Omarama Christmas camp 2023

Omarama Christmas camp 2023

Well it looks like the weekend reports will be permanently migrating here for the foreseeable future now that I’ve had some help and figured out how to drive this thing (Thanks Edwin)

This being my first test report ever submitted to this site, I thought I would christen it with a first timers perspective on the wildly successful Christmas camp at Omarama just gone. Meeting the “extended family” and making more friends, it really was a privilege to be amongst it all, googly eyed, watching everyone in their element.

From the Canterbury end, there had been an initial sluggish outset to get organisational momentum behind the event, causing some hesitation. Operational compromises, logistical considerations and qualified personal coverage, all being further complicated by it being the holiday season.
Despite the constant question marks hovering around, as D-day approached, one by one people stepped forward to fill the voids and it’s because of their commitment that this camp was the success that it was. I must foremost give mention and honour to the instructors (Peter Taylor, John McCaw (especially John), Jenny Wilkinson, Terry Delore ) and tow pilots (Luca Ruzzon, Bruce Cooper, Peter Chadwick) due to which some of my now most priceless memories exist that I will never forget and be forever grateful for. Thankyou.


Springfield to Omarama
Bundling up the bird

Fixing the trailer the night prior (which had somehow gotten a WOF)

Giving the Tow car a tickle up with the polisher

Add some Go Go juice and we’re on our way. (First time towing a glider trailer for me). Lucky for me I could leave when I pleased, not so for Luca who was flying the tow plane dynamic down due to very low cloud base which grounded him for a few days.


Welcome weary travelers
I thought my tent was big until Rob C and his mothership turned up! At least he didn’t have to bother with a rouge garden sprinkler targeting his tent every night. 

The Ablutions and kitchen facilities were much better than I had expected. It sometimes resembled bumper cars around dinner times but at least it was a lot of fun, especially with 9+ nationalities there. Plenty of ammunition for launching cultural jokes  across the aisles at each other.

Baxter looking pleased with himself. Probably chasing rabbits down burrow holes and the camp cat who never seems to stay still (I forgot her name)

The main terminal building was always a cool quiet place to retreat to especially on the hot days.

Some of the local wildlife. Two of the hardest working horses in the valley

I didn’t know Omarama had it’s own regional airline (Air Oakley) VIP customers only 

Secret Santa Lolly Scramble Shenanigan’s
I was cornered one morning unannounced for a secret mission. The cause was noble enough and I was in due course, introduced to mission chief Gavin Wills. Nice enough guy I thought. Little did I realise I was shaking hands with one of the Patriarchs of gliding. One of the coolest unexpected things is I can now say is, I got to fly with Gavin Wills, and Gavin got to fly with Santa. Lucky him 🙂


New years eve looms . . . who’s gonna give Derek a kiss                                                                             Ahh an enthusiastic volunteer appears 🙂


Lets get down to business
A master class
After getting gliders rigged and being orientated to the airfield I was promptly orientated to the local soaring landmarks by John McCaw with my first flight in the Janus. With all the club holiday and regional competition pilots about, the ridges were busier than a flock of seagulls at the rubbish dump. With all my continuous 360 scanning I’m surprised my head didn’t wind off and land in my lap. John helped me log my first ever oxygen flight to 15,000ft and I definitely didn’t expect to see Mount Cook so close from the top of the Dobson Valley. The skies are so big down here. It was my first of three spectacular flights.

The two other flights worthy of mention was with Norbert (the weapon) Scalat in a Duo Discus and Terry (can’t catch me) Delore in his recently refurbished shiny Twin Astir. Each flight was a major recalibration of the definition of “local flight”. It was the ultimate privilege to watch and study these three masters of their art, seemingly loft across the countries ranges so effortlessly and into what felt like sub orbit on the wave at 20K ft. In fact the rest of the camp was essentially just me walking around picking up my jaw off the ground. Humility was definitely the appropriate response to such an involved experience. (Check out Norbert’s other 2000km intercontinental flights he’s done with Justin Wills on Weglide)

Terry prepping the Astir

The girls are back in town                                                                                                            Milan patiently waiting for the fatman in the background to refuel

And the prize for the prettiest tow plane goes toooooooo . . . DYT of course


Regional Competition
Let the games begin

By far the best looking Glider/pilot of the bunch . . .

