Paraparaumu to Nelson

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

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Where I stayed
Hat Trick Lodge Backpackers' Hostel Motueka
Read my review - 3/5 stars
What I did
Cook Strait, NZ

Flag of New Zealand  , Tasman,
Thursday, March 28, 2013

Today we could make a slower start to the day. Flying would be only one leg, this afternoon we would hop the Cook Strait again to finish on the South Island. The bus collected us all from our hotels at 9:30 and took us to the Southwards Car Museum for brunch. Brunch was followed by time to take a leisurely look at this eclectic car collection. The collection didn't seem to have any particular focus but did have a number of splendidly oddball cars. We've been to several car museums but we've never seen a car with body panels made of shiny, hand-hammered copper, nor had we ever seen a Neara-car motorcycle.  There were also many fine examples of antique and classic cars, a beautiful Bugatti and a gorgeous 1930 Alpha Romeo roadster that looked perfect for the Mille Miglia.
The museum had also arranged a demonstration their Wurlitzer organ. I have to say that this didn't thrill us when we read it in the program, but we really enjoyed it. The organ console was set up on a rotating platform that descended from stage level to fully below the stage. It also rotated while it descended or ascended and could be played while in action. The organist, Len Fifield, had prepared some 'aviation themed' music and had a short black and white film of the Dam Busters that he accompanied. His sense of fun and good humor made this a memorable part of the morning.
From there we returned to the Paraparam airfield to brief for our last leg of the Safari. A thin layer of stratus had formed over the Cook Strait. It was only about 200' thick but it was enough to make our destination 'overcast' at the time of our briefing. We would fly the Strait at 1000' this time and even at that altitude we would be scraping along under the clouds. A good thing to have lots of company and to be wearing life vests.Not  to forget that we New Zealand trained certified and endorsed scud runners.
For the last time all the Safari airplanes queued up and departed at our usual 30 second intervals.  By now we knew the quirks of everyone's calls. The Thunderbirds roared off in their blue RV to secondary calls of 'Go Thunderbirds' from the queued airplanes. The 'Cheetahs' departed in their Grumman with the usual cheery calls from Margaret. There was also the 'Aaaaargh!' of the Borneo Pilots--this time with the luggage door closed and without losing their pirate flag on the runway. We followed the proper Cessna in the line up, throttle forward when the flag dropped and departed for the South Island. Within just a few minutes we were under the overcast where the water looked cold and lonely.We were happy to see a big container ship suitable to use as an impromptu aircraft carrier.  Position reports from our fellow travelers and the aircraft in sight in front of us were good company.
Before very long, and without the Lycoming engine missing a single beat, the shore in front of us became closer than the shore behind us. Once we were flying along the northern edge of the Marlborough Sound we were happy to find that the ceiling was a bit higher and that gaps of sun were filtering through. 
We were a merry gaggle of little planes reporting location, altitude and Safari numbers while touring around the islands and bays of the Sound. All but the 3 of us in ZK-ETU were headed to Motueka for the official finish of the Safari.  We broke off from the pack to divert to Nelson and return ETU to the club. We found Nelson to be mostly sunny and warm as we descended for our last landing in this little plane.  
We spent a good hour unpacking the plane and sorting through the amazing amount of junk we were hauling around. The hours were totaled and the bill was paid. A good deal overall as it was about half the cost of the short program with Fly-Inn NZ which gives you only 12 hours of flight time. We flew about 36 hours and paid for 31 hours on the Air Switch (NZ for Hobbs). It was very sad to think that tomorrow we would not be getting up early to go flying again.
The news at Nelson Aero Club was not good. For sure Martin, our contact with them, was losing his job as Senior Flight Instructor there. He and his colleague Mitch were in their last few days working for the club. All the planes were to be dismissed except ETU and no flight instructors would be retained. It is very likely that the club will close. Martin did not have another job lined up and was not expecting to be able to continue working in aviation at this time. 
We picked up our rental car and drove the 40 minutes to Motueka to join our Safari companions. Tonight's dinner was hosted by the Aero Club there. Tomorrow will be the official final dinner and awards. In our case awards are unlikely and demerits are very likely. There is the issue that we skipped the entire competition. Worse, we only realized when we drove up to the club at 6:45 that we hadn't remembered to text the Safari team upon landing at Nelson. We were supposed to do that immediately after landing in order to close our SAR (search & rescue) time. 
We passed a pleasant evening there with our Safari companions then went to our Backpackers Motel in Motueka. This backpackers proves to be a bit more civilized than the last one. We have a room with an en suite mini bath rather than sharing a family unit with a couple extra guys and a shared bath. Jon has the more traditional room with shared bath. He will be leaving in the morning for Omaka in the hopes of getting on a photo flight during the Wings over Omaka airshow's practice day tomorrow. We'll join him there Saturday for the show.
For now we are looking forward to a rest day tomorrow. What a great adventure this has been!
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Katherine van Schoonhoven on

What an amazing trip!! And adventure every day and beautiful scenery, too. Your description of the car museum made me think of our time last summer at the LeMay Car Museum in Tacoma! Of course, they did not have an amazing organ, which I would have loved!! All the best to the both of you!!

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