Aoraki / Mount Cook, New Zealand

The Aeronautical Conquest of the Southern Alps


a short walk
Wayne McMillan next to the Pegasus of the Mount Cook Ski Planes that has just landed in the heights of the Southern Alps.
Zigzag Mist
Mist fills a gorge in the Southern Alps on New Zealand's South Island.
Lake Pukaki-Southern Alps-New Zealand
The Great Southern Alps
Peaks overlooking the Southern Alps, around Aoraki Mount Cook.
To Command
Wayne, one of the Mount Cook Ski Planes pilots in the cockpit of his Pegasus.
a fearless refuge
A cabin erected almost balanced on a cliff below Aoraki Mount Cook.
Tasman ice
The rugged top of the Tasman glacier, right in the Southern Alps.
walk in the heights
Passengers on a Mount Cook Ski Plane on a snowy plateau in the vicinity of Aoraki Mount Cook.
Southern Alps Shades
New Zealand's Highway 8 runs along the shores of Lake Pukaki, against the backdrop of the Southern Alps.
rock vs snow
Semi-snow covered cliffs in a canyon below Aoraki Mount Cook.
Tasman Glacier below
Mount Cook Ski Planes plane flies over the top of the Tasman Glacier.
Altitude poses
Mount Cook Ski Planes passenger couple are photographed on the mountain above the Tasman Glacier.
The Great New Zealand Glacier
the curving ice river from the Tasman Glacier, the longest glacier in New Zealand.
track in sight
Mount Cook Ski Planes Ski Planes about to land on the Mount Cook runway.
Tasman Lake
Large lake formed by the melting of the Tasman glacier, enlarged by the Southern Hemisphere summer.
New Zealand Ceiling
The sharp summit of Aoraki Mount Cook, the highest mountain in the Southern Alps and New Zealand.
In 1955, pilot Harry Wigley created a system for taking off and landing on asphalt or snow. Since then, his company has unveiled, from the air, some of the greatest scenery in Oceania.

On the other end of the line, in the fashion of good managers, Richard Royds sounds as diplomatic as he is pragmatic. “Are you in Twizel? Great! It's close enough. Come walking over here. You may have to wait a while but I should get you something soon.”

We had recently added NZ$250 to a still short list of speeding tickets in the downunder. We make an effort not to go overboard in haste.

After Flying Low, Over the Southern Alps

Still, after 25 minutes, we parked in front of the Mount Cook Ski Planes offices at Mount Cook Airport. Better than promised, with 25 more losers, we are boarding the Pilatus Porter PC6 from Mount Cook Ski Planes.

In a taxi, Wayne, the pilot in charge of the flight, gives us and two Asian couples – one Indian, the other Japanese – a brief safety briefing. Then, against the wind, as the rules dictate, we soar above the frigid waters of Lake Tasman.

Lake formed by the Tasman Glacier, Southern Alps, New Zealand

Large lake formed by the melting of the Tasman glacier, enlarged by the Southern Hemisphere summer.

As we ascend, Roaring Forties concentrated down the long canyon onward slam into the aircraft and cause passengers to cling more tightly to the front seats.

Wayne remains undaunted and unruffled: “It's okay, don't worry. I have been working this route for a long time, for too long, I dare say.

This wind is here almost always. If planes don't let me down, I won't let them down either.” secures while retouching the stick and adjusting knobs and knobs. “Do you know what bothers me? This heat.

Ski plane over Tasman Glacier, Southern Alps, New Zealand

Mount Cook Ski Planes plane flies over the top of the Tasman Glacier.

They came at the right time. Some 20 years ago, ice occupied a large part of what is now a lake, down there. If these summers continue like this, it won't be long, only the top will remain, where we will land.”

A Tasman Glacier Flight Above, Aimed at Aoraki Mount Cook

Pilatus Porter penetrates an unexpected cloudiness but breaks free in three stages. In an already completely clear sky, we lost the coziness of the valley and approached the most imposing peaks and fjords in the Southern Alps, Tasman, Dampier, then Teichelmann.