Controls: check,  Trim: check,  Oversized retractable shavers: check.
Due to market downsizing, Gillette has branched out into joint experimental ventures with ASW

Despite a suspicious grave like hole in the runway, the show must go on                    Eagle eyed Score keepers watch nervously  for landouts

              because sometimes you displease the thermal Gods!

Alex McCaw (left) longest road retrieve winner. Nick Oakley (right) Regional Competition winner

Search for the holy Veil
Whimsically strolling the edge of the runway one day, I stumbled upon a hat taking itself for a walk without supervision. I pondered this quaint lonesome wanderer and stooped down to scrutinize it more thoroughly. I knew not it’s origin, but it’s presence was drawing a vauge semblance of recognition in my mind. Where had I seen this veiled hat before? Upon further inquiry with a group of intellectual bystanders, it was agreed, that it most probably belonged to Hermes, son of Zeus, the God of speed. It is said that whoever adorns the veil is bestowed with the vision of a Hawk, reflexes of a cobra and the cunning of a fox.

YES of course I gave it back! . . . reluctantly 

Skyscapes: heavens road to glory
Dissolving sky                                                                                                                                           Trailing sky

 Layered sky                                                                                                                                                Streeting sky

Mushroom sky


The memories we made
All good things must come to an end 🙁                                                                                      A quick charge before the voyage home

With the Janus trailer loaded and car packed ready to Meander back to Canterbury, I relaxed in the Cathedral roofed Terminal building from the heat of the day. It still felt like an airport terminal building, but now thinking back over the past two weeks, I was intrigued to notice a religious overtone permeating its façade. From the past weeks observations I noticed . . .

  • An annual pilgrimage for the devoted many to the gliding Mecca of NZ  √ check
  • Grand Iconic symbols hanging from the ceiling and wall plaques memorialising past revered champions of the faith  √ check
  • Layman of differing denominations  (glider, para, hang, power) . . . we shan’t mention the heretical whirly pilots 😀  √ check
  • 0930 Clergy/Elders meetings  (Gate keepers of the ancient wisdom)  √ check
  • 1000 Morning liturgical services in the congregational hall  √ check
  • Scriptural readings of wisdom by Milan from the sacred texts (apps)  √ check
  • Impromptu pastoral sermons by a man everyone called “G”  who coincidently flies the rego Golf Oscar Delta.  √ check
  • The Ritualistic way in which they prepare their machines for the day every morning √ check
  • A youth group  √ check

I couldn’t help but wonder, what is this strange religion I’ve stumbled into? I wonder if they even realise 😀

As camp was slowly drawing to a close, one by one people headed back home to work and the like. It felt a tad disruptive by now since I had become accustomed to the schedule and routine of the place. The camp was a huge success and I’m glad now that I made the effort to come. Even a fun hike up the Quailburn pass with a few others was a pleasant unexpected adventure in itself.

The timing of this camp could not have come at a more opportune moment for me considering that I am just verging into the cross country phase of my training.

  • I was afforded the ultimate privilege to observe closely these masters, seemingly loft so casually across the country, skimming the spurs, provoking fate racing horizon to horizon before scuttling back home to beat the sun down. My infant like vision still limits my reach but through their eyes I could see so much further.
  • I got to see a LOT of country that I probably never would have otherwise, and learnt more about my own country in the process.  The night skies down there truly are a heavenly master piece that rival any alpine sunset.
  • I watched many times peoples ability to strategically analyze and resolve operational issues, which showed a degree of social cohesion that only happens when there exists a unified common goal.
  • I befriended the most interesting people, full of good will, experience, wisdom and life. They shared with me their many lifetimes of skill and dedication along with the palpable weight of concerns and hopes they have for the responsibility of its future. It truly is a blessing to explore and discover this sport under that kind of counsel.

There is a Maori proverb that this place reminds me of:

“Mā mua ka kite a muri, mā muri ka ora a mua
Those who lead give sight to those who follow, those who follow give life to those who lead”

It’s strange to think I would ever be involved in a sport whose sole goal was to master the air, reign the winds, and move on the clouds. Although it lends towards a rational kind of mindset, there will always remain an element of magic about what they do.
For these chosen few who travel on high, they call them glider pilots, I call them skywalkers. (Tangata hikoi rangi)

S Taputoro
  • Edwin

    Good work Sol, looks like you got it sorted.

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