Sunday, July 22, 2018

Jensen Bay

Right; more from Stewart Island. It's really not that big of an island, but in the same breath, it's huge. There's simply no chance that we'll come close to seeing everything in a few days. Instead, we focus our efforts on becoming acquainted with our neighborhood, which is Jensen Bay.

We've returned to the AirBnb that Ethel and Nate discovered on their trip a few months prior. Not only is the house amazing, but the host and his family are first-rate human beings.

Our digs at dusk

The hospitality and warmth shown to us by Manfred and his sons far exceeds our expectations. Should any of my seven readers be contemplating a visit to Stewart Island, I'd insist on making a recommendation...

The house is solar- and wind-powered, fed with captured rainwater, and heated with pipes in the walls. Necessity, it turns out, is the mother of invention, and Stewart Island's climate tends to breed necessity.

From the balcony at dawn

One whimsical aspect of their house that really makes it cool is the family of kaka that have made it their adoptive home. Not as destructive as the kea but equally clever and curious, the kaka is a gorgeous parrot with tons of personality. The family that lives here knows where the treats come from, and they really only get unruly when the treats run out.


Also a feature of our neighborhood of Jensen Bay is a notable lack of light pollution. On an exploratory run not long after our arrival, I scope a few spots for photos should we win the veritable lottery of a clear night.

Astonishingly, our lottery ticket hits and we spend maybe an hour and a half wandering the 'hood with necks craned skyward.


Acker's Cottage

Nearby :)

Visible in that last photo are the Southern Cross, Jupiter, the Milky Way, Ethel, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, a shooting star, and some airglow. Not bad for a single frame.

Our decision to strike when the iron is hot is a good one, as we won't see the sky again during our stay; such are the whims of high-latitude coastal NZ weather during autumn!

We finally go to bed wholly unencumbered with plans for the following day; sometimes it's important to plan lots, and other times, it's important to plan absolutely nothing.


Friday, July 6, 2018



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 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.


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...


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.


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.


Past Detritus