We arrived at Coffs Harbour NSW in time for a late lunch after an excellent flight leaving Tyabb Vic at 9.30am. One stop to refuel at Dubbo then on to Coffs Harbour. 3.5 hours flying and sitting in the one spot tends to make ones bottom flatten out not to mention the need to stretch the legs etc.
It was a delight to see some green areas below after the extreme drought that most of OZ had been experiencing over the past years. Rain had at last begun to bring a little relief to our poor farmers some struggling to just survive. My hat goes off to those living off the land and for their passion that keeps them going.
It was warm and with little patches of cloud when the group took to the skies with Tony and Jan in TSJ leading the way.
The water below was calm and that was all that was below until we spotted Lord Howe Island some two and a half hours and 600 kilometres east of the OZ mainland.
Land and the sight of Balls Pyramid, the world’s tallest volcanic stack draped in haze jutting up out of the ocean ahead was a spectacular sight and even more impressive was the crescent shaped Lord Howe Island. We flew around its perimeter before landing to refuel and clear Australia through customs, immigration and quarantine.
Coffs Harbour was to be our stepping off point, leaving Australia behind and taking off across the Tasman Sea commonly referred to as “The Ditch” and onto New Zealand where our ICS Safari was to begin.
We had spent a couple of days at Coffs, sightseeing and generally grouping the five Comanche aircraft with their nine Aussies flyers together. Three twins and two single Comanche’s glistened in the early morning as the sun rose up over the wings all looking very impressive especially as some had new paint jobs not leaving out what had been done to the engines etc.
The windsocks were hardly moving as the locals let us know just how fortunate we were as the winds are very unpredictable and at times at gale force. One of our pilots was either delighted with the island or maybe just happy to be on firm ground as after leaping from his aircraft he kissed the ground. After all this was the first time the ICS had flown as a group over so much water. Warm and clear for us and after a quick refuel along with a light box lunch we were once again in the air and heading across “The Ditch” with Norfolk Island our next stop for the night.
By this time Tony had become our “mother hen” and we were her chicks all reporting in at regular intervals. That “It’s good to be alive” feeling was with us all with the freedom of the skies in perfect flying conditions and all experiencing the feeling that after nearly twelve months of preparation we were finally on our way leaving the Australian mainland behind for fifteen days.
The flight from Lord Howe Is to Norfolk Island took about 3 hrs was once again in clear skies making Norfolk stand out with approx 50 Nm to run. Upon landing we were marshalled into a small area on the grassed area away from the traffic and commercial aircraft that service the island regularly.
We were now under New Zealand airspace control, Norfolk Is customs, immigration and quarantine control where each aircraft was sprayed with its occupants still on board for who knows what.
It reminded me of the days when Qantas and the like would have quarantine spray everyone and everything while remaining in their seats before being allowed to disembark. Still the same feeling came over me that I must have some really bad bug hiding in the folds of my clothing. I had to push that thought away as I was to find out there was quite a bit more of that to come as we entered into NZ and on our return to OZ later.
Norfolk Island is located 1,610 km ENE of Sydney with a total land area of 3,455 ha.
Its 1,800 residents are made up of 40% Norfolk Islanders, 35% Australian and 25% New Zealanders.
Services are all on hand with many restaurants and a variety of places to stay.
We had chosen on the internet some six months prior to stay at the Hibiscus Resort which happened to be a few kms out of town. Not to worry with every room comes a car so getting around was no problem as the boys drove out to do a bit of sightseeing before catching up at the local bowling club for a meet and greet followed by dinner.
A couple of aircraft from the New Zealand Comanche group had flown to Norfolk Is to welcome us in and to escort us onto New Zealand the following day.
It wasn’t long before we were all noisily exchanging stories over a pre dinner drink.
Another early morning rise in the dark but by the time we had our breakfast and made our way out to the airfield it was once again warm & clear.
A Malibu with Brent and Lyn Ferguson led the way out followed by Alan Breen and Julie South in their Twin Comanche with John Van Bladeren from the US.
Both aircraft from the New Zealand group had flown over to Norfolk Is to give us an escort into New Zealand.
The weather got increasingly overcast as we rounded the top of New Zealand’s North Island.
The glimpses we caught off the coastline gave us a small insight into what this magnificent Island was about to share with us. Both rugged and perhaps unforgiving if caught out all in a picturesque way one after another we were led around the top and proceeded down the eastern coast to the Bay of Islands and Kerikeri.
More spraying of aircrafts, customs and immigration before being free to catch up with Barry and Sandra Payne waiting with scones and afternoon tea.
Most refuelled their aircrafts before boarding the bus with a short ride to the Copthorne Hotel Resort Bay of Islands and our beds for the night.
Not long to settle in before we all wandered down to the Paihia wharf in front of the hotel for a short ferry ride to Russell in the Bay of Islands.
Russell is today a small quiet town, mainly involved in tourism. Formally known as Kororareka this town has a tempestuous history mainly populated by Maoris until European whalers and later convicts migrated to the area. Today our escorted mini bus tour took us to Flagstaff Hill for a spectacular view back over the township.
We were able to see many of the historical buildings including Pompallier House, Christ Church and the very grand houses of Clendon House and Ford Homestead.
As evening approached we dined at Kamakura waterfront restaurant.
Great choice of dining made by Alan and Julie who had recently visited Russell whilst on their honeymoon.
