Whitianga to Rotorua to Gisborne

Trip Start Mar 06, 2013
Trip End Apr 04, 2013

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What I did
Lake Rotorua
East Cape

Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Tuesday, March 26, 2013

After such a big day Monday, we were all a bit worn out on Tuesday. In addition, since we were in a backpackers motel we all had roommates to cope with and competition for the bathroom. The motel also turned out to be a good walk from town and any form of food for breakfast. On the positive side, we had a lovely walk along Buffalo Bay to and from town to find breakfast. To further compound the morning stress the bus showed up early and we all went into mad scramble mode to get the last bit of packing done and onto the bus. 
Once at the airport we started planning our route. For the morning flight we wanted to fly the competition route to make a tour of Rotorua and the surrounding volcanoes. We were happy to skip the questions and just enjoy the scenery, though. We headed down the coast until just north of our lunch spot, Tauranga, and then headed inland. The area around Tauranga is a nice patchwork of hedged fields. Tall, groomed hedges surrounded all kinds of crops and make interesting textures over the terrain. 
Southwest of Tauranga we entered the Rotorua Control Zone and made our tour of the area. We had been warned about the Rotorua controllers, warned that they were a little less enthusiastic about having 32 aircraft blundering through their airspace. Since we weren't following the exact Safari Route we flew across Lake Rotorua to have a good view of the town to our west. This did cause the controllers a brief moment of concern but it was all straightened out and we had a great view. To authenticate the volcanic area a faint aroma of sulfur filled our noses. This area is filled with odd looking mountain tops--the ruins of cinder cones. Lake Rotorua is a good example of a cinder cone filled with water. It has a small cone still standing exposed in the middle.  Several other lakes have filled in other exploded out craters to make a lovely, though slightly stinky area with exotic forests and lakes. 
We rounded our course back north towards Tauranga and headed for lunch at that field. During lunch we set up our afternoon entertainment: a photo shoot of a Europa. The pilot, Tim, had gotten sponsorship from Europa and was doing some marketing for them on the Safari. He had been flogging brochures, pens and hats around the airfields we had visited. 
Our course was going to take us around the most eastern part of New Zealand and then into Gisborne, the first city West of the date line to see the new day dawn. More stunning coastal scenery, now with an added bonus: a Europa flying in close formation. We picked a couple spots to make a big, slow circle so we could open the window and Jon could take pictures with the big camera.
Gisborne is a curious place when you look at the airport diagram: at train track goes across two of the runways! Better yet, aircraft must yield to trains. There is special lighting to indicate when the 'runway extensions', aka runway on the opposite side of the train crossing, can be used. We would have loved to see the field with a big train crossing, but we were scheduled to arrive at a non-train time.
We were happy to arrive before dinner and have time to share pictures and video with our new Safari friends. We now have a plan to photograph the Air Force boys in their 2 yellow trainers tomorrow. 
We managed to get a ride to our hotel a half hour early to attempt to catch up a bit. Two more days of flying and we'll have finished our tour. The weather is still predicted to be exceptionally fine: clear and sunny. We are very lucky!
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