John & Anne Wiley

2017/02/23

Up At Ardmore

Nosing around the aerodrome at Ardmore, I met some friendly pilots who helped me connect with other pilots who introduced me to John McWilliams. This wonderful human being took both of us on an extended aerial tour of the region around Auckland. In minutes we were cruising past downtown.

9807 Auckland Aerial

9807 Auckland Aerial

9819 Flying Low Past Auckland

9819 Flying Low Past Auckland

Soon after the above pic we turned left out to the coast and turned left again to clear AKL and fly along the beaches, before turning left again East across the North Island to Pauanui Airfield on the scenic Coromandel Peninsula.

142458 Approaching Pauanui

142458 Approaching Pauanui

Anne had the advantage of sitting in the back seat where she could snap cellphone pix like the above, out either of the rear side windows of the Cessna 172. The downside is, those windows don’t open so the pix are fuzzy and color-shifted due to the plexiglass. Out my open window the DSLR I lugged on this “Over Under” (OU) big adventure, this rocky beach passed below as we turned crosswind to enter the landing pattern.

0118 Beach Jungle

0118 Beach Jungle

While familiar to our many coastal flights in the U.S., Canada and Bahamas, the jungle has that unique New Zealand look. Turning on the downwind leg, the town sprawling up the hills into forest on the other side of the harbor inlet caught my eye.

0143 Into Forest

0143 Into Forest

While we didn’t take time to walk out and explore those tide pools I’d snapped as we flew over, we did make the short trek to the scenic beach.

0217 Quiet Beach

0217 Quiet Beach

John and I paused for some pilot talk under that distant tree, and Anne took a snap of her happy hubby with our new friend.

152946 John & John

152946 John & John

Soon we were plying the skies that fluctuated between clarity like you see above, haze like the next pic of spiky peaks, and scattered clouds as you’ll see in many pix from this fly day.

0148 Spiky Peaks

0148 Spiky Peaks

Like many C-172’s this one’s front windows can’t be opened more than several inches, so the pic above has added haze from the plexi because I couldn’t shoot through the opening. John kindly raised my wing several times when doing so would enable a clear shot. In clearer air, Anne managed to get this one thru the plexi.

174610 Approaching Claris

174610 Approaching Claris

I wish we could share pix that captured the beauty we were seeing! The haze, reduced light from clouds, and plexi all conspired with the human eye’s superiority to cameras. But maybe you still get a sense from pix like this.

0179 Scenic Thrills

0179 Scenic Thrills

I’d love to fly this whole nation in an amphibian aircraft landing on grass strips, lakes, ocean and of course airports. Anne got this view on short final to Great Barrier Aerodrome

165142 Another Landing

165142 Another Landing

We loved the short walk John led us on, taking this path through the jungle.

171012 Garden Path

171012 Garden Path

It opens out to a little village where we bought a couple of mementos at the quirky gift shop.

0441 Aotea GBI Arts

0441 Aotea GBI Arts

On our takeoff roll I snapped this view of the jaunty terrain.

0464 Terrain Slice

0464 Terrain Slice

We saw so many wonders on this flight, and of course have countless pix. Here’s another one I like, snapped through the clear air below the open window’s plexi as we passed over a small craggy island.

0482 Castaway Island

0482 Castaway Island

As we descended on approach back to Ardmore, the green hills of New Zealand seemed to reach up and embrace us with a soft welcome.

0664 Ardmore Green

0664 Ardmore Green

After fond farewells and appreciation to John McWilliams we were ready to begin another phase of our romance with this charmed land and her warm people, on the South Island.

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 WhangareiĀ 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! šŸ™‚

2017/01/28

Over The Rainbow

Rainbows appeared everywhere we’d been on Oahu & Maui, and it was all the more magical to lift off from HNL toward New Zealand cruising miles above the rainbows. We passed over Kiribati, which holds fascination for me since Y2K when it featured in New Year celebrations as the first place on earth to greet the new millennium. Alas, it was lost in clouds below us, and foretold of fuzzy weather awaiting us in Auckland after our 9-hour flight.

182947 Gray Greeting

182947 Gray Greeting

In the hazy distance you can just make out the Sky Tower, a tiny point on the horizon just left of center. We descended over the island and saw many hints of what was ahead, yearning for clear air and windows that open. Rather than take the rather expensive new light rail, we opted for the cheapo shuttle bus with lots of locals and other visitors to chat with, giving us an intro to the city. Of all the fun scenery along the route, this dance bar sign caught my Yankee psychologist eye.

125618 You Are Wanted

125618 You Are Wanted

By the time we checked into our cozy affordable room right in the heart of Queen Street downtown, it was getting dark as we ventured out into the mist.

