Wednesday, March 24, 2004

the dolphins of Kaikoura

It happened somewhere out on the water, looking out over the bay water, a pale teal blue, turning swiftly to a dark blue as the catamaran skimmed out over the 1000-m mark, where underwater the terrain dropped into a canyon. Beyond the water's edge, behind us, a panorama of mountains covered in fog was laid out before us, some of the fog lifting from the tops to reveal some of the season's first snow. On board the Delphinus were 13 people rigged out in wetsuits, swimming fins and snorkels, including Jacky. I was hung with other people's cameras, leaning against the wall, as the boat rode the swells. The guide, an energetic young woman with blue eyes who had just finished studying ecology, was telling everyone to get ready, when the horn goes, get ready to jump in. Beyond the back of the boat, just, was a pod of 300-odd dolphins, leaping in the frigid waters, splashing, jumping, twirling in mid-air. The boat stilled, the propellers stopped spinning, and the horn went -- BLAHHH! The swimmers, readied, slid into the waters, and swam with the dolphins. Jacky was making so much happy noise that the guide asked her if she was OK. She gave a grinning thumbs-up, yes of course!

Somewhere on the way out to all this it happened, the last stressed bit of me fell away. OK, I'm still human, stress is part of everything, its the push that brings you to shove, its the power that keeps you moving your life along. But this trip I will always remember, my body cold and sprayed with sea-water, my mouth stiff from smiling, the sun setting in long dusty rays over the snow-capped, jagged moutaintops, the dolphins leaping under the bow as we went along, and circling the surprised, cold and very happy swimmers.

Afterwards they gave us hot chocolate and ginger cookies and we rode ashore. Our hair messy, our minds happy.

Last night in Picton we met an older woman from Lyttleton who had just biked around the North Island with a group of elderly people. "It's never too late," she said, her hair a glorious white and her smile grand to match. "They inspired me to realize that there's never a moment to waste."

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