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.