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Home » Adventures » New Zealand Extended Holiday » Westland NP

Westland National Park

Copland Hot Springs

Route I Walked36 km

Route I Walked
36 km

March 3 – 5, 2013

While being stuck in the happening town of Greymouth waiting for WOF repairs on my van, an opportunity arose to once again back track down the west coast, this time to hike in the Copland Valley with a couple other Americans. After getting a very odd look from the DOC ranger for buying camping tickets at 5 p.m. for staying at Welcome Flats that night, we started into the bush a little after six with a full bag of wine. After a couple hours walking along the beautiful Copland River the sun had sunk behind the mountains, and we pulled out our headlamps. With the excitement from tramping in the dark and the ease of having to lug less wine, we jollily made our way through the dark. Glowworms lived alongside the trail, and when we shutoff our torches we could usually seem some glowing on the rocks. Time eventually dragged on though, and we were very happy to finally reach Welcome Flats around 11:30 that night with an empty wine bag. Everyone else was asleep, but we slipped into the hot springs for a relaxing, sandfly free soak. The long day finally caught up with us though, and we retired to our tents. We slept in late but bathed again in the morning, before starting the long walk back out. An easy hitch back to Greymouth revealed that my van had not been into the shop yet, but at least road tripping to the hot springs was a lot better than lounging around a hostel.

The Copland River
Soaking in the very nice Copland Hot Springs

Fox Glacier

February 12, 2013

Walking just in the woods was not sufficient, so upon reaching Fox Glacier I took a full day guided walk on the ice. My guide was a genuine Nepal Sherpa, which was very reassuring for just a few hours on Fox Glacier. After scrambling along the valley walls for good views of the glacier, it was time to don crampons and get on the ice. The same basic route seemed to be used by all the tour groups, but because of the ever changing ice conditions, our guide still had to improvise and cut track. Walking on the glacier was fun, and the crampons kept me stable. The glacier had many neat features, with ice caves, crevasses, holes, and craggy faces abounding. This trip was definitely a better experience than just seeing the glacier’s face from the tourist lookouts.

The lower reaches of Fox Glacier
The craggy glacier
The craggy glacier


Although I am not a big adrenaline junkie, leaping from a perfectly working airplane always sounded like a fun way to spend a minute and a lot of money. The prospect of skydiving did not make me nervous, with the thousands of safe jumps, and the fact the guy I was strapped to wanted to land safely on the ground alleviated any fears. Since New Zealand touts itself on adventure tourism, I gave it a shot while on holiday. I chose to do so at Franz Josef Glacier, both for its scenery and the slightly more reasonable prices for pictures.

Suiting up at the airstrip went quick, and the other half of my tandem jump team quickly went over the basics of what to do. He did not provide a lot of detail, but he would be doing most of the work as I was mostly along for the ride.

The plane ride up provided great views of the mountains and glaciers. When we reached 15,000 feet though (none of the skydiving companies advertise their heights in metric for some reason), the door was pulled open, and we moved towards the door. Although I had not been nervous up to that point, hanging over the edge of the plane looking down at the ground had me questioning my choice. I had little time to dwell on these feelings though as a few seconds later we were falling through the air. For the first few seconds felt like the biggest hill possible on a roller coaster, until we quickly hit terminal velocity. From there the wind rushed relentlessly past, as if sticking my head out of a racecar, while I tried to appreciate the moment and surroundings. All too quickly though the instructor pulled the ripcord, and we floated down to a safe landing in a grassy field.

I enjoyed the ride down — except for my ears popping. The rapid change in pressure induced the worst popped areas I have ever experienced. By the time the chute deployed I had a raging earache and could barely hear. I could not enjoy the descent much because of the ringing. My ears did not return completely to normal until over a day later. Still, I liked it overall. I am not hooked on the sport, but if there was someway to alleviate the popped ears, I could do it again someday.

Danger propellers chop heads off. A graphic warning sign at the airstrip
Jumping out of the plane
Freefalling with awesome mountains in the background
Returning to the ground safely