Saturday, 5 April 2014

Coming 'round the Fountain

I’m just swimming on the top of the Bay...

I have a somewhat selfish life, able to enjoy freedoms and choices which many my age, with young families, might find more difficult.  No doubt they enjoy other benefits, and I can still enjoy time with their kids; so I assume it will all even out one day.
However, two and a half hours of my every working day are taken up by a commute which, although I’ve learned to make the most of, does equate to an awful lot of time spent sitting on one of the bodies’ most powerful muscles.

So I try to make the most of lunch-breaks when I can get them, and in the warmer months this means swimming. 
An hour allows me to get down to Oriental Bay, quickly swim out to one of the rafts anchored there, and then be back at my desk, generally feeling somewhat revitalised, if a little salt-encrusted.  As predicted by many, we are enjoying a very late summer and the weather since mid February, especially recently, has become settled and often hot.  But now that April has begun I felt that my swimming days must surely be coming to a close until next summer, and I was keen to end on a high note.

When I first lived in Wellington, I recall that swimming out to Carter’s Fountain was the thing to do (possibly the rafts didn’t exist then) and, although all these years later I felt daunted by the extra distance, this was to be my goal.
Choppy seas and maintenance on the fountain thwarted my first attempts, and the only opportunity left was going to be straight after an appointment for some major dental work - which was hardly ideal.
The Oriental Bay raft can be seen to the left of the fountain.
Numb-faced and invoice-shocked I turned up at the beach to discover impossibly perfect conditions. A complete lack of breeze and cloud left the entire harbour mirror smooth and sparkling, while a very low tide exposed more golden sand than usual.  It had to be a good omen and I wasted no time in wading into the surprisingly warm water, able to cover some distance on foot before submerging.

I should mention that although I love any kind of water, I am not a technically proficient swimmer.  I can sustain a reasonably strong and regular stroke, but never really learned the correct ‘head turning breathing’ and tend to swim comfortably with my head above the water.  With little body mass, I’m very buoyant and aren’t looking to break any records, so have never felt the need to do otherwise.

I also have a very active imagination, so sometimes when I feel far from shore with an unknown watery void beneath me… my mind creates pictures like this:
Eyeless, glistening black things with mouths like icicle ringed-cave entrances; slime draped lampreys writhing, fastening and burrowing into guts; the sudden, searing lash of  stingray tail; a shark punching a jagged, red hollow in your body before even being seen…

Obviously, it’s best not to conjure these images when you feel as if you’re in the middle of the harbour.  The water went suddenly cold and I realised that I’d reached the shadow of the plume straight jetting upwards from the fountain, completely vertical due to the lack of breeze.  Circling around its base and back into the sunlight I felt elated and confident, so instead of returning to the shore, I struck out towards the nearby raft.  This was one of those rare times when an intimidating physical challenge turns out to be far easier than expected.

The raft was reached and I continued towards the shore, my arms seemingly keeping rhythm of their own accord.  And it was at this height of my self-satisfaction that I glimpsed the large black shape moving underneath me, and all my nightmarish images came crashing back.  I halted suddenly, and so did it.
The day was so unusually still and the water so clear that my own shadow was cast perfectly onto the sandy bottom below me – I had literally terrified myself.
On my way back to shore, I was trailed by a sinister, dark shape in the water below.
A brief contended wallow in the shallows allowed me to sooth my jangled nerves, and then I was trotting back along the sand towards work. Oriental Bay had never looked so beautiful.

No comments:

Post a Comment