WALKING on the moon
My fortieth birthday was on the horizon, and I was struggling to come up with a way to celebrate it. I knew I wanted to be back in my hometown of Tauranga to catch up with friends, but beyond that... Imagine my surprise when two of my oldest and dearest f
Their thoughtful gift combined two elements on my wish list: flying in a helicopter and seeing a volcano. I had been fascinated with volcanoes since primary school when a teacher had demonstrated an eruption from a paper mache volcano albeit with food colouring, baking soda and vinegar.
The morning of the flight was crisp and clear. As my friends and I made the short trip to Tauranga Airport I was full of nervous anticipation at the thought of my first ever helicopter flight. Kay and Louise had recent- ly been on a sight-seeing flight with Aerius Helicopters and were excited to be able to share the experience with me.
White Island (or Whakaari) lies 52 kilometres off the Bay of Plenty coast and is New Zealand’s most active volcano. Built up by continuous volcanic activity over the past 150,000 years it is a link in the chain of volcanoes known as the Pacific Ring of Fire. I have done a little research over the years about volcanoes in general; little did I know that I was about to get up close and personal with this one! Our pilot Dave escorted us to the helicopter – a four seater including pilot (one of two the company offers – the other being a six seater including pilot). Dave got us all comfortably aboard and buckled in – he has a very calm, friendly demeanour which helped set me at ease as my nerves were definitely getting the better of me at that stage. I had no idea what to expect as Dave started the helicopter, and the rotor began spinning. The revs increased to seemingly fever-pitch and then we were gently climbing away into the air with the ground steadily receding below. It was a very different sensation com-
White Island IMAGES: courtesy of Aerius Helicopters