Having made it to the west coast, we were eager to explore the glaciers, Fox and Franz-Josef, remarkable for their easy access, flowing out of the mountains of the Southern Alps nearly to sea level where they meet the temperate rain forests. We decided to join one of the Fox Glacier tours, taking a short (but stunning!) helicopter ride up for a 3-hour walk on the glacier face.
We were lucky to have yet another clear, sunny day, and as we set off (complete with crampons!), were treated to an incredible set of sights as the sun hit the ice and illuminated an amazing array of ice ridges, crevasses, caves, and compression arches.
The ride back came too quickly!
But the day wasn’t done yet – time for the next adventure: sky-diving! Much to Lee’s dismay, I decided that if there ever was a time to take advantage of fair skies and incredible views to do a tandem skydive over the glacier and Southern Alps, this was it! I strapped on the gear and partnered up with my very patient tandem (i.e. professional) sky-diving partner, and headed up into the wild blue yonder.
At just over 13,000′ (and luckily, without much opportunity for turning back), I did as I was told – i.e. stuck my legs out the hatch, held onto my harness, and kept my head back and eyes open while getting a firm push out the door. The experience of free-falling for just over a minute (~8000′) was undeniably one of the most incredible experiences of a lifetime – complete with full view of the Tasman Sea, Southern Alps, and Fox Glacier all one amazing scope. Happily the parachute engaged at 5000′ as planned, and it was smooth sailing back to earth. Hard to beat a day like that!