John & Anne Wiley

2017/04/15

Peaks & Lakes

Many majestic views of lakes and peaks awaited on the last leg of the last GA flight of our NZ adventure. Strolling the serene ramp at TEU we had no idea that so much delight was minutes away. [Note: click here to read in sequence from the start of this “Over Under” Big Adventure]

2231 TEU to Mountains

2231 TEU to Mountains

Soon after takeoff we turned away from Lake Manapouri for a quick closer look at tiny Lake Henry and Te Anau on the shore of massive Lake Te Anau.

2256 Te Anau

2256 Te Anau

Climbing back toward Wanaka, we saw this silhouette of a person’s head facing left. It’s comical that amid so much spectacular beauty, this shape formed by the North end of South Mavora Lake stood out somehow.

2268 Cartoon Shape

2268 Cartoon Shape

Maybe the human spirit tends toward adaptation to beauty when overwhelmed by such sustained exposure to it. Still, this view along the Von River to Lake Wakatipu found us in silent enjoyment.

2288 Von River

2288 Von River

The rapids next to the lake are thrilling from the air, especially when they evoke the experience of whitewater sports down in that gorge.

2301 Rapids

2301 Rapids

As we continued out onto the bend in Lake Wakatipu, at the North end Glenorchy sheltered among the towering mountains.

2327 Distant Glenorchy

2327 Distant Glenorchy

Across the lake toward the East, colorful scenery continued the amazement that flooded our senses.

2341 Across the Bend

2341 Across the Bend

All along the lake as in every moment of every GA flight, our souls overflowed with the beauty of this land. Of course we have many more pix than can be shared, so how are these few chosen? Why choose this one of rapids among many along our mountainous route up Rees River and Invincible Creek and back East toward Wanaka?

2353 Inexplicable Rapids

2353 Inexplicable Rapids

As if the many stunning peaks like Mt. Aspiring we’d already visited weren’t enough, the grizzled heads of these peaks added to our overwhelm.

2362 Grizzled Peaks

2362 Grizzled Peaks

As always, the pix we share here aren’t just a small fraction of our total but also a tiny slice of the view we swam in. Here’s a larger one.

2387 Bigger Slice

2387 Bigger Slice

Now a few more pix and fewer of the words that pale and fail.

2412 More Peaks 1

2412 Peaks Aplenty 1

2431 Peaks Aplenty 2

2431 Peaks Aplenty 2

2442 Peaks Aplenty 3

2442 Peaks Aplenty 3

Like the U.S. and Canadian Rockies, each of the peaks in this vast expanse of mountains majesty kindles a deep emotional response in the human heart.

Another deep breath comes as we descend back into the green of New Zealand.

2545 Down Into Green

2545 Down Into Green

Even minutes from the end of this amazing flight, Glendhu Bay offered yet another stunning vista.

2571 Glendhu Bay

2571 Glendhu Bay

Continuing our descent across the South end of Lake Wanaka the shallows were reminiscent of our Bahamas flights.

2578 Colorful Shallows

2578 Colorful Shallows

But now Wanaka sprawled toward the airport where we’d begin the scenic drive to Queenstown for yet more memorable moments in this thrill-packed day.

2587 Wanaka Approach

2587 Wanaka Approach

2017/04/07

Quill to Manapouri

The reason we didn’t follow the highway straight up from Milford, was to turn right and fly over Lake Ada.

2027 Lk.Ada up Arthur

2027 Lake Ada up Arthur River

Along that deep canyon we passed raging rapids on the river and many other beautiful scenes, and moments later a tall waterfall appeared in the blue misty distance.

2083 Track to Falls

2083 Track to Falls

The famous Milford Track hiking trail was below us as canyons opened on both sides revealing higher features hidden high above the Arthur River along our path. Like this view up Mackay Creek past the lake to the jagged peak of Mt. Danger.

2098 Mackay to Danger

2098 Mackay to Danger

It was soon clear why our local pilot had come this way, as we approached spectacular Sutherland Falls.

