WEST COAST

Go Travel New Zealand - - Contents - By Chris McPhee

Driv­ing up the West Coast felt like en­ter­ing a time-warp back into pre­his­toric times.

With snow-capped moun­tains and dense bush as far as the eye can see, you can un­der­stand why Peter Jack­son used the South Is­land of New Zealand for film­ing large

parts of the Lord of the Rings Tril­ogy.

Af­ter trav­el­ling through the misty bush for what seemed like an eter­nity, we fi­nally heard the sooth­ing sounds of the ocean. Just up the coast was a beau­ti­ful wee sandy bay cov­ered in white stones. On closer in­spec­tion, you can see why Bruce’s Bay was voted one of the top ten bays in New Zealand. Travellers from all over the world have left their spe­cial, in­spir­ing mes­sages on the stones and I de­cided to leave a few of my own. All the while, I imag­ined my­self re­turn­ing years later to leave my next chapter.

Un­der an hour up the road, I en­tered into the world fa­mous Fox Glacier town­ship. I pulled up to Bella Vista Mo­tel and dropped off my things and then went straight off to the air­field. I had been ex­cited for weeks about stupidly throw­ing my­self out of a plane, but now the fear struck in and got a hold of me. What was I let­ting my­self in for? The pre­vi­ous two weeks had seen var­i­ous avi­a­tion dis­as­ters all over the world and I couldn’t help but think that I was mak­ing the stu­pid­est de­ci­sion of my life. Thank­fully, Mark and the boys at the sky­dive were amaz­ing and said all the right things to put my head straight. With over 12,000 jumps un­der his belt, I knew

that I could trust Mark’s words. Af­ter hav­ing my safety brief­ing and get­ting my gear on, it was time for my photo: a scared shadow of my usual self stand­ing there shak­ing to the bone.

Next thing I knew, I was up in the air look­ing down on the scenery be­low, start­ing to calm down and re­alise how lucky I was to be in such a scary sit­u­a­tion. Af­ter get­ting my fi­nal brief­ing, it was time to move to the front of the plane and jump out at­tached to my new Ar­gen­tine friend, Mauro. The door open­ing up and the rush of cold air hit­ting my face meant the adren­a­line re­ally started to pump and over­take the fear. With my legs dan­gling over the edge, I was look­ing down at the ground that seemed miles be­low and I said my prayers.

Mauro then gave me the ready, steady and leant for­ward and, next thing I knew, we were fall­ing. I was ex­pect­ing the sort of empty feel­ing in­side that I had ex­pe­ri­enced in the past on roller­coast­ers and bungee jumps, but this was dif­fer­ent. It was way more pleas­ing but ex­tremely scary at the same time. Af­ter a few sec­onds, when we had stead­ied, I found my­self look­ing around at some amaz­ing con­trasts in scenery: the ocean on one side, moun­tains that had been in­jected with steroids on the other, and even a huge melt­ing glacier clamped onto the val­ley next to Mount Tas­man. What more could I have wished for?

A few se­cond later and the fear had to­tally dis­ap­peared; now, all I had was adren­a­line rush­ing through my veins. I was buzzing but also calmly tak­ing in my sur­round­ings. I re­mem­ber think­ing that not many peo­ple in the world get to see a view this amaz­ing, let alone sky­dive above it. It re­ally has to be one of the most scenic sky­dives not only in New

Zealand but the world.

Af­ter what felt like smil­ing for my pho­tos but, in re­al­ity, was scream­ing, as pho­to­graphic ev­i­dence shows, I knew that it was nearly time for the chute to open up. Mauro gave me the tap on the shoul­der and it was time. In my opin­ion, that was go­ing to be the end of my ex­pe­ri­ence, but I couldn’t have been fur­ther from the truth. Float­ing through the air re­ally gave me time to take in the sur­round­ings and what I had just risked. At the same time, it was a re­lief to know I had sur­vived once the parachute opened up.

Mauro then gave me con­trols of the chute and, by lift­ing one hand

up and pulling one down, I was able to slowly turn in cir­cles. Not go­ing too fast in case I some­how man­aged to do some­thing wrong. Mauro then took over con­trol and sent us into a mad spin with legs fly­ing out and even go­ing above my head at times. It was a great last bit of ex­cite­ment be­fore we landed.

He pointed to the red ar­row that we were go­ing to be land­ing on and re­minded me of the safe way to land without break­ing any limbs. Fly­ing to­wards the ground is still a pretty daunt­ing ex­pe­ri­ence but, with Mauro in con­trol, I knew ev­ery­thing was go­ing to go swim­mingly. About ten me­tres off the ground, I lifted my legs in the air and came to a halt, skid­ding along the grass. I sur­vived it and was fi­nally happy to be back on safe ground. The sky­dive was bet­ter than I had ex­pected it to be and def­i­nitely a more en­joy­able ex­pe­ri­ence than my pre­vi­ous adren­a­line ac­tiv­ity of bungee jump­ing. It had all the adren­a­line of the bungee but lasted longer and didn’t have that gut-wrench­ing feel­ing of my in­sides jump­ing out my throat.

Mark and the boys were mag­nif­i­cent and they truly did make the ex­pe­ri­ence one that will live with me for­ever. Any­one out there think­ing about en­joy­ing a sky­dive should look no fur­ther than here. Not only do they of­fer sky­dives up-to a scary 16,000ft, but they re­ally run a great op­er­a­tion that fills you with con­fi­dence through­out and makes the ex­pe­ri­ence as en­joy­able as pos­si­ble. And, well, that scenery is just the ic­ing on the cake. Un­be­liev­able!

To fin­ish off the day, Briar and I de­cided to go for a ro­man­tic walk around Lake Mathe­son, which is just down the road. With a path through the for­est around the lake clut­tered with in­ter­est­ing trees, it re­ally was the per­fect way to let my body re­lax and truly come back to earth. From the view­ing point at the end of Lake Mathe­son, the mir­ror im­age of the moun­tains across the lake alone is def­i­nitely worth the hour and a half walk. To top off an amaz­ing day, we stopped at the cafe for a cof­fee and meal and then, sadly, had to say good­bye to Fox Glacier. On the way home, we took a wee trip to the glacier to see it up close and per­sonal. Nowhere near as cool as it was from the air but great none­the­less. I would love to say a fi­nal thank you to Mark and the boys as they have shown me not just a high­light of New Zealand but one of the high­lights of my life! With a great range of ac­tiv­i­ties on of­fer in Fox Glacier, be sure not to skip this amaz­ing place.

Ready to fly

Bruce’s Bay

Lake Mathe­son

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