Friday, July 6, 2018

IVC-SZS

IVC. SZS.

Good chance you've never heard of at least one of those airports, and probably both.

Before this getaway, I had never been to Invercargill's airport...at least, by choice, that is. Unfortunately, I've graced it with my presence a few times, because it's where Air New Zealand diverts some of the flights that can't get into Queenstown when the weather is shit. If there's a lottery where winning means sitting on a goddamn bus from a godforsaken city in godawful weather, then by god, I'm excellent at playing the lottery.


IVC

But I digress. I'm at IVC by choice today because Murphy and I are going to Stewart Island for a long weekend, and when presented with the choice of lurching about on a boat for a couple hours or being strapped into a plane for twenty minutes, I'll take the aerial tour ten times out of ten, thankyouverymuch.

So anyhow, 6 months prior to this, I was overseas for work while our mate Nate was visiting, and Nate and Murphy went to Stewart Island and had an awesome time and stayed with an awesome host and we'd been looking for an opportunity to go visit the place ourselves, as I'd never been, and Murphy would go back at the drop of a hat.


Half of Stewart Island Flights' fleet

While there's plenty to talk about and show with regards to Stewart Island itself, the flight was cool enough that it warrants a post of its own. Stewart Island flights operates a small fleet, and their workhorse is the Britten Norman Islander.

NZ's regional airports are nostalgic enough as is, as you get to stroll across the tarmac like you own the place, or like it's fifty years ago, or maybe both. IVC is no different, except that it's even smaller and quieter than some of the others. And when your whip is an Islander instead of an A320...well...


Analog

We're directed across the tarmac and shown the door of the plane by a fresh-faced young lad, who then gives us a short safety briefing ("look at thus card uf you want to know about thus plane's safety fittures"), and then, to our astonishment, climbs into the left seat, buckles up, and starts the plane. We four passengers (capacity 9, so we're light) exchange a glance and a chuckle.


Up the duff of an A320

We're sharing IVC today with (surprise surprise) a diverted ANZ A320, and it pulls out right in front of us, much to our pilot's dismay, as he'd like to get outta dodge without waiting for it. However, much to our collective delight, while the A320 has to taxi all the way to the end of the runway, as soon as we're far enough down to make our takeoff, Captain McFreshstripes just spins the Islander around and buries the throttle. We're airborne in seconds.


Raw power

Our prescribed altitude is a scant 1500ft, so we're treated to an intimate view of the last shreds of Invercargill and Bluff and then a bunch of whitecaps and kelp and stuff. It's not too long before we can make out features on Stewart Island, and then our pilot performs a manual inspection of the tower-less runway. Apparently a flyby is frequently needed to clear deer from the runway, as they don't interface too well with a tin can preceded by a propeller. Oh dear.


Inspection


On final for SZS

After this inspection, he lines up for final and we bounce down to an assertive stop. We're met by ye olde airporte shuttle, which has conveniently delivered the passengers for his return trip. Thus ends our flight down memory lane and begins our visit to Stewart Island.

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Saturday, March 10, 2018

Mavora Lakes

In our part of NZ, we're frequently graced with winter days that are completely missionable, and dare I say, nicer than a lot of "summer" days. It was 6degC and snowing down to ~1200m a couple weeks ago, for instance. Midsummer, they said!

Lest I digress, a cool spot for one of these aforementioned missions are the Mavora Lakes (South and North). The lakes, as the crow flies, are very close to Queenstown, but of course take a couple hours to drive to, because mountains.


Looking north over North Mavora

Remember, our winter days are mighty short, so unless you're in search of a spicier dawn-to-dusk (or beyond) mission, short walks or runs or bikes in new places hold a certain allure as bite-sized adventures.


Perfect forest light (and subject)

We choose to drive to South Mavora, hike along its west shore, and then continue for a bit along the east shore of North Mavora. The road actually continues to North Mavora, so it's possible to choose to get further in depending upon what you've got planned. Like, for instance, if you're linking Mavora to the Greenstone.

What we've bit off is an easy walk in beautiful country, and it's far enough off the beaten path that it's pretty quiet; always a bonus. There's copious deep forest, and the Southland forests always feel a bit Jurassic Park-y to me.


Calm water and schist

One benefit of tramping around in the wintertime is that you're less likely to forget long clothes for weather reasons, and that means better protection against sandflies. Especially when the wind's not up!

For good measure, here a couple photos from the drive home.


Looking north over Wakatipu towards Devil's Staircase


Super sneaky bonus winter sunset light between Jacks Point and Cecil Peak

Good (albeit short) day out; better than a stick in the eye!

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Sunday, February 25, 2018

YVR-ZQN

By virtue of flying southwest at the end of a northern hemisphere summer day (assuming you aren't a flat earther...), and by sitting on the right side of the plane, one can end up with an extended period of sunset, dusk, and twilight.

On this particular flight from Vancouver to Auckland on such a northern summer evening with right side window seats, we also have the benefit of excellent atmospheric conditions for a light show. Score.


Just getting started


Perfect 22deg halo, complete with sun dogs


I'd pay extra for clear windows

You could extend the fun by flying northwest instead, like for instance from LHR to KEF, but maybe we'll save that for another time. Or even further by having a faster jet, but I'm not sure I'm able to scratch that itch.


Surreal


Almost there

777 windows are pretty good for photography, but the darker it gets, the more challenging it becomes to control reflections from inside the cabin. Or you can embrace them.