2128 Sutherland Falls

2128 Sutherland Falls

It’s so magnificent we flew in a wide circle to pass it again even closer, where we got this zoom shot of that upper landing where it pounds to mist on the rock outcrop.

2170 Hidden Rainbow

2170 Hidden Rainbow

Even in this dimmed light below thick high clouds, there was a hint of the rainbow that must be radiant on clear days. Then turning East along the Clinton River we saw the Flower Falls at Iceberg Lake in the hazy distance.

2175 Iceberg & Flower

2175 Iceberg & Flower

But our real destination on this easterly path was the larger Lake Erskine higher among the snowy Summer peaks.

2192 Lake Erskine

2192 Lake Erskine

It’s a beautiful alpine lake that begs to be visited by float plane. But for us the main attraction there is Bowmar Falls cascading into the long canyon formed by Neale Burn. This short piece of the towering falls gives an impression of how amazing it is.

2194 Bowmar Falls

2194 Bowmar Falls

Then we turned South along Lake Te Anau descending until it emptied into this glimpse of Horseshoe Bend in the clear colorful waters of Waiku River.

2218 Waiku River

2218 Waiku River

Moments later we got a close look at the colors and shapes of this intricate marsh along Home Creek.

2223 Marsh Miracle

2223 Marsh Miracle

Having yielded the Pilot In Command role to the various New Zealand aviators we’d flown with on this adventure, I decided on a whim it would be fun to take the controls for this landing. Our esteemed aviatrix had been asking if I’d like to do that all along this flight but my focus was sightseeing and pix, so she was surprised when I asked. When I greased it she exclaimed aloud, “Woah!!”

2239 View from TEU

2239 View from TEU

After taxi back to parking she explained that most visiting pilots who don’t hoard the controls often have trouble landing smoothly, so she’d assumed I lack skill and experience. I didn’t think much of it until Anne joined her in making such a fuss. đŸ™‚

As we took a break and strolled the ramp at Te Anau Airport (TEU) two miles North of Manapouri on Hwy.95, I breathed in this pause. So many incredible experiences already on this “Over Under” adventure. In just this one unforgettable day we’d relished so much of the breathtaking “Hobbit” landscape, and memorable Queenstown still awaited before dark. Yet a somber tinge of sadness touched me, as I could feel it all winding toward our departure. But soon we were back in the air, and as you’d expect I have pix to share in the next post.

2017/03/30

Milford Sound!

The first time (and every time thereafter) we told someone about going to NZ, they asked if we’d see Milford Sound. So of course, it was on our Second Is First aerial tour. You’ll recall that post before last ended as we descended from our meander among towering peaks and incredible waterfalls, and spotted a plane that had landed on the beach at Big Bay. Now after the More Mt. Aspiring pix post, we pick up the story again after the quick 25 miles to Milford Sound. (Yes, we have too many pix to share here, including those beautiful 25 miles of coast.)

1904 Milford Mouth

1904 Milford Mouth

We were happy to see that the clouds were scattered at the mouth of the sound, to hopefully enable a full view of the spectacular cliffs. Sure enough, a minute later we began to see clear air up the sound though the high clouds were thickening overhead.

1908 Clear Low, Not High

1908 Clear Low, Not High

That solid high overcast blocked the light for pix and made them look dull compared with the amazing beauty our eyes enjoyed. When will cameras be able to replicate what our brains do with such light? At least with some tweaking this next pic conveys a hint of how the far peaks peeked above those low clouds.

1910 Peeking Peaks

1910 Peeking Peaks

But as we cleared the last clouds entering the sound, the lower view of sheer cliffs plunging into the sea explained the numerous tour boats.

1928 Into Milford

1928 Into Milford

High on the flanks, the forest invisible from those boats was fascinating to us as we imagined the wildlife roaming there. How much had it changed in the last few hundred years, and what’s the story with those bare branches?

1937 Living Forest

1937 Living Forest

Also high on the flanks are some remarkable cliffs with an almost skin-like texture and strange color.