Mist, Southern Alps, New Zealand

Mist fills a gorge in the Southern Alps on New Zealand's South Island.

Shortly after, we also identified the aoraki Mount Cook slightly prominent due to its higher altitude and the prism shape of the summit, at that time sheltered by a curious lenticular cloud.

Lenticular Hat, Mount Cook, New Zealand

Summit of Aoraki Mount Cook accompanied by a lenticular cloud.

We went around New Zealand's Queen Mountain twice. Repetition allows us to admire the sumptuousness of the Southern Alps and, to the west, the wild coastline of the Tasman Sea, much more visible than we ever thought possible, considering the altitude at which we flew.

The initial purpose of the flight was fulfilled. Wayne points again to the ice bed of the Tasman Glacier that we flew over to the formation zone.

There, he reverses the direction of flight once more, lowers the ski-plane and lands on surface snow. Against the slope and friction, the plane does not take long to come to a standstill.

Pilot Wayne McMillan and Mount Cook Ski planes, Southern Alps, New Zealand

Wayne McMillan next to the Pegasus of the Mount Cook Ski Planes that has just landed in the heights of the Southern Alps.

Wayne takes advantage of the silence and announces with a heavy kiwi accent: “Here are the great New Zealand sets. Have fun". We were, on a majestic mountain glacier, just a few hundred meters above the peaks that countless climbers had aspired to climb.

Revolutionary Innovation Now at the Service of Mount Cook Ski Planes

A few decades ago, this easy access to the top of the mountain range also proved to be a huge achievement. The person responsible was the founder of Monte Cook Ski Planes, the company that had granted us the privilege of adventure.

In 1953, Harry Wigley, a former New Zealand Air Force pilot, was already taking scenic flights around Aoraki Mount Cook and over the glaciers.

Around that time, he realized the need for a retractable ski system that would allow planes to take off from normal runways and land on snow.

Wayne, Mount Cook Ski Planes Pilot, Southern Alps, New Zealand

Wayne Mc Millan, one of the Mount Cook Ski Planes pilots in the cockpit of his Pegasus.

Fixed skis already existed but an international investigation revealed that the retractable system had not yet been developed.

On the other hand, stationary skis could only be used part of the New Zealand winter, in seasons when the Monte Cook airfield had its runway covered with snow.

Wigley didn't conform. He invested hundreds of hours in creating a wheel that would stand out through the ski during take-off and landing on asphalt.

And a way for the ski to descend during the flight to allow landings on the high snowfields of the Tasman Glacier.

Passengers, scenic flights-Southern Alps, New Zealand

Passengers on a Mount Cook Ski Plane on a snowy plateau in the vicinity of Aoraki Mount Cook.

On September 22, 1955, Harry Wigley landed there the first ski plane – an Auster – equipped with the new system.

One of the most famous passengers to benefit from it was Sir Edmund Hillary who, seven years earlier, had conquered his beloved New Zealand roof, but nevertheless failed to visit.

Later, the concept and design were perfected and the skis were given plastic bases and hydraulically operated.

The introduction of a more powerful aircraft, the Cessna 180 allowed Mount Cook Ski Planes to operate year round and carry more fortunate passengers like us.

The Landing High Above the Tasman Glacier

The Indian couple is the first to leave. They take a few steps and, in a cold but romantic micro-climate, possibly on a honeymoon, they embrace. Japanese youths move away towards lush rock shapes and have themselves photographed in comic and eccentric poses.

Couple next to ski plane, Southern Alps, New Zealand

Couple is photographed by the ski plane of Mount Cook Ski Planes, above the Tasman Glacier.

We started to climb the ice field with the aim of peeking again beyond the highest edge of the mountain range.

Wayne lives his routine and little strays from the Pilate Porter.

He tells us we wouldn't have time for that, so we've given up on the little expedition.

