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Offline Yehoshua

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Yehoshua's Fiji, Australia and New Zealand trip 2023
« on: August 17, 2023, 08:45:58 PM »
Fiji / Australia / New Zealand trip report
Trip Planning
It wasnít that long ago that I booked this trip. At the end of May 2023, I found out that Iíd have about 10 days at the beginning of August to go on a trip by myself. My kids were visiting their grandparents, so I took this opportunity to travel. It was the first big trip Iíve done since 2018.
The idea was to go to New Zealand, a country Iíd always wanted to go to. Because of the písak I was given regarding the dateline, I was told it was better to not spend shabbos in New Zealand (I could if I wanted to keep 2 days, which I didnít want to do), so I added Sydney on to the trip. Iíd been to Sydney back in 2011 and knew some people there I could stay with for shabbos. Nice! I was also excited to go during their winter, since I much prefer walking around/hiking/being outdoors when itís cooler over hotter.
Next, I had to figure out how to get there. Obviously, I tried miles first, but nothing was available in J or F (no shocker there), so I turned to UR points (via the CSR). As it turned out, the fares were very cheap in Y, with a one way from LAX-SYD costing only 57,046 miles one way on FJ with a stop in NAN on the way. Once I was researching FJ some more, I realized it was the exact same price to make it a multi-city trip and stay in Fiji for some time. Yay! Another country!
Now I had the outbound of the trip booked:
LAX-NAN on FJ on Tuesday, August 1 at 11:55pm landing on Thursday morning at 5:45am.
NAN-SYD on FJ on Friday, August 4 at 9:00am landing at 11:45am
Now to get to New Zealand. I wanted to arrive ideally after shkia on Sunday evening, or as close to it as possible. I also wanted to fly Qantas either using Avios or cash. I also didnít care if I flew into Queenstown and out of Christchurch or vice versa, but I knew I wanted to spend time on the South Island which is dryer in the winter. Ultimately, after lots of back and forth, I settled on a Qantas flight booked through Emirates (via Chaseís travel site using the CSR) for almost half the cost of booked through Qantas directly. Iíd have to sacrifice not checking in online, but thatís fine with me. That flight was as follows:
SYD-CHC on QF on Sunday, August 6 at 6:55pm landing at 11:59pm
This flight was also booked for 15,956 via CSR, as using Avios would have cost 15k plus a few hundred dollars in taxes.
The plan from there was to spend the night (more on that later), rent a car, and drive to Queenstown. Iíd have from Monday morning until Thursday when I needed to fly out.
I decided to spend the night in Wanaka on Monday night and Queenstown on Tuesday night and Wednesday night.
I then booked a cheap one-way to Auckland:
ZQN-AKL on NZ on Thursday, August 10 at 7:20am landing at 9:10am
This was also booked with the CSR for 8,532
Finally, the return flight to LAX was booked for only 28,370 UR on Air Tahiti Nui through Tahiti. This flight looked as follows:
AKL-PPT on TN on Thursday, August 10 at 3:30pm landing at 10:15pm on Wednesday, August 9
PPT-LAX on TN on Wednesday, August 9 at 11:59pm landing at 10:45am on Thursday, August 10
Fun fact: this is one of the flights with the greatest time change since itís only 2,544 miles but on the other side of the dateline.
For hotels, Iíd need the following:
1 night in Nadi
(Nothing in Sydney since I was staying with friends)
1 night in Christchurch
1 night in Wanaka
2 nights in Queenstown
For Nadi, I booked the Sheraton Fiji for 45k Marriott.
For Christchurch, I originally booked the Crown Plaza for 20k IHG, but ended up canceling it in favor of the Novotel which was at the airport for ~$135 cash. The thinking here was that the flight landed so late and the only car rentals were at the airport, so if Iíd kept the IHG reservation, I would have had to pay for cabs both ways, greatly eating into the savings of booking with points, so I ended up just booking that.
I ended up booking Wanaka for one night to break up the drive from Christchurch and Wanaka is located somewhat in the middle. While Wanaka is definitely closer to Queenstown than Christchurch, this worked out the best in terms of availability. There are no points-hotels in Wanaka, so it was the CSR to the rescue again, with a motel called the Bella Vista for 11,850 points for the one night.
For Queenstown, I really wanted to stay at The Carlin Hotel, a Hyatt property. Unfortunately, the minimum number of nights required for an award booking is 2 nights. I only really wanted one. After some help from @mochjas, I ended up just reserving one night for 35k Hyatt. This room at a cash price of ~$1,946 USD, making the redemption about 5.5 points per dollar, not bad! For the last night in Queenstown, I decided to use a free IHG night for the Holiday Inn across the street from the airport since I had an early flight the next day and could walk there in 10 minutes.
I didnít really have anything planned in Fiji, since it is the type of place that plans last minute and doesnít require reservations for activities in advance.
In Sydney, I booked a classical music concert at the Opera House on Motzei Shabbos, but left Sunday open.
While there are definitely some people who will say that you canít see all of New Zealand in 3.5 days (which Iíd agree with), and thereís no point in going (I disagree), I wanted to make the most of it. I wanted to go hiking, and after much research, settled on two hikes: one in Tekapo on Monday and one in Wanaka on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, I booked a full day tour to Milford Sound. I can hear all the groans and see the eyes rolling about a tour. However, I thought it made sense to go on something organized, especially since I didnít want to have to put chains on my car in the event of inclement weather. Keep in mind, thereís a high likelihood there will be snow on the ground in the mountains on the way to Milford Sound from Queenstown in the winter, and Iíd rather not deal with that.
On Thursday, the plan was to go to the Sky Tower for a bit before going back to the airport.
With all that background, letís begin the actual trip!