1940 Cliff Skin

1940 Cliff Skin

But a main attraction for boat tours is probably the waterfalls, though we saw far more of the falls. Not just those tumbling into the sound but countless more, far up on the cliffs. Like this intricately magnificent one in a deep ravine, invisible from the waters of Milford Sound far below.

1947 High Hidden Falls

1947 High Hidden Falls

In places there are high “meditation gardens” where a few wisps of water moisten bare stones surrounded by silent forest.

1949 High Sanctum

1949 High Sanctum

Many such wonders combine where thundering falls return to the seas of the sound.

1962 Falling to the Sea

1962 Falling to the Sea

All of the details we saw from our eagle’s eye view similarly combine in the vast panorama we were swimming in. Here’s a larger, though still narrow, section of that for perspective.

1963 Bigger Slice

1963 Bigger Slice

The texture of these damp cliffs etched with life combines with the bare ridges and snow-capped peaks beyond. Oh, to return and fly this all again in different seasons and clearer air! With enough time to hike, kayak, and then fly again! This landscape is so varied, looking in each direction seems like a different continent and epoch.

1982 Looking Back

1982 Looking Back

This angle back up Harrison River though similar, looked so very different. The major waterfalls are each quite different too of course, and Bowen Falls next to the bustling village was most surprising to me.

2006 Bowen Falls

2006 Bowen Falls

Surprising not just its beauty or the details we could see (insets) that may go unnoticed from the water, but for the fact we saw no people scrambling and swimming around the base.

Insets: Clockwise from top-left – pool at base of falls; top-right – pool above the falls; middle-right – high rock alcove.

Just out of view to the right are cruise boat docks where thousands of tourists are somehow kept from taking the short hike or kayak back to stand or bathe in the thundering mist. There’s even an airport beyond the boat docks as you can see in this wider pic.

2014 Milford Context

2014 Milford Context

Now rather than follow that highway past the airport up the Cleddau River we got this hazy glance back up to where it’s joined by the smaller Tutoko River going up to the left at the base of Mt. Underwood.

2016 Mt. Underwood

2016 Mt. Underwood

Rather than land or continue up those rivers, we were headed southwest up the Arthur River. Can you guess what the attraction will be there, coming in our next post?

2017/03/28

More Mt. Aspiring

After lots more time poring over topo maps and gMaps, I’m confident that the pic titled “1665 Clouded Majesty” is Mount Aspiring. Here are more pix of it, approaching from the North and passing to the West.

1649 Glaciers & Mt. Aspiring

1649 Glaciers & Mt. Aspiring

I haven’t found a name for that glacial lake, but apparently the peak is flanked on the left by Volta Glacier with Thermal Glacier on the right in this view toward the South. This next pic is like the one in the prior post but closer and with more detail.

1676 Mount Aspiring Peak

1676 Mount Aspiring Peak

Approaching the West flank we got this view revealing how deep the snow is on top.

1732 West Flank

1732 West Flank

Further down that side where North West Ridge meets Shipowner Ridge we spotted the brave red Colin Todd Hut. It’s perched on a rock outcrop between the Bonar Glacier and what’s left of the Iso Glacier.

1739 Colin Todd Hut

1739 Colin Todd Hut

It’s apparently used as a base camp for climbers headed to the summit from this side. In this last wider shot as we passed looking toward the East, you can barely make out that hut at the bottom. Makes the climb look truly daunting, and so different from the comparable elevation 8,847Mount Pinos a mere 40-something miles away from KSBA. That distance is similar to flying direct from Wanaka to Mt. Aspiring, but the active and much more recent glaciers slice rugged terrain that argues for the indirect route we flew.  Here in California that altitude looks like an easy hike even in Winter, but in NZ it looks like Everest.

1769 Aspiring Summer Climb

1769 Aspiring Summer Climb

Christmas Eve on this peak in the Haast Range of New Zealand’s Southern Alps is their Summer, begging the question of what a Winter climb would be like. Anyway, in the next post I’ll share a few pix from the Milford Sound part of this flight.

