Well it sure was a blast getting to Tekapo today. I have that sort of stunned mullet feeling, a mixture of tiredness and the pleasant anticlimax of having “done” it.
I took lots of bits of video and hope to edit it up tomorrow. It’s hard to remember what I’ve said on the video!
It’s a good 3 hours to Tekapo. Snaking through the Christchurch suburbs, then totally flat country through the Canterbury plains with huge tree windbreaks, sheep, etc and then it gets into the hills and twisty country. Not much traffic. Beautiful glacial rivers. Always snowy peaks on our right, to the west. Peter joked about the “phenomenal raw acceleration and impeccable handling of the CRV” as we body rolled around corners; and when he stomped his foot to the pedal the engine buzzed into life … oh, only seconds later. We were running south along the Alps, and veering closer to them all the time. Very impressive.
There are only a few small towns on the way, and about 11:30am we stopped a Fairlie for a coffee break. Really nice coffee at the Bakery. Alex pointed out the huge looming mountains from which the not-yet-visible Tekapo ridge descends.
Leaving Fairlie the country suddenly changes from lush green to dry and brown, and we crossed ? pass, barely a hill, at nearly 800m altitude. I had no idea we were that high. Then descending a hill towards extensive flatlands in front of the stunning mountains we got a view up to the ridge on our right, and next thing we were turning right into the farm … a lovely clear stream wandering right past the house.
We went thru a number of gates, then turned up the hill track. I was struck by how different the country is to home. The ground is all shingle rock, with small soaks running across the track, a few slippery bits, not much grass, rabbit holes common. Peter is an off roading novice but got the CRV up there in style. The track feels a bit dangerous being so rocky and cut into the side of the hill in parts, with steep drops below, but it’s easy really. Next thing we were up at Alex’s preferred spot.
Rob was first in the air with his JW, then Andrew P with the brand new JW. Man, it flew nicely! He got it to 169mph, and Rob 141. They were furballing for ages and the air was smooth. Peter’s JW was going nicely till it went into the back, but no major damage. The ridge is really impressive. To the northwest you see Lake
Tekapo, glacial blue, and a vast flat land to its south, and enormous Alps all behind, covered in cloud. Apparently the moist air off the west side hits them and drops all the moisture, so the air downwind is really dry. On the backside there’s a valley way, way below and the slope drops parabolically, so you can see all of it. Enormous space to fly in and no trees anywhere.
Andrew P flew his vac bagged Scratcho, to my pleasure raving about it. He got it to 174 – a PB. I flew the Shockwave to 204, but it was not as smooth as I expected. Harder to hold a good line, but that could have been my tiredness and nerves. I found the landing to be OK. Not dead easy as it’s a small patch and I had to really push the nose down firmly to get it down.
Nick arrived up, very breathless as he hadn’t been able to get his work Impreza all the way up. Alex was going really well with the D60 and got 263. He broke a servo arm on landing.
The air was getting rough so I wanted to explore further up the ridge and Nick came with me. We went a long way and decided that there were several possibilities, and walked back. The wind seemed to be getting stronger. On our return we decided to try the Shockwave at a higher site, and I carried it up – man it was crazy wind. I was leaning over on an angle walking on the ridge. The others brought the Rodeo up but kept driving. I launched the Shockwave single handed. Stood on a bunch of rocks, dangled the TX on my left thumb while holding the wing and right hand on fuse. It launched nicely but the crazy wind blew the Tx around my hand and I fumbled for the sticks. Finally had to look down and found them. Plane still tracking out nicely. No response .. aerial was knocked unscrewed, so I tightened that and we were in business. Not a recommended method.
I dived in where I thought it best, and the Shockwave almost stopped, coming up the back. Huge amounts of air flowing down the backside. I moved down and tried the other direction … it was like a giant tumbler. The wind seemed north. I slowly walked the 150m or so back down to the original spot and stood near the CRV and dived in … it was like getting dumped by a giant wave. Finally I landed. The wind was well off angle from the north. One good thing about that was that the air on the crest was very laminar (in fact it was blowing all down the backside) so the landing was easy but I still managed to break a flap servo arm. I was still fixing it when the other guys got back . They had found a spot much further up and flew the Jazz but it was bad, and the Jazz got some damage.
We then moved further down (south) about 200m and climbed up to a knoll with a nice soft mossy landing zone. Alex got 134 with the Jazz and it seemed OK so I put the Shockwave up. There was good power and times but it was on and off, with a few scary surprises, but I had fun and got it to 212. Huge circles. But obviously the wind direction was not good. We climbed back down to the cars, packed up and moved along again and hiked up to another spot but it was terrible DS. Alex however enjoyed doing flat laminar air landings with the Scratcho, really close to a fence. Ezza and I exchanged a few messages … he was busting to hear how it was. The wind felt crazy in the saddle.
Much further along, there’s a part of the ridge that curves a bit westward, so it looked a possibility. We crawled along the ridge for 10mins or so and this spot was at a much lower altitude and felt “nicer” with grassy patches around. The DS was still wild. Alex sussed it out with the Scratcho and got it to 194mph. Peter was busting to fly his Windburner so he got some laps in and did 120mph, but got tumbled and had to land down the back … cartwheeled but only a small dint. I put together the Wizard Compact DSX with lots of weight, and dived in. It was the worst dive in result I’ve had for a long time! The plane almost stopped flying. But it came back over the top and with some coaching from Alex I finally found the “good” line but could only get 201. You had to stay in a particular alley and go very deep, and it was OK. Whenever you lost the line, it was bad. Landing was good.
We’d had enough, and headed down. The track got bad with some soft wet creeks to cross, and “Matangauri” bushes to scrape past and over. This stuff is mean. It makes lantana look like tissue paper. You’ll see it in the video. The Rodeo ate it up, but the CRV was sobbing and crying in pain.
We got dinner in Fairlie and I fell asleep in the car as Peter drove home.
I could tell you guys lots more. But I gotta get to bed. It was a great day, and it’s great to have the site “under my belt” so when we go back there, I’m familiar with it. I hope we get wind from the right direction. It was so strong at times this arvo that I’m sure there would have been 350mph in it, if it was square onto the hill.
Edit: I couldn't connect late last night but got it sorted this morning. Just looked at the forecast for Friday ... it's looking huge! Just hope the wind direction comes good.
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