Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Finally up in the air! The Botanical gardens of Hamilton and drive to Auckland

ALLIE: DAY 60: Sunday the 15th of April

Ballooning, a stroll around the botanical gardens and driving up to Auckland
Finally in the air again! The weather left us with a tiny slot between erratic winds and heavy showers. So every team was eager to get out its kit as quick as possible. And whilst some keen pilots tried to snatch the cash bag from the pole, Pauline and I couldn’t care less. 
finally in the air again!!

We were trying to do a pre-exam flight check. I was to be her examiner and supervised her set up, briefing, flying etc. Actually this was a great chance for me to rehearse what I had learned so far and I enjoyed the flight thoroughly. We took off and drifted across the lake then past downtown Hamilton and across the Waikato river. 

special shapes ready for flight
The winds were fine but a bit weird. So we missed the first couple of football pitches (Andy and Phil had landed in one of them) and decided to fly out into the more open countryside as our fuel was limited.

A big rain cloud chased us and we got to the stage where we would have liked to land – but where? We were overhead a big non-landing area with horse studs, cows and pylons. Fuel down to bottom line. 

Scary! But finally we reached a field and Pauline dropped the balloon into a field. It smelled rather nicely, but we were safely down on the ground and had managed to escape the rain! Great!
our team with Pauline in the middle

All happy back to the hotel, breakfast and a debrief with Pauline who did very well on this test flight.

Then the big decision about what to do with Phils ‘Otter’ (the rare sea plane) flight in Rotorua. I frankly hope we have to can it. 

Too complicated. And as it happens, they don’t have another flight today – to the great dismal of my poor husband. Phil is tired and wants to rest,

strolls around the Botanical gardens
I set off with our ugly frog looking little hired car to explore the Botanical Gardens. They are a bit of an disappointment. Hardly any interesting plants, a few Disney-like European or Asian garden arrangements and no sign boards. As a subsequence of this, 

I bump into the same man three times in my effort of finding my way round. Bryan from Swansea has the same difficulties and so we team up and walk around together.

He is an aircraft pilot visiting his son who is currently doing his aircraft training at Hamilton airport. We chat about flying, collecting new types and about the ‘Otter’. I come back to Phil with a smile on my face telling him that we have to go to Vancouver, because I was told that they have lots of Otters there! Well, you know by now what I mean, not the animals of course but the flying ones made of metal.

lovely autumn colours in the Japanese garden

The drive up to Auckland takes around 2 hours and we finally encounter the first bit of  NZ motorway with double lanes and a division lane. The problem is, you still only allowed 100km. With some difficulties and confusions about the name we finally manage to find our airport hotel which turns out to be the “Jet Inn”. Quite neatly done rooms and facilities make it hard for us to decide whether we want to drive into the city or just relax (we both feel rather trashed). 

But then it’s my only chance to see downtown Auckland and so we drive the 20km into the city and wander around the docks. Trendy restaurants and bars along the harbour front, but most of them quite boring and minimalist.

We chose the ‘Waterfront Bar’ and enjoy some huge portions of seafood chowder and nachos. A little walk past the most expensive and luxurious private yacht in the world named the ‘Athena’ makes us realize that if you are into electronics and webpages you can live a quite relaxed life!

PHIL: Day 60/15 April

Above Hamilton
At last we fly again. Me to carry out Andy’s annual British licence renewal and Allie to help assess a local lady pilot for preparedness to take a UK PPL.

Andy’s flying is adequate but not terribly elegant – a result, I feel of being largely self-taught and then flying too infrequently in an environment underexposed to techniques from elsewhere in the world. Allie is so fired-up by taking on the task of training and assessing that she determines to become an official UK instructor as soon as possible.

The Otter floatplane excursion fades as they have insufficient passengers and in any case Allie has set her mind against repeating the admittedly long return drive to Rotorua. I am grumpy because I see this being an opportunity unlikely to be repeated, but my mood is lifted by a reply (after a five month silence) from the contact I discovered for ballooning in Bolivia

crossing the lake
It seems a flight may be possible during our visit in two weeks time, but having heard rather unsettling news of the country’s recent riots I take the precaution of e-mailing the UK Embassy in nearby Ecuador (where we have a contact) to check if we are being foolish in planning to visit La Paz.

The short drive to Auckland this evening may allow us time to briefly look around before retiring to an airport hotel ready for tomorrow’s departure towards the Pacific.

By chance the yacht ‘Athena’, recently mentioned in the NZ press as being owned by (Johnstone?)the founder of Logica (?) software systems is moored at a berth adjacent to the waterfront Hilton and after eating in a restaurant full of serious ‘yachties’. This enormous 3-masted vessel must be 50m in length and its steel, wood and paintwork are an immaculate glistening testimony to what serious money can buy.

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