Paihia For The Moment

A combination of slow internet access and being busy having fun has prevented me, my dears, from updating quite as often as I’d like over the past, what is it, four or five days? I’m in Paihia, in the Bay Of Islands, for the moment and as I’m here for a couple of days and seem to have found non-hamster-powered internet I expect to be able to get the rest of the South Island pictures up aaaaany day now.

In the meantime, however, I have been enjoying myself quite tolerably with friends in and around Auckland; last Friday after I wrote that last entry I met my friend Rachael for the first time and went home with her to her lovely lifestyle block in Kaukapakapa via West Auckland, where I kept a digilent eye our for either Van or Munter. The big agenda for that evening was the series finale for So You Think You Can Dance Australia, during which Rachael and I made the first of many realizations that we have very much in common indeed, other than our mutual friend David, such as a love for French toast, diving, long and detailed discussions about the love lives of everyone we know, and the SUTUCD serie winner Jack, whom we confidently predicted would seize the day, and with whom I think we both fell more than a little in love. I have never got much into the reality show thing but I think maybe now I should because there is nothing more fun than pretending to know a lot about something you actually know very little about. “He dances with a very gay accent,” said Rachael, and I would nod my head knowingly, saying “Ah, yes, there’s the ballet training coming through,” and we would roll our eyes and shake our heads knowingly. I have always been extraordinarily lucky in meeting people through this blog thing here, and as I snuggled up into the guest room featherbed I thanked my lucky stars that yet again I’d found a good one.

The next morning the aforementioned David, who was up from Wellington for the weekend, came over and we took pictures of the dog and had some French toast and then went for a drive around the surrounding countryside. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned but these New Zealanders? Are spoiled. There we were, trundling through the picturesque rolling hills towards the sea, and I’m all “Wow this sure is purty!” and the natives are all “What? Huh? Oh. Right. I suppose,” and then we would stop at yet another gorgeous beach and I would be all “Hey this is great!” and then Rachael would say she was too pregnant to be looking at any non-spectacular beaches and David would wonder aloud if there were any cranes or slag heaps he could photograph instead. We all had a great time, though, between the gigantic heaps of chips and the llama sightings, and then it was time to head home and make dinner and go to a party where I was recognized by one of David’s friends as having appeared in his blog, which made me feel very much the rock star indeed.

Sunday it poured down rain allllllllll daaaaaaayyyy and there was a lot of texting between David and I as we attempted to find each other at the < a href="www.aucklandcity.govt.nz/whatson/places/parks/domain.asp">Domain. We dripped around the city for most of the day, confining ourselves to activities that involved being inside (museum, horrid movie, lunch, dinner) and then went on an epic journey to get to Mangere Bridge to meet up with Rachael at the house of the people for whom she was babysitting, where I also was spending the night. We hung around drinking tea, eating lemon tart, and talking about a) travel and b) pregnancy and childrearing, and then it was time to say goodbye to David for real and then the next morning it was time to go to Whangarei.

I was there to go on a couple of dives at the Poor Knights, and from the beginning the trip was sort of…fraught with peril. To begin with, when I found the hostel I was supposed to stay at, there was just no one there at all, so I called them and they were like Oh Hey Yeah Well Just Put Your Stuff In Any Of The Rooms That Are Just Open To The Street We’ll Be There In Four Hours See You Then. Using my finely honed ookiness receptors, I decided such a thing was not for me, so got in touch with this super nice family who run a holiday park and who picked me up from town and gave me a ride to the store and extra blankets and everything. I booked my dives and went to bed at about nine in the evening, a bit trepidatious about another cold-water dive but super excited too because it’s one of Cousteau’s top ten dive sites and while I’m here I should really, etc etc.

