John & Anne Wiley

2017/02/06

Funga Rye

We spent another night in downtown Auckland, then picked up a rental car and tried not to break any laws. Especially by driving on the right (wrong) side of the road. We enjoyed a new angle on the city from the “left” side of the highway bridge, and my new cellphone easily captured this quite sharp pic.

170637 First Drive

170637 First Drive

As the only authorized driver in the rental, I got the hang of driving on the left fairly quickly – except for the “turn signal,” which turned on the wipers and thus reminded me to think opposite. Having not yet flown GA “down under” I was eager to find a friendly pilot as we rolled into Whangarei and drove out to the aerodrome (airport). I went door to door until finding one open at the Whangarei Flying Club, and we went in to meet the cheerful friendly Penny who set us up with her also gregarious pilot hubby Rusty.

9549 Penny & Rusty at Tecnam P92 G5

9549 Penny & Rusty at Tecnam P92 G5

Though she wanted to come along Anne was less disappointed to not join us in this 2-seat Tecnam “light sport” plane, than I was excited to get airborne with Rusty. I’d been itching to meet NZ pilots and see it from small planes.

151812 Up At Last

151812 Up At Last

For U.S. pilots lucky enough to visit this part of New Zealand, we highly recommend the club as a very inexpensive alternative to getting a N.Z. license and checkride for any rental plane you can find. Rusty mostly flew out across the shallow bay to those jagged peaks not far from the airport, while I tried to get good pix through the windows that don’t open.

9360 Ancient Stone

9360 Ancient Stone

The wizened rocks riddled with caves speak of eons and beg the question of whether ancient peoples once slept there dreaming of flying nearby.

9412 Geological Reduction

9412 Geological Reduction

The process that created these rocks has long since given way to the gradual erosion taking them back down into the sea. But after a few minutes along the coast and cruising past more rock sculptures, we headed back for a look at Whangarei where we’d booked the Cell Block (a former jail converted to a hostel) for a night. By the way, have you tried to pronounce the name of this lovely small city on a river by the sea?

9522 Whangarei

9522 Whangarei

If you’re curious how the locals say the Maori name of their town, the title of this post is an approximation. We had fun learning and practicing it. Here’s another pic of the city, looking back past the airport as we approached to land.

9548 Whangarei Airport

9548 Whangarei Airport

They have commercial airline service, yet the field is friendly to small planes including excellent carefully home built aircraft. It turns out Rusty also keeps an AutoGyro Europe MT03 Eagle there, and he happily agreed to take me for a quick flight before his students arrived from Auckland for training in it. What an absolute thrill that was!

9563 AutoGyro MT-03

9563 AutoGyro MT-03

The performance is very similar to a light helicopter, but at an order of magnitude less operating expense. I couldn’t take pix, not having prepared a camera for such an exhilarating open-air experience, but the view was spectacular and much akin to simply levitating off the ground unaided. Great way to begin my quest to fly GA in NZ! 🙂

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