


Previous Trip Reports:
10 Countries in 9 Days (CX, KE, QR, TG, KL, BI)
Former SSRs: the Baltics, Belarus and Back
Bangladesh, Burma and Beijing the Long Way (with stops in Laos, Singapore and Tokyo)

A Passage to India with stops in Qatar, Sri Lanka and Scandinavia (AA, QR, UL in J)
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Last edited by swingaling; Dec 4, 2018 at 12:59 pm
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Old Nov 28, 2018, 12:40 pm
  #2  
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Join Date: Apr 2017
Location: PVD, BOS
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British Airways Economy Class: Boston - London

British Airways
Economy Class (Y)
Discounted Economy Class Fare
BA212: BOS-LHR (Boston to London)
15 November 2018
Boeing 747-400 (Four Class Configuration)
G-CIVZ
Seat 52C

Departure: 6:55PM
Arrival: 6:30AM


Heading to BOS is always a bit of a gamble. Traffic can be a nightmare or a breeze. Since we live 40 miles from Logan, we decided to leave home at 3PM, which gave us a 3 hours to get to the airport before the check-in deadline. Everything went well until we hit the Four Point Channel Tunnel. It was gridlocked. Easily a mile of stopped cars. Eventually we got past the traffic, but it took well over 90 minutes to get to BOS. By the time we arrived, it was already after 5PM.

We breezed through check-in and security. Though I must say that the TSA screeners working the conveyor belts at BOS Terminal E are just horrible. They're consistently rude and disrespectful. If you don't follow their typically unclear (and non-specific) instructions, they'll shout at you and attempt to belittle you in front of other passengers.

Naturally, this journey through Terminal E was no different. Evidently, placing my liquids bag beside but in the same bin as my iPad is a huge violation of this TSA agent's imaginary protocols. So obviously he yelled at me. Literally, he shouted, "don't you listen? You can't put your liquids in the same tray! I said this five times already! (he didn't)". I travel enough to know this isn't a rule, so I challenged him and he let it go.

Talk about a stressful start to a vacation. No wonder people hate the TSA...

Anyway, we visited the BA Galleries Lounge for a quick dinner before the flight. The lounge hot food was pretty good, and it was nice to be able to board directly from within the lounge. I usually actively avoid flying BA, so this was the first time I'd boarded from this lounge. I usually only visit this lounge when flying out on CX, so it was a nice change.

G-CIVZ in OW Livery


Boarding was uneventful, if a bit of a scrum. Our seats were in the back of the bus, so I wanted to board early on to secure overhead space. That turned out to be a very wise decision, as the overheads were absolutely packed to the gills in steerage.

We departed on time and the meal was served quickly thereafter. In true BA form, the choice was chicken or pasta. No menu, of course, nor any description of what the dishes entailed. I went with the pasta and was pleasantly surprised. It was quite good; roughly on par with what CX serves in PE.

The Pasta


After dinner, I tried my best to get some sleep. I probably managed 2-3 hours of somewhat dozing before waking up an hour prior to landing. I'd missed the snack service, which appeared to be a cheese sandwich. So, realistically, I hadn't missed anything.

We arrived at LHR on time and made our way to the BA First Lounge for Emeralds in T5A. Food offerings were pretty decent and I had a bacon sandwich. Overall, a decent if somewhat stressful start to the trip.

Tarmac View from LHR Lounge
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Old Nov 28, 2018, 12:47 pm
  #3  
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British Airways Economy Class: London - Stockholm

British Airways
Economy Class (Y)
Discounted Economy Class Fare
BA778: LHR-ARN (London to Stockholm)
16 November 2018
Airbus 321 (Two Class Configuration)
G-EUXJ
Seat 13C

Departure: 10:35AM
Arrival: 2:10PM


This flight was pretty short and really not much to say about it. I didn't take any photos either. We snagged seats near the curtain and ended up having a free seat between us, which was nice. Loads on the flight weren't super high either. We departed and arrived on time and breezed through security and immigration at ARN.
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Old Nov 28, 2018, 1:25 pm
  #4  
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Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm, Sweden

After retrieving our bag and completing immigration formalities, we checked in to the hotel. I booked us a room at the Clarion Hotel Arlanda Airport, which is connected to the airport via internal walkways.

