Well, I'm way behind on the updates now, so will have to keep the next few short and simple.
As we missed the opportunity to see the whales, swim with the dolphins, etc., we decided we could apply what we would have spent on those trips to experience diving in NZ. We arrived in this tiny town and went straight to the Information Center. Despite the fact that it was pouring when we arrived, the woman confirmed that there was a boat going out the following morning. So we paid for the trip and hoped for the best.
Absolutely nothing to do in this town unless you are a diver or fisherman, all of whom were staying at our campsite. No Top 10 this one, but it was decent enough.
IT continues to storm the entire night. We were sure this would cancel the trip thus extending our long spell of poor timing and bad luck. But sure enough, the next morning was blue skies and not a cloud in the sky!
Showed up at the dive center where they suited us up with full length, thick wetsuits, masks, fins, etc. Then we got on the boat. It was a small group - only 6 divers including ourselves, 2 instructors and the skipper.
Took about an hour to get out to the Poor Knights - a series of huge boulders and islands in the middle of the Sea. We stopped at one location but the swell was too high so we moved on. I was relieved as I pictured myself jumping in the water and getting immediately hurled against the rocks.
Then came the moment we had been dreading for the entire ride - time to change into our wetsuits (I wore 2). We had been warned the water was cold (16 degrees), but nothing can prepare you for the shock of first feeling the cold water. As we have never dived in temps colder than 29 degrees, we were very hesitant. Couldn't put it off any longer, we jumped in. And it was FREEZING!!! You know how your body tells you when something is wrong? Well, ours were screaming, "Are you %C[!!
We did 2 dives that day. Considering this is considered one of the top dive sites in the world, we were disappointed. It was a completely different scene from anything we have done thus far in that instead of coral reefs, it was rock and tons of brown kelp. It was difficult to spot any fish of interest through the kelp, but we went with a guide who managed to point several large stone fish and moray eels out to us.
We cut the second dive short because it was just too cold.
Back on the boat they had hot beverages and soup waiting for us and we questioned how in the world these people can dive here for a living. They all admitted it is a bit cold in the winter months, but because there are literally more than 100 locations fromwhich to dive, everyday is a new experiece and they never tired of it. L and I collectively decided that, though we were glad to have experienced cold water diving, we will stick to the more tropical venues from here on.
There was Welsh man in his 50s on our trip called Howard, who was staying at our campsite. This guy belongs to a dive club in Wales and is quite used to the cold temps. We invited him to have dinner with us in the kitchen and he offered to supply the wine. Over 2 bottles of wine and dinner, he shared with us his life sob story. (professor of mathematics at university in Wales, divorce, madly in love with a married woman who won't leave her husband, kids don't like him, etc...) One of those who wouldn't let us get much of a word in, if you can believe it. But he was super nice and we were happy to offer our expert advice whenever he would let us talk...