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Dive’n For Dinner

February 1, 2011

Anytime you are going diving for your own meal, you style your long vacation hair into a Faux-Hawk. Nikki's artist rendition of my hair pre-dive.

We are entering our last couple of days of the honeymoon and that is making me hungry for some fresh New Zealand seafood.

So, Nikki and I stopped by the side of the road at this Seafood Barbie Truck.  If you have never tried real truck food (not in a drunken street meat escapade) then you should.  A good place to start in Columbus is a recommended Taco Truck.  They got some real authentic Mexican grub coming out of them there trucks.  But I digress.

Green lipped mussels is what I am in search of.  And I found them at a Lonely Planet and a locally recommended food truck spot.  They are the best mussels I have ever tasted and they were simply grilled with butter and spice.  The green lip name comes from the shell having a small band of green stripe around it.  Very fresh, the divers walk up to the truck every morning for their first sales of the day.  Tasty…we are talking meat pie levels here, folks.

Crayfish is a type of unique New Zealand lobster.  Kaikoura is known for having the best.  You will pay out the nose for it though.  ($115 per lobster at a restaurant)  While waiting in line at the seafood truck, I had an interesting conversation with a local diver.  He was so friendly he told Nikki and myself,  “I get crayfish all the time in these waters when I dive.  Hell, if I had a crayfish at home, I would give you one, but I don’t, so sorry about that.”  He explained how you catch a crayfish, very technical, I will explain, you reach out and you grab it.

He then gave me the best local advice I had heard on this trip yet.  He told me there was a local diver named Kelvin who was always diving this time of year and he sold his catches daily to the local food trucks.  Kelvin would have a green hat and could be found on the side of the road, near the north beaches, in the late afternoon grilling up his catch of the day for his own dinner.  I made a honeymoon commitment, I would find this guy.

Up and down the road Nikki and I drove.  Then I found him!  Eating crayfish by his truck, grill on and green hat faced out to sea!  I approached.

“Hey man, sorry to break up your meal here, but I heard about you from a customer at the seafood bbq truck.  Anyway,  could I go out with you tomorrow for some crayfish hunting?”  He gave me the once over.  “You got snorkel gear?”  “Yes sir, all the way from Columbus, OH.”  He did not care.  “You got a wetsuit?”  “No sir.”  He looked me up and down again.  “You are gonna need one, meet me here at 2pm tomorrow and bring some cash.”  I shook his buttery hand and walked away with the biggest grin ever.  I had no idea how to get a wetsuit, and I wasn’t about to ask him where in town I could get one.  But this dive was ON!

I rented a wetsuit at the local surf shop.  Then in eager anticipation, I got all my gear ready and went to meet Kelvin.  As promised, he was there, and he threw most of my tourist gear on the beach saying “you won’t need that, mate.”  Into the ocean we dove.

He had his wetsuit, a floating device with a bag tied to his wrist and his snorkel set.  This guy could dive, deep into the water, about 20 feet down, under reefs for up to 40 seconds.  He was hard at work, and I wasn’t going to get in his way. 

But then I saw something he had pointed out from the bed of his truck before.  An abalone shell!  This is like a huge scallop/Portobello mushroom like hybrid.  Back home, a close friend of mine told me to go abalone hunting.  I wasn’t going to fail getting an abalone on this hunt.    

I yanked on the rope and underwater screamed his name.  He rushed over, kicked the shell that had long ago maybe held an abalone, rolled his eyes, and disgustingly told me to stay with him.  “Yes sir K-man!” I gurgled thru my snorkel hose. He rolled his eyes again and I followed him until he pointed down.  There it was.  A real abalone.  I dove, and pried the sea creature off the reef with a custom made knife that Kelvin had made.  Into the bag it went, and even deeper we swam out.

Our abalone catch!

Sucking in sea water and treading trying to keep up with Kelvin’s lung capacity, I saw him go deep…and come up with two crayfish…one in each hand!

I yahoo’d with the site of his catch…and he told me “there is another crayfish, down there, 15 feet, 2nd reef, give it a go mate.”  I dove down, with my lungs burning, I saw the crayfish and he saw me, he backed up about 3 inches and I took my shot.  That crayfish powered back and was gone before my hand even thought of the catch.  “Damn it!” I blurted at the surface.  “Too slow, mate.” was Kelvin’s response and he dove down after some other creature his sea eyes saw.

I caught one abalone and ingested a few gallons of seawater, K-man caught 2 abalone and 2 crayfish. Guess I will stick with painting.

 In the end, we got two crayfish and three abalone.  We grilled it up and got ready to chow by the side of the road. But, something was missing. I was looking around for Nikki so I could impress her with what K-man had caught.  She was not to be found and I was bummed.

Right before the meal was ready, Nikki pulled up in the red rocket and brought us a six pack of Speights beer on ice.  We all ate and drank by the sea discussing the days dive.  Yet another reason why I married this incredible woman!

We leave tomorrow, so up next, a fun little recap of the honeymoon.  Stay tuned for the final blob/blah/blog entry.

Our crayfish catch on the barbie!

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