I neglected to take photos of the hotel room, but it's very similar to the Clarion Hotel I stayed at in Malmo a few months prior. Rooms were smallish, but clean and relatively quiet. Breakfast buffet was quite good and included in the room rate. Overall, a very convenient hotel if one has an early AM flight out of ARN. That said, the gym is a bit small and crowded.

Anyway, we checked in and then proceeded to the Airport Express train into Stockholm. The plan was to walk around a bit, grab some food and head back to the hotel for an early night. We had an early flight the following morning and were functioning on almost zero sleep.

After a walk around, we grabbed a quick bite to eat for dinner before boarding the Airport Express back to the airport.

Stockholm


Stockholm


Stockholm


Stockholm


Stockholm


Stockholm


Stockholm


Stockholm


Stockholm


Stockholm
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Old Nov 28, 2018, 1:53 pm
  #5  
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Qatar Airways Business Class: Stockholm - Doha

Qatar Airways
Business Class (J)
Discounted Business Class Fare
QR170: ARN-DOH (Stockholm to Doha)
17 November 2018
Boeing 787-8 (Two Class Configuration)
A7-BCN
Seat 2A

Departure: 07:55AM
Arrival: 04:00PM


We were up quite early to catch this flight, as we had to check a bag and have breakfast. We ate at the hotel buffet, which was quite good. After a quick walk to T5, we were checked-in to AKL and through security in no time.

We'd intended to make a quick stop at the lounge, but I neglected to notice that it's located in the pre-immigration area. I only realize my error after we'd gone through immigration. Since we arrived in the gate area only 20 minutes prior to boarding, it wasn't an issue. A short wait and we were on the plane.

A7-BCN


Seat 2A


Menu


Sunrise Over ARN


Clarion Hotel
Our previous night's accommodation


Post-Takeoff Espresso


Meal Service


This time I ordered the Arabic breakfast, which was quite tasty. Way more feta than I'd want (or eat), but foul medames and veggies is a nice change of pace.

Arabic Breakfast


I got the burgers as a snack and that was definitely a miss. The chicken burger was ok, but the lamb burger was not. Admittedly, I don't care for lamb in the first place. But I'd last had lamb over 10 years ago, so I figured maybe my tastes had changed. Unfortunately, not. I still don't like lamb. I didn't dare try that pink salad thingy because it looked scary.

Mid-Flight Snack



Overall, another good flight with QR. Service was great, as always. And food was pretty good too, for the most part. We landed in Doha on time and we proceeded to the transfers desk to retrieve our hotel vouchers for the 10 hour stop.
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Old Nov 28, 2018, 2:05 pm
  #6  
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Doha, Qatar

Doha, Qatar

We went directly to the transit counter to get hotel vouchers for our 10 hour layover in Doha. Despite the fact that they knew I was coming and had pre-arranged the STPC, the whole process always takes a lot longer than it should. I'll never understand why they don't have this stuff pre-printed and ready to go. It would make for a much better experience overall. But such is the state of QR. Great in the air, so-so on the ground.

Vouchers in hand, we proceeded to the J class immigration lounge. A few minutes later, we were through and in the Arrivals Hall. After getting a SIM card, we took the hotel car to check-in to the Oryx Rotana.

I'd stayed at this hotel previously, and it's a perfectly fine hotel for a short stay. Not a whole lot to do there, but I think that also applies to Doha more broadly as well.

After checking-in, we grabbed an Uber to Souq Waqif (no photos, sorry). Traffic wasn't terrible, but the souq was quite busy. We walked around for a bit and then headed back to the hotel. Still pretty tired by then, we decided to just go the hotel buffet for dinner. It was quite good, if a bit on the pricey side. After dinner, we hit the gym and napped until our midnight return trip to the airport.

We walked around the airport shortly and then went to the boarding area to catch our plane to AKL.

