Trip to New Zealand


The most beautiful and exciting seventeen hours of flying in the land of venturies- South Island New Zealand!

Australia Trip

Our adventure began under the Gullwing Glider in the atrium of the Queenstown, NZ airport where we met our pilot guides that were to become our mentors, our voices and our courage for the next eight days flying through fjords, cannons, low across saddles in ever changing weather that only a New Zealander could comprehend and predict.
The six of us from the US were in pairs of two each in the three Cessna 172s with 180 hp engines, 50 gallon tanks. My daughter Shannon and I were in ZKJNP, Deb and Charlie in ZKTHS and Karen and Don in ZKWAX. Our unbelievably experienced guides Nic, Ivan, Karlie, Sue and Matt rotated between all of us- we wondering if we had worn them out with our oohs and ahs of the gorgeous scenery and challenging flying. 

Our first flight with our guide Sue, was due East from Queenstown, the almost only straight flight of our seventeen hours. We paralleled the ragged Remarkable Mountains for a short period before flying over the very first bungie jump in the world and yes, of course, our guides had all done the jump- they were New Zealanders! I had trouble even looking down at it and was relieved to have a delightful change of thought when we spotted a Stag Elk with huge antlers in the middle of a pond. The mountains ware gorgeous and intimidating as we flew the Kawarau River through the passes into the Gibbston Valley, over the grass strip of Crowmwell, edging along Dunston lake, up the Clutha River, toward the Wanaka Basin and  over the saddle into the Lindus Valley and there was the green patch beside the Geordie Hill
Station Airport, a dirt/ gravel strip at 1400 MSL and our home for the next eight days! We shared this home with close to 14,000 sheep and 300 cattle, all managed and moved from paddock to paddock each day by  two men and 5 dogs. To watch the dogs work was an experience.

After tea and homemade scones with Devonshire Cream and raspberry jam and delightful conversation with our hosts Jo and Matt, we set out for our second flight to Mount Cook. Never have I seen such beauty. Fran Josef glacier was obscured with clouds but what did we care in a land that has
over 3,000 glaciers, more glaciers than any country in the world and it seemed we saw them all. We learned to recognize several of the more prominent mountains which gave us pride and a feeling of belonging. On the return we stopped at Mt. Cook Airport for a tour of the Conservation Museum and to watch a tear jerking film of Search and Rescue on the mountains. We continued our flight over the Cathedrals to Lake Pukaki and landed at the Pukaki Airport for fuel, then to follow the power lines to Omarama and then straight on to Geordie Hill, a gourmet meal and much talk and fun. Being in the middle of wine country, we were treated to delightful beverages every evening. Sometimes our cocktail hour was by the fireside, this being their late fall season, the warm days cooled quickly with the gorgeous sunset. One morning we woke to see the near by mountains covered with a new snow and yet by noon we were in light jackets under the brilliant blue sky. Being miles from a town, the nights were so still and the stars brilliant.
The next morning we were delayed slightly by the low clouds at Milford but then off to Mt. Aspiring and into the Milford Sound, over the seals at the mouth of the sound and the Tasman Sea and then the approach I would not have done without a New Zealander coaching me. It was spectacular even though the two helicopters on approach right ahead of us were distracting. Apparently since the advent of the helicopters, seaplanes have almost become as extinct as the flightless Mao Bird, which weighed up to 600 pounds. New Zealand was a land of birds before the Maori arrived in 1390s. This land still has very few mammals- stoat, furry possum, rats, a few domestic cats and dogs, rabbits, imported deer, elk, sheep, cows, horses and man- no coyotes, no fox, no wolves, no raccoons, no skunks and no squirrels!

Australia Trip

After a self guided walking tour of the Milford Park, we flew to Te Ana Manapouri via multitudes of saddles and  gorges following sometimes very shallow looking rivers. We flew counterclockwise in the basin surrounding Lake Quill and out the opening and over a spectacular waterfall and then passed close to Mt Irene whose crown was obscured by clouds. After tea and cake and refueling at Manapouri we returned to Geordie Hill...such a pleasant flight, although though passes, it seemed mild compared to the gorges on the way to Milford which had been below my personal minimums.

Nic was to be our guide for the trip to Dunedin, circling an active gold mind and then the brilliant blue of the Pacific to the EAST! We flew up the Dunedin Harbor and landed at a very active grass strip called Taieri. Another fun educational two hours in the settlers museum before heading to the Penguin preserve and getting to see one young one take his first dive into the sea, not to return for many months. We had a calm flight home and I missed the pass to get to Geordie Hill- ah well, 10 more miles or so and there was another pass and we didn’t miss our gourmet dinner, drinks and stories.

 The next day was one of the most adventurous- off to Dingle Burn, an uphill grass strip between granite and a huge mountain with the wind swirling in eddies. We came in up hill, had fun talking and took off down hill over the sink of Lake Hawea, through the pass to Lake Wanaka to Minaret Burn - a grass strip with two vectors at an angle- land uphill and take off on the other vector downhill. We were 127 kts ground speed on down wind and 46kts ground speed on final with 2100 rpm - it was exciting- amazing what adrenaline can do for a landing.

