The dark shadows were undefined.
What kind of danger lay beneath the surf?
“I think it’s just seaweed.”
“Are you sure.”
“Yup” I said definitely. But I wasn’t.
We plunged into the water gasping back the salty brine, splashing and thrashing with delight. Just like the swimmers in Amityville. Later with glasses of ruby red in hand we surveyed the day’s photo stream. The beautiful beach at New Chums sparkling as if laid with diamonds, the walk through the native bush with Toi Toi and Flax flowering, and then the shots of the steely blue water, iced with spray and populated with dark black shadows.
Shadows with fins.
Were we lucky or just not tasty?
Actually neither. Swimming with sharks is relatively common in Australia and New Zealand. Most of the locals accept that they are never really alone in the South Pacific seas. Most time it all works out, no harm done, and then sometimes, very occasionally someone is taken as a lone swimmer was earlier this year swimming off Muriwai beach, just west of Auckland.
The first on my list of 5 Ways to Travel Dangerously Down Under is:
1/ Swimming with predators – In Sydney and other main beaches there are shark nets strung along the beach to protect swimmers, but the really beautiful beaches (and the best surf) like Margaret River (Australia), Muriwai (NZ) and Mangawhai are unprotected.
2/ Exploring the BIG Outdoors – Every year rescue teams are called out in the very worst conditions to haul back a tourist who has made the wrong judgement call and gone out into the Antipodean wilderness unprepared. And every year locals wonder what on earth those tourists were thinking! There’s no denying that Australia and New Zealand offer some of the most beautiful outdoor spaces in the world for camping, tramping (hiking) and climbing, but backpackers need to play a smarter game. Are you ready for ‘dirty weather’? In Australia do you have sufficient water, shelter, first aid supplies? Or have you decided to take off unprepared as a young traveller did earlier this year when he decided to take a wee walk. In the North Queensland outback. Luckily he was found three days later but so many aren’t. Please make the appropriate arrangements and tell someone where you’re going. In NZ that would be DOC (Department of Conservation). And whatever you do dress for the conditions.
3/ Take a jump – You need to ask why the Kiwis and Aussies are so keen on jumping off things, but there are so many opportunities – the Sky Tower in Auckland, Bungy in Queenstown, or off the Sydney Harbour Bridge. All good stuff for adrenalin junkies and the actual bungy jumping industry (which was pioneered in NZ!) hasn’t had one death ever since its establishment in the 1980s, BUT adrenalin charged activites are so for a reason – there is always a risk of danger. That’s kind of the point! Please do come Down Under and scare yourself shitless but be mindful that accidents can happen. Small planes can crash as can helicopters and hot air balloons…..It’s sad, but it is the truth.
4/ Talk to the animals – The non-sentient ones I mean, not the locals. Australia in particular is full of things that can kill you and not even spit out the bones! Luckily we also have professionals who have learnt the art of slithering (snake-speak) and crocodile cuddling. Steve Irwin may well have passed but his legacy lives on at Australia Zoo where you can get up close and personal with snakes, crocs, boxing kangaroos, and other dangerous creatures. Personally, you won’t see me dead with a snake around my neck but if that’s what you yen to do, go for your life!
5/ Drive the local roads (like a city slicker) – New Zealand and Australia have some of the best driving roads in the world. From Australia’s long outback stretches of tarceal bordered by dirt to New Zealand’s single track roads through gorges and mountains driving Down Under can be adventurous in the extreme. The best way to meet your Maker is to drive the country roads as if you were driving the M1, or the LA freeway. The second best way is to set off on your road trip around Australia or New Zealand right after getting off the plane…..after 24 hours of travel! The best way to really see either country is to set off on your own in your own set of wheels, there are places all over that cater to backpackers and independent travellers and the Aussies and Kiwis are notoriously friendly. But take some time to recuperate after your flight before you set off, and then make time in your schedule to really see the country. There’s no hope in hell you will ‘do’ NZ in four days! And beware – all those little distances between beauty spots in NZ? Yeah, they are winding, steep, often single track, sometimes even unsealed.
But in the end the views are worth it. After all, where else in the world can you see something like this?
How have you traveled dangerously in Australia or New Zealand?
NB/Sponsored post – This post has been entered into the Adventure Tours Photography Contest. But as always all opinions are my full, frank own.