Oryx Rotana


Oryx Rotana


Oryx Rotana


Oryx Rotana


Oryx Rotana
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Old Nov 28, 2018, 2:19 pm
  #7  
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Qatar Airways Business Class: Doha - Auckland

Qatar Airways
Business Class (J)
Discounted Business Class Fare
QR920: DOH-AKL (Doha to Auckland)
18 November 2018
Boeing 777-200LR (Two Class Configuration)
A7-BBF
Seat 2A

Departure: 02:25AM
Arrival: 05:00AM +1



Boarding was a bit chaotic, but we quickly settled in for the long flight. I didn't love the lack of privacy on this type of seat, but it was nice to be able to talk to each other during the flight. My one big issue with this flight is that there were several people in the cabin who kept their window shades up for most of the flight. For reference, the we were flying in daylight for roughly 10 hours. I asked the cabin crew to put them down, but they were completely ineffective in this regard. It was a bit disappointing, overall.

That said, the flight was otherwise quite good. Food was good (aside from the dessert) and the seat was comfortable. We arrived in AKL feeling mostly human, though a bit tired still.

Seat


Seat


Menu


Menu


Menu


Meal Service


Amuse Bouche


Soup


Chicken


"Molten" Chocolate Cake
This was just terrible. It tasted like scrambled eggs. Inedible.


Sliders


Breakfast


Cold Cuts Plate


Yogurt


Arabic Breakfast


Oatmeal
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Old Nov 28, 2018, 3:31 pm
  #8  
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Let me check my Logbook
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Posts: 2,352
Thanks for the Trip Report. Good Report so far. I saw you had an issue with passengers keeping their window shades up. Perhaps they needed the shades up in order to look out the window.
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Old Nov 28, 2018, 10:47 pm
  #9  
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 1,691
Great trip report. The shades up/down issue is something that I can't work out.

In general most flights I have been on, the shades were forced down... so I'm not sure the logic
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Old Nov 29, 2018, 1:44 am
  #10  
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Stockholm
Programs: Various
Posts: 3,381
Originally Posted by swingaling
I got the burgers as a snack and that was definitely a miss. The chicken burger was ok, but the lamb burger was not. Admittedly, I don't care for lamb in the first place. But I'd last had lamb over 10 years ago, so I figured maybe my tastes had changed. Unfortunately, not. I still don't like lamb. I didn't dare try that pink salad thingy because it looked scary.

Mid-Flight Snack


That pink salad thingy is possibly beetroot. It looks like what Swedes would eat at Christmas.
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Old Nov 29, 2018, 8:28 am
  #11  
 
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Programs: Flying Blue, Miles and Smiles, Hhonors, ICHotels
Posts: 1,307
We went directly to the transit counter to get hotel vouchers for our 10 hour layover in Doha. Despite the fact that they knew I was coming and had pre-arranged the STPC, the whole process always takes a lot longer than it should. I'll never understand why they don't have this stuff pre-printed and ready to go. It would make for a much better experience overall. But such is the state of QR. Great in the air, so-so on the ground.
I am surprised since even Ethiopian hands out vouchers at outstations for their layover programme - think Ouagadougou for example.
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Old Nov 29, 2018, 9:08 am
  #12  
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Join Date: Apr 2017
Location: PVD, BOS
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Posts: 1,664
Air New Zealand: Auckland - Queenstown

Air New Zealand
Economy Class (Y)
Discounted Economy Class Fare
NZ615: AKL-ZQN (Auckland to Queenstown)
19 November 2018
Airbus A320 (One Class Configuration)
ZK-OXK
Seat 9A

Departure: 09:30AM 10:43AM
Arrival: 11:20AM 12:34PM


Our arrival into AKL was more or less on time, so we had several hours to kill before our onward flight to ZQN. Out of an abundance of caution, I'd given us a 4-5hr buffer between these flights. As it turns out, we could've easily made an earlier flight. However, our car rental didn't begin until noon and we couldn't check in at the lodging until 2PM, so there was no reason to rush anyway.

After getting a SIM card at duty free (pro-tip) and quickly making it through immigration and customs, we made the short(ish) walk to the domestic terminal. It had been a year since I'd last visited AKL and I was impressed by the progress they'd made in renovating the international terminal. Since we had several hours before our onward flight, we grabbed coffees and a snack.