Just keeps on giving


Time to get comfy

And just for fun, a couple from a domestic A320 to get us the rest of the way home. Sometimes, flying down the spine of the country is amazing sightseeing, and other times, it's just white and blue.


Always clear up high


Photogenic Koru


Puffies

Thanks for stopping by.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Vancouver

After our therapeutic stint at Dunton for Beth and Ed's wedding, Murphy and I traipse northwest to Vancouver to meet up with Lauren and Chase for a few days of reindoctrination into civilization.


Arrival

I had not been to Vancouver save for driving through it late one night on the way to Whistler (and back), so this is all new to me; it has always held a certain allure for me, and I guess that consistently only hearing positive things about a place will do that to a guy. So with minimal hesitation, we sign up to contribute to the local economy for a handful of days.

We provide ourselves with a cool little Airbnb in the Point Grey neighborhood, so we're able to walk to a few things and are close enough to have quick drives to the rest as Chase and Lauren have brought their car from Portland.


Skyline from Point Grey-ish


Girlz time

When we visit big cities, we tend to fall into a pattern of coffee-food-cocktails-run-rinse 'n repeat, and this trip is no exception. So rather than beating that horse to death, maybe it's worth noting some stuff that falls outside that pattern, with a few exceptions of course.

There's one neat evening along the water in Stanley Park, including a run and all sorts of people-, ship-, and wildlife-watching through dusk.


Stanley Park sunset


Commerce


The waiting game


Dusk from Stanley Park


Stalking

Then there's the clothing-optional Wreck Beach near the university, which is massive and full of characters. We arrive late in the day and it's starting to empty out, but it's a pretty cool scene nonetheless, with everyone using the big logs on the beach for shelter. There are plenty of normies here too, so we don't feel out of place by virtue of not disrobing; anyhow, it closes at sunset and we'd have nowhere to put the car keys...much less the camera...


Ninja Warrior episode in the making


Along the path to Wreck Beach

Another highlight is the Kitsilano Pool, which is a gloriously-odd 137m in length, which means that a few laps might be all you need. There's really only one lane for the lap swimmers, but there's so much passing room that it's ludicrous to suggest that you might need more organization. Murphy and Lauren get chatted up by an Olympic swimmer, so they're all starstruck by the time we leave.


Kitsilano Pool in all its glory

There are several memorable meals, spanning sushi, multiple examples of excellent ramen, fish 'n chips, and of course many many pastries.


You had me at hello

Without a doubt, the culinary high point is a post-run late-evening sushi experience, wherein we believe the menu contains an adorable translation mistake on some special shrimp:

"Tell waiter if you want fried after"

Which we interpret as "you can get the shrimp fried or unfried, and we've used the word 'after' like 'after all' or something like that, which the Irish and British tend to do."

When actually, the menu was exactly correct in meaning:

"After you eat the shrimp, your waiter will appear and ask you if you want him to take the shrimp heads away, deep fry them, and return them to you to eat, because nothing goes to waste."

The only problem with this is that the deep fryer melts the little tchotchkes we've attached to the shrimp heads to say whose is whose as though they're wine glasses, but that means that the deep fryer also melts Chase's syphilis away, so I guess the correct one to eat is the one closest to you, you goddamn germaphobic numpty.

Also, deep fried shrimp heads taste pretty much like you expect them to: broken light bulb, laden with arterial plaque, and with a faint hint of ocean.


Pastries within

Another day, we make a day trip to Squamish, specifically for a visit to a recommended fish 'n chips shop, but also for a run up in the mountains in Garibaldi Provincial Park.

Award for the most un-Canadian but still hilarious moment of the trip comes at the Park's information center just off the highway. I patiently wait for a full ten minutes while the sole ranger chats with a pair of hikers about every trail and camping option in the park without even acknowledging my existence or "hey gimme a minute to finish up with them" or "hey do you just have a quick question." After I finally give up and hold my phone in obvious photo pose above the section of the counter with their big laminated map on it so that I don't die in the woods, the ranger spots me out of the corner of her eye, sprints over, and, I shit you not, dives to cover the map with her body, shrieking at me that it's copyrighted and if I want a map I have to pay for one. She is -dead- serious. I have an amazing photo of her fast-moving arm starting to cover the map, but I won't share that because it's copyrighted. However, it serves the purpose of not letting us get lost in the woods, thankyouverymuch.

We have an awesome run, and the weather and views are picture-perfect. Could totally go for days up there, but alas, we're short-timers. Afterwards, we make a hasty retreat for our fish and chips and beer, proper reward for propelling ourselves up a mountain.


Quick mish in Garibaldi; find the Chase

Award for the most Canadian and hilarious moment of the trip comes at the chippy when I hold the door open for an exiting Canadian couple, who greets me with "Sorry! Sorry!"

On another day, we feel obligated to visit the tourist trap of Granville Island, but the fine merchants there include a distillery, so not all is lost, and food markets make for great people watching, anyway.


"Sightseeing"


Bridges and fancy flats

Oh yeah, and mind those fuckin' seagulls; they're total gangsters.


Safety first, kids


Utilitarian architecture


Twinsies

All in all, we have a lovely few days and leave there with fond memories and appropriately-lightened wallets. Another benefit of visiting Vancouver is that we can hop on a nonstop flight to AKL from YVR, which softens the blow of being on the wrong side of the equator.


Departure

If you're nice, I'll share some more photos from the flight home, during which we get treated to a pretty amazing and lengthy sunset on our way out of town.

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Past Detritus