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Thursday, 19 October 2006

Attack of the Killer Seals - Page 2

Written by Michelle Waitzman
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Kaikoura, New Zealand is an eco-tourist’s wet dream. Whales, dolphins, and seals all hang out in the calm waters of Kaikoura just waiting for us to plop down some cash and go out in a boat to visit them. In fact, the town’s name is Maori for “meal of crayfish”, so you can guess what the local specialty is!

Standing right in front of me was a single penguin! It stopped and stared at me for a moment as if equally surprised to run into a person. I’m not sure how long we stood like that. It was probably just a few seconds, but it was one of those moments where time seems to move more slowly than normal.penguin

I came to my senses and began digging in my backpack to get my camera out. Meanwhile, the penguin came to his/her senses and turned around to run away from me. I followed it for long enough to snap a picture, then watched it head straight into the water where it would feel safe from crazy tourists.

I was feeling pretty elated about my bonus wildlife encounter, when ahead of me the path appeared to run out. All I could see was the cliff meeting the water with nothing in between. How is this possible? It’s a walking path. It’s not supposed to hit a dead end!

Then I realized it was late in the afternoon. When does the tide come in here? I hadn’t asked anyone before heading out. Maybe you aren’t supposed to walk this path in the afternoon. Maybe that’s why there was no one else walking along the shore. I remembered the spots further back where I’d been knee-deep in water. How much deeper was it now? Could I go back that way at all? What about the grumpy seal? I was screwed!

Slightly back from where I’d ended up, the cliff was actually more of a steep, grassy slope. I thought climbing up to the cliff-top path might be my best bet. Ah, the cliff-top path. Clearly that was the route all of the sane people took!

I started up the hill, occasionally grabbing tufts of long grass to help pull myself up. I hoped the grass was strong enough to bear my weight, because if I fell down to the rocks I was looking at a broken leg at the very least! Had I told anyone I was coming out here? How long would it take before anyone else came out that way? Would I get washed out to sea at high tide?

Okay, so looking down was not a good idea. Just keep going up. Up is good. Up is where you need to be. Don’t fall and it will all be fine. But wait – I could see the top! I made it up and was absolutely ecstatic. I took a moment to chastise myself for being stupid enough to wander off, hours from town, and not tell anyone where I was going. Note to self: when going somewhere you could get hurt or killed, make sure somebody knows where to search for your remains!

I found the path along the cliff top that led me through a sheep pasture (do all paths in New Zealand eventually lead through a sheep pasture?) and out to the road that led back to town. I finally arrived at my hostel exhausted and filthy, but unharmed.

The reports coming back from the dolphin swimmers were positive, so I thought about saving a little money up to do that on my next time through Kaikora. Clearly I couldn’t be trusted to partake in any unsupervised activities, so I’d go for the organized excursions instead. My adventures in New Zealand were definitely starting off with a bang!

© Michelle Waitzman

Michelle Waitsman is the author of  "How to Make Love in a Tent: Romantic Camping Adventures for Wild Couples" to be released in the spring of 2007 by Wilderness Press.

(Page 2 of 2)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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