Soon enough, it was time to board our plane to ZQN. Everything was going well until the captain came over the PA. He informed us that there was currently weather at ZQN and there was a chance we'd have to turn back mid-flight. But he promised he'd do his best to get us there. A bit of an ominous start to the flight.

Apron View from 9A
Hmm... What's a 777 doing parked on the taxiway?


Yup, that's our plane from DOH
So, apparently, QR has their planes sitting on the ground in AKL for 11-12 hours every day waiting for the next flight. That's pretty poor aircraft utilization, but I suppose they can afford it.



Anyway, after spying our inbound plane, the NZ bird came to a stop just beyond the gate. Then we waited for several long minutes before the captain came back over the PA. He informed us that the nosewheels were damaged and needed to be replaced. The repair would be done in an hour and we had to deplane. Soon enough, a maintenance truck came along and they offloaded two new wheels for our plane.

Ground Crew Finishing the Replacement of Both Nosewheels


True to his word, we were back on the plane in less than an hour. Overall, I was pretty impressed with how well the situation was handled by NZ. Before long, we were in the air on the way to ZQN.

Final Approach into ZQN
Southern Approach over Lake Wakatipu


Mount Crichton


Luckily, the weather held out long enough for us to land. It was still raining, with low cloud cover when we landed, but it proved not to be an issue for our experienced flight crew.

Landed at ZQN



Once on the ground, it was readily apparent why earlier flights had not made it. It had been snowing all morning at ZQN. As a result, the terminal was absolutely packed. The scene in the terminal very much reminded me of flying out of EGE on Saturday mornings in March (turnover day during peak ski season). That said, it was a bit unusual to get snow this late in Spring and we weren't really expecting to get snow. However, we'd packed appropriate clothing just in case...

After getting our bag, we grabbed the nearest taxi to get our rental car. I'd decided to rent a car off the airport premises, as the cost savings were enormous (50-75% less expensive than airport rentals). We picked up our car ($140NZD total for 4 days) from the rental shop and made our way to Pack N Save for groceries.
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Old Nov 29, 2018, 9:24 am
  #13  
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Originally Posted by Loose Cannon
Thanks for the Trip Report. Good Report so far. I saw you had an issue with passengers keeping their window shades up. Perhaps they needed the shades up in order to look out the window.
Thanks for reading!

Regarding the window situation. If it were a day flight over land, I'd totally understand. And I certainly like looking out the windows on day flights. But this was a 2AM departure where we were over the ocean for the entire time it was light out. By the time we started passing over Australia, it was dark again outside. And on every other LH and ULH I've flown, cabin crew invariably tell everyone to close the windows.

Originally Posted by SQTraveller
Great trip report. The shades up/down issue is something that I can't work out.

In general most flights I have been on, the shades were forced down... so I'm not sure the logic
Only thing I can figure is the crew is showing an inordinate amount of deference to passengers. I'm sure QR gets their fair share of wealthy DYKWIAs.

Originally Posted by Fredrik74
That pink salad thingy is possibly beetroot. It looks like what Swedes would eat at Christmas.
Yeah, it was equal parts cabbage and beets and mayo. I like cabbage and beets, but the vast quantity of mayo really throws me off.

Originally Posted by roadwarrier
I am surprised since even Ethiopian hands out vouchers at outstations for their layover programme - think Ouagadougou for example.
​​​​​​​
QR could improve their processes in many ways to make the passenger experience better, but they don't. Seems like their inflight product gets major focus while the ground experience is mostly ignored. Though I will say they do have some excellent ground staff at DOH. When I was there in September, staff at the transfer desk were very helpful in fixing a very complicated ticket on AA stock.
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Old Nov 29, 2018, 9:36 am
  #14  
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Join Date: Apr 2017
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Villa Del Lago

Villa Del Lago
1 Bedroom Suite
Queenstown (Day 1)

Since we were staying in an apartment with a kitchen, we bought some food for the next few days so we could cook some meals (mainly breakfast) ourselves. As we were in Frankton, we went to Pack N Save, as their selection was better than we'd get in Queenstown (and a whole lot cheaper to boot). It took a bit of additional concentration when driving, as I'm not accustomed to driving on the left side of the road. However, it wasn't hard to get used to. The hardest thing to get used to was getting into the car on the correct side.