Another evening of meet, greet and eat as by this time our numbers had swelled to 18 including David and Jenny Buttle who had flown out from the United Kingdom.
The spectacular sunset turned into darkness as we made our way back to the wharf and our short ferry ride back to our hotel and a well earned night of sleep.
Today promised to be a very full and exciting day and no one was disappointed exploring as small part of far north New Zealand.
It started with a full buffet breakfast in the brassiere of the hotel. We were also joined by the Sheppards and the Nunns who had flown in overnight from the United Kingdom.
Good food and good coffee, makes for a really good start for any day. By 7.25am we had all boarded our coach for a Cape Reinga, Ninety Mile Beach day trip.
The first part of our drive was rather quiet as I suspect everyone was still waking up, but as the morning progressed the noise of chatter rose.
Our first stop was at the Purketi Kauri forest, with a walk along the boardwalk past 1000 year old Kauri trees and native bush. The early morning brings with it fresh moist and crisp smells as we are dwarfed by some of these magnificent trees most of which will be still standing when we are not.
Morning tea was available a few kilometres down the road at Taipa Beach Resort and this time the smells were of fresh hot coffee.
I learnt something about drinking coffee in New ZeaIand.
Did you know New Zealanders must really need their coffee fix as you can have it served in a bowl?
I could relate to this!
In the paddocks there were signs of a bulldozer at work and our driver told us that Kauri logs were being dug up after many years of laying under the soil. These aged logs are then made into exquisite furniture. Avocado plantations are dotted along the landscape with the ever present waratah and protea bushes out in full bloom.
Our journey took us to Cape Reinga Lighthouse where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean collide causing the seas to give a boiling appearance.
We all took the advantage for a few good photo shots.
A BBQ lunch followed at Houhora before again back on the coach and onto some sand boarding down the massive sand slopes of Te Paki Stream.
The sand was unbelievably hot and whilst Alan was trying to help me he lost his wallet in the sand. Thankfully someone had found it and all was well albeit sand in every orifice for some.
The coach took us onto and along the Ninety Mile beach where we collected pipis and felt the talcum powder like sand between our toes.
On our drive back we visited a Kauri Tree shop and saw some larger than life furniture made from even larger Kauri timber. Our trip back was again rather quiet this time due to our day of discovering this glorious part of northern New Zealand.
Dinner was back at our Bay of Islands hotel followed by a great nights rest dreaming of what romantic adventures were in store for tomorrow, being Valentine’s Day.
Since we are ‘down under’ I suppose this is written by one from ‘up over’ – but I haven’t fallen off yet!
The day was spectacular and memorable in so many ways.
It began fairly normally as we boarded the bus and left the hotel. We made a slight diversion to see the Stone House in Kerikeri – at 1822 the oldest building in New Zealand (windows faced with stone from Sydney so appropriate for this safari!) and set off for the airport.
Partway up the hill, on double white lines there was a loud bang and a smell of smoke from the innards of the vehicle.
We inched up the hill to pull off and all the men went into technical mode, looking underneath and nodding! It was decided that it was a hose in the compressor for the pneumatic suspension system.
Pilots went on in the other bus and the rest of us repaired to a convenient café/bar just across the road to wait. No great inconvenience as it was very pleasant!
Eventually we all got to the airport and loaded up. David and I flew in the Malibu and led the field. At first it was overcast and a bit murky (just like British VFR) but after Little Barrier Island it cleared and we landed happily at Pauanui Beach, a pretty grass strip. BUT as we were taxiing to a parking place there was a big jolt and progress was suddenly halted.
The nose wheel had gone into an area of uncompacted sand and had collapsed. With many people helping, the nose was lifted and the gear extended into position. It was strapped into the down position and Linda and Brent now have to deal with the insurance people again and get it sorted. Sadly a very short Safari for them.
We all adjourned to the Chocolate Bagel for lunch and discussion and Alan had to work the logistics of luggage and passenger carrying all over again.
Thanks to Julie’s kindness in transferring to another plane, David and I joined Alan and JVB.
The weather had improved dramatically and we had the flight of a life time seeing the active volcanic White Island, the text book eroding pillars of larva in the chasm on Mount Tarawera. and the amazingly coloured Waiotapu Lakes (and smelt the sulphur!).
We approached Taupo airport, flying over the geothermal plant and the shrimp farm and had a great view of the lake in front of us – as large as Singapore, apparently.
When we landed we found we had added entertainment
– it was a parachute jumping area. Four very brave members immediately signed up: Irene, Ian, Sandra and Tony – they were on the last drop of the day. I do so admire their courage! The grins on landing showed just how much they had enjoyed it.
Back at the hotel, we gathered around the pool and enjoyed great Barbeque food – until it began to rain. We then retreated indoors. After dessert, John Funnel amazed us with two talks – one about a rescue flight he made in a helicopter from Taupo to Campbell Island to retrieve a man whose arm had been bitten off by a
shark. It was a long and difficult mission, that made sound simple! After that amazing exploit he then told us about the brain tumour he had had and the operation he had undergone to have it removed. Anyone interested in their fellow man would admire his courage in facing such an operation.
We had been talking all day of events occurring in threes ( and wondering whether returning for life jackets having taken off from Kerikeri or switching the spot tracker on to
emergency mode counted) but sadly not. June was taken ill just at the end of John’s talk, needing first the help of our
Comanche doctors and then an ambulance to take her to hospital.
