John & Anne Wiley

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! 😀

2017/03/05

Delightful Dunedin

Again celebrating our decision to fly rather than drive, the hop from Christchurch to Dunedin in a smaller airliner flying lower gave us great vistas.

120519 Distant Mt. Cook

120519 Distant Mt. Cook

Too bad cameras don’t capture the beauty we enjoyed, but it was better as we gradually descended.

122946 Hills to Mountains

122946 Hills to Mountains

Soon the hills gave way to flatland, where we saw this TXT message.

123042 TXT to Aircraft

123042 TXT to Aircraft

We took a leisurely and sociable shuttle van to town. The driver and other passenger even let me stop at the small airport on the way to town, but alas no contact with any GA flight prospects. After hotel check-in we set out to explore the city, and were immediately captivated by the many murals.

152406 Consumption Art

152406 Consumption Art

Thinking of food, we checked out the elite Bacchus but they weren’t open so we returned down the hypnotic stairway to snack and stroll instead.

162228 Wooden Stair

162228 Wooden Stair

Māori culture is embraced in New Zealand, as with this bi-lingual sign on a university building.

72148 To Where Wanna To Go

72148 To Where Wanna To Go

My brain refused to pronounce it correctly, perhaps because Dunedin is a city we so wanted to go. The streets are lively, colorful, friendly and fun.

123316 Street Colors

123316 Street Colors

We loved having two nights here that gave us three different days to explore, mostly on foot. In addition to several museums we haunted, a highlight was taking in lots of street art, sculpture, and murals.

124342 Flying To Pieces

124342 Flying To Pieces

Art has an effect on us. As we strolled, art even appeared suddenly at the end of blind alleys.

124447 Lost Art

124447 Lost Art

Before long we were seeing art everywhere, including this wall in earthquake country with a relevant sign.

124922 Fair Warning

124922 Fair Warning

Many of the murals probably have a logical story, but I kinda hope not because they can readily evoke responses far beyond logic and language.

123417 Enigma

123417 Enigma

As you can begin to see from these mercifully “few” examples, our wander took us far into the realm of the muse, where everything is art.

124159 Performance Art

124159 Performance Art

Even everyday directional signs became somewhat metaphoric.

125244 Hope Lies Beneath

125244 Hope Lies Beneath

If you’re not already overwhelmed by all this, here’s a more mundane pic from a different day. The old train station is beautiful inside and out, making it popular with visitors including art-dazed Yanks. 🙂

163834 Train Station

163834 Train Station

One last highlight is this view that enhanced a great and inexpensive meal just a short, scenic and immersive city bus ride up at the Luna Cafe.

133208 Luna Cafe

133208 Luna Cafe

We barely scratched the surface, adding to our itch for a return trip.

2017/02/27

Christchurch Impressions

Several people suggested we skip or even avoid Christchurch on this trip, yet we felt drawn to spend a night there. So after our blissful small plane ride out of Ardmore, we shuffled back into a jet for the first time since the Sydney jaunt. Takeoff provided yet another perspective on the Auckland area, climbing across the bay toward the West coast.

115444 Jet Again

115444 Jet Again

With all the clouds I thought we might not see much, but happily enjoyed many scenic views through broken clouds. Especially over the South Island, like this glimpse of alpine Lake Tennyson about 20 miles North of Hammer Springs.

123834 Lake Tennyson

123834 Lake Tennyson

Soon we were descending over the great turquoise Waimakariri River with Christchurch Int’l (CHC) just below that red tip of our jet fairing at the upper-left.

125242 Waimakariri River

125242 Waimakariri River

The city sprawled below us on the wide plain as our jet turned “base” toward the airport, giving a sense of the setting next to the East coast with snow-capped peaks beyond.

125420 CHC Approach

125420 CHC Approach

After the familiar process of getting to the city center and checked into our hotel, we set out to explore. There seemed to be lots of public art, more graffiti than we’d seen elsewhere in New Zealand, and it was shocking to see so much destruction from the quakes.

173937 Crushed Cathedral

173937 Crushed Cathedral

Behind a fence stood the remains of this large cathedral being heroically rebuilt. Getting closer and walking to the right we could see inside.

174030 Restoring from Rubble

174030 Restoring from Rubble

From the many damaged buildings still standing, most in varying stages of repair, we got hints of the quakes’ power. From all the bare empty large lots among the few high buildings, we got a sense of how different Christchurch looks to locals. From all the construction cranes we could see how many new (and highly quake-resistant) buildings were going into some of those empty lots.

174052 New Construction

174052 New Construction

A few blocks away we found much more public art, and refuge from the rubble, at placid Victoria Square along the relaxing Avon River.

175055 Avon River Relaxation

175055 Avon River Relaxation

Back on the street, we paused to watch this couple practicing their moves at the Dance O Mat.

182951 Dancing in the Streets

182951 Dancing in the Streets

All the destruction seemed to have brought out creativity everywhere and a palpable mix of hope, fear, courage, despair, and some sort of somber resolve among the survivors, and splashed in bright colors on the surviving buildings.

184308 Survivors

184308 Survivors

The streets close around our hotel were colorful and inviting, yet felt strangely quiet as if awaiting more recovery to blossom into something new arising from a great little city.

185135 Quietly Waiting

185135 Quietly Waiting

We were very glad to have visited, yet also glad to spend only a night of our precious time there. Plus we celebrated having decided to fly rather than stick with our plan to drive between cities. It gave us views like this taking off the next day.

20114524 Sprawling Christchurch

20114524 Sprawling Christchurch

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.

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