8117 Into Mystery

8117 Into Mystery

Despite all our Dreaming and Planning we had little clue what to expect, so a sweet sense of mystery brightened our weary eyes. We’d paid the relatively small extra fee for a “SkyCouch” but didn’t get more than half a night’s sleep (we’re told ANZ’s Premium Economy is better & cheaper). After an hour of wandering a few blocks we settled in and dreamed the night away.

Morning found us blearily greeting a new reality, both in Kiwi country and because Anne’s phone with expensive NZ calling plan died. If you have a “smart” phone, you’ll guess the trauma that entails at the start of an enchanted adventure. After doing all I could to resuscitate it without tools, the view from our window of Auckland Town Hall coaxed us “half-connected” out beyond Cyberia into the colorful new world around us.

8133 Window On Wonderland

8133 Window On Wonderland

We love Auckland! The architecture, people, and enchanting mix of calm cosmopolitan bustle. It totally made up for the fuzzy weather (see the Sky Tower disappearing into it?), especially after French Coffee at the cafe around the corner. Across the street is this fanciful square in front of the concert hall.

8197 Art Walk

8197 Art Walk

In our already altered state, the creativity here helped us see the artistic magic in everything (and everyone) on our meander down Queen Street.

8185 Green & Human

8185 Green & Human

It’s a great place for walking, with little traffic compared to other big city cores and lots of green. Though there are lots of people on the wide sidewalks, as conveyed by this pic…

8180 Quiet Din

8180 Quiet Din

…we were well spread out and mostly moving at a sedate pace in remarkably quiet yet colorful and stimulating surroundings. Plenty of tall buildings to gawk at, with a wide array of styles and eras welcoming yet another boom of new construction.

8174 Architectural Variety

8174 Architectural Variety

One surprising landing we made on our walkabout was at the music shop. Surprising because we’d packed very light for 5.5 weeks in climates ranging from tropics to snow: one small “travelpro” checked bag and small soft backpack each. After all that frugal winnowing of every square inch, only the muse can explain our purchase of this candy apple red ukulele to poke his head out my backpack on the rest of our journey.

8199 Creative Impulse

8199 Creative Impulse

Well, we also got a great deal (esp. with USD exchange rate) and we love the bright tone.

With low clouds and only two nights before our quick jaunt to Australia, I didn’t try to ferret out any GA flying options. Instead we went up in the Sky Tower and got this glimpse down at our hotel.

8430 Down Home

8430 Down Home

Looking up across the island we could almost make out the airport in the hazy distance among the gradually clearing cloud cover. Rising above the streets we’d wandered, our hearts were already starting to move toward the journey beyond.

8312 Beyond The City

8312 Beyond The City

In a few hours we were already back aboard another airliner climbing toward Sydney, glancing back where we’d just been in that distant tower. From these two high perspectives, we’d begun to sense the adventures awaiting us after “Oz.”

8456 High Perspective

8456 High Perspective

Yet as we got this last glance back at the New Zealand coast, a touch of melancholy upon leaving this sweet place quietly passed, before we looked ahead to the vast cloud-dotted blue of the Tasman Sea.

8493 Looking Back & Ahead

8493 Looking Back & Ahead

2017/01/24

Maui Memories

Seems to me Maui is not an island, it’s a mellow scenic state of mind. Our first extended stay there on this trip began with dear friends who introduced scenes like this.

7528 Mauna Kahalawai

7528 Mauna Kahalawai

Sitting in another outdoor restaurant gazing at this, quiet conversation with Paula, another long-time friend, included plans to take a hike. We also invited Jim & Jori with whom we enjoyed many delights like breakfast on this screened balcony.

115149 Greeting New Days

115149 Greeting New Days

So one of our days included going to the Waihe’e Coastal Dunes & Wetlands Refuge for a custom hike led by Paula, who leads larger hiking groups to her favorite Maui marvels.

152747 Wandering Waihe'e

152747 Wandering Waihe’e

Anne and I also explored some via car, pondering whether we’d see the volcano on the other side of the valley.

7534 Haleakalā

7534 Haleakalā

So we drove back to the airport for my “check ride” with the flight training, tour, and Cessna rental companyĀ Maui Aviators at OGG, hoping they’d be better than Moore at HNL. After 15 minutes aloft their lead instructor said, “You’re good.” For other pilots wanting to rent or anyone looking for a relatively inexpensive private aerial tour of the islands, I’ve posted our summary of the two HI companies we used. We dropped the instructor off at the airport and went for a short tour back across the valley including the short water crossing to this view of the small islet where snorkeling tour boats go.

7764 Molokini

7764 Molokini

The Molokini sanctuary is beautiful from the air, and offers wonderful experiences on and in the water. Flying back wearing big smiles, we again passed these smokestacks that are a landmark used by air traffic. Driving “home” for another evening with J&J we snapped this view of it shaded by one of the many clouds that would obscure peaks and shower on us for most of our Maui days.