I am happy to say (although not my”day”) she was back with us the
next day. Jenny Buttle.UK
Waking up in Taupo to an overcast sky was not going to stop our day of exploring this wonderful central part of the North Island of New Zealand. Taupo is a town on the shore of Lake Taupo which discharges to the Waikato River which in turn flows over one of New Zealand’s most
spectacular waterfalls, Huka Falls. Huka Falls was to be one of the places on our list for that day. John supplied us all with plastic ponchos in a variety of bright colours and pink did look cute on some of the guys but I guess the slight drizzle of rain prevented any vanity. The bus stopped first at the mighty river where we all hung out over the bridge rail and marvelled at the sheer power of the water as it roared down the Waikato River as part of the Aratiatia Dam.project.
Next stop was further down the Waikato River where we boarded a covered in launch which cruised down river passing through strong currents in crystal clear water far too cold for anything but viewing. As we rounded a bend in the river we could hear before we could see, the Huka Falls and although from our position we could only see the last of the three waterfalls that make up the Huka Falls the 11 metre drop flowed over at 300 litres per second.
A jet boat full of intrepid tourists went in close causing I dare say a few passengers to get very wet. We remained high and fairly dry but for the spray that drifted our way. Most of our group stayed under cover where we were given a gourmet box lunch to consume along the way. I for one love it when food is presented this way as I like to trade off something and get back my choices
Lunch finished as the cruiser pulled up to the wharf and with the
weather still threatening we all scuttled off and into the Huka Prawn Park. Built as a tourist park we were taken
through the Nursery
and Hatchery where more
than one billion babies are born each year. In the Hatchery we were able to
interact and hand feed baby prawns feeling the baby prawns
suck up fish food from our
hands. A species of giant
Malaysian River Prawn have been chosen to breed with the females spawning at
least five times a year.
Outside the hatchery both Barry and Ojars proved that you are never too young to challenge each other on the cycle water feature. Something about who can peddle the hardest to make the water spout higher!!
After soaking our feet in the Geothermal Foot Bath it was time to get back on the bus. Alas no prawns for us to eat.
Back on the bus we climbed up to view the Wairakei Geothermal Power Station. In 1958 this station was commissioned and was only the second of its kind in the world. All this power coming from under our very feet and for free and all it needs is to be captured. With careful management of the resource Wairakei will continue to operate well into the next millennium. We take the time for a group photo with the steam pouring out the release pipes as the backdrop.
Around the whole area of Taupo far more than I can imagine, much is going on, unseen, under the ground and it takes a visit to the Volcanic Activity Centre to
,reveal its vastness and sheer power.
“WEW” What a great day! But it was not finished as after a quick freshen up back at the hotel we were once again back on board the bus and off to the Wairakei Terraces.
We arrived late in the afternoon where one on our tour was chosen as
our leader to be led into the Marae. The Marae is central to Maori culture,
heritage, lifestyle, customs and rituals. A single warrior with eyes flashing
and contorted facial features offers his welcome where we all enter the Marea. The
welcome involves everyone who in turn is greeted the Maori way of pressing
noses in friendship.
We were guided to the new Wairakei Terraces and a living Maori Village through impressive carved features and the “Te Kiri o Hinekai” steam pool famous for its therapeutic and healing powers. We were led to venue where a meal had been prepared and cooked in a traditional ground oven
( Hangi). During dinner we experienced something special, as the evening was brought to a dramatic climax with a performance of song and, dance. Dressed in traditional costume, singing beautiful waiata and performing defiant Haka, the artists unique and emotional performance brought us delight, leaving us with an experience that will not easily be forgotten. The performers were only too happy to share their obvious pride and passion for their heritage and culture
Sleep came easy after a great day. Thanks to all those who organised this wonderful day giving us a little insight into the history and geographics both above and beneath the central part of the North Island.
Irene Lawson MMN
instead Mud at Taupo .
1000 hrs: hopeful departure to airport, loading of aircraft and passengers. Lead aircraft headed to threshold of 17, turned around to start take-off roll, aborted attempt.
Back to the terminal to coffee, snacks etc before another attempt at 1300 hrs. Lead aircraft took off this time, headed to southern end of lake, which was visible about then at times, turned around and advised TSJ that visibility was too poor especially for twins to proceed due to heavy rain showers.
Final decision taken to abort travel arrangements totally, return to Suncourt Motel for another early morning try next day after some local touring and a hot meal. John F continues to be the perfect host, along with his staff and his facility.
we drive to Craters of the Moon for a walk around the steaming landscape
(Rotorua without the sulphur smell), Manfred declares he is “ready to go all
the way”, with whom we were not quite sure!
Tony vdS had earlier been heard to question Jan about the definition of a fumarole – a hole emitting steam and noxious gases. Could he possibly have been referring to her?
June N passed her fitness test by being the only one to walk up the lookout loop to get an overview of the craters, while we waited for the shoppers to finish their delayed circuit.
Meanwhile Sandra P and Vivien P enjoyed a session of pampering, massage and ?????
Back to Suncourt for a hot meal and an early night for (hopefully) a 6 am departure to airport.
Tony & Jan Vanderspek
6.00am. We were all assembled in the foyer of the hotel at Taupo. . Ron had fallen in the shower but was not being held back. With at least four doctors in our group he was assured a day out with the rest would be fine.
