Sometimes, getting there is half the fun. Many people are not fond of small planes or helicopters, but I love them because they enable you to see what you are flying over.
On a trip to New Zealand late last year, I flew from Queenstown to the tiny airport at Te Anau with Air Milford. I was heading to the small luxury ship Island Passage, waiting for a new intake of passengers in the remote George Sound in the South Island’s Fiordland region.
At Queenstown Airport, I was taken by these wonderful four-metres-tall sculptures by Mark Hill (who happens to hail from my home town Whangarei in the North Island, but now lives in Arrowtown). Called “Welcome O Visitors From Afar”, they have graced the airport entrance since 2008.
We took a 14-seater Cessna Caravan to Te Anau and then two helicopters to land (one at a time) on the ship. There were only eight of us on the Cessna charter flight so there was plenty of room and window seats! Outside, the sky was grey and cloudy and by the time we had reached the ship it was raining. But the view was breath-taking – especially for those in the front seats of the helicopter with the pilot! I’ll let these images do most of the talking.
Queenstown is set on Lake Wakatipu, below a mountain range called The Remarkables. If anyone has seen the gripping television mini-series Top of the Lake, written and directed by Oscar-winning Kiwi director Jane Campion and starring Elisabeth Moss (Peggy in Mad Men), Holly Hunter and Australian actor David Wenham, it is set in and around Queenstown. Then it was through the mountains…
At Te Anau Downs, we switched from the Cessna to the waiting helicopters for the final leg of the journey to join Island Passage for our Fiordland cruise.
Before long – the helicopter transfer is only about half an hour – we could see the ship waiting below in George Sound.
Travelling in two helicopters was a bonus in terms of being able to get images of the landing. I was in the first one to land, camera in hand, ready to snap the second arrival. The rain was also a bonus – waterfall were thundering down the steep sides of the fiord. So beautiful.
Stay tuned for more on small airports, small ship cruising, and Fiordland in upcoming posts.