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Fiji, Australia and New Zealand trip 2023
« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2023, 11:36:51 PM »
Tuesday, August 1, 2023

I got to LAX all checked in and proceeded straight to security. Unfortunately, Fiji Airways does not participate in PreCheck, so it was the regular security line for me. I was almost considering buying a refundable ticket on an airline that did have precheck just to avoid the lines but ultimately didnít do that, since it would have meant a lot of walking from T4 to TBIT.
I waited for about 40 minutes in line and ended up getting to the gate 1 hour before departure when boarding was going to start. I verified all my documents with the agent there (apparently, they donít accept electronic boarding passes at that gate, so I needed to get one printed and for them to check my passport, but ultimately I was ok.) We ended up leaving on time and had a very smooth and pleasant flight. The entire plane was sold out, so there were no extra seats. I was worried I wouldnít be able to fall asleep, but I ended up sleeping for a good 7 hours of the flight. I guess the neck pillow I ended up buying was a good investment.
Besides for when the flight attendant woke me up to ask if I wanted my KSML at about 1:00 am (I was sleeping and didnít want it), no one bothered me. I got a window seat, so I was able to lean against the side of the plane which is better than a middle seat. The breakfast meal was the basic omelet with hash browns, a roll, and a cinnamon bun, but at least it was catered by Emuna out of LA and was edible and fresh.
We landed in Fiji at 6:00am, where I went through customs and immigration rather quickly, and was out in a taxi by 6:45am. The taxi driver was from Gilbert, AZ of all places, but spends half the year in Fiji and the other half with the kids and grandkids in Arizona. We were at the Sheraton about 30 minutes later.

Fiji Airways A350 that took us to Fiji
I checked in, but my room was understandably not ready at 7:30am, so I davened, went to work out at the brand-new gym in the Westin right next door, and then I walked to the marina area to see the shops and get some food. I ended up buying a shot glass for my collection and some vegetables at the small grocery store nearby.