A meeting over coffee for pilots and whoever else wanted to have a say on whether to fly down to the South Island. No! was the unanimous decision. We all would spend another day in this delightful part of New Zealand.
We all re-checked in again, most getting the same rooms. A few of the girls took advantage of the time and attended to their laundry. Another coffee sounded better for me.
9.00am. John, Alan and Julie had made some quick changes in plans and in no time we were on board a large coach and heading off to what became a delightful day of sightseeing around the Eastern Coast of North Island.
We arrived at the Waitomo Caves mid morning. Our guided tour took us deep in the spectacular Glowworm Cave with its majestic and ornate cave decorations. The deep limestone shaft known as the Tomo and the equally majestic Cathedral cavern where the acoustics were put to a test with June’s fine voice.
With the darkness lit only from the glow of thousands of glowworms we boarded small boats for a trip through the Glowworm Grotto. Spectacular and very calming it even reminded me of a scene from Phantom of the Opera.
a short distance to the Kiwi House and Native bird park. A talk was given on
their native bird the “Kiwi” and I for one had not seen a real life Kiwi before
albeit not in the wild. We all ambled along a winding path viewing many of the
other native birds and plants. A nice souvenir shop was located at the exit gates
and as Kiwi House is a non profit organisation we made little purchases making
it a win for all.
Our coach seemed to take quite a while to return us back and while most dozed off others caught up on a little chatter. Sandra was taking notes on who did what and where. We will all be quizzed later!
That evening we were treated to a cruise on Lake Taupo. Lake Taupo lies in a caldera created by a volcanic eruption some 25 thousand year ago and is the largest surface lake in New Zealand. We cruised on, nibbling and drinking on some pre dinner refreshments. The lake is stocked with Brown and Rainbow trout and before long David B, David S, Manfred and Jan had caught quite a feed. With Sandra at the helm how could we go wrong! Along the way as dusk was closing in we sighted some rock carvings named Ngatoroirangi created in Mine Bay in 1979 by Matahi
Whakataka-Brightwell. According to Maori legend these 10 metre high carvings are intended to protect Lake Taupo from volcanic activities underneath. I must say the legend was working while we were there anyway. Dinner on board was fresh fish BBQ’d with salads. Yum!
Weary from our day out many took the advantage with an early night sleep.
Great day in wonderful company and flying waited for another day!.
Irene Lawson MMN
Another dull morning and the decision not to fly was once again made. Nobody seemed to mind too much as Alan and Julie made some quick changes and by mid morning we were off in a coach for a most delightful impromptu day on the East Coast of the North Island of New Zealand.
A visit to the Crab Farm Winery for some fine wine tasting with some alfresco style dining that got everyone in the mood for the rest of the
A few purchased from their sampling while others choose to drink their favourites over lunch . Didn’t see any crabs but the food was delicious.
Our arrival into Napier was challenging for our coach driver and equally frustrating for Alan giving directions but eventually we pulled up and piled out for a real step back in time. Napier is a port city in Hawkes Bay and is the largest cross bred wool producing area in the Southern Hemisphere along with growers of apples, pears and stone fruits. The people of Napier have taken their 1930’s built city buildings and restored them into the most exquisite and visited “Art Deco” city it is today. It is not only the visitors that enjoy this step
back in time but many of the locals dress in the elegance of the 30’s era. You could only imagine what the annual weekend festival would bring out! We enjoyed our
guided tour wandering in and out of many of the buildings being
hurried along by a very passionate and proud guide and rightfully so.
Late afternoon travelling back to Taupo and our hotel it was rather quiet as many took advantage of a “nanny nap”. The naughty boys in
the back were not so quiet with Jim introducing Barry into his world of mad culture, reading a poem from the works of John O’Brien. Barry has given us his rendition as follows on of “ The Boree Log” altering to suit his impression of this day. (ref. below)
With a free evening we scattered ourselves around this lakeside town for dinner. We chose to eat at a Thai restaurant where we were
fussed over and given a delightful meal.
Thanks to John Alan and Julie for organizing such a wonderful, diverse and exciting day.
“The tour will be rooned,” said someone, In an accent most forlorn,
Outside the Suncourt Hotel, One misty Taupo morn.
The tribe all stood about, Plastic raincoats to the ears,
And talked of IFR and getting out, As it had done for years.
“Weather’s looking crook,” said Alan Breen “Bedad, its cruk, me lad,
For never since this tour began, Has a forecast looked so bad.”
“It’s not a day to fly, all right,” said me Julie, With which astute remark
She set upon a chauffeured coach And ordered all embark.
And so around the chorus ran “We’re keeping dry, all right.”
“The tour will be rooned,” said someone, “Before this day turns night.”
The tribe were off to have some fun, And save the day delayed,
From Taupo to the Napier sun, They’re singing, not dismayed.
“Have you heard of Hanrahan,” Jim said, “And all the vats are dry.”
The tribe scratched its head, And gazed around the sky.
And so it was they all set down, Upon the Crab to drink,
“The tour will be rooned,” said someone, “If
the bubbly isn’t pink.”
A heavy silence seemed to steal, On all at this remark,
And each sampled the vintners’ deal, Instead of chewing bark.
“We like a red instead, we do,” Tony observed at last;
But Manfred “maintained” he needed two To put the danger past.
