Aug 22, 2005
Jul 17, 2006
! As the boat pulled up at the pinnacles for the morning dive at "Tie Dye Arch", a colony of seals lazing on the rocks and playing around the boat added to the feeling that this would be a little different from Malaysia. Getting kitted up I found myself whilstling the "Mission Impossible" theme tune. It took me a few attempts to normalize my breathing when I first tried to descend, but once down the clarity of the water and sheer numbers of fish gathered inside the underwater arch took my mind off the cold. After about 45 minutes I found myself starting to shiver and it was time to surface and hit the gloriously hot shower on board the boat, dry off and help myself to a hot drink. We stopped off in Riko Riko cave for lunch, reputedly the world's biggest sea cave, and South African Glenda tested the acoustics by filling the cathedral-esque chamber with her beautiful singing voice. The second dive was also a good one, with gardens of sea kelp swaying in the surge, and the chance to explore a bit on my own. On the ride back to the mainland we spotted a couple of whales breaching the surface. Back in Whangerei I found my preference for dinner matched that of Carence, one of the divemaster trainees who had been out on the boat, so she warmed us up with a ridiculously spicy curry. We were joined by Rodney, a Kiwi who spewed forth political venom regarding the imposition of a "fart tax" on farmers for the damaging environmental effects of their cows' bowel movements. Ultimately though, the combination of nitrogen in my brain and food and beer in my belly sent me for an early night.
During the summer months Whangerei (pronounced "Fong-er-ay") is popular as a surf town which may explain why it felt more like a ghost town when I arrived. The downtown area is a bit of a dump, with drunken bums roaming the streets, though the town basin area down by the harbour was a pleasant enough place to take a stroll and check out the art galleries and sculptures. Being a Sunday, I sought out an Irish pub and treated myself to a roast dinner with all the trimmings. But really, I was only killing time before heading out to Tutakaka the next day to dive the Poor Knights Islands, a protected marine park ranked by Jacques Cousteau as one of the top 10 dive spots in the world. The dive operation was very professional, and because it was winter there were only two other divers on the boat, compared to five staff! But being winter, I was a little apprehensive about the temperature of the water, and my fears were confirmed when I was handed two wetsuits and a hood to wear - in Malaysia I had mostly been diving in just my board shorts