5:30 AM !

Trip Start Jul 30, 2010
Trip End May 29, 2011

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Sunday, December 26, 2010

"There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep."

5:30. In the morning.

5 f-ing 30 in the morning. 

That's what time we were up. To go Dolphin watching. And swimming. At 5:30 in the morning in the water, with the dolphins. And let me tell you at 5:30 am the water off Kaikoura is not warm. Even in the middle of the NZ summer. Because at that time of the day the water hasn't had chance to warm up and no matter what thickness of wetsuit you wear the water is COLD. 

We'd driven up from a stopover in Christchurch, which like the rest of NZ, I really like. Anyway, as we got closer to Kaikoura the road started to follow the coastline and we drove into town with a wonderful view of the very blue sky and the very blue sea.  Our B&B was a small chalet on a Lavender farm, and it being summer in NZ the place was a riot of purple everywhere with the constant humming of bees as they go about their business on the flowers. From the B&B to the north the Seaward Kaikoura mountain range towered over us and to the south-east we could see the very cold South Pacific Ocean.

With pretty much everywhere being closed on Xmas day we went for a long walk around the very windy peninsula before pigging out on vino and nibbles. No Turkey or Xmas pud this year, altho’ I did get my hands on some mince-pies (not Waitrose standard but needs must) which were most welcome and were scoffed in front of NZ Xmas TV which seemed to consist of a lot of BBC and ITV repeats.

All of which brings us to Boxing Day, dolphins and 5:30 in the morning. That’s the time we had to be at the adventure shop in order to listen to the briefing and pick-up our 8mm wet-suits.

By 7am we’d found a pod of Dusky Dolphins and into the sea we went. We’d been told that water was about 16c (by comparison the water around the Perhentians in Malaysia was about 29C) but it felt more like minus 16C. Foolishly I didn’t wear the wetsuit hood – too claustrophobic – but frankly it wouldn’t have made much difference the water was so damn cold. On getting in my whole body froze and it took some mental effort to get my brain to instruct my arms and legs to start moving as I bobbed up and down in the water. Once I got moving I realised that it was going to be difficult to keep my head in the water whilst snorkelling as the snorkel I was given was leaking and letting in water every time I took a breath. Plus without a hood it was evil cold on the top of my head. Nonetheless I ploughed on, coughing and spluttering every so often and soon I started seeing the dolphins swimming around. 

Then a couple started swimming around me in a circle. We were told on the boat that dolphins enjoy this, even more so when you, the swimmer, start circling with them. I kept up with about five rotations and then they swam too fast and too deep for me to keep up with them. This happened 3 or 4 more times and it was exhilarating. At other times the dolphins were hurtling beneath me and then leaping out of the water beside me.

All too soon we had to re-board the boat. As I went to change my snorkel for one that wouldn’t leak the guide dropped my mask and the frame cracked. This was a total p!sser. The mask was my own and had prescription lenses. With it cracked – altho’ its now repaired thanks to the superglue and gaffer tape I’d packed for such 'emergencies’ – I couldn't go in for a 2nd swim but with it being so cold I was happy enough to watch Claire battle it out with the other swimmers for the attention of the dolphins. Claire thoroughly enjoyed herself. So did I, despite the mask damage but next time I’d want (much) warmer water.  

Still not a bad Boxing Day all things considered!
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