West Coast

New Zealand part I - Posted On

The ‘Wet’ or ‘West’ Coast is the most raining place in New Zealand. The wind from the Tasman Sea brings all storms straight to it, hitting this ‘golden rush’ area with fierce. And Cape Foulwind is THE place for admiring the best of it.

We are off-season now. There isn’t much tourist vehicles, and the landscapes ARE magnificent. 

Paragliding Franz Joseph Glacier.

This Glacier is part of the World Heritage Area as it is an exceptional beautiful glacier. It dives from the top of the mountain to nearly the sea level (250m) in a very deep and narrow valley. What’s not so good about it is the rush of the touristic crowds flying in helicopter for having their scenic view of it. 

But I also want to have a scenic flight. I have a better plan than a helicopter (expensive, noisy and polluting): my paraglide is made for that. I find that Alex Knobb (1250m) is a touristic walk and offers at the top both a perfect take off and a superb point of view on the glacier. After gathering information and explaining my project to the DoC and the helicopter offices, we climb in the morning with Nadège and get up there at about 9:30am. Wind conditions are perfect, but too many helicopters flying in the middle of the valley make us going down walking. We don’t want to risk stupidly our life.

However, I have observed that between 7 and 8am, there is enough light, no thermal activity in the wind and no helicopter flying. Thus I wake up the next morning at 3:30am to climb again 1000m, alone in the dark that time. Nadège was definitely too tired that time. 

Helicopters companies had been warned I would take off at 7:30am, which I precisely do! 

When I get up there, some Kea birds, local mountain parrots, welcome me cheerfully. The glacier is laying down in front of me. Not a single cloud appears to obstruct the superb landscape all around. Wind is slightly South West but seems to hold it breath just when I am ready to take off. Absolutely alone in the immensity of the mountain, I first fly through a little gulley. Then, I get in the huge deep narrow valley at a sudden. 1000m high waterfalls wear the huge sides of the giant of rocks. The glacier comes toward me and show me it deepest secrets. It is so beautiful! I can’t help but singing loudly all over the place. When I land, I have regained energy for a looooong time!

Being quite lucky with the weather so far, we climb our final part in the storm and rain. Wanaka is coming. The last stage is the best of all as a strong tail wind pushes out both us and the clouds. We speed forcefully by the lakes Wanaka and Hawea, perhaps the most beautiful place we have seen.