Sheraton Fiji

Sheraton Fiji Lobby

Standard room at Sheraton Fiji

I then walked back to the hotel and planned the afternoon: zip lining. I spoke to a really nice person at the front desk who hooked me up with a cab driver she personally uses. The reason thatís so useful is that the cabs from the hotel are a lot more expensive than a metered cab. This is because the area the hotel is in, Denarau Island, is technically a private place and they donít really allow metered cabs to pick up here. However, they canít outright ban them, so if you know someone who has a metered cab and call him/her, they can come to pick you up. Just as a reference on how much the cabs from the hotel cost, they charge FJD $52 to the airport or only FJD $25 in a regular cab.
I went to the Jurassic World zip lining place where you can pay with a card (as opposed to cabs where you must pay cash). This place is about 45 minutes away, the last bit is quite slow-going as itís on dirt/gravel roads which are full of potholes. However, the zip lining place was great! For FJD $75 you can go on all 7 lines once, or twice for an additional FJD $25. It takes about 50 minutes to go through it one time at a slow pace, but itís very fun. Two guides came with me to help get on and off the zip lines. They even offered to take photos and videos of me for free with my phone. This was an awesome trip, and a lot of fun.

Jurassic World Zip lining
I then went back to the hotel, walked along the beach for a bit, had dinner and went to bed.
Friday, August 4, 2023
Friday morning started very early. I got up at 5:30am to daven and got ready to leave for the airport by 6:30 am. My cab driver from yesterday sent someone who showed up promptly at 6:35 am. Iíd checked in for my flight at the Fiji Airways office at the hotel, including getting my boarding pass and tagging and weighing my carry-on, so when I arrived at the airport, all I needed to do was go immigration/security, which was quite nice.
The Fiji International Airport is quite small, with all the gates in one room. They bank flights here, so there were many flights leaving all within a few minutes of each other. Our flight left on time and was filled mainly with Australian tourists whoíd been vacationing in Fiji. To them, Fiji is like our Hawaii: itís about 5 hours from Sydney, warmer and only 2 hours ahead, so they often go in the middle of the winter for a nice break from the cold.

Nadi Airport

Flight to Sydney

The flight was uneventful and landed in Sydney on time. I used the e-gates for customs and immigration which American passport holders are allowed to do. It was quick and easy, and I really enjoyed it (except for not getting a stamp in my passport). Within no time, I was on my way to my hosts for shabbos. I took the train directly from the international terminal to Bondi Junction and walked from there.

Sydney airport upon arrival

It was a warm (21 C/ 70 F) and sunny day, so it was a pleasant walk. I stopped at the kosher store, Krinskyís, to pick up some wine as gifts for my hosts (also for Shabbos lunch which I was eating out). I got to the house I was going to, put my stuff down, and took a walk. I wanted to familiarize myself with the area so I could get around on Shabbos without a map, so I went to drop off the wine at my lunch hosts.
From there, I went to Oakberry, an acai bowl place, thatís fully kosher. The place is located right near Bondi beach, so I took the bowl there to eat it. After that, I walked back to get ready for Shabbos.

Oakberry AÁai

My order

Bondi Beach

We had a lovely meal Friday night with a few guests, including a single guy from the US which was cool. We ended up staying after the meal and chatting with our hosts until nearly midnight when I nearly fell asleep standing.

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Fiji, Australia and New Zealand trip 2023
« Reply #2 on: August 18, 2023, 12:29:20 AM »
Shabbos, August 5, 2023
I davened at Adas Torah on Shabbos at 8:45 am. It was a very nice minyan that didnít go too slow. There was no Kiddush afterwards, so I stayed to chat with some guys from the shul. I then headed back to where I was staying to drop off my talis and have Kiddush myself. After chatting with my hosts for a bit while I was eating, I went out to lunch.
I arrived a bit late, but thankfully theyíd already started. It was a nice lunch meal and nice to meet other locals. After lunch I went back to my hosts to relax for an hour and learn a bit before mincha (which was at 4:45pm).
I ended up chatting with my hosts some more, then making it to shul for mincha, seuda shlishis, and maariv.
After maariv, my host picked me and her husband up from shul. After havdala at their house, I headed out to a concert by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra who were playing Beethovenís Symphony Number 6 among other pieces.
While I was on my way there, my host put me in touch with that guest from Friday night, let's call him AZL, and we planned our day for Sunday. It was going to be nice spending the day with someone else and doing touristy things together.

