Again the Mountain The Blue Ringed Octopus

 

Again the Mountain

The Blue Ringed Octopus

Jump Skippy, Jump!

Deliberately falling into, out of, and off things. All to please the Dolphins.

Kaikoura to Taupo, New Zealand
21st January, 2002

The first philosopher, Thales of Miletus, who was so engrossed in gazing at the heavens that he fell into a well, is famous for asking an apt question. The question was, "What is the universe made of?" His answer was water.

If he had New Zealand in mind at the time, he wasn't that far wrong.

Rain, rain, rain - it's stopped, do something real quick - rain, rain, clear - no, my mistake - rain, rain... the message was clear. If we wanted to do anything other than sit and glower at each other in our hostels, we had to go amphibious...

Dolphin Feed

Freezing, dear Lord, how can anything be so cold! We all flopped around in the seas off Kaikoura, the swell sending us careering into each other, up and down, all over the place. So cold! So cold you could feel your life force being sucked away by the minute. Why, I asked myself, do I never get used to this? How many times have I jumped into cold seawater in my life? I ought to be immune by now! It didn't matter, it always felt like frozen hell.

Things improved. They always do, as your body adjusts and the wetsuit kicks in (wetsuits only start to function after the initial chill, damn them). We milled around, scouring subsurface with our masks and snorkels. And started to beep. Every snorkler, in the privacy of his mask, started making the strangest whining, clicking and sucking noises he or she could think up. We sounded like a gang of aquatic traffic lights.

"There she is!" I was so excited I shouted this out loud, forgetting my face was under water, spitting out my snorkel and swallowing half the ocean. I flipped on my back, coughing and spluttering. It didn't matter. The cold didn't matter. Dolphins! I was swimming, in the wild with dolphins! Beautiful, sleek, quick as a whip! Every car advert ever made has chosen the wrong subjects - they should have seen dolphins!

I dove under the surface, clicking and wheeping with a will. Wild dolphins can stay or swim off like lightning, so to keep them around you have to keep them interested. Milling around, whistling and humming like morons, Limp Bizkit could have sued us for copyright infringement. It was wonderful. There were perhaps thirty dolphins in the group, and they couldn't get enough of our antics. And they rewarded us later, jumping and splashing in our bows when we went back to shore.
"Jump, skippy, jump!" I shouted, intoxicated with the wild sea.
"Flipper. Skippy was A bush kangaroo."
"All the more amazing if he should jump now! Go Skippy, go!"

Dog's Leap

There was only the slightest drizzle in Taupo. I stared straight at the pole, narrowed my eyes to look neither up nor down, and started to climb. I told myself, you are not climbing a giant telegraph pole. It isn't 25 metres tall, 20 centimetres in diameter, it isn't four storeys high. It was simply one handhold after another, one foothold after another, straight in front of me.

The bungy children had got to me, I suppose. I had refused to take a bungy jump because of the cost, and because every 20-year old English farty was doing one, and wouldn't shut up about it. Then it occurred to me that someone might say I was afraid. There was only one answer to that: I would have to do something harder. A bungy jump is not hard to do, all you have to do is sit there while they tie on the cord, and then half jump, half fall out. All you actually do in a bungy jump is get a little scared on purpose.

I climbed. One hand, one foot. One hand, one foot. Focus. I was neither up nor down, I was not nearing the top of a pole that was now swaying - swaying! - in the slight breeze, I was simply here.

So, the challenge: to climb to the top of a 25 metre pole, stand, unaided, on top of the pole, balance there for a moment on your feet alone, and then jump across a gulf perhaps 2.5 metres wide and catch a trapeze bar. This was no mere jump/fall: at every stage, I would have to do it alone.

Top of the pole. No hesitation now. Hesitate and the mind might switch back on and interfere.
Left foot up, right foot up, and stand.
Focus outwards and across, not down.
I'm aware that the ground is so far below, it is not important, the pole is narrow, it is not important.
There's the trapeze, at eye-level, just over there. How interesting.

Shuffle forward, grip the edge of the pole with your toes. Look across, ready to spring, shout it out: "Three! Two! One! Go!!"

I got the trapeze! I got it! Ha! HA! Eat shit AJ Hackett! Ha ha! Bite me, Lara Croft! Take that, Flying Wallendas!

The bungy boys stayed on the ground.

Eating Foam

Rafting again, Kaituna, Rotorua. Now this really is the perfect thing to do after days of rain. The river was a raging torrent, blasting along like a high pressure hose through the three waterfalls we were to take, the third a drop of seven metres. It was absurd! Ridiculous! After a week complaining about the rain, we were now going to unnecessary lengths to ensure we got as wet as possible. More water! More!

Up to the drop. Anyone getting out? No, let's go! Go... down! Shrieking like junior banshees at a Popstars (TM) concert, we went down... rush water face full gaa bloof ... and, out. Fantastic, whoops, there goes Naiana, oh she's popped up over there, let's go again, he he he...bloof..

Water, Thales, heh, great stuff, gaa roof blagh splat, he he...

 

 

 

Balancingonthepole.jpg
Standing on the Pole

 

CatchingtheTrapeze.jpg
Catching the Trapeze

 

OvertheFalls!.jpg
Rafting the Waterfall

 

NaianaDisembarks.jpg
Naiana Jumps Out

 

DuskyDolphin.jpg
Dusky Dolphin

 

TheGiantSwing.jpg
The Giant Swing

 

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New Zealand Route

 


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The Facts

Where I stayed
Kaikoura: Albatross Backpackers. Couple of converted houses. Laid back place with good social area, though the second house was a bit run down.
Taupo: Action Down Under. Pleasant YHA, clean, walk into town.

How I got around:
The Magic Bus. Good value hop-on/hop-off service that goes all over the two islands, arranging accomodation and activities for you. There are so many backpackers in New Zealand, it can be overwhelming at times.