2017/03/26

Second Is First

Well, I’ve finally reached this Over Under Adventure’s epiphany of our NZ flying (Wanaka, the second and most amazing of our two fabulous flights in a single day). These are the first of a very few pix I’ll post among my many faves among about 1,400 from our flight with CFI extraordinaire Gabrielle of U-Fly Wanaka. She generously took time out from her afternoon of Christmas eve to give us a leisurely eagle’s eye view of the Hobbit wilderness.

1332 Wanaka Takeoff

1332 Wanaka Takeoff

Having just enjoyed the beautiful drive from Clyde (I’ll spare you those magnificent pix), lifting off from Wanaka airport opened a whole new world. This short flight took the glories we’d seen from the road and expanded this striking scenery into an entirely new dimension of delights. After a glimpse of Lake Wanaka we turned East climbing out over Lake Hawea looking at the mountains beyond, and of course a vast panorama of similar wonders in every direction.

133407 Lake Hawea

133407 Lake Hawea

Below us the clear water unlocked shades of blue that dazzled the rods and cones in our overwhelmed eyes even beneath the high clouds. Like this sandy delta at the mouth of Craig “Burn” (aka stream).

1343 Shades of Blue Burn

1343 Shades of Blue Burn

We meandered across the Neck to Lake Wanaka, where the North tip offers this view up to the distant craggy peak of Mount Aspiring.

1421 Wanaka to Aspiring

1421 Wanaka to Aspiring

Everywhere there are waterfalls of every description, including these gossamer living threads of water wisping down a high green rock wall next to the lake.

1485 Living Thread

1485 Living Thread

Turning up the Young River at Makarora to Gillespie Pass into Siberia Valley and over icebergs in Lake Crucible, we followed the Wilkin River. As with our travels and flights in the glacial areas of North America we wondered aloud many times during the flight, what this area must have looked like before global warming.

1503 Glacier Shadows

1503 Glacier Shadows

From the bare carved rock not yet covered with vegetation, you can see the “shadows” of glaciers that have recently melted. We felt all the more fortunate to see what remains, with the flying probably made easier by the warmer weather.

1516 Carved Crevice

1516 Carved Crevice

Did I mention that the waterfalls are innumerable and diverse? Check out this magnificent pair.

1542 Tumbling Falls

1542 Tumbling Falls

Even though it’s “only” 8,340′ above sea level, Mount Pollux looks much like the higher Canadian and U.S. Rockies. The tall glacial waterfall into Lake Lucidus is breathtaking.

1597 Mt.Pollux & Lk.Lucidus

1597 Mt.Pollux & Lk.Lucidus

From Mt. Pollux across Rabbit Pass and West of Mt Aspiring we passed many iconic peaks of the “Southern Alps” that I’ve not yet been able to name definitively, apparently due to not recording a track in the free Android Avare aviation app. But thanks to help emailed from Gabrielle I’ll eventually figure most of them out using gMaps and NZ topo. Suffice it so say they are somewhat similar, different, innumerable, and few less striking than this.

1665 Clouded Majesty

1665 Clouded Majesty

The high clouds dimming this pic made it easier for my camera to capture the gradations between dark stone and brilliant snow, and reduced winds to make it a smooth ride. Yet there was enough breeze in some of the canyons to tickle the towering waterfalls.

1682 Wafted Waterfalls

1682 Wafted Waterfalls

When we finished gorging on mountains and glaciers to find our way through the broken clouds down to Big Bay, a little yellow plane (Piper Cub?) was about to take off from the isolated beach. Can you make it out right at the bottom-right corner?

1848 Big Bay "Airport"

1848 Big Bay “Airport”

Amazing as this brief flight had been already, we were about to begin the second of three main parts. In case you’re following along on maps (and especially if you can use our Contact Form here to name some features), here’s an approximate map of Gabrielle’s typical route.

Gabriella Map, Part 1

Gabrielle Map, Part 1

As you’ll note, our route differed as we kept well clear of clouds, including the fact we reached the coast at Big Bay rather than Martin’s Bay just to the South. Still ahead in Part 2 of this second flight of an enchanted day, is our flight along the coast down to the mouth of Milford Sound! đŸ˜€

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