Instead, we let ourselves be dazzled by the white grandeur of the scenery and the insignificance to which the colored aircraft were subject.

Tasman Glacier, Southern Alps, New Zealand

the curving ice river from the Tasman Glacier, the longest glacier in New Zealand.

Return to Starting Point, via the same route as the Tasman Glacier

Around it, at an altitude of 3.000 meters, stretched the vast base of the largest ice river in Oceania, 27 km long, 4 km wide and no less impressive 600 meters thick.

The day was drawing to a close and the smudge of light that hit the valley was diminishing to the eye like the tenuous heat that had hitherto caressed the passengers.

Wayne checks his watch and gives instructions to return to the plane. We glide over skis and snow once again with surprising smoothness and return to the heights delimited by the valley.

Ten minutes later, we're running on the aerodrome's abrasive tarmac.

Landing view from cockpit, Southern Alps, New Zealand.

Mount Cook Ski Planes Ski Planes about to land on the Mount Cook runway.

The dynamic landing device was working perfectly again.

Thus, we complete another part of the feat that Harry Wigley insisted on accomplishing.

Nelson to Wharariki, Abel Tasman NP, New Zealand

The Maori coastline on which Europeans landed

Abel Janszoon Tasman explored more of the newly mapped and mythical "Terra australis" when a mistake soured the contact with natives of an unknown island. The episode inaugurated the colonial history of the New Zealand. Today, both the divine coast on which the episode took place and the surrounding seas evoke the Dutch navigator.
Annapurna Circuit: 1th - Pokhara a ChameNepal

Finally, on the way

After several days of preparation in Pokhara, we left towards the Himalayas. The walking route only starts in Chame, at 2670 meters of altitude, with the snowy peaks of the Annapurna mountain range already in sight. Until then, we complete a painful but necessary road preamble to its subtropical base.
Wanaka, New Zealand

The Antipodes Great Outdoors

If New Zealand is known for its tranquility and intimacy with Nature, Wanaka exceeds any imagination. Located in an idyllic setting between the homonymous lake and the mystic Mount Aspiring, it became a place of worship. Many kiwis aspire to change their lives there.
North Island, New Zealand

Journey along the Path of Maority

New Zealand is one of the countries where the descendants of settlers and natives most respect each other. As we explored its northern island, we became aware of the interethnic maturation of this very old nation. Commonwealth as Maori and Polynesia.
Banks Peninsula, New Zealand

The Divine Earth Shard of the Banks Peninsula

Seen from the air, the most obvious bulge on the South Island's east coast appears to have imploded again and again. Volcanic but verdant and bucolic, the Banks Peninsula confines in its almost cogwheel geomorphology the essence of the ever enviable New Zealand life.
Mount Denali, Alaska

The Sacred Ceiling of North America

The Athabascan Indians called him Denali, or the Great, and they revered his haughtiness. This stunning mountain has aroused the greed of climbers and a long succession of record-breaking climbs.
napier, New Zealand

Back to the 30s - Calhambeque Tour

In a city rebuilt in Art Deco and with an atmosphere of the "crazy years" and beyond, the adequate means of transportation are the elegant classic automobiles of that era. In Napier, they are everywhere.

Altitude Sickness: the Grievances of Getting Mountain Sick

When traveling, it happens that we find ourselves confronted with the lack of time to explore a place as unmissable as it is high. Medicine and previous experiences with Altitude Evil dictate that we should not risk ascending in a hurry.
glaciers

icy blue planet

They form at high latitudes and/or altitudes. In Alaska or New Zealand, Argentina or Chile, rivers of ice are always stunning visions of an Earth as frigid as it is inhospitable.
Christchurch, New Zealand

New Zealand's Cursed Wizard

Despite his notoriety in the antipodes, Ian Channell, the New Zealand sorcerer, failed to predict or prevent several earthquakes that struck Christchurch. At the age of 88, after 23 years of contract with the city, he made very controversial statements and ended up fired.
Mount cook, New Zealand