Around the table all did dine; And into the afternoon
Quaffing pleasant vintage wine, And singing a tribal tune.
“Its time to go,” said Julie once more, “We’re off to the rebuilt town,
There’s no time for another pour,” And at Napier we all set down.
At every turn art-deco showed, And with a guided talk on top;
“The tour will be rooned,” said someone, “If this walking doesn’t stop.”
And stop it did on Julie’s command, And by road again once more; Soon tribal heads were nodding, And some began to snore.
“Tomorrow’s weather looks better,” said Alan As the Suncourt came into sight,
And the smiles could be seen on every face, At the thought of that delight.
“Comanches will be off for sure, me men, They will without a doubt.”
“The tour will be rooned,” said someone, “Before the sun comes out.”
A Barry Payne rendition.
Friday 19th February 2010. Lake Taupo to Queenstown via Omaka, Omarama.
any luck we would catch up with our initial trip plans across the Canterbury Plains and in to the mountains of the South Island.
Once our trusty leader Alan reached the summit view of Mt Ruapehu (great views, the crater lake seen by most), it became apparent that a diversion to the west via New Plymouth would be needed to skirt the final curtain of the weather system which had dogged our previous 3 days.
Pressing on, some pilots appeared to have difficulty hearing/following directions towards the coastal areas, but a helpful controller at NP tower soon had everybody on track safely south towards Mt Taranaki/Egmont – yet another volcanic peak to marvel at and navigate by!
that is, except Barry P and Sandra, with Ron N on board – Barry’s plane
developed an electrical fault at start-up which required some emergency
maintenance and caused disrupted plans for 3 of our travellers. Repairs took
longer than anticipated, so Sandra and Jan vdS missed out on their girlie day
in Queenstown, Barry missed out on the day at Mandeville, and Ron N was quickly
transferred to a commercial flight to Queenstown via Rotorua so he could keep
Approaching Whanganui, the cloud base was even lower, but safely navigable along the coastal fringe towards Oahu Point and our crossing of Cook Strait. Clearing skies greeted our arrival into Tory Channel and Queen Charlotte Sound, down to Picton, over the range to the south of the Marlborough Sounds and on to Omaka and the Aviation Heritage Museum. After an interesting open field landing, the first for most of the Aussie pilots, one of whom admitted to feeling “mushy” ailerons during his approach, we re-fuelled both ourselves and our aircraft before a very enthralling museum tour. The museum presented an extremely well designed array of dioramas of the early days of flight with special emphasis on the flying exploits recorded during WW1, and memorabilia of regional pilots and others involved in early aviation. Both pilots and passengers all enjoyed the visit there, and marvelled at the ingenuity of those early aviators.
Time was pressing again, so we headed south past Kaikoura and the Canterbury plans inland from Christchurch, which city was clearly visible across the flat terrain to our eastern side, while the Alpine ranges slowly grew ever higher on our western flank. Inland from Timaru, we turned westward and climbed over Burke’s Pass keeping the peak of Mt Cook, now clearly evident, to our right as we headed for Omarama, and a final briefing for the approach to Queenstown. By this time, the weather was quite perfect, and a fascinating summer flight past the ski-fields of Treble Cone and Cardrona ensued after passing Wanaka.
Finally, at around 6:30 pm, just after the Control Tower closed, we entered the Queenstown zone and landed safely, to be greeted by Ron N after his enforced commercial flight from Rotorua, carrying the security card belonging to the Airport Manager so we could safely exit the airport, meet our transport and head for the Copthorne Hotel, our home for the next 2 nights.
Jan & Tony.Vanderspek TSJ
Saturday 20th February 2010 Mandeville
Saturday 20 February was a beautiful day in Queenstown. Some took a bus to the coast to enjoy the scenery in on the fjords. I was part of the group that flew to Mandeville Airport in Gore, New Zealand. There were 4 planes which made the 30 minute flight.
While the weather was good, the winds were a little challenging, but the Comanches were up to the task. Mandeville is a nice grass strip and is the home of Croydon Aircraft Company which rebuilds old DeHavilland aircraft. We were fortunate in our timing that the field was having an open house and a fly-in of many of the old craft.
I flew in with Alan Breen in ZK-DOK. We landed and they even had a follow me in truck. We parked and started walking around. There were many interesting planes at the open house. Some of the planes we saw include, Tiger Moths, a twin engine DH 90 Dragon Fly, one of only two flying anywhere in the world, Percival Proctor and the DH89 Rapide, an old twin engine transport plane. Alan, Jim Peters, David Buttle and Ojars Boladis bought a ride in the plane. You can see the happy faces below.
The Croydon hangar was open. They were the midst of rebuilding some old planes, one of which is a replica DH88 Comet. They were also in the midst of rebuilding a Beechcraft Stagger Wing. It looked beautiful.
Besides the old planes, they had some old engines and tractors which dated back to the early 1900’s . A picnic lunch was supplied topped of a fantastic day. It was a step back in time.
John Van Bladeren USA
Today was meant to be the “free” day where we could all choose our own way to spend the day, knowing we hadn’t missed out on the best the Queenstown Lakes District had to offer…
Sadly, owing to the fact we were in catch-up mode from the grounding weather of Taupo, that wasn’t how today eventuated…
Some had to choose between visiting Mandeville, going to the Milford Sounds or tasting the local sights of Queenstown town. Accordingly, two scribes have been allocated to today – John Van Bladeren and Julie South:
both from ZK-DOK.
