On Thursday, 24-February, we woke up at the campground off Lake Tekapo. The weather had cleared over night, so we decided to get up quickly and go to the airport to see about the possibility of doing an air tour. We drove the short distance up to the Lake Tekapo airport and I was soon speaking to the chief pilot of Air Safari, whose name is Tim. I had asked about the possibility of a small plane charter for aerial photos. But, he was limited for commercial purposes to a minimum 8 seat plane. The cost was too high for this. Instead, we opted to go on a normal tour right away (as there were clouds moving towards the mountains).
We timed it perfectly. Mt. Cook was just starting to have clouds attempt to crest over its top as we reached the area. We also just barely managed to fly over Franz Josef Glacier before clouds enshrouded the area. We had a beautiful mid-morning sun combined with interesting cloud formations as we went over the mountains and glaciers. It was truly a beautiful experience and I spent almost the entire time shifting from one window to the other to take pictures on both sides of the plane. I managed 500 photos in our 1 hour trip. The pictures speak for themselves. This was an awesome flight!
If you watch the slideshow above you’ll see the many mountains and glaciers we saw. You’ll see huge banks of snow and ice perched on top of the tallest peaks of New Zealand. Mt. Cook is the tallest peak in New Zealand at over 3600 m (12,000 feet). We were lucky to briefly catch glimpses of the peak without clouds. You can also see the huge icebergs in Tasman Lake which we were told had just broken off during the earthquake which hit Christchurch two days earlier.
We saw all kinds of interesting things along the way. During some sharp turns, the pilot was kind enough to make, I was able to get some nearly straight down shots which I hope I can send to Google to put up in Google Earth. Karen even managed to catch a good shot of the plane’s shadow just before we landed on the runway. You can see us next to the plane we flew in at the end. I took a GPS with me on the trip, and after landing I downloaded the track and showed the track inside Google Earth to the staff there. They were impressed that it was so easy to import a GPS track to show a flight. You can watch it yourself by viewing this file in Google Earth and clicking the “PLAY” button in the time slider that will appear in the upper left. It will animate our flight path so you can see exactly the path we flew in 3D!