The Cloud Piercer Mountain

Aoraki/Mount Cook may fall far short of the world's roof but it is New Zealand's highest and most imposing mountain.
Fiordland, New Zealand

The Fjords of the Antipodes

A geological quirk made the Fiordland region the rawest and most imposing in New Zealand. Year after year, many thousands of visitors worship the sub-domain slashed between Te Anau and Milford Sound.
Tongariro, New Zealand

The Volcanoes of All Discords

In the late XNUMXth century, an indigenous chief ceded the PN Tongariro volcanoes to the British crown. Today, a significant part of the Maori people claim their mountains of fire from European settlers.
New Zealand  

When Counting Sheep causes Sleep Loss

20 years ago, New Zealand had 18 sheep per inhabitant. For political and economic reasons, the average was halved. In the antipodes, many breeders are worried about their future.
Napier, New Zealand

Back to the 30s

Devastated by an earthquake, Napier was rebuilt in an almost ground-floor Art Deco and lives pretending to stop in the Thirties. Its visitors surrender to the Great Gatsby atmosphere that the city enacts.
bay of islands, New Zealand

New Zealand's Civilization Core

Waitangi is the key place for independence and the long-standing coexistence of native Maori and British settlers. In the surrounding Bay of Islands, the idyllic marine beauty of the New Zealand antipodes is celebrated, but also the complex and fascinating kiwi nation.
Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown, the Queen of Extreme Sports

In the century. XVIII, the Kiwi government proclaimed a mining village on the South Island "fit for a queen".Today's extreme scenery and activities reinforce the majestic status of ever-challenging Queenstown.
Amboseli National Park, Mount Kilimanjaro, Normatior Hill
safari
Amboseli National Park, Kenya

A Gift from the Kilimanjaro

The first European to venture into these Masai haunts was stunned by what he found. And even today, large herds of elephants and other herbivores roam the pastures irrigated by the snow of Africa's biggest mountain.
Hikers on the Ice Lake Trail, Annapurna Circuit, Nepal
Annapurna (circuit)
Annapurna Circuit: 7th - Braga - Ice Lake, Nepal

Annapurna Circuit – The Painful Acclimatization of the Ice Lake

On the way up to the Ghyaru village, we had a first and unexpected show of how ecstatic the Annapurna Circuit can be tasted. Nine kilometers later, in Braga, due to the need to acclimatize, we climbed from 3.470m from Braga to 4.600m from Lake Kicho Tal. We only felt some expected tiredness and the increase in the wonder of the Annapurna Mountains.
Luderitz, Namibia
Architecture & Design
Lüderitz, Namibia

Wilkommen in Africa

Chancellor Bismarck has always disdained overseas possessions. Against his will and all odds, in the middle of the Race for Africa, merchant Adolf Lüderitz forced Germany to take over an inhospitable corner of the continent. The homonymous city prospered and preserves one of the most eccentric heritages of the Germanic empire.
Adventure
Volcanoes

Mountains of Fire

More or less prominent ruptures in the earth's crust, volcanoes can prove to be as exuberant as they are capricious. Some of its eruptions are gentle, others prove annihilating.
Indigenous Crowned
Ceremonies and Festivities
Pueblos del Sur, Venezuela

Behind the Venezuela Andes. Fiesta Time.

