Coming Full Circle – Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, Kaikoura and Christchurch

I’d never seen a glacier before so I was beyond excited to get the most spectacular view of Fox and Franz Josef glaciers that anyone could possibly get.

I looked hilarious in my blue and purple clown suit, my egg shaped hat and goggles (I promise pictures will come… They’re too good to keep to myself) and I was giddy. Not everyone gets a 180 degree view of Fox and Franz Josef, Mount Cook, Mount Tasman, the Tasman Sea, lakes that perfectly reflect the peaks around them and miles of sheep-speckled green valleys all in one shot. Plus, I’d been less than patiently waiting for this moment since my freshman year of college when I made my first attempt. Finally, I was getting the chance to attach myself to a stranger and voluntarily jump out of a teeny little plane 16,000 feet above the ground and I couldn’t be more pumped.

It happened rather spontaneously – it was supposed to rain that day but I figured I’d give it a shot without any expectation of actually going. Then, despite my skepticism and the forecast, the skies cleared up and it was go time. It’s funny because I had committed to skydiving at Fox Glacier years ago while reading an Off Track Planet article that listed it as one of the most awesome places to do it, and all of my attempts to jump elsewhere fell through, kind making this even more special.

The flight up was stunning – I had a perfect view out of the 5-person plane window. I got so caught up in absorbing the scenery that I forgot the point of the trip – to jump out. I abruptly remembered this small fact when they put an oxygen mask over my mouth to make sure I could keep breathing at our elevation. All of a sudden, my stomach dropped as I looked at the trees thousands of feet below and I was altogether terrified, exhilarated and a little nauseous. Luckily Nico, the guy I was attached to, was amiable and funny and helped me feel as at ease as I could possibly feel. Then all at once, he wrenched open the door to the plane and we were in free fall.

It was the most incredible thing I’ve ever done – I don’t think I’ve ever experienced so many different emotions before so simultaneously. The view was simply unbeatable and the whole jump was blissful and thrilling. There was this awesome adrenaline rush that slowed time down so I could soak in that unreal view while the freezing air whipped around my face and I couldn’t stop smiling and laughing once I could catch my breath. I was still cracking up as we slid to the ground and I’m so so so glad I did it.

I met up with Bennett and Pete, who had hiked Mount Fox for a view of the glaciers in the meantime, and we left for a long road trip to Kaikoura. Our hostel there, the Albatross, was cool and had great vibes – it was decorated with art made by people who stayed there and had guitars, bongos and a piano in substitution for a TV in order to foster a real sense of community.

We got up early the next morning to see some of Kaikoura’s famous wildlife. We saw some pods (…not sure if that’s the right term) of seals lounging around on the beach and enjoying the rain at first and then found the Ohau Stream. You follow it for a little while and see some seals playing about which is exciting, but then you hit a waterfall and there are hundreds of seal pups playing in the pool and river right at it’s base. There were SO MANY baby seals and I literally couldn’t handle it – they were so so adorable and it was so magical. I’ve never even seen seals in the wild before and all of a sudden there were a million of them all waddling around, playing with each other and jumping in and out of the water.

From there we drove to Hanmer Springs which was on our way to Christchurch. I expected more of a mountainous thermal spring experience but it was still so nice to chill in sulfur pools and outdoor jacuzzis in the cold dreary weather. We returned Bert, our car and reunited with our friends in Christchurch with whom we had some dinner and drinks, played a game of Cranium and said our final goodbyes before heading to the airport at 4 am. Our time in New Zealand was absolutely amazing and my only wish is that I had longer to do it because these two weeks flew! I had to say my sad goodbyes to Pete and Bennett (cue the separation anxiety) and now I’m on my own at the gate awaiting my flight to Byron Bay! Hopefully the weather holds out because a few days of beach lounging sounds fantastic after two weeks of cold in NZ!

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