Happiness is dolphins

The writing process has begun. Right now, it involves a lot of intense thinking as I walk on the beach, weighing over words in my mind, revisiting my trip to Australia, searching for the right tonality. A lot of my writing about my trek across Gondwanaland has been terribly serious, and I want to lighten that. This means working hard on finding a balance between comedy and despair. Eat, Pray, Love was one of those books that got this right, (don’t roll your eyes), and that was the secret to its success.

The Walters

The plan was to spend this morning working on the ebook. I’ve sketched some of the outline in my notebook, but this now needs to be converted into the more permanent form of pixels in Word.  That was before my family decided to go on a dolphin watching cruise in the bay.  Plett, if you’re lucky, is the equivalent of the Kruger Park for charismatic marine megafauna, with Cape Fur Seals, three species of dolphin, Orcas and three species of whales, depending on the season. 

I am always torn between Getting Work Done and having experiences, and I so nearly said no to this one. I’m glad I didn’t, because the first half of today was the best Monday ever. I spent it on a dolphin cruise with Ocean Safaris, which involved being pushed into the waves at Central Beach by a tractor, feeling the breeze, seeing a very rare Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin mother and calf leap clear out of the waves (apparently this seldom happens), bouncing over three metre swells as if the boat was on a roller coaster, and viewing the seal colony at Robberg.


When I walked its rocky paths as a child, seeing a seal was an event, but there are now 6,000 of them there – an unusual example of nature making a comeback for once. I thought of the seal show at Taronga Zoo I’d seen less than a week before and marveled at the ability of these pinnipeds to climb so high up such difficult, rocky terrain. The younger seals leapt out of the water around us for the sheer joy of it.

There was no sign of the Robberg Express, the legendary Great White Shark that is said to haunt these waters.

I remember sitting out there, feeling the cold breeze whip at the Gondwanaland windbreaker I bought at the Victoria Market in Melbourne and my stomach lurch with the boat, and thinking: this is good. This is life. Chris and I had decided not to trudge through the rain to view the seal colony at Bridgewater near Portland in Victoria, but this was even better. The guide, Ashlynn, and the boat pilot, Marlon, were both very likable and friendly, and the experience compared well with anything Australia had to offer. I felt a surge of love for my home, and my good fortune in being able to enjoy this with my family.

Also: unlike my brother Charles, who parted unceremoniously with his breakfast somewhere in the middle of the bay, I don’t get seasick.

The return to the beach was more intimidating than the launch – the boat simply headed straight for the sand at top speed. The transition from sea to beach was surprisingly smooth – a lot smoother than the Qantas landing at OR Tambo on Friday afternoon.

When I got back to the house, I read email and my good mood was ruined, at least temporarily. It was a reminder that dolphins and seals and waves and wind are a recipe for happiness, but email is not. If only there were more dolphins, and less email.


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