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Bruce's First Adventure

Bruce was my first landlord when I came to New Zealand.  He has two beautiful seafront cottages in Chuck's Cove and if you are ever this way his accommodation is first class .

I leave it to him to tell the tale:

In Cook's footsteps - by air.

This adventure was planned to identify as many of James Cook’s named coastal places as possible. The “circumnavigation” wasn’t as complete as Cook’s 1769 voyage as we started and finished in Kerikeri (Northland). Overall the trip took 9 days allowing for on land socialising and some hiccups with weather – a 5 day delay in Milford Sound because of (you’ve guessed it) Rain!

The expedition planned for certain stay-over destinations: - Takaka, Milford Sound, Oban (Stewart Island) and Hastings. However, flexibility was important since sometimes we met people in unknown places and decided to stay longer and the delay in Milford Sound required ingenuity, new made friendships and luck.

The first day we set off for Takaka, Golden Bay on the North coast of the South Island. We refueled at Stratford and although the Baird was not there the Army was!  The club house was littered with assault rifles and rucksacks and the car park had lines of military vehicles.  We had a picnic lunch, refueled between showers then on to Takaka.


Unfortunately we got a puncture in the nose wheel on landing.

Mit Brereton, owner of Adventure Flights Golden Bay  got the wheel off for us and lent us a car to take it to the garage for repair.

Mit said there was no rush for the car so having dropped the wheel off we went to David's, one of Bruce's school chums,



We stayed 2 nights with  David



David has built a  distillery in his garden with the intention of making whisky commercially.

He was running a pre-production batch  whilst we were there

Next morning we took the borrowed car on safari

Bruce kept up with international affairs whilst breakfasting on Farewell Spit. .


Shopping at Langford Store        Bainham

 We collected the nose wheel and Mit put it on for us.  His mother arrived and wondered who was using her car!  We were a bit embarrassed but not so much so as not to accept her offer to let us use it until our departure.


We met a young man in the club who was learning to fly so we gave him a ride in MBN - one good turn deserves another!


Next morning we returned the car, waived goodbye to Mit and set off for Milford Sound.

We landed at Haast to refuel and telephone National Briefing Office to amend our Search & Rescue Time.

We also rang Milford to get an arrival time - they have busy periods with tourists arriving in the morning and departing in the afternoon. 

We had enough time for a walk to the hotel for a coffee and a picnic lunch.


The walls of Milford Sound appeared very close and very hard!  A pilot must have a briefing from a Milford operator before going - it is fairly obvious why.

Base leg MilfordFinal at Milford

Base Leg Milford Sound

                   Final Milford Sound

We stayed the night in the backpackers and the following morning went for a boat trip on hte sound to see the seals and marine exhibition.  The intention was to fly out that afternoon .

Encounter tour boat

We strolled to the aerodrome to get a weather briefing from Dave in the control tower.

He was most helpful and showed us the rainfall figures for Milford - basically it rains most days.  Oh dear.

We went to book in for another night - shock horror there was no room at the inn.

The bus into the nearest town - Manapouri, about 100Km away- did not leave until 17:00 so we went back to see Dave and kick tyres.

Milford TowerInside Mildord Tower

Manapouri Tunnel

Dave - a champion of the first order - found us somewhere to stay the night so we did not need the bus after all.

The next day the weather was still bad so Dave suggested we take his car out for the day.

We set off for Manapouri involving passing through the Manapouri Tunnel, cut and blasted out in the 1960's costing 16 men's lives.

Milford is remote now - whatever must it have been like before the tunnel?


Looking up the local Aero Club seemed like a good idea.  They had a very smart building but no one was in.  As we reversed the car out we noticed a trail of oil.

On inspection the gearbox was leaking.  Bruce called the AA who took it to a garage.

There were not any more buses to Milford that day so we hired a car and wondered what story to give Dave.


Dave took it in good part and suggested that, as the forecast was unsuitable for the next couple of days and he was going off duty, that we accompany him to Queenstown and stay as his guests.

Our arrival was probably a bit of a shock for his lady wife and we offer our heartfelt thanks to her for taking a couple of itinerant pilots of dubious pedigree under her roof.


Dave, who had been detailed to paint the garage door, skipped off and took us for a trip on the Earnslaw, a vintage steamer operating on Lake Wakatipu, taking tourists to Walter Peak sheep station for lunch and a farm tour.


No complaints about the lunch but by late afternoon we were ready for an ice cream which we purchased in Arrowtown.


brucealps.jpgA break in the weather at last and Dave came up trumps again by asking us to deliver a car to Milford Sound for him as his old one had blown up!

Although the weather was flyable the passes were closed so we decided to fly to the mouth of the sound and if possible go south crossing the Southern Alps were they are only 6500' high.  If we could not do that we would fly North to Greymouth ...or somewhere.

We managed to cross the Alps and dropped down to follow Lake Manapouri en route to Dunedin.  We were dodging showers the whole way.



Having previously received permission to visit Stewart Island, subject to a briefing at Dunedin, we  reached our declared destination after a short flight - albeit some days late!


We had intended to have a few days on Stewart Island but the delays meant we had to make a dash for home.  There was a severe weather warning for earth rattling winds and turbulence approaching from the South.  We hugged the coast and got as far North as we could as quickly as we could.  We stopped to refuel at Rangiora and ran into trouble as the fuel pump for which we had a card was out of order.  Aircraft Logistics had a card for the BP pump and sent us on out way.

Next stop was Hastings where we overnighted and had breakfast with Bruce's friend who gave us a lift back to the aerodrome.

Unfortunately the fuel pump did not work there either so we had to dob into Taupo to refuel - then back to Kerikeri just in time for Bruce to meet his visitors and John to
drive to Auckland airport to collect his mum.

Wow, what an amazing experience. Incredible sightseeing ranging from, on average, 1500-2500 feet; generous people everywhere we landed and newly discovered places where we will return again one day. This was fun, fun, fun and the people we met all wanted to be part of it.

Want to talk?  John Nicholls   flyitnz@gmail.com or telephone Land line: +64 (0) 9 406 1974  mobile +64 (0) 27-359 4869 Skype:Flyitnz