New Zealand: Exiting Queenstown

The flight from Queenstown to Auckland is delayed due to some dicey looking weather. We sit around in the airport cafe. We sit around in the terminal. The weather, if anything, seems to be getting worse. We finally board. Then we sit around in the plane. Dave and I begin to wonder if we’re going to have to make this flight tomorrow, right before the Big Flight home. Not a pleasant thought.

Eventually, the pilot turns on the intercom and says a number of interesting things.

Pilot: The ground crew is currently offloading some bags.

This is alarming. I ponder the possibility us of not being able to change into clean clothes (and underwear! and socks!) before checking out of the Auckland hotel and possibly having to take the Big Flight home. I’m pretty sure U.S. Customs would be forced to detain us as a biohazard.

Pilot: We’re really sorry about the inconvenience, but we’re too heavy to land at the Queenstown airport.

Queenstown? I know I’ve been travelling a lot, and everything’s starting to run together, but aren’t we IN Queenstown? And aren’t we supposed to land somewhere else?

Pilot: You see, because Queenstown is surrounded by mountains, the law requires that we get above a certain altitude before entering cloud cover…

Oh my. Sounds like a good law.

Pilot: There is a open patch above the lake, so we’re going to try to circle around and see if we can gain enough altitude.


Pilot: And if we don’t make it, we’ll have to land back here. That’s why we’re offloading the bags. Again

If we don’t make it? I don’t like the sound of that.

Pilot: Oh, and we’ll be cutting back the engines pretty sharply after we get airborne. Don’t be alarmed… that’s pretty much par for the course for Queenstown airport.


Some of you may never have had the experience of flying in a great big 747 while it’s doing a tight figure eights around a hole in the clouds. You’re missing out. The engines rev up and we charge meaningfully across the lake, then (at the last possible moment), the engines cut back sharply and we make a sharp bank to the left. Then more engines and another charge, followed by the engines cutting back and a hard right. I lose track of the number of revolutions we’ve made, but eventually we get up and on our way. Hurrah!

P.S. Happily, our bags were also subjected to the spectacular maneuvers and arrive at baggage claim shortly after we do. We (and our socks and underwear and toothbrushes) make our way to the airport.

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