We turned up at the apartment around 2PM and were able to check-in right away. Given the cold, rainy weather and how tired we both were, we decided to make it an early night. We stayed in and I cooked us dinner. Then it was off to bed around 7:30PM, as I wanted to be well rested so we could be productive the following day. It was still quite bright out, as the sun sets at 9PM that time of year. Regardless, we had no trouble getting to sleep.

It was hard to get good photos of the room because the wife (to be) kept trying to photo-bomb me....

Room


Room


Room


Bahtroom


Bathroom


View on a Snowy Day
I found the greenery and the snow a bit incongruous
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Old Nov 29, 2018, 10:42 am
  #15  
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Queenstown (Day 2)

Queenstown (Day 2)
20 November 2018

I'd initially booked us an 8AM flight to Milford Sound for the morning of our second day (20 Nov) in Queenstown. The weather situation looked pretty doubtful, so I pushed back our flight to 21 Nov at 10AM. As such, we had the whole day free on the 20th. After waking up insanely early (5AM), we eventually decided to go into town for breakfast and to take a walk around to familiarize ourselves.

Given the early hour (8AM) and the dreary weather (rainy and cold), town was pretty empty. I assume the tourist hordes were holed up in their rooms trying to stay warm and dry. Our first stop was at Halo Forbidden Bite for breakfast. The food was pretty good. No photos, sorry. We then took a walk around town.

Queenstown


Queenstown


Queenstown



Neither of us was in the mood for a jet boat ride and going up the gondola didn't seem worth doing on a cloudy day. So we decided to take a drive to Glenorchy and look around a bit. Our first stop was at a lookout in Closeburn. Not pictured: a Chinese tourbus to the left.

Closeburn


Closeburn



We made several more stops along the way to get some photos. Plus the winding road was making my companion a bit queasy. Despite the winding roads, it was a beautiful drive. Tons of great scenery, despite the gray day.

Glenorchy-Queenstown Road


Glenorchy-Queenstown Road


Glenorchy-Queenstown Road


Glenorchy-Queenstown Road


Glenorchy-Queenstown Road


Glenorchy-Queenstown Road


Glenorchy-Queenstown Road
Yes, the bokeh is fake. Blame Apple.



Went through Glenorchy and kept driving. Ended up at a walking track near the Rees River.

Rees River


Rees River


Rees River



Unfortunately, the track was largely bogs and we were wearing sneakers, so we didn't make it very far. Instead, we decided to drive up to the Routeburn Track to see the sights. We passed through many sheep farms on route to the track and the roads steadily got a bit bumpier the farther along we went. But we eventually made it to the Routeburn trail head.

Road to Routeburn


Routeburn Trail Head Parking Lot


Parking Lot View



We did a short one hour walk of the first part of the Routeburn Track and it was quite nice. It was cool walking through a temperate rainforest. It's quite a bit different from the forests we have back home.


Routeburn Track


Routeburn Track


Routeburn Track



Routeburn Track


Routeburn Track


Routeburn Track


Routeburn Track


Routeburn Track


Routeburn Track


Routeburn Track


Routeburn Track


Routeburn Track


Routeburn Track


Routeburn Track


Routeburn Track



On the way back, we stopped at the Dart River to take a few photos and then stopped at the Glenorchy General Store for espressos.

Sheep


More Sheep


Dart River


Dart River



It was getting late in the day and we hadn't had lunch, so we decided to grab an early dinner in Queenstown. We settled on Speights Ale House. The food was fine, but nothing special. After a quick dinner, we went back to the apartment and had another early night. We had our flight to Milford planned for the following morning, so I was keen to be up early to check the weather reports as those flights operated on VFR only.

Last edited by swingaling; Nov 29, 2018 at 10:59 am
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