John & Anne Wiley

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?

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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! 😀

2017/03/21

Up Again At Last!

Excited as I was last week to begin posting pix of our two amazing NZ South Island flights in a single day, it was delayed by resolving a minor avionics issue with Tripp. So here are my fave pix from the first of those two flights. You may recall our drive to the Alexandra airport on a mesa in the previous post. Well the next day we scored a free short ride with a generous expert pilot in their club!

0964 Clyde Perspective

0964 Clyde Perspective

Just a couple of minutes after liftoff we had this glorious view up the valley to Clyde next to the dam and to snow-capped peaks beyond. Driving and hiking in the area had been interesting, beautiful and fun of course. But seeing it all now from this perspective made our aviator hearts soar with delight! Soon we passed over the red roof of our B&B on the cliff above the river.

0967 Clyde B&B

0967 Clyde B&B

In just a few more minutes we got this new view up the gorge to Cromwell.

1020 Cromwell & Beyond

1020 Cromwell & Beyond

We just Love the spectacular views and perspective provided by flying in small planes (G.A.), and how many different delights like this you can enjoy in just a few minutes aloft. About ten minutes after takeoff we saw these beautiful jagged peaks above Queenstown to the West, as we turned back South toward summery Alexandra.

1033 Distant Snowy Peaks

1033 Distant Snowy Peaks

Along the gorge on the way back I got a new view of the many ancient rocks, far beyond what we’d glimpsed on the bus ride from Dunedin. This outcrop had a natural stone bowl sheltering a bog at the base.

1098 Stories in Stone

1098 Stories in Stone

As you might guess from my rock obsession, I snapped far too many pix like this. But here’s just one more I really like, with magical shapes that shifted before our eyes as we drifted past with a Tolkien dragon’s eye view of this terrain ideally cast for scenes in Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films.

1170 Rune Stones

1170 Rune Stones

As we approached Alexandra to turn back again to overfly the airport before turning yet again to land, we saw it anew. You can’t really make them out in this pic, but we could see the old bridge abutments beyond the new bridge. Off to the left a little we could see the footbridge we’d walked with the giant clock on the hill above, now looking so small as to be nearly invisible in this pic.

1226 Alexandra Anew

1226 Alexandra Anew

Thrilling as it is to see newly familiar places from above, we were about to fly over territory completely new to us. Too much excitement for one day? Not at all, but maybe too many pix from that flight for our next post?

For this incredible half an hour aloft, we dearly thank Mike and the wonderful group that is the Central Otago Flying Club. I hope they’re reading this, because true to the open spirit of the international aviation community we dearly hope they’ll visit so we can return the favor flying them around Santa Barbara.

2017/03/14

Rain to Shine

Filed under: Aviation,Happiness,Has Photos,Inner World,Nature,Random — John @ 05:05

It was raining when our bus pulled out of Dunedin headed across the South Island toward Queenstown.

142241 Dunedin Drear

142241 Dunedin Drear

After two relaxing nights and a good part of three bright days here, it was a change to see it so gray. We wondered if the whole journey would be like this, obscuring the mountains and dampening the next few days. But soon after leaving the coast on Hwy.8 the rain stopped and sun burned holes in the clouds. Entering the rolling hills the dappled cloud shadows on bucolic herds of sheep evoked our earlier expectations.

154612 Shadows & Sheep

154612 Shadows & Sheep

In places the bright greens and smooth shapes of the hills hinted at Hobbiton or tinges of Teletubbies.

154505 Sheep Tracks

154505 Sheep Tracks

But not all the hills were smooth, because the steeper ones have tracks carved by the sheep as they graze along the hills rather than expend energy climbing up and down. I once worked in a diamond drilling crew on a Yukon mountain, and used that strategy walking from camp to drill site. A co-worker went direct, wise cracking that both his legs are the same length. 🙂

154508 Variations

154508 Variations

It wasn’t all green grass, either. Some areas like the above had other species of vegetation adding variations of color and texture (and possibly dietary interest for the sheep). Old farm buildings dotted here and there recalled earlier times, when the highway traffic was slower and much more rare.

154905 Survivors

154905 Survivors

Unlike photos from back then, we didn’t set up a tripod with box camera and wait to see the black and white result. Most of the pix in this post were on cellphones from a bus going 60mph, making these magical scenes just a little bit trivial without a photographer’s care and effort. Still, the pix serve to bring us back to that breathtaking moment we were moved to click.

161232 River Moment

161232 River Moment

Like this instant as we whizzed across the Clutha nearing Beaumont. The timeless rolling river contrasts the instantaneous nature of contemporary life, sending the pic in two directions at once for me. We also passed beautifully textured mountains like this, laid bare of forest and shaped by the ages before and since.

0778 Patient Mountains

0778 Patient Mountains

We passed rocky ravines with whispering sculpted shapes that seemed more ancient than our beloved California stones.

171627 Stone Stories

171627 Stone Stories

Unable to stop the bus and wander among them to listen, I breathlessly snapped to savor later.

173040 Boulder Families

173040 Boulder Families

All too soon we rolled into the Queenstown Airport to pick up our rental car. Rather than drive into that fabled city, we turned back along the route of our bus to a B&B in nearby Clyde. Heading along the river back into its narrow mountain valley, I got to again practice driving on the “wrong” side.

195941 Both Sides

195941 Both Sides

Unlike the bus view from high above fences and shrubs, we were close to the ground and seeing the both sides of the road from the other direction. Though it was a new and very different experience, we still couldn’t stop because our B&B host was waiting a home cooked meal. So again we zoomed across the bridge at Cromwell with this glimpse of Lake Dunstan.

202026 Lake Dunstan

202026 Lake Dunstan

In case you’re wondering, yes the meal was delicious, the room clean and cozy, the dinner conversation fascinating, and the dreams delightful. The next day, yes we did drive to the Alexandra airport on a mesa near town seeking opportunities to see all this from the air. It being nearly Christmas we found not a soul, but did walk around some aircraft and copy down some posted Central Otago Flying Club contact info. Mostly we enjoyed standing motionless in these gently waving wildflowers.

0785 Alexandra Airport Mesa

0785 Alexandra Aerodrome Mesa

It was nourishing to wander the roads slowly, stopping on a whim like when we saw an open air market in an Alexandra park and bought local saffron for our daughter. Or when we drove closer to check out the clock on the hill and found the 1879 Shaky Bridge over the Manuherikia River.

0836 Shaky Bridge

0836 Shaky Bridge

After many other such serendipitous adventures we checked out the Clyde Dam (the wiki is interesting) and drove up the hill across the Clutha from our Clyde B&B. There we soaked in the silent views up and down the valley, across to our B&B and Clyde to the mountains beyond, including this relaxing look up Lake Dunstan.

0903 Hill Over Lake Dunstan

0903 Hill Over Lake Dunstan

Another night at the comfy B&B we eagerly anticipated the next day, with good leads on two potential GA flights. I can hardly wait to share those pix! 😀

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