Sydney Harbour Bridge at night

Sydney Opera House at night

The concert was amazing! On the way back, it was raining lightly, but it wasnít too bad. I took the bus (as I did on the way there), which was not only cheap but super convenient as well. I got back and went to sleep by 11:30pm.
Sunday, August 6, 2023
Sunday morning shachris was at 8:00am, which was a treat for me, since I rarely daven that late. The plan was for AZL to meet me at 9:30 am at my hosts, since it was on the way for him.
After shachris, I packed up, had breakfast, and we left just after 9:30 am. First, we walked to the bagel store to get lunch. Originally, we wanted to go to Pita Mix to get something from there, but, unfortunately, they were not open when we got there at 10:10am. No problem, we got some bagels (I got bagels with tuna salad on the side, he got a premade bagel with tuna, lettuce, and tomato), and walked to the ferry at Rose Bay, about 5 minutes away.
From Rose Bay, we took the ferry back to Circular Quay to catch the ferry to Manly Beach. As luck would have it, our 10-minute ferry ride arrived right next to the ferry we needed to catch, which was good since it was leaving 2 minutes after we got there. It was the fast boat (25 minutes vs 40 minutes) and got to Manly pretty quickly. We walked around Manly for a bit, but it was a little rainy and cold. We ended up sitting on a bench overlooking the famous Manly Beach and eating our lunch. We then walked down to touch the water before heading back to the ferry building.

Ferry building at Manly Beach

Manly Beach

From Manley, we took the ferry back to downtown Sydney and walked around. We walked around The Rocks area, which was very nice. We didnít know it beforehand, but the FIFA Womenís World Cup was going on in Sydney at the time, and there were TV reporters all over the place in these permanent TV reporting areas which all had the Opera House as the backdrop. We walked around the Park Hyatt where I stopped to use the facilities, before turning around. We then walked to the Central Synagogue to see it from the outside (it was locked) before catching the 333 bus back to Bondi.

Interesting street signs in Sydney

Harbour Bridge during the day

Sydney Opera House during the day

Maybe @Something Fishy can tell me what type of bird this is

We said our goodbyes, and then it was time for me to pack up. I got all my stuff in order, bid farewell to my hosts, and started off towards the airport. The bus back to the train was not coming, so I just walked again. I made a quick stop at the Westfield Bondi Beach to see the Coles (supermarket) kosher section (from which I didnít end up buying anything). On the way out of the mall, I saw a store that had nice gifts for my kids, so I bought them a little something there.
I caught the train to the airport, checked in, and went through customs and security before making my way to the lounge. I davened mincha in the prayer rooms there (they had locking doors which was cool, so no one could disturb) followed by dinner in the lounge. I had the remaining 2 bagels and tuna from earlier in the day.
Just before the scheduled boarding time for the flight, I went to the gate, only to find our inbound aircraft was delayed. We ended up leaving 35 minutes late, but allís well that ends well. The flight had very friendly and talkative flight attendants on it and went by quickly. Before we knew it, we landed in Christchurch only a few minutes late.
I went through immigration and customs again, followed by a quick walk to my hotel, the Novotel, which was thankfully at the airport. After a quick shower, it was time to head to bed before the busy and exciting day Monday was going to be.

Novotel Christchurch Airport

View from my room

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Fiji, Australia and New Zealand trip 2023
« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2023, 01:22:17 AM »
Monday, August 7, 2023
I woke up a little late after getting to sleep so late Sunday night, but I didnít have to rush. I checked out of the hotel, walked back to the terminal, and picked up my car from Enterprise.