7547 Cane Plant

7547 Cane Plant

We’d heard from our friends and others that sugar production was about to end there bringing joy to environmentalists and many residents, and unemployment to others. Hopefully there will be new jobs as the economy adapts. After our days of delights we felt both excitement and sadness to take another airline back to HNL for our flight to New Zealand. We got this fresh look at Molokai.

150212 Molokai High

150212 Molokai High

This high altitude perspective had me wondering if we’d manage to get back there in a GA rental plane. While lovely, this view only served to further whet my appetite. In minutes we said Aloha again to Waikiki.

151926 Aloha Tower

151926 Aloha Tower

Having been to the top of Aloha Tower it was surprising I couldn’t spot that tall landmark as we zipped by. Only now looking at the pic can I make it out (arrow) among skyscrapers that loom behind it. The next day dawned clear and bright. The airliner taxi for takeoff kindled hope that such calm air with few clouds would expand our GA flying options upon return to Maui in late December.

100043 HNL Taxi

100043 HNL Taxi

As now familiar HNL slipped beneath our wings and disappeared from our expanding view, thoughts of Auckland turned our attention forward.

100233 Farewell HNL

100233 Farewell HNL

2017/01/08

Perfect Dream

We favor the thread of philosophy encouraging us to notice the Perfection in all things. It’s implemented in our Five Step journey model, noting that the first step isn’t actually planning.

0. The Trip We Dream.

We dreamed a trip flying small planes (aka General Aviation – GA) over all the Hawaiian Islands, New Zealand, and Australia.

6998 Chasing Rainbows

6998 Chasing Rainbows

1. The Trip We Plan.

We’d planned for months with online research and countless phone calls, emails and texts, to set up the Cessna 172 rental at Moore Air so we could fly from HNL around Kauai and other islands. Already we’d released that part of the dream, due to the marginal weather and adverse orientation of the company. But by anticipating and finding the Perfection, we had a Plan B of flying Mokulele Airlines relatively low to Maui via Molokai.

1. The Trip We Take.

So when a rainbow framed Waikiki our hearts were Perfectly ready to soar light and bright. We could delight in the differences between dreaming, planning, and unfolding our journey.

For example, flying GA it’s unlikely due to airspace restrictions that we’d have enjoyed this overview of Diamond Head providing a completely different perspective on the iconic silhouette.

7029 Diamond Head Crater

7029 Diamond Head Crater

We’d also dreamed of snorkeling with the tame colorful fish at enchanted Hanauma Bay as we had on that first romantic journey long ago, so we smiled as it slipped beneath our wings, refreshing memories.

7053 Hanauma Bay

7053 Hanauma Bay

Now some may say Molokai is less interesting and beautiful than the other islands, but we beg to differ. We were greeted by the muted red dirt roads between brilliant red/green of irrigated farms on the flat terrain of the West end.

7088 Red, Green, Blue

7088 Red, Green, Blue

But the real magic began after the stop at little MKK airport inĀ Kualapuu, when our Mokulele Air pilots treated us to a departure below the clouds along the towering cliffs. The cliffs of Molokai alone would be spectacular, but the innumerable waterfalls are breathtaking! Our fav was this one leaping in rainbow mist from a cliff.

7278 Flying Falls

7278 Flying Falls

Despite low light from thick clouds, haze and mist, milky airliner windows that don’t open, and of course reflections on the inside of the windows; Anne managed to capture this that I was able to tweak into something close to the majesty we saw.

7276 Impression of Wonder

7276 Impression of Wonder

It’s tall, starting above what you can see in the first pic, rests briefly in misty pools on the way down as you can see in this pic, and the blown mist is making tiny new waterfalls at the bottom-right. Obviously we have many more pix of this day, especially the flight, so I’m saving some future views of these areas and moving now to our Kahului arrival.

7425 PHOG Approach

7425 PHOG Approach

Unlike KSBA and other mainland airports, those in the Pacific islands start with P as in PHOG which also goes by the “name” OGG. It’s surely nothing to do with Fog or P-HOG, but the distant rainbow over the runway delivered on the promise of a wet walk to the terminal building. We laughed as the rain stopped the instant we stepped under the shelter, and set out to meet dear friends who live nearby. They took us for a delightful dinner at the open air restaurant in Kihei. Early Hawaiians created an ancient fish farm from a rock enclosure next to Kalepolepo Beach, providing a seafood bounty like the one we enjoyed there. Out beyond the quiet beach, everyone watched the colorful end to this Perfect day.

7505 Sunset Over Lahaina

7505 Sunset Over Lahaina

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