This page of my journal is from the beginning of summer 2012 when we organised a trip to Harderwijk so that Kiwi Daughter and her two best friends could swim with the dolphins and share a unique experience together before one of her best friends relocated away from the Netherlands for her father’s work.
Since getting from “A” to “B” on Dutch motorways is not always manageable without traffic congestion and delays, we left the Hague with plenty of extra time to spare “just in case” we got caught in a “file” (pronounced “fee la”) while is literally a file, as in single-file.
I think North American’s call them ”tailbacks”… and ”traffic jams” elsewhere in the English speaking world.
It’s certainly not a word I ever needed to use growing up in the South Island of New Zealand, where the joke (and the reality) was always that a “traffic jam” was when one, maybe two cars had to stop for a large mob of sheep to go by on a small country road. It certainly was a shock to find that “file” were a huge part of normal life here in the Netherlands. Bumper to bumper vehicles on motorways either standing still or doing speeds that any reasonable walker could easily out-pace.
Luckily on this occasion we only got stuck in the crawling-at-snails-pace traffic on the motorway between The Hague and Delft, after which the traffic miraculously thinned and everyone resumed normal speed. We had of course factored extra time into our day for this eventuality and still managed to arrive at the Dolphinarium ahead of schedule.
The girl’s appointment with the dolphins has been made and reserved weeks ago and we need to keep to our appointed time.
After a quick look around the entrance area it seem the other two families were less fortunate with the traffic so we decide to look around a little bit.
The Dolphinarium site is too big for me to negotiate easily on crutches but luckily there are wheelchairs available and I get to ride around today. We detour over to an enclosure where at first we don’t see much wildlife at all, but within minutes sea lions start popping their heads out of the water and heading over towards us… we’ve hit it lucky and arrived at the same time as a keeper who’s bucket of fish garners the complete attention of the sea lions within minutes.
A keeper demonstrates the sea lions agility, they have little trouble scaling the rocks and are deft at catching the fish she throws at them, I even manage one close-up shot where a fish is about to disappear whole into the open mouth of one of the sea lions.
The fish were dispatched with a single gulp rather than any chewing, so whilst certainly not a messy way of eating I do wonder how there can actually be any appreciate of taste whatsoever, the fish barely touched the sides! About one second after the gulp, the sea lions were already looking expectantly for the next offering, taking the term “fast food” to a whole new level.
We managed to get very close, there’s an electric fence between us and them and they show no interest in us anyway: humans with camera’s being clearly exceptionally boring when compared to human’s with a bucket of fish. We linger for as long as possible watching their antics… but soon the other two families arrive and we head over to the meeting point where the dolphin keepers are…