In 1619, the authorities of Mérida dictated the settlement of the surrounding territory. The order resulted in 19 remote villages that we found dedicated to commemorations with caretos and local pauliteiros.
, Mexico, city of silver and gold, homes over tunnels
Cities
Guanajuato, Mexico

The City that Shines in All Colors

During the XNUMXth century, it was the city that produced the most silver in the world and one of the most opulent in Mexico and colonial Spain. Several of its mines are still active, but the impressive wealth of Guanuajuato lies in the multicolored eccentricity of its history and secular heritage.
Beverage Machines, Japan
Meal
Japan

The Beverage Machines Empire

There are more than 5 million ultra-tech light boxes spread across the country and many more exuberant cans and bottles of appealing drinks. The Japanese have long since stopped resisting them.
Jingkieng Wahsurah, Nongblai Village Roots Bridge, Meghalaya, India
Culture
Meghalaya, India

The Bridges of the Peoples that Create Roots

The unpredictability of rivers in the wettest region on Earth never deterred the Khasi and the Jaintia. Faced with the abundance of trees elastic fig tree in their valleys, these ethnic groups got used to molding their branches and strains. From their time-lost tradition, they have bequeathed hundreds of dazzling root bridges to future generations.
Sport
Competitions

Man: an Ever Tested Species

It's in our genes. For the pleasure of participating, for titles, honor or money, competitions give meaning to the world. Some are more eccentric than others.
Sunset, Avenue of Baobabs, Madagascar
Traveling
Morondava, Avenue of Baobabs, Madagascar

The Malagasy Way to Dazzle

Out of nowhere, a colony of baobab trees 30 meters high and 800 years old flanks a section of the clayey and ocher road parallel to the Mozambique Channel and the fishing coast of Morondava. The natives consider these colossal trees the mothers of their forest. Travelers venerate them as a kind of initiatory corridor.
amazing
Ethnic

Amberris Caye, Belize

Belize's Playground

Madonna sang it as La Isla Bonita and reinforced the motto. Today, neither hurricanes nor political strife discourage VIP and wealthy vacationers from enjoying this tropical getaway.

sunlight photography, sun, lights
Got2Globe Photo Portfolio
Natural Light (Part 2)

One Sun, So Many Lights

Most travel photos are taken in sunlight. Sunlight and weather form a capricious interaction. Learn how to predict, detect and use at its best.
Bathers on the threshold between the Natural Pools and the Atlantic Ocean, Porto Moniz
History
Porto Moniz e Ribeira da Janela, Madeira

A Life of Hillside, Ocean and Lava

We explore lands that are said to have been colonized, back in the 15th century, by the Algarvian Francisco Moniz, the Elder. After almost half a millennium, Porto Moniz became a popular bathing area, largely due to its pools contained in a labyrinth of lava rock.
Roça Bombaim, Roça Monte Café, São Tomé island, flag
Islands
Center São Tomé, São Tomé and Principe

From Roça to Roça, Towards the Tropical Heart of São Tomé

On the way between Trindade and Santa Clara, we come across the terrifying colonial past of Batepá. Passing through the Bombaim and Monte Café roças, the island's history seems to have been diluted in time and in the chlorophyll atmosphere of the Santomean jungle.
ala juumajarvi lake, oulanka national park, finland
Winter White
Kuusamo ao PN Oulanka, Finland

Under the Arctic's Icy Spell

We are at 66º North and at the gates of Lapland. In these parts, the white landscape belongs to everyone and to no one like the snow-covered trees, the atrocious cold and the endless night.
Almada Negreiros, Roça Saudade, Sao Tome
Literature
Saudade, São Tomé, São Tomé and Principe

Almada Negreiros: From Saudade to Eternity

Almada Negreiros was born in April 1893, on a farm in the interior of São Tomé. Upon discovering his origins, we believe that the luxuriant exuberance in which he began to grow oxygenated his fruitful creativity.
Gandoca Manzanillo Refuge, Bahia
Nature
Gandoca-Manzanillo (Wildlife Refuge), Costa Rica

The Caribbean Hideaway of Gandoca-Manzanillo

At the bottom of its southeastern coast, on the outskirts of Panama, the “Tica” nation protects a patch of jungle, swamps and the Caribbean Sea. As well as a providential wildlife refuge, Gandoca-Manzanillo is a stunning tropical Eden.
Sheki, Autumn in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan, Autumn Homes
Autumn
Sheki, Azerbaijan

autumn in the caucasus

Lost among the snowy mountains that separate Europe from Asia, Sheki is one of Azerbaijan's most iconic towns. Its largely silky history includes periods of great harshness. When we visited it, autumn pastels added color to a peculiar post-Soviet and Muslim life.
Maria Jacarés, Pantanal Brazil
Natural Parks
Miranda, Brazil

