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Full Circle

Day 151: Dunedin

Dunedin, New Zealand 
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Monty Python's definition of a king - the only who's not got shit all over him.
Michael Palin - Full CircleThe rocks are sharp and treacherous and, after overnight rain, the water level varies from a stony trickle to a brusque six foot plunge. As I'm probably thirty years older than most of these others I seem to give them some hope. Here, after all, is someone who's actually volunteered for the Leith Run.

I discover that it's best to hang out with the girls. The boys plough on in their macho individualistic way, as if this might be the sort of event you should win, whereas the girls just decide to enjoy it, linking arms and wading through the devastation like a chorus line caught up in the First World War. Every now and then one of them will miss their footing and disappear beneath the waters of Leith, taking one or two others down as well. To give the girls credit this reduces them to hysterics, which is clearly the only suitable frame of mind for such an event. The wrought-iron bridge beneath which the race ends is a last bottleneck where we are sitting, dripping and shivering targets for any dairy products the tormentors on the bank still have left.

But, as we are finally deposited from this hell onto the neatly clipped lawns before the great Gothic portals of the main building, there is a strange sense that we are the winners not the losers. Most of those around me, sodden and muddy, bruised and grazed, are grinning and laughing and recounting how many eggs they took and where.

Sobering news on the six o'clock bulletin. A boat taking tourists to see the whales of Kaikoura has overturned. No one knows why, but someone on board has been drowned. Wally Stone is interviewed. For a man so dedicated to the enjoyment, appreciation and preservation of wildlife it seems a cruel blow.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 151
  • Country/sea: New Zealand
  • Place: Dunedin
  • Book page no: 210

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