12 Oct 2017
NZ 8873 Q300 ZK-NFI
Boarding: 0945 Gate 9 Seat 3D
Takeoff: 1012 to South
Landing: 1215 from North
Going South quickly
Wellington airport was an eye-opener. Walk in off the street and onto the plane with zero security checks!
Quite apart from the huge Lord of the Wings eagles hanging from the terminal ceiling.
Our bird down to Invercargill was not quite so spectacular. An elderly De Havilland Q300 propellor job. A little squeezy inside, but I had a window seat – not that the solid overcast promised much outside – and a lovely young lady about ninety or so beside me.
Invercargill is further south than I’d ever been in the world – at least with my feet on the ground – and I was looking forward to that, and to heading even further towards the bottom of the world the next day for a weekend on Stewart Island, a big chunk of New Zealand with fewer than four hundred residents.
We rose into the clouds, and the view was the overcast from the top until we reached Kaikoura about half an hour into the two-hour flight. The clouds began to break up, and to the west and south, it was not just clear, but brilliant.
The lady beside me talked about the old days, when she had flown to and from boarding school in a DC-3, unpressurised, the pilot raising a wingtip to clear a mountain peak, the airsickness bags in heavy demand. Air New Zealand’s current fleet seems to be a little more comfortable.
We flew along the coastline from Christchurch on down, a marvellously clear day, with fishing boats, schools of fish, sediment plumes emerging from river mouths, and the sad earthquake vacancies in Christchurch’s centre all visible.
My last time in Christchurch was in 2009, and I have not returned since the devastating earthquakes in the subsequent years, which killed 185 people and destroyed 1 500 buildings, many of them significant in size, historic importance, or architectural merit. It was heartbreaking to think of this beautiful city lying in ruins.
As we approached Invercargill and the end of our flight south, I rummaged around for my belongings. In the seat pocket, I found an airsickness bag. No need to use it on this smooth flight, but I found it entertaining reading, nonetheless. Air New Zealand has a quirky sense of humour.
We landed at Invercargill, New Zealand’s fourth city and the southernmost in the English-speaking world. The airport is maybe a kilometre out of town, just a single runway – our plane made a U-turn on the runway to head for the terminal – and nothing much beyond a cafe inside the building. I collected my bags, found myself the only passenger in the shuttle bus into town, and had a pleasant chat with the gossipy driver all the way in.