Okay, here's my problem: I don't do "happy" well. Sure, I enjoy, appreciate, even prefer it in my actual life, but for blogging purposes it's a complete washout. Give me a miserable, sweltering, painful day in the middle of Texas and I can whip off paragraphs of hilarious bitching with ease. But joy? Delight? Contentment? I've got nothing. So, sorry about this one, but bear with me here guys; something's bound to go wrong eventually.
Our plans for the day were simple: an all-day boat trip around the bay, hoping to see (and possibly even swiming with) dolphins, and getting a look at whatever else might be out there. There were only nine people on our boat, including us, giving everyone plenty of room to move around and avoid making eye contact with each other. The guides were very of what seems to be the architypal New Zealand male-- beefy, with a prediliction for facial hair and rough humor. But they knew their stuff about the local nature and history, even if said knowledge did seem to owe more to enthusiam and the aquisition of random factoids than formal study.
We set out on a route around the eastern side of the bay, but almost immediately a report came in from a fishing boat about bottlenose dolphins sighted to the west. So the captain altered course, and we were off to see some dolphins.
We caught up to them at one of the previously mentioned coves (See: Sunday), where they were feeding off the fish at an offshore reef. There were about eight in the pod, and since that included babies there would be no swimming with this group. (Which didn't disappoint me as much as it might have; the water, as I have mentioned, was a little cold.)
You know how the handlers at dolphin shows always say that the tricks they perform (the dolphins, not the handlers) are just extensions of things they do in the wild? Well, they are. These dolphins spouted, they flipped, they jumped out of the water, singly and in pairs, even mama and baby together once or twice. Sometimes they would swim right up to us, coming so close that we could examine the shallow scars on their backs, and then draft off the wake at the front of the boat, right under our noses. Occasionally they would vanish entirely, reappearing in some other part of the cove, and we would motor over to catch up. I don't think they minded, though. If one thing is clear to me, it's that dolphins love attention. They're like the MTV reality show "stars" of the animal kingdom, only smarter.
It is to my everlasting regret that I elected not to bring my good digital camera, out of some insane fear it would get wet or fall overboard or something. So here I was with only my underwater camera, a cheap disposable in a plastic case with a limited number of pictures. Which meant that a) I couldn't keep snapping away, trying to get that perfect shot of a dolphin mid-flight, b) the quality of the photos I did take wasn't going to be that great, and c) since I didn't finish the roll there's no telling when I am going to get them developed.
On the other hand, if the worst thing you can say about your day is that you didn't get the ideal shot of a leaping wild dolphin, then you should probably shut the hell up and stop complainin already.
Eventually, we had to leave the dolphins to the next boat and continue on our tour. We were headed out to the Hole in the Rock, a famous natural feature known the world over for being a rock with a hole in it. And as we made our way out there, the boat suddenly slowed down and one of the guides indicated a couple of seabirds bobbing in the water.
"If you look over to your left there," he said, in an accent I couldn't possibly reproduce in writing, "you can see a couple of fairy penguins."
I had been hoping for, even a little bit counting on, seeing dolphins, but I had no expectations of penguins. Sure. they didn't jump around or do tricks or anything, and they were kind of hard to see, what with the waves and them being the world's smallest variety of penguin and all. But still. Penguins!
The Hole in the Rock was exactly as advertised, and quite impressive, with the added bonus that we did not get smashed against the side of it on our way through.
We took a roundabout route back through the bay, learning a little history and ogling the private island retreats of the very rich along the way. We stopped for lunch (for us: water crackers, Laughing Cow cheese and some odd-tasting potato chips) on a beach in a cove. If it had been summer and I had spent the day baking the in the subtropical heat, I probably would have gone for my swimsuit at this point. But, seeing as how I had just gotten the blood back into my fingers after being blasted by the wind on the boat, I settled for wading instead, with occasional arm-waving returns to the beach to drive the seagulls away from the food.
And see? There I go again. Beautiful day, lovely secluded island beach, pretty shells, blah blah blah. Would it help if I said that we failed to locate another pod of dolphins that we could swim with, so we had to go look at the first one again? Or that the New Zealand fur seals looked like pretty much every other seals I've seen, in the sense of being lumps of brown fur on a rock? No? I didn't think so.
Around here, at this time of year, the sun sets promptly at six. We were back from our tour by then, so we went down to the beach (the little rocky one in front of the motel) to watch it. And, seriously, you couldn't paint a scene like that. A sunset over a beautiful island, with boats bobbing on a peaceful bay in the foreground? Please. You might as well throw in dogs playing poker and Elvis performing in front of a quaint stone cottage and some fruit and go for the sweep.
Our motel (the one by the beach) came with a tiny but well-supplied kitchen area in which Mom, in her supreme momness, whipped up spinach omletes for dinner. At which point it occurred to me: omletes+orange juice+hash browns=classic American breakfast; omletes+wine+salad=chic French dinner.
One of the things I love about travel is the way it expands your mind.