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Day 16 : Sunday 20th March 2005

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Whales!

After a very refreshing night's sleep (the motel manager had said that the beds were the most comfortable around, and he was right ) we had a quick breakfast and headed down to the Whale Watch station to see if we could get on a boat that morning. Luck was with us and after some very hasty changes, we were put on a boat leaving in ... five minutes! We panicked a bit, but made the bus with time to spare.

The sea conditions today were described as moderate with "lazy swells", but it was obvious pretty quickly that a number of people were going to be ill. Unfortunately the rush at the station had meant that we hadn't been able to take our sickness tablets the correct amount of time before heading out in the boat. Oh well, it would have to do! In the end, I was OK, but my poor friend spent most of the journey with her head in a sick-bag .

But anyway, we were lucky on the spotting front and managed to see three Sperm Whales (well, two, but we saw the same one twice!), which are the main resident species in this area. Just off the coast, the sea bed plunges to around a mile deep and the giant whales dive down to this depth to hunt for food. Each dive usually lasts for about 45 mins (that's quite some time to hold your breath!) although the longest recorded dive of a Sperm Whale was 2h 17m!!! After each dive, the whale rests on the surface for 5-10 mins, re-oxygenating and resting before its next foray into the depths. It is at this time that you can spot them.

On the way back, our boat was surrounded by a huge school of Dusky Dolphins, and I mean HUGE. Apparently there were over 1,500 dolphins in the pod (pod or school, I don't know!) and it certainly seemed that way as the boat was completely surrounded on all sides with hundreds of dolphins jumping through the waves and the occasional show-off doing some back-flips or somersaults! Truly amazing .

Once we got back on dry land, we decided to wait a while before driving, in order to regain our land-legs and fully recover from the sea-sickness. In any case the drive up to Picton would only take around two hours, although I feared more of the same twisty, turny roads as we had driven through yesterday. In the event, this was not really the case and we made good progress along fairly straight, empty roads up the East Coast to the small town of Picton.

I imagined Picton as being a small run-down town, simply there to support the docks and the Interislander ferry which we would be taking the next day. But none of it! The High St was beautifully looked after and apart from a few "rougher" establishments on the street, the setting and town were beautifully kept. And best of all, our motel was situated right at the top of this main drag.

After a quick game of Crazy Golf (I love this game!), we had dinner in a nice cafe/restaurant on the High St, where I had a delicious chicken breast stuffed with apricot and brie. With that, it was off to bed with another trip out on the water tomorrow, not what my friend was looking forward to!


Whale Watch

Picton