Julie, accompanied by Irene, Ian, Jenny, Ann and June got up at the crack of dawn to join the tour party headed for Milford Sounds. Little did we realise we’d be in the minority as far as ethnicity went.
The 12-hour day started and finished at the Copthorne Queenstown Hotel taking in Te Anau and a few other lesser tourist towns en route to Milford Sound in the Fiordland District of the South Island.
Unfortunately, Mitre Peak’s lopsided mountain top was shrouded in low cloud (Milford Sound airport was accordingly closed for business this day), but that didn’t stop the majestic experience that can only be had in one of the world’s most renown fiords.
One of my memories is the sheer size of everything to do with the fiords. Not much has changed since someone famous once said in 1883 “…for thousands of feet upwards the eye
looks upon straight cut rocky frontages, not worn smooth by time, or by wind or water, but as sharply defined and as fresh looking in all respects as if riven asunder but yesterday by the stupendous wedges of Titanic Masons.“
Local legend has it that the Maori were the first to attribute the creation of the fiords to a “titanic mason”, Tute Rakiwhanoa [Too-tey Rack-ee-phan-o’er] who hued out the steep sided valleys with keen edged adzes.
Milford is by far the best known of all of NZ fiords and the only one that can be accessed by road. It is approximately 16km from the head of the fiord to the open sea, passing magnificent waterfalls, sandy bays and don’t-give-a-damn sleeping seals.
The 2010 ANZ Safari visitors enjoyed our day. We got to witness one tourist ignoring all western bad-luck beliefs by protecting herself from harmful UV rays and hiding under her umbrella inside the bus! Irene
took a photo; it was (to us) so unbelievable.
… Irene asking one fellow tourist to drive her camera and take our group photo: the (non English speaking) woman struggled to press the shutter button and Irene was required (a couple of times) to leave our huddle, show her what to do and then return to huddle for the photo. Wind-milling her arms (presumably so the woman would realise that “then” wasn’t the ideal time to press the shutter) Irene kept shouting “… wait for me! Wait for me!…” as she ran to join us
… One woman burying her cherry stones (well, we think that’s what she was doing) in a tissue in extremely rocky ground inland of the Homer Tunnel. How she ever thought a
warm-climate-loving cherry tree would grow in alpine conditions was beyond us!
… People taking photos (Ian and Irene included) of the inside of the Homer Tunnel – a one-way tunnel with no lights… Hmmmm…
… The buffet lunch aboard the Milford Sounds sightseeing boat that was a bit like participating in a rugby scrum…
… Ann very kindly rubbing me down with heavy-duty insect repellant because it stripped my nail-polish… nobody would’ve guessed we’ve only known each other a week!…
… Jenny waking her immediate neighbours up on the bus with her “thwack!” as she gallantly killed the stinging insect that managed to withstand the heavy-duty anti-insect-stuff and make its way down the back of my shirt. It stung me twice, and then flew away to its death against the window with Jenny’s notebook! Irene awoke with quite a start… it was one of those “you had to be there” moments.
Oh! We also crossed the 45o latitude south line
– whatever significance that has! Something to do with this only being possible in one or two places on earth on land…? I guess mariners (or even pilots!) would appreciate that more than IJ
Words are inadequate in attempting to explain the absolute size of the fiords… at one point I thought I saw a model boat in one of the bays; I scanned the shoreline, in vain, looking for someone working the remote controls… it wasn’t until our boat tracked alongside that I realised this “model” boat was in fact the same size as our three or four decked boat!
This happened a few times such is the height, depth and width of the Milford Sounds. You really have to be there to appreciate the huge distortion in perspective from “normal” size to “gigantic” size.
On arriving back at our hotel, we briefly caught up with a glowing Jan (who’d spent a few hours being pampered by one of Queenstown’s finest beauticians) and the guys who were still on a high from their Mandeville visit, before dinner.
Julie South DOK
Sunday 21ST FEBUARY 2010
QUEENSTOWN TO HOKITIKA HOKITIKA TO KARAMEA
Ron & June — Ojars Balodis (OJ) Ann — Tony & Jan
David — Ian & Irene
John VB — Jim P David & Jenny — Alan & Julie
Luggage – Jim B & Manfred
The weather is looking fair and we are gathering in the hotel lobby all looking forward to the day’s flying.
At the airfield the pilots have their last briefing before taking off. David Buttle is very relaxed and looking skyward in anticipation.
The aircraft are all fuelled up and ready to go.
I am with Tony and Jan today and looking forward to the flight in TSJ. Tony pilot, Jan, navigator/map reader & photographer.
David is flying with Ian and Irene in MMN
10-15 Take-off, goodbye to Queenstown, and hello to spectacular scenery over the mountains to Mount Cook.
The flight from Queenstown to Hokitika is fantastic, climbing up to 12,000ft the views of Mount Cook and Fox Glacier are
stunning and the weather is perfect, as we come down through a bit
of low broken cloud we are over the coastline, it is just beautiful, then we
are on our way up the coast to Hokitika for lunch.
1-40 We land in Hokitika and everybody is very happy, great flight and nice airfield, the transport is waiting to take us into town where we have 2hrs to do our own thing, shopping, lunch etc.. We have lunch in the Clock Tower café with Ian and Irene, Alan and Julie. The, usual chatting going on around the table and many stories and mischiefances people had got up to. It’s best to say what happens on the trip stays on the trip.