Rental car

The first order of business was stopping at Countdown, the supermarket, since it was 2 minutes away from the airport, so I could pick up some food. Sure enough, the supermarket was well-stocked and had kosher bread, kosher smoked salmon (filets), chocolate, fruit, and vegetables. I stocked up and was on my way. Like LA, no plastic bags are provided in New Zealand at all, not even in the produce section, and paper bags are available for purchase.
From the supermarket, it was about a 2.5-hour drive to Lake Tekapo, the first stop on my drive. There, I did a hike called Mount John. While finding the beginning of the hike was a challenge, once I found it, it was not hard. There was a lot of ice on parts of the trail that were exposed, but there were easy ways to walk on dead grass on the side to get around without slipping. The hike was beautifully shaded and the path wide and clear. After many switchbacks, you end up on top of Mount John where you can walk around the loop at the top. The views from the top were amazing, with views of Lake Tekapo below, mountains and fields. Since it was extremely windy on the top, not to mention cold (around 0 C, 32 F), I took refuge in the cafť they have up there for a few minutes before heading back down. Thereís also an observatory at the top (with a road to drive up if you wanted), but it was closed during the day when I was there.

View from the beginning of Mr John track (hike)

Views from the hike

Since the hike was pretty straight and obstruction-free, I ended up jogging down the mountain (except when I go to an icy patch), and in about 1.5 hours, I was on my way.
From there, I drove another 2.5 hours to Wanaka, the destination for the evening. The way went over the Haast Pass, a mountain pass to get to Wanaka. It was a sunny day until I got to the pass, but driving over it meant rain/ freezing rain/ and snow. Luckily the roads were well-maintained with no accumulations, and I made it to Wanaka unscathed.
I stayed in the Bella Vista motel, which was small but clean and nice. I arrived after the office closed, so they put out a key in an envelope with my name on it.

The Bella Vista motel

I put my stuff down and walked to the lake 2 blocks away to see the view, and what a view it was! I then walked to a supermarket to pick up some more salmon and vegetables. Unfortunately, the Countdown Metro I walked to was tiny (gas station sized), but they had a regular supermarket, New World Supermarket, which was large. I walked back to the motel, relaxed, and got to sleep.

Tuesday, August 8, 2023
Tuesday I didnít have a lot planned, but everything ended up working out perfectly. I got up, davened, ate breakfast, and took a walk to #ThatWanakaTree. It was about 1 mile away from the motel walking along the lake, so it was beautiful. I got lots of pictures of the lake and #ThatWanakaTree  in the soft, morning light. The waterline of the lake was low, so you could actually walk to the tree over exposed rocks, but it was still beautiful. I then walked back to the motel, checked out and put my stuff in the car. I had passed some gift shops on the way and wanted to see if they had any shot glasses for my collection, but they were all closed. I donít know if the reason is because sunrise is almost 8am in Wanaka in the winter, but they all opened at 10:30/11:00 am. Since they were still closed, I decided to skip them and go hiking.


I drove 20 minutes to the Rocky Mountain/Diamond Lake hike and found parking right in front. While the Mount John hike in Lake Tekapo was nice, this one was awesome! The hike started at the bottom and formed an 8. The bottom of the 8 was diamond lake, which you walk around. The top part of the 8 is the Rocky Mountain path. You can take the east or the west paths up, and I chose the west up and the east down. The hike was a lot of fun! The path was a lot narrower than the other hike with a lot more challenging (but not hard) parts, such as having to pull yourself up when the path suddenly stopped but continued 5 feet above. There was a lot of ice on the western path going up, and parts of it were a bit challenging to navigate. There were a lot fewer places to walk around the ice, so it meant going slowly so I didnít slip.

Rocky Mountain/Diamond Lake track (hike)
Once at the top, there were amazing views of Lake Wanaka and the surrounding area, which were surreal. I didnít spend that long on top, as it was cold (around 0 C/32 F again) by the time I got to the top. I started down the east path next, which thanks to this hike being in the morning, had a lot of direct sunlight which meant nearly no ice! The path was a lot skinnier at points, which had precarious drop offs, but nothing that made me nervous. I made it around the other side of the bottom of the 8 around the lake, got back down to the car around 1:30pm and had lunch there.