Once I got to Tutukaka I immediately became the problem child of the trip. “We’ll give you a ten,” said one of the (as usual) impossibly gorgeous dive instructors as we were getting kitted out. “Girl, ” I said dubiously, looking down at my hindquarters with a raised eyebrow, “thank you for thinking that I would fit into that, but do you really think…” as I struggled to get into the 7mm neoprene jacket. “Oh it’s supposed to be snug!” he chortled, leaving me to wish, not for the first time, that women were issued several different replaceable sets of breasts, suitable for different occasions, because the everyday pair I was currently sporting would…not…fit…in.

It’s a little weird to argue with someone you’ve just met about how big you are, though, so I decided that he was the dive master, not me, and gamely got myself a hot chocolate and hopped on the boat with everyone else, and immediately got super crazy seasick as soon as we left the harbour. I could barely discuss my love of marine invertebrates with my fellow divers without blanching and having to take deep cleansing breaths, and that was before we were all struggling into our suits (“Can’t…breathe…”) and remembering how to do our buddy checks.

The first dive was in a cave and I think would have been a lot cooler (sponges! encrusting life! rays!) if I had been able to a) breathe and b) control my buoyancy at all, in any way. I was super chest constricted and couldn’t see very well and kept bouncing along the bottom like a complete fool and I guess there were fish or something down there but I couldn’t concentrate on them and then at one point when we were drifting along the cave wall I just started ascending and couldn’t control it and popped up to the surface and had to make a shamefaced OK sign to the boat and then I looked underwater and the dive guy was all signing me to DESCEND, DESCEND! and I was all attempting to sign back Dude, I’m TRYING. And then he pulled me down by my flippers and I felt like a complete dork and when we got back onto the boat I made an even bigger dork of myself by attempting to explain what had gone wrong (“I just kept going up and I couldn’t go down!”) and I had a huge headache and I was a very sad Chiara indeed.

But everyone on the boat was very nice to me (“It happens to someone in every group,” said one Dutch guy who offered me some candied ginger, “and as I saw you floating up all I could think was that I was glad it wasn’t me.”) and finally I convinced the dive dudes to let me wear a larger wetsuit (they had, and I’m not even lying about this, to use pliers to get me out of the first one) and I had a cup of tea or two and found out that this Canadian doctor on the boat was the friend of another Canadian doctor that my friend Alice’s housemate Steve knows, and I was buddies with the only other girl on the boat and the very hottest dive guy said he would go with us and be super relaxed and chilled and soon enough I was ready to go down again for the second dive, because what was the worst that was going to happen, I was going to make a fool of myself?

And of course it was magical. We swam through a kelp forest and I pretended to be an otter and I was warm enough and could breathe and I did my first swim-through and we saw a phosphorescent sea urchin and many gorgeous nudibranchs and a huge stonefish that let the dive guy tickle its chin and then a ray apparently came really near our group even though I didn’t see it and then we swam through a bouillabaise of fish by an underwater pinnacle and I decided to stay underwater forever and be and otter and a sea urchin and a nudibranch all at the same time and then my dive buddy was about to lose her flipper but I totally helped her get it back on and I felt much better about my nascent dive abilities and when I got back on the boat I was still seasick and I totally threw up in a big right in front of the very hottest dive guy but I didn’t even care because I was thinking about swimming through the kelp, floating free through the fish, breathing deep, looking at everything with all my eyes.

This morning I got a ride to town from the nice lady who ran the holiday park (“Good luck with residency!”) and now I’m in Paihia and while I seem to have misplaced my sunnies I am happy to be here and happy to be spending a couple of days on the beach and at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, from where I plan to send Treaty lawyer former flatmate A. a postcard because she said I should go there. Saturday I visit my friend Sarah in Kerikeri and then it’s to Cape Reinga and then it’s back to Auckland and then it’s Samoa and then it’s LA and San Diego and Miami and New York and Sunnyvale and Seattle, and then, maybe, it will be time to see you.


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One response to “Paihia For The Moment”

  1. Tracy Avatar

    Hot damn am I jealous of your dive adventures and looking forward to seeing you. And, um, also, while I’m trying to make our schedules line up, when are you going to be in New York? Just wondering…