John and Chrissy arrive with Brent and Lynne to join us for lunch, it’s good to see them again.
Once lunch is over we make our way into the Jade factory, which is attached to the café. Many purchases are made, but they have to be bought as gifts as it is said to be unlucky to buy Jade for yourself, (husbands queuing at the checkout in an orderly fashion) very good folklore, must have been thought up by a woman.
2-10 We all gather at an earlier appointed place to await transport to take us back to the airfield for the last leg of the day’s flying.
3-00 Take off and head for Karamea, the symbol of a duck on the map causes a bit of fun when it is misinterpreted as a duck shooting area instead of a conservation area and is relayed to the rest of the party, OJ comments that he has 2 British ducks on board, several quacks are heard over the radio!!
It is a 35min flight along the coast and as we land we are very pleased to see Barry and Sandra have had their airplane repaired and have rejoined the party Everybody is in good spirits
having had a great day’s flying,
Manfred says it is his first time up to 12000ft and Jim says it is the most enjoyable flight of his Comanche life. How good is that coming from 2 very experienced Comanche pilots !!!
Barry is acting taxi driver, waiting to take us to Last Resort Hotel, where on arrival some have beer and cold drinks, others of a more refined nature have afternoon tea served in china tea- cups that had belonged to the host’s mother.
After a brief rest and showers, we dress for party night, as this is going to be the last night we will all be together.
David B and Ron kept up the European tradition of wearing their Comanche ties on the party night, David S is very embarrassed as his wife has forgotten his tie!!!!
The dinner is very generous and delicious.
Conversations around the tables are varied, the flying today,
Sandra doing her solo and PPL, and how much we are all enjoying
the safari and the very different places
we are visiting.
There is a country blues band playing and the towns people are here enjoying the singing and dancing as well, so a good night is being had by all.
Of course there are always the party tricks and on our table we have hanging the spoon on your nose!! Irene, Ian, June and David S all enjoying giving that a try Unfortunately only David being successful, and Irene showing us her thumb trick but only she and Ian were able to do it.
After dinner Ian thanks Tony, Alan, Julie, Barry, Sandra, John and Chrissie for all their hard work organizing the trips as well as the flying. Also when the weather stopped us for a couple of days plan B seemed to fall effortlessly into place, but we know that there has been a lot of hard work and re-organizing going on to make sure we all have a good time and see as much of New Zealand as is possible.
Barry judges the best approach and landing into Karamea.
The Best Twin is Jim P. with a well-judged touchdown and the Best Single is OJ with touchdown and turn off, very nice.
Ian presents Barry and Alan with Aussie Akubra Bushman’s Hats and Sandra and Julie with an Aborigine artwork printed scarf each, on behalf of us all in appreciation for their hard work. John F also received a Cattleman’s hat, which will be passed on to him as he is not present this evening.
Barry expresses his thanks on behalf of everybody and Alan says that however much he has enjoyed it he would like a 3year break before organizing another safari !!
Manfred expresses his thanks to Ian, Tribe Chief for all his hard organizational skills needed to make it all happen.
David B thanks the organizers, pilots and their other halves on behalf of us pommes and JVB, for their hospitality and sharing their airplanes with us which has enabled us to be able to see as much of Godzone’s fantastic scenery, in David’s words the organization has been magnificent
THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
Barry finishes off with the instructions for Mondays flying back to Kerikeri.
The evening ends with a touch of sadness that the safari is coming to an end but still with great expectation of a fantastic days flying back to Kerikeri tomorrow.
Ann Sheppard UK.
Early rise after a super party evening to say good-bye to Brent and Lynne who had driven over from Nelson to see us. We were pleased to hear that the problems with the Malibu were well on the way to being solved.
Hostess Kate kept up the hard work and produced a huge Full English Breakfast to send us on our way.
Barry and Sandra had managed to join us after solving their electrical problem and Barry became duty Van Driver for all the luggage back and forth to the airfield. Everyone else enjoyed the walk past gardens full of hydrangeas, lilies and flowering shrubs. Apparently the area around Karamea is a Nature Reserve with dairy farms and Jersey cattle.
This was where we said goodbye to Barry and Sandra who had done a great job arranging this venue for us and it was good that they had been able to catch up with us in Karamea.
Irene did her final distribution of the Europeans and JvB in the a/c,
Jim and John
led off in perfect flying weather to New Plymouth via Cape Far and Farewell
Spit ( love the name) arriving around mid-day.
Things got interesting when Ian in MMN, having landed, was told by the Tower to go to the end of the
runway and stay there, as OIB was already calling Final.
OIB was offered the grass r/w parallel to the hard and the offer was accepted although the bit about displaced threshold caused a comment from the Tower about landing short, but all was well and safe.
The lunch supplied by New Plymouth was very impressive and tasty three different pies, salads, the lot! The small museum of posters of New Zealand Wartime Pilots made very interesting reading.
Not surprisingly most of them were originally farmers.
After lunch Jim and John led us out again and off up the coast to Kerikeri over turquoise sea with the opportunity for legal low flying. back to the Copthorne Hotel Bay of Islands for a final get-together dinner and very jolly evening.
.Lars and his wife Allison who we last saw in Helsinki and now live in New Zealand were able to join us for this last meal.