Top of the hike

After lunch, I headed back to town and sure enough the gift shop was open. I got a shot glass for my collection, which in the spirit of New Zealand sports, was all black with the famous leaf of it.
From there, it was time to drive to Queenstown. There are two main ways to drive to Queenstown from Wanaka. The quickest way (mileage and time), goes through Cardona on the Cardona Valley Road, the highest road in New Zealand. This road goes through the mountains and is quite curvy in parts. Also, because of the elevation, thereís snow at the top of the pass, luckily not on the road when I went.
I made it to Queenstown around 3:15pm, about 45 minutes before I needed to return the rental car. I stopped by a Countdown again, got more food, and found a gas station to fill up my ĺ empty tank. I dropped the car off at the airport at 3:55pm and went to wait for my ride to the hotel.
The Carlin Hotel has an option for either airport pickup/drop off or free parking (not both), so I took advantage of the free pickup/drop off. Sure enough, someone came from the hotel just after 4pm holding a sign with my name on it. At first I was unsure how I was going to find him, but after just walking around outside (the pickup area is quite small), I eventually found him. He was driving a Bentley (which Iíd asked for), and it was a smooth and quick ride back to the hotel.

The Carlin Hotel

Hotel car

Once there, they already had all my info, so after a few minutes of relaxing in the lounge with a drink, they escorted me to my room and brought my luggage from the car after. The room was gorgeous and huge, with a hot tub on the balcony, a living room, dining room, bedroom, bathroom and kitchen all for just me.

Lakeview Suite

I dropped off my stuff and was on my way to town. I wanted to see how to get to the bus stop for my tour on Wednesday and found it easily. While out, I realized I forgot bread at the store, so I picked up some more, as well as peanut butter so I could make sandwiches. I explored the town area, found another shot glass as a gift for someone, and headed back to the hotel. I had the remaining package of ramen for dinner, as well as some bread, carrots and rice cakes Iíd brought from Australia.

Downtown Queenstown

Lake Wakatipu

Now it was time to take advantage of the hotel amenities. I first went to soak in the hot tub outside (it was still below freezing outside, but sitting in a hot tub, it didnít really matter. Since Iím not the type of person who enjoys hot tub much, I was out of there in 5 minutes and off to the work out room right next door to my room. There, they have a sauna which I figured Iíd try. Itíd been years since Iíd tried a sauna, and I wanted to give it another shot. I was in there as it was warming up, but got bored by the time it got to 53 C/ 125 F so I left.
I had a wonderful evening overall, showered, relaxed and went to bed early ahead of the big day tomorrow.
Wednesday, August 9, 2023

The tour I had booked left really early, like I had to be at the bus stop at 7:15am early. What makes it seem even earlier is Neitz wasnít until almost 8:00am and misheyakir was only at 6:53am.
I got up, davened and then said brachos on talis and tefillin when it was time at 6:53am. I then walked the 7 minutes to the bus stop, ready for the exciting day ahead. It was quite cold, around -4 C/ 25 F, but thankfully the bus came on time. I managed to get a seat at the very front (which I wanted) so I wouldnít get car sick. After making 2 other stops in Queenstown, we were finally on the way. The driver/guide was very nice and struck a balance between talking and telling us about stuff and driving quietly. After around 2.5 hours we made it to Te Anau where we had our first stop of the day for 30 minutes. Some people got off, more got on, and we were on our way after 30 minutes. The place we stopped had bathrooms (and a cafť, but I couldn't take advantage of that), as well as a gift shop. Midway through our stop, I realized Iíd forgotten the carrots Iíd bought for the trip, so I walked 2 minutes to the supermarket to buy more.

Bus ride to Milford Sound

We continued on the way to Milford Sound and made a few more stops. One was for this walkway, which was quite underwhelming. Another stop was for a view which was nicer. We got to see a species of parrot thatís native to this part of New Zealand (it likes the cold) called a Kea. The birds were not afraid of people, and kept going in and out of the buses, hopping on the roof of the bus, and pecking at the rubber on the door.


