Tuesday, January 13, 2009

January 13th, 2009 - Kaikoura, New Zealand to Nelson, New Zealand

In the face of the potential for seasickness, Ann loaded up on Bonine and agreed to give the boat ride out to swim with the dusky dolphins a try. By 6:00 we were all fitted with wetsuits (complete with jacket and hood), masks, snorkels and fins and were on a bus to board the boat in South Bay Kaikoura. Despite several reassuring comments of “oh, it should be pretty nice” and “yeah, it looks smooth out there today,” the fact that John had said he'd never seen the waves so big in Kaikoura (having done this trip for 20 years) betrayed the real truth as we headed out into what I'd guess were 10 foot swells.

From 2009-01-07 Australia and New Zealand

Kai means “food” and koura means “plenty,” a result of a deep ocean canyon coming very close to shore and cold, nutrient-rich water being forced up to the surface. The area is home to a large pod of dusky dolphins that, having such easy access to food at night, have all day to swim around and entertain themselves and tourists with jumps and somersaults.

Upon locating the pod, the boat would maneuver into the path of the oncoming dolphins. A horn would sound signaling us to slip off the platforms on the back and swim towards them. We were told that the dolphins may or may not have any interest in us and that it was our responsibility to entertain them if we wanted them to stick around. Suggested methods were singing in squeaks and clicks through the snorkel, diving down underwater, and circling with them. Unfortunately, the water was a little murky so at first you would only see gray and white shadows whisk by you. While I'm not sure how appealing Ann's snorkel orchestra (or as I like to call it, a “snorkestra”) was to the dolphins, if I lost sight of her behind one of the swells, I always knew where she was.

From 2009-01-07 Australia and New Zealand

From 2009-01-07 Australia and New Zealand

After two or three times sliding into the water at the horn and returning to the platform while the boat was repositioned, we all started getting the hang of spotting a small group of dolphins approaching and positioning ourselves to perform ridiculous dives and twirls for them. At the bottom of one of my dives, a gray and white face appeared out of the murk and started turning around me. I responded by following him around on the inside of the circle he was creating only to realize after about two times around that my blowhole was much less efficient than his. I abruptly gave up the chase, clawing for the surface and an overdue breath.. I imagine they think this is hilarious. I consider my attempts to entertain them successful.

Smart thing about New Zealand: Almost all toilets have half and full flush buttons.

In the afternoon, we made a stop in the Marlborough wine region for some wine tasting and a picnic. We took some slightly buzzed artistic pictures of the vineyards and settled back into the bus fuzzy- headed, full, and feeling the early morning.

From 2009-01-07 Australia and New Zealand

A couple hours later we stopped at a huge beach called Tahananui just outside of Nelson where there were a good number of kite surfers. In addition to running a river surfing business in Queenstown, John also teaches kite surfing and had brought along a 2.5 meter trainer kite. He talked us through the controls and demonstrated the “wind window”and where the power zone was. That thing was awesome! Extremely maneuverable and easy to launch. Apparently, in addition to being fun to just fly around doing low power passes and loops, they hone your reflexes for the more sluggish surfing kites where you also need to be paying attention to your board and where you're going. You can also use kites on skis, kayaks, etc. I am so getting one of these when I get home.

From 2009-01-07 Australia and New Zealand

In the evening, we pulled into the town of Nelson where we stayed in very old English looking two bedroom apartments. Across the street was a similarly traditional pub with some nice outdoor seating. I continued my tour of New Zealand beers (Speights was the only one I'd had so far) with a couple half liters of Mac's Gold. Afterwards, we were able to get online to upload some more pictures and reports and get email before crashing for the night.

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