After lots of laughter (Irene, hope you are getting plenty of wear out of your Red T-shirt) we retired ready for an early breakfast, so we could say farewell to all our friends in the morning
Once again our thanks to all who organised, modified and executed all the arrangements and made the whole trip run smoothly.
Ron and June
That evening we spent outdoors at Annabella’s and dined on local dishes. The balmy night air along with the champagne and wine and jovial company made our last night with all the Aussies very pleasant indeed.
Jim B., Manfred and Jim P left us this morning to continue on to Australia. We heard from them both late in the afternoon, after their flight back to the mainland. They had encounted it a little rough especially after refuelling at Lord Howe Island.
Our group was down to three aircraft as we set out to
explore Norfolk Island on land. Taking advantage of the vehicles that had come
with the accommodation we set out first to Kingston Pier and the penal ruins,
Emily Bay, the headland and Ball Bay aptly named with hundreds of round black
boulders of various sizes hugging the coastline inlet.
The scenery is magnificent and everywhere you look it presents itself a delight for any keen photographer professional or otherwise. As late afternoon took a hold Jan and I thought we would do a little shopping but alas shop shut all day on Wednesdays. Both Ian and Tony had gone back to Kingston to make booking for our tours the following day taking the time to drive around the back of the airfield and onto the coast at Rocky Point Reserve. Following the coastline they turned inland at Anson Bay to Mt Pitt (320mtr) giving them a full view
across the island. Jan and I spent time at the coffee shop pondering over what we could have bought had the shops been open and later at an artifacts display at a local hall.
As late afternoon rolled on we entered the Museum Theatre for the “ Trial of the Fifteen” , a re-enactment from Norfolk Isand tumultuous past. The performance was excellent as one after another fifteen charactures faced the judge. The unique part was that only five actors were involved and with the judge being one the remaining four made quick changes as they were brought each character to trial The actors joined us for sherry at the end of the performance
Later that evening we dined at Josephine’s and again out on the balcony in the warm night air. Ojars had gone off exploring for himself and I am sure enjoying the islands ever unfolding beauty.
We had managed to shop for some breakfast provisions to start the day and it wasn’t long before we off again driving to Kingston with its historic sites, convict buildings etc. Our tour began with Margaret Christian, a local historian with a wealth of knowledge on the island taking us through homes in Quality Row built around 1844. One such restored Georgian architecture designed house was originally built as a home for the foreman and his family. The magnificent home has many local materials such as calcarenite from the reef and the majestic Norfolk Pine. There were grander homes for commandants where people live today all beautifully restored. Margaret’s passion for the area showed as she took us into the Commissariat Store which now holds artefacts and pieces from the first settlement. It is being tastefully restored and only the bottom floors are used today as a museum and a church. We had morning tea in the Reo
cafe once the Royal Engineer’s office. All in all a good
tour taking us back into earlier days on Norfolk Island. A late lunch at the local coffee shop before a last check of the aircraft making sure all was ready
for our flight
back to Australia
the following morning.
Another bright morning and it wasn’t long before the three aircraft were up and away, flying first into Lord Howe Island for clearances and fuel.
Approaching the mainland of Australia we encounted clouds and headwinds but could pick out coastal towns as we headed for Port Macquarie on the northern coast of NSW.
The next couple of days in and around Port Maquarie with Tony and Jan and ourselves where we toured around ,driving
west to Sea Acres Rainforest for a 1.3 boardwalk, lunch at coastal town of Flynns Beach and very pleasent drives through the Hinterland .
A nice few days of rest and relaxation before our last flights home to Bendigo and Tyabb with the weather closing in fast behind both planes. Over the next few days Victoria was wet and wild adding to our thoughts on how lucky we had been travelling over “The Ditch” in near perfect conditions with wonderful Comanche Pilots, wives, partners and friends.
We must finish by thanking firstly Ian Thomson our Comanche Chief for daring to dream and making his dream possible for others. Thanks to Barry, Alan and John, Comanche pilots and their partners from New Zealand showing us the way around their spectacular country and John Vanbladeren for travelling from the US to join up with us. Let’s not forget the three pilots and their wives all flying commercial from the UK . Lastly but by no means the least the five Aust. Comanche pilots with happy crews on board taking on additional passengers whenever the need arose. We became a family in our wonderful Comanche aircrafts flying us from the northern most tip of New Zealand’s North Island to deep into South Island experiencing its breathtaking beauty and sheer diversity of landscapes, all of which will remain with us forever.
|Tony & Jan Vanderspek Ian Thomson & Irene Lawson||VH – TSJ VH – MMN||Bendigo Vic, Aust Mt Martha Vic Aust|
|Jim & Vivien Peters||VH – ESL||Brisbane QLD Aust.|
|Jim Barry & Manfred Melloh||VH – CDB||Swan Hill Vic Aust|
|Ojars Balodis||VH – OIB||Mt Eliza Vic Aust|
|Barry & Sandra Payne||ZK – .BAZ||Waimate N. Zealand|
|Alan Breen & Julie South||ZK – DOK||Hamilton N.Zealand|
|John Funnell & Chrissie||ZK – PMC||Taupo N. Zealand|
|Brent and Lyn Ferguson||ZK – MBU||N.Zealand|
|David & Jenny Buttle||United Kingdom|
|David & Anne Sheppard||United Kingdom|
|Ron & June Munn||United Kingdom|