After another 2.5 hours or so, we made it to the Milford Sound right on time. We got ready for our cruise of the sound using the cards we were given in Queenstown as tickets. Once on the boat, we got to sit wherever we wanted. Everyone got on, and by about 1:35 we were off. The cruise was just around the sound, so the water was super smooth with absolutely no waves in sight.

Out boat

View from the dock

We were treated to lots of waterfalls every couple feet or so, and even got to see some seals and a penguin. I alternated from sitting upstairs, sitting downstairs, and going outside to the deck to get good pictures without windows in the way. We made it back to the port about 3:30 and were on our way a few minutes after that.

Milford Sound

Who can spot the penguin?

The way back was quicker, as we didnít make as many stops. Our driver drove quickly through the twisty roads, yet he drove professionally and safely the whole time. We made it back to Te Anau by 5:30pm, had a quick 10-minute stop, and left just as the sun was setting. Most of the drive back was in the dark, combined with the snow for some parts of it, made for a harrowing drive as a passenger right behind the driver.
We arrived back by 7:50pm, at which point I walked back to the hotel to get a ride to the airport. The driver whoíd driven me yesterday was out sick, so they arranged a car service to take me. The feeling I got from the hotel was one of professionalism and going above and beyond for guests.
For example, Iíd forgotten my carrots in the room in the morning before the tour. Iíd packed up as the hotel had advised and left my bag in the room. I was fully expecting it to be downstairs and my carrots long gone, but that wasnít the case. They walked me back upstairs, I got my carrots from the fridge and my bag, before going downstairs again to the waiting car.
Once the car dropped me off at the airport, I wanted to walk to my hotel, The Holiday Inn Queenstown Remarkables Park, so Iíd know how to walk back in the morning. It was less than a 15 minute walk on flat ground, so I just followed Google Maps and got there just fine. There was a huge tour that had just finished checking in, but I got my room key quickly. After waiting a while for the elevator (there were about 50 people in line to go upstairs), I got to my room, repacked my bags, and got to sleep.

Holiday Inn Queenstown Remarkables Park

Tomorrow would be a very busy travel day.
Thursday, August 10, 2023
I woke up at 5:35 am for my 7:20 am flight. After getting ready, I headed to the airport, which was a nice way to stretch your legs and not get sweaty, as it was around -2 C/ 28 F outside. 15 minutes (and one wrong turn) later, I got to the airport and headed to the gate (Iíd checked in online the night before). Security for New Zealand domestic flights is a joke, like the US pre-9/11. I was through in no time and even had time to daven before the flight.

Empty Queenstown airport, ZQN

NZ 638

The flight was uneventful, and 1:50 later we landed in Auckland. I was out of the airport in no time, in an Uber on my way to downtown to see the Sky Tower. The weather was really bizarre: It was sunny at pickup, then cloudy, rainy and sunny again all on the 30-minute drive to downtown.

Views from the plane to AKL

Auckland, New Zealand

I went up the Sky Tower which was easy and had great views. There are two levels you can go on (51 and 60), and I explored both. After a quick snack break at the top, I decided to walk down to the marina/wharf area. I was nearly there when it started raining heavily again. At this point, I went into a building nearby which happened to be the train station. It looked like they had a subway train system in Auckland after all, even though it was very small.

Views from the Sky Tower

I ended up taking the train connecting to a bus to the airport, which took about 50 minutes and was uneventful. The check-in line was huge, but I went in the Ďweb check-iní line, which was much shorter, and got checked in that way (even though I hadnít checked in online). The agent helping me told me my bags weighed too much for a carry on, so he made me check it. I took out my talis/tefillin and checked it in.

Britomart Train Station

Ferry building

Crowded check in area at AKL

Terminal after security

After a very quick immigration and security, I was on my way to the Strata lounge for a quick shower and lunch. I only got to spend 45 minutes there, because then boarding started for my flight.

