KNIGHT FLY­ING

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I al­ways en­joy the drive from Queenstown to Te Anau. What en­hances it more is the fact

I am on my way to fly with one of New Zealand’s most cel­e­brated air­man.

Sir Richard “Han­ni­bal” Hayes is a he­li­copter pilot with a CV big­ger than Fiord­land. Fiord­land is where this avi­a­tor knows the ge­og­ra­phy like the back of his hand. Not only in New Zealand is this guy known but in Antarc­tica, where he has con­tracted to Govt Agen­cies and taken his ma­chine there to as­sist in re­search and con­ser­va­tion of the huge con­ti­nent. He also has helped res­cue many in­di­vid­u­als and groups in the wild ter­rain over the years. There is many a per­son who owes their life to this cru­sad­ing pilot.

I ar­rived at the fa­mil­iar heli-pad sus­pended over Lake Te Anau and was greeted by the man him­self. To­tally at ease and without any airs or graces Sir Richard briefed me and loaded me into the cock­pit of the pris­tine ma­chine up front be­side his pilots seat. Ear­phones on we had “comms” and it wasn’t long be­fore we lifted grace­fully off to speed out over the lake and head to­ward Break­sea Sound to have lunch and ex­pe­ri­ence a unique ves­sel The Uni an­chored in there for travellers to ex­pe­ri­ence the won­der­ful am­bi­ence of what a huge fiord has to of­fer both above and be­low the wa­ter.

Down along the Wa­iau River to Lake Manapouri all the time Sir Richard point­ing out sig­nif­i­cant land­marks and the odd an­i­mal that roams free in this wilder­ness.

Red Deer were in­tro­duced to New Zealand from Eng­land from the 1860’s on­ward. How­ever, also lib­er­ated were fal­low deer orig­i­nally from the Mid­dle East; wapiti (North Amer­i­can elk, sam­bar,sika,and rusa,from Asia; and white-tailed deer and moose from North Amer­ica. By the early 2000s, red deer were the most com­mon deer in the wild. Wapiti are found in north­ern Fiord­land; fal­low deer oc­cur in low-al­ti­tude forests; and sika, sam­bar and rusa live in North Is­land forests. White-tailed deer are found on Ste­wart Is­land and near Lake Wakatipu Queenstown.

The Red Deer be­came a sought af­ter com­mod­ity and was hunted by he­li­copter in the six­ties and sev­en­ties and this is how many a New Zealand he­li­copter pilot learnt their craft.

On­ward and up over the West Arm Power Sta­tion where the in­takes and Power Con­trol room is the only thing vis­i­ble from the air. This huge hy­dro power plant was started in the early six­ties and com­pleted in 1971, Manapouri was largely built to sup­ply elec­tric­ity to the Ti­wai Point alu­minium smelter near Bluff, some 160 km to the south­east, as well as into the South Is­land trans­mis­sion net­work. The sta­tion utilises the 230-me­tre drop be­tween the western arm of Lake Manapouri and the Deep Cove branch of the Doubt­ful Sound 10 km away to gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity. The con­struc­tion of the sta­tion re­quired the ex­ca­va­tion of al­most 1.4 mil­lion tonnes of hard rock to build the ma­chine hall and a 10 km tail­race tun­nel, with a se­cond par­al­lel tail­race tun­nel com­pleted in 2002 to in­crease

the sta­tion’s ca­pac­ity. Mean­while Sir Richard keep­ing me well in­formed as to all the ge­o­graph­i­cal changes and his­tory of the area.

Over the Great Di­vide through Mcken­zie Pass where we spot­ted a few Red Deer, then we dropped down into Break­sea Sound.

We put down gen­tly on The Uni, an old Aus­tralian Royal Navy sup­ply ves­sel in her hayday that now is equiped with the heli pad. kitchen hot shower and bunk rooms to ac­com­mo­date for mod­ern re­quire­ments.

Time to have some lunch and take in all the seren­ity that is part of what Fiord­land of­fers, and drop a line in to fish for blue cod. This shel­tered coastal fiord is home to a huge var­ity of sea life in­clud­ing Dol­phins. These ma­jes­tic warm blooded mam­mals are of­ten seen frol­ick­ing in the fiords shel­ter­ing and clean­ing them­selves be­fore they re­turn to the wild Tas­man Sea that is a fur­ther 40km down the fiord.

Af­ter a re­lax­ing 2 hours we boarded the ma­chine and lifted off for the trip home. An­other flight path that met up with the orig­i­nal one how­ever it was great fly­ing over Dusky Sound made fa­mous by Cap­tain James Cook who noted its en­trance dur­ing his first voy­age to New Zealand in 1770. He named it Dusky Bay. On his se­cond ex­pe­di­tion he spent two months ex­plor­ing the sound, and used it as a har­bour, es­tab­lish­ing work­shops and an ob­ser­va­tory. It is be­lieved his crew brewed the first beer in New Zealand dur­ing his stay. He en­coun­tered some Maori with whom he had friendly re­la­tions. Later they seemed to have dis­ap­peared and it was spec­u­lated their coun­try­men had killed them, per­haps for the presents Cook gave them. Cook saw the place as a good har­bour for ships en­ter­ing the Pa­cific from Europe by the short­est route, high­light­ing its mar­itime sig­nif­i­cance and over­look­ing its land-locked char­ac­ter. This gave it an un­usual promi­nence in ear­li­est Euro­pean visits which dis­ap­peared as Euro­peans be­came more fa­mil­iar with New Zealand’s ge­og­ra­phy.

Again Sir Richards knowl­edge and in­ter­est­ing com­men­tary kept me abreast of all the beauty that this amaz­ing re­gion has to of­fer to any dis­cern­ing trav­eller.

The trip seemed to end too soon and we were back on the he­li­pad in Te Anau hav­ing been away for around 4 hours. Not only had I had the priv­i­lege of fly­ing with a real Kiwi guy but saw some of my coun­try that I had never ex­pe­ri­enced be­fore. This ex­pe­ri­ence is de­signed for groups and fam­i­lies who re­ally want to see the real New Zealand and be well away from the mad­den­ing crowds that of­ten swamp our pris­tine ar­eas.

I had a great “Knights” sleep that night!

Sir Richard

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