Then to Mandeville grass strip with a Tiger Moth sitting proudly by as we approached-so exciting. During W.W.II there were several de Havilland factories in New Zealand, building training planes for England. Although this may not have been one of the locations, the craftsman were here now and invited us to tour their work shop- beautiful wooden spars, gigs and wing pieces. They were also working on a 1933 Comet and an Ultra light with a 120hp engine from Belgium.

Australia Trip 

After tea and cake and a respite, a tour of the museum and off to Stewart Island. The flight, with life jackets on, was delightful and arriving at Ryan’s Cove I was to discover what Matt had advised- the Wiferdill was working and it was squirrly- I did a go around and even then, it was not the prettiest landing. It was all worth it just to take a walk around Oban, the town of 400 people, the huge tree ferns ( New Zealand has over two hundred varieties of ferns) and to  listen and to try to have a sight of the beautiful Tui Bird and the Bell Bird with the tinkling musical song. Both birds are great imitators and the Maori used to capture the Tui and teach it to say words in their language. Captain Matt of our boat said that the Tui birds have learned to imitate his telephone ring and it is very irritating as he doesn’t know when his phone is actually ringing now. We enjoyed a delightful dinner, night in a hotel and fishing trip for Blue Cod the next morning with Albatross accompanying our journey eagerly awaiting our throw backs. These Albatross are spectacular birds called Silly Gull, not being the largest of the Albatross they still have huge wing spans but are not so graceful. Their take off needed a lot of room and they sort of walked on when landing- I enjoyed watching them more than the fishing. We also boated over to the inlet where in 1928 the Norwegian whale chaser boats were repaired. When electricity replaced the need for whale oil, the operation ceased in 1932 leaving behind parts of old ships. While Captain Matt told us the history of these whalers we all enjoyed the customary tea and cake.

Australia Trip

Mother Nature was having herself a fun day and when we arrived back in Oban, we could not see the end of the booms of the sail boats. The decision was made to put the six of us on a ferry, Jo would motor to Invercargill to pick us up and the three guides would bring the aircraft home when the weather improved. By the time we were half way to Invercargill, the sun began to shine and we received a call to get the bus to the Invercargill airport- yea... we would fly home. In New Zealand we had one 45 minute flight that would have been 6 hours by car, another hour flight that would have been an eight hour drive, and all that driving on the wrong side of the road, dodging sheep on winding roads. The flight to Geordie Hill was
smooth in the flat farm land prior to returing to the majestic Remarkables. The weather was closing down behind us again and cooling off which made the Blue Cod dinner even more delightful.

Sunday was a day of rest and wine- the weather was so bad, we commandeered Don to be the driver and we were off to the wineries, shopping and finding a cafe for our now customary tea and cake. The people we met were delightful, the countryside lovely. Although there are very few roads, we managed to get lost so got to see more than anticipated. We crossed over two bridges that had red and black arrows on a sign prior to the entrance. Fortunately Jo had warned us that if the black was on our side we had the go on the one lane bridge or was it the red? Anyway, there were so few cars that it was like your own narrow private road.

Australia Trip

The next day was to be the highlight of everyone’s adventure - the flight to Big Bay on the Tasman Sea, north of Milford Sound. The weather was scudso, so we stayed a fair distance apart going through cannons always in mind that a 180 degree might be necessary. Matt, Don and Karen lead the way though Green Stone Saddle. The sectional charts are filled with saddles and only an experienced New Zealander really knows the terrain before and after, always expecting a wind change in direction and speed, and thus anticipating which side of the cannon to nudge up to. After an hour of grueling flying, we saw blue skies ahead and were soon on the beach. ZKWAX was there waiting for us with tea and cake! It was my first landing on a beach without tundra tires- exciting and fun! Back to Wanaka with the ceiling still low. Awaiting us was our van ride to the Matukiuki River and an exciting and very interesting ride in a Jet Boat piloted by Captain James who stopped occasional to give us a history lesson of the area including the
native flora and fauna. At one point his radio crackled to tell us to hold our position as they were filming down stream- of all people Bear Grylls- how exciting as after we were given the go ahead, we passed by the group and we all swear it was “the Bear” that waved to us! New Zealand is sparse on people, boats and has miles and miles of deserted spectacular land. If in Alaska they say a ten minute flight is a seven day walk, in New Zealand, a ten minute flight may well be a month walk. After getting drenched several
times with the Captain’s antics, swirls and reversal of course in a matter of seconds, he took us on a delightful  nature walk though one of the densest forests I have ever been in. Wow- I love New Zealand!

The fight back to Geordie was actually becoming familiar and I then took my check ride/ flight review with Nic which included 60 degree bank turns (standard procedure for NZ), wing drop stall and figure 8s around a paddock, several emergencies and flying low up a line of trees to show us how one losses complete perspective on altitude and distance from the trees, lots of fun. Then back to Geordie Hill and my last flight in ZKJNP as the passes closed down behind us. What a beautiful and exciting vacation! I will return and I will relive these days forever remembering not only the beauty but the people that have such a delightful sense of humor and a passion for adventure. Thank you Jo, Matt, Sue, Nic, Karlie, and Ivan for helping to create these wonderful memories and for sharing your lives and fabulous country with us. Also thank you Shannon, Deb, Charlie, Karen and Don for the bond of friendship that we formed.

Australia Trip

Australia Trip

Australia Trip


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