Strata lounge shower room

TN 102 to PPT then LAX

Air Tahiti Nui 787

The flight to Tahiti was quite full, but I got an aisle seat and it passed uneventfully, landing in Tahiti at 10:00 pm on Wednesday evening. The kosher meal was from Auckland, and it was a beef dish which I passed on. I ate the sides, but otherwise wasnít too hungry. Since a vast majority of the plane was terminating their travels in Tahiti, only a handful of people were going through transit security to continue on to LA.

Economy seats, Air Tahiti Nui

KSML AKL-PPT from a local Auckland caterer

After a quick walk to the departure gate in the outdoor terminal (there was a roof and some walls, but it was otherwise open-air) and a quick stop at a shop for a shot glass, it was time for the continuation of the flight to LA. There were actually 2 Air Tahiti Nui flights leaving to LA at basically the same time: mine (at 11:59pm) and another one (at 11:45pm) that was just stopping in LA on the way to Paris. We only boarded this flight at 11:30, but by 11:40 everyone was on board (it was quite an empty flight).

Welcome to Tahiti

I got my own row (as Iíd hoped in Auckland) and went to sleep shortly after takeoff. I slept straight until 1.5 hours before landing when breakfast was being served. I didnít get woken up, but I got up naturally and was in time to eat. The kosher meal on this flight was from Paris and was quite nice for an economy meal. It may have been a little strange having salmon for breakfast, but it was tasty (if not a little overcooked) and overall very filling.

KSML breakfast PPT-LAX (meal was from France)
We landed back in LA right on time at 10:45 am, and while I was near the back of the plane, I got off pretty quickly because it was so empty. We had parked at the absolute furthest gate from customs, so it was quite a walk, but with Global Entry, it was through in a matter of seconds, collected my bag (BH it made it ok), and made it outside to get picked up.
Overall, the trip was very fun and went according to plan. I donít think thereís anything Iíd change about the trip, other than just going for longer. The amount of time I spent in Fiji was totally enough (I saw everything I wanted to see in one day), Iíd been to Sydney before but had a great time there again, and I could easily have spent another few weeks in New Zealand.
Thanks for reading!

Offline lakewood34

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Re: Yehoshua's Fiji, Australia and New Zealand trip 2023
« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2023, 11:43:00 AM »
I got to LAX all checked in and proceeded straight to security. Unfortunately, Fiji Airways does not participate in PreCheck, so it was the regular security line for me. I was almost considering buying a refundable ticket on an airline that did have precheck just to avoid the lines but ultimately didn’t do that, since it would have meant a lot of walking from T4 to TBIT.

this happened to me once at jfk. I brought my physical pre check card and they let me use pre-check although i am sure ymmv

Offline PBaruch

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Re: Yehoshua's Fiji, Australia and New Zealand trip 2023
« Reply #5 on: August 18, 2023, 03:03:46 PM »
Very nice! I'm happy to see you were able to get away.

By the way, Fiji isn't just for Australians looking to get away.  It's also the place Hawaiians go on vacation to get away from the hustle and bustle of Hawaii.  Fiji is what Hawaii used to be like lol.
What do you do after your dreams come true?

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Fiji, Australia and New Zealand trip 2023
« Reply #6 on: August 18, 2023, 09:16:59 PM »
I got to LAX all checked in and proceeded straight to security. Unfortunately, Fiji Airways does not participate in PreCheck, so it was the regular security line for me. I was almost considering buying a refundable ticket on an airline that did have precheck just to avoid the lines but ultimately didnít do that, since it would have meant a lot of walking from T4 to TBIT.

this happened to me once at jfk. I brought my physical pre check card and they let me use pre-check although i am sure ymmv
I had it. They just said no .

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Fiji, Australia and New Zealand trip 2023
« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2023, 09:17:53 PM »
Very nice! I'm happy to see you were able to get away.

By the way, Fiji isn't just for Australians looking to get away.  It's also the place Hawaiians go on vacation to get away from the hustle and bustle of Hawaii.  Fiji is what Hawaii used to be like lol.
I believe it. It's quite empty and not much infrastructure outside the major tourist areas and cities.