Sunrise Flights with Notes of a Northerner

When we moved down to Level 2 in New Zealand, that meant we were able to wake our sleeping aircraft and venture out from the hangar back into the skies above our magnificent Southern Alps. One of our first flights took our favourite creatives up for a new Sunrise Flight around Mt. Aspiring and Earnslaw Burn to capture photos and videos for our new, innovative products. Sitting in the co-pilot seat was Harrison Candlin, an Australian outdoor lifestyle and adventure photographer based here in Queenstown, camera in-hand to take amazing photographs along the way. One row back in our brand new Cessna 206 was his friend and our favourite Washingtonian photographer and filmmaker, Kyle Kotajarvi. In the back row, was our resident Glenorchy Air cheerleader and supporter, Sophie Piearcey from Notes of a Northerner.

Read her awe-inspiring blog post about her Sunrise Flight experience with us.

There is something so powerful about rising with the sun. Watching the new day break-in and the sun start its journey over our land will always fascinate me. I will never, ever forget how truly magical this very morning was. The sun peaked over mountain ranges all around us, inversion layers in the distance started to burn off and as we looped around Mt Aspiring for the second time the glow hit the face of this mighty mountain, making it truly come alive. I will never forget the butterflies in my stomach and holding in the tears as the landscape continued to leave us speechless. It wasn’t until I got home that my mind started to process the incredible unfolding scenes and layers upon layers of magnificent mountains. It felt good to have a camera in my hand, it felt good to be out of the house creating something in an environment I thrive in and it felt good to be surrounded by nature’s best.

We had five weeks in lockdown here in New Zealand and the most I picked my camera up was to take photos of my perfected baking accomplishments. I had nothing to shoot, little inspiration, and nowhere to go. We walked the same loop track for five weeks and I was craving the mountains. As soon as Jacinda announced we could move into level 3 and travel to exercise I completed one hike. It wasn’t until level 2 rolled in, companies started to operate again, and the country could slowly but surely start to rebuild what once was. We didn’t see a commercial jet or any plane for that matter the whole of lockdown so the familiar sounds of planes and helicopters in the Queenstown airspace instilled hope into our little town reliant on tourism.

I arrived at the airport just before 7 am. It was dark, cold and there wasn’t a soul in sight. Kirstin met me in the car park and warmed up the customer van to keep us toasty as we waited for the plane to be prepped. Kyle and Harrison soon followed, and we sat in the dark waiting for the all-clear. James appeared from the hanger and that was our cue. We met the cold and we climbed into the plane. I took up residence in the back seat, this is my favourite seat, not only does it subside any motion sickness, but I can shoot through two windows, out the back and still see what’s happening upfront.

We rolled down the runway ready for takeoff. James signalled up to air traffic control, no reply, it looked like we beat the control tower to work this morning. As the wheels left the runway the pink hue of the sun started to creep into the sky. It wasn’t until we had passed Coronet Peak and Skippers Canyon that the light arrived. It was magical from the moment we took off, I repeatedly wiped away tears and tried to keep my cool as the landscape below put on her finest show. In the distance, I could see an inversion layer covering Wanaka and beyond that layers and layers of mountain peaks. The sky looked like an oil painting, blue, pink, and yellow hues danced across the sky as the sun made its way higher into the sky.

Below, glaciers, hidden alpine lakes, and snow came in and out of view, and just as the sun reached its position in the sky. So, did we. Mount Aspiring on our right-hand side dancing in and out of the early morning light as we looped around not once, but twice. To make the most of our time in the sky James took a turn towards Fiordland and the ever-beautiful Mount Earnslaw, home to one of my bucket list hikes, Earnslaw Burn. I saw the ocean in the distance and my heart skipped a beat, I saw Fiordland hugging the last of the long white cloud and then before we knew it, we were cruising back along Lake Wakatipu to head home. The morning was nothing short of magic. An early sunrise flight above Mount Aspiring National Park was enough to yet again bring me to tears and leave me speechless. It took me a while to process the scenes we witnessed this morning, the mountains, the light and the sheer epic scale of this country is truly wonderful.

Thank you, Glenorchy Air, for once again making my dreams come true.

You can check out the Sunrise flights and other amazing scenic flights on offer from Glenorchy air here.
Support local, support good people doing good things and support those who want to show you how beautiful our home really is.

Thank you so much Sophie for your continued support of our family-owned business. Read her beautiful blog posts about her three trips with us – to Milford Sound, Mt. Cook and this Sunrise Flight.

Milford Sound – A flight to remember

Mt. Cook – Mount Cook & Heli Hike

Sunrise Flight – Mount Aspiring and Mount Earnslaw Sunrise Flight


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