Maria dos Jacarés: the Pantanal shelters such Creatures

Eurides Fátima de Barros was born in the interior of the Miranda region. 38 years ago, he settled in a small business on the side of BR262 that crosses the Pantanal and gained an affinity with the alligators that lived on his doorstep. Disgusted that once upon a time the creatures were being slaughtered there, she began to take care of them. Now known as Maria dos Jacarés, she named each of the animals after a soccer player or coach. It also makes sure they recognize your calls.
Boat and helmsman, Cayo Los Pájaros, Los Haitises, Dominican Republic
UNESCO World Heritage
Samaná PeninsulaLos Haitises National Park Dominican Republic

From the Samaná Peninsula to the Dominican Haitises

In the northeast corner of the Dominican Republic, where Caribbean nature still triumphs, we face an Atlantic much more vigorous than expected in these parts. There we ride on a communal basis to the famous Limón waterfall, cross the bay of Samaná and penetrate the remote and exuberant “land of the mountains” that encloses it.
Era Susi towed by dog, Oulanka, Finland
Characters
PN Oulanka, Finland

A Slightly Lonesome Wolf

Jukka “Era-Susi” Nordman has created one of the largest packs of sled dogs in the world. He became one of Finland's most iconic characters but remains faithful to his nickname: Wilderness Wolf.
Cahuita National Park, Costa Rica, Caribbean, Punta Cahuita aerial view
Beaches
Cahuita, Costa Rica

Dreadlocked Costa Rica

Traveling through Central America, we explore a Costa Rican coastline as much as the Caribbean. In Cahuita, Pura Vida is inspired by an eccentric faith in Jah and a maddening devotion to cannabis.
Peasant woman, Majuli, Assam, India
Religion
Majuli Island, India

An Island in Countdown

Majuli is the largest river island in India and would still be one of the largest on Earth were it not for the erosion of the river Bramaputra that has been making it diminish for centuries. If, as feared, it is submerged within twenty years, more than an island, a truly mystical cultural and landscape stronghold of the Subcontinent will disappear.
Flam Railway composition below a waterfall, Norway.
On Rails
Nesbyen to Flam, Norway

Flam Railway: Sublime Norway from the First to the Last Station

By road and aboard the Flam Railway, on one of the steepest railway routes in the world, we reach Flam and the entrance to the Sognefjord, the largest, deepest and most revered of the Scandinavian fjords. From the starting point to the last station, this monumental Norway that we have unveiled is confirmed.
full cabin
Society
Saariselka, Finland

The Delightful Arctic Heat

It is said that the Finns created SMS so they don't have to talk. The imagination of cold Nordics is lost in the mist of their beloved saunas, real physical and social therapy sessions.
the projectionist
Daily life
Sainte-Luce, Martinique

The Nostalgic Projectionist

From 1954 to 1983, Gérard Pierre screened many of the famous films arriving in Martinique. 30 years after the closing of the room in which he worked, it was still difficult for this nostalgic native to change his reel.
Masai Mara Reservation, Masai Land Travel, Kenya, Masai Convivial
Wildlife
Masai Mara, Kenya

A Journey Through the Masai Lands

The Mara savannah became famous for the confrontation between millions of herbivores and their predators. But, in a reckless communion with wildlife, it is the Masai humans who stand out there.
Full Dog Mushing
Scenic Flights
Seward, Alaska

The Alaskan Dog Mushing Summer

It's almost 30 degrees and the glaciers are melting. In Alaska, entrepreneurs have little time to get rich. Until the end of August, dog mushing cannot stop.