Sunday: After a lazy morning in the house, the three of us girls went to Rabbit Island, a pretty beach to walk nearby.
Then we hit the Jellyfish Cafe for a yummy lunch in a cute wharfy atmosphere. There were some artsy shops, a hat boutique, ice cream parlour, and live guitarist. The perfect summer vibe.
When we got back to the house, it was past time for us to begin the next leg of the trip. After hitting the grocery for snacks and sorting the gear we’d need for the night and morning hike, we took off for a place to camp in Abel Tasman National Park.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, life and people are a bit more chilled out here. New Zealand is full of hippies and free spirits and I absolutely love it. No matter what happens, you just have to take a deep breath, go with the flow, and know that “she’ll be right.” In true Kiwi style, we drove around with little knowledge of our actual destination – the Abel Tasman is a huge forest with many possible entrances – and instead of settling down in the close (and most convenient) end of the track, we accidentally passed it up and ended at the very farthest end.
We were getting quite tired and car sick (at least I was) and worried about finding a place to camp before dark. Most parks and reserves have signs that say “no overnight stays,” so you technically can’t set up camp wherever you please. So obviously, we had to find an inconspicuous place to illegally camp! After lots of driving in circles (once we realized where we were and where we wanted to be), we finally found a little reserve (Rototai, near Golden Bay) off the beaten path. Perfect!
Except as we drove into the reserve, we started noticing dozens of people. And doc rangers. And cars parked everywhere. Seriously? What was this, a wedding or something? There was no way we’d be able to pitch a tent without being noticed.
(this is how we eventually set up…sort of concealed…sort of not)
Little did we know that all the wrong turns and frustration and exhaustion and a million tiny details would lead us to this exact beach, at this exact time, for a reason. We weren’t in fact stumbling upon a wedding, or even a party or BBQ of any sort. As we got out of the car and wandered out towards the sea, we realized there was something peculiar in the distance.
Three beached whales.
The tide was incredibly low, and as we nervously walked out to join the crowd, we realized the gravity of the situation. The impulse to be like, “Oh my god whales!!” is suddenly and painfully stomped out by the realization that a beached whale is not a happy whale. Or in most cases, a live whale. The three beautiful, majestic, and massive sperm whales almost certainly died instantly upon being beached earlier that morning, as their organs crush in on themselves when not buoyed by the water. It was a heartbreaking yet amazingly moving, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Sperm whales are the largest toothed whale, and reports estimated the three of these to total about 120 tons.
Fair warning here, I’m going to rant a bit. I don’t want to sound preachy, and I most certainly am not a great example in many aspects of life, but we absolutely need to do something to protect and preserve the Earth. The ranger was telling us that it’s quite uncommon for sperm whales to beach, as they spend most of their time in deep water. They don’t really know how or why it happened. I’ve been doing a little research on the possible reasons, but the only conclusion I’ve drawn is that we need to actively combat the destruction of our beautiful planet. Now. Happy, healthy whales don’t just up and decide to beach themselves. And the reason for a whale not to be happy and healthy is likely caused by all of us.
After a night of wrong turns and frustration, we came to realize that every wrong turn was actually the right turn. We ended up in that precise location, at that precise moment, thanks to nothing less than divine intervention. We were meant to witness this, and I truly will never be the same. I may occasionally question my hopes, dreams, values, goals, career path, and purpose in life, but I will never again question my ability and my desire to make a meaningful difference in the world. An important mentor of mine once told me that our calling in life is to find where our deepest passions meet the world’s greatest needs. Are my current studies taking me down that path? I’m not really sure. But I know my experiences are leading me in the right direction.
And to the parents letting your kids climb on the whales as though they were a jungle gym: I am disgusted and mortified. There are lots of ways to screw up your kids, and as I’m not a parent I don’t claim to know anything about child-rearing, but respect is a simple tenet and utter necessity, and honestly can’t be that hard to teach. Even if you fail to combat the laziness and gluttony and rampant consumerism pervading our society, enforce respect. For people AND animals AND the Earth. Once it’s ruined, we don’t get another. Conserve, recycle, volunteer, I don’t care WHAT you do, just do SOMETHING. Take a stand. Make a move.
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Howard Thurman