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Published: January 28th 2018
Soooo... this is a blog entry about my stay in the Okarito lagoon. 3 days. An amazing experience. And still, I probably wouldn't do it again.
Liz Slooten from the University of Otago, where I was volunteering a few month before, asked me if I could volunteer for the Department of Conservation. She only told me that kt was about watching dolphins in a lagoon on the West Coast and that I would be staying on a camp with the other volunteers and that it was very nice.
I accepted and drove to Okarito the day my mother left.
I arrived pretty late in the evening and got to sleep at the old schoolhouse. In the morning at 8 I met Iain, the responsible of the volunteer project in Okarito. He explained that the dolphins were swimming up and downstream in the lagoon and that the probability that they would strand was pretty high. My job was to watch out for the dolphins and write down their behaviour. He told me to grab my stuff and that he would bring me to the camp. I didn't know thqt the camp was only accessible by boat so I didn't prepare anything... I
just took my whole suitcase and my sleeping bag.
After a 20 minutes boat ride we arrived at the camp and the only person there was Ramari, an eldery woman from Okarito. Iain dropped me off and left. I soon noticed that we were on an island and that the camp consisted in 3 small sleeping tents and one big tent to have some shadow. We had a little kitchen too and some food in a chilly bin. That was it.
There was no way back. I was stuck there. I looked at my phone and didn't have any cellphone coverage. Our only way to communicate with the outside world was a little radio that didn't have a lot of battery...
Ramari was a woman of her own. Like I said, she was pretty old. She had her opinion about everything and no one could tell her his own opinion. She would immediatly criticise everything. She didn't really like me I think and she was always yelling at me and telling me that I was doing everything wrong.
But let's ignore this fact about Ramari now. Here is what I did all day on that island:
The dolphins were swimming
up and down in the lagoon. Whenever I saw them, I had to write down what time it was, where exactly I saw them (we spilt the lagoon in different areas), how many of them they were and what they were doing. First it was really exciting. The dolphins were so close and you could see them nearly all the time. But after a while it got very repetitive.
I was happy that we had a kayak. When I was too bored I just took it and paddled around in thr lagoon. There were a lot of birds I had never seen before, like the white heron. It was nice to get so close to them.
In the evening of the first day we got to see the most beautiful sunset I had ever seen. I had Mt. Cook and a few glaciers like the Tasman glacier in the background, the lagoon in the front and the dolohins swimming around. It was too perfect to be true.
On my second day on the island Ramari left for the day and I was left alone. I only had that little radio, I didn't know at all when she was coming
When she was gone I washed myself a bit in the water. It is weird bathing when having dolphins swimming around 5 meters away and having no human being around in kilometers.
I loved that day alone. I felt so free and independent. I had the minimum to live and I was still happy. I had less than I had ever had before and I didn't feel the need to have anything else.
It was really relaxing until I suddently noticed a weird behaviour of one of the dolphins (I called him Totoro). Totoro had something white sticking out of the side of his mouth and he was wiggling around like he wanted to get rid of it. He seemed to be struggling and got cought in the current. I followed him down the beach and tried to recognise what he was doing. I called Iain with the radio and told him what I could see. He answered very quick and said that he was coming with the boat. But just a few seconds later Totora seemed to have freed himself. I called Iain again but he was already on the way anf when he arrived he followed the
dolphin for a while to see if it had any troubles. But everything was fine and when I explained a second time what happened it seemed that he didn't really believe me... I just ignored that fact and went back to my dolphin watch.
Ramari came back too and I didn't feel that free anymore.
That night I decided to explore the island. When the sun was going down I left the camp and walked through the bushes. After a few minutes walk I found a little hut. The way to get there was completly overgrown. I struggled to get through but made it to the hut. On the outside it looked abandonned but on the inside it was perfectly clean and had a lot of furnitures. I went to the backyard and found a toilet seat with a plastic duck inside... pretty creepy. I made my way through the bushes and scratched my legs but on the other side I arrived to a beach. I had the whole beach to my own. The sun was setting and it was just wonderful. I sat there watching the waves for a few minutes until I decided to head back. On the
way back I made a little detour to see if I could find anything else. I could hear Kiwis but it was impossible to see them. So I went back to the camp. I layed down on the floor and watched the stars for one more hour until I went to bed. Where else would you see a clear sky like that?
On the third day I left. I told them that I had to do something important in Nelson. Three days on that island were enough. It was an unique experience that not a lot of people get to have and I am grateful that I could be part of that project. But I don't know if I would have been able to stay longer.
Lots of love
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