Day 218 – Saturday November 24, 2007
90 Mile Beach, New Zealand
Sometime in the middle of the night on Friday the weather took a turn for the worse. With our tour already booked, all we could do was hope that things would improve. After breakfast we drove to the I-site where the tour bus was scheduled to pick us up. The bus arrived just on time and before long we were on our way.The first thirty minutes of the drive took us through pine tree forests and sparkling meadows before we emerged at plain looking bay on the east coast of the peninsula. During the drive, our driver provided an interesting commentary about the area. We learned about how the mighty Kaori trees once dominated the landscape and how they are almost non existent today. Our driver also informed us that the local economy was in pretty bad shape until a Japanese company bought the pine forests and opened up a logging plant in the area.
After only five minutes at the bay, we drove another few miles north to a white sand beach where we were allowed to get out and frolic around a little. While walking along the top of a sand cliff, I stepped in the wrong spot and the ground completely collapsed below me. While I was scared for a moment, there really wasn’t any danger. Up to this point the weather had cooperated a bit, but once we left the white sand beach, things deteriorated pretty quickly.
Once back on the bus we drove another thirty minutes north and stopped at a road side general store. Our tour guide Joe informed us that they sell the best ice cream in New Zealand. Although I was a little skeptical, once I saw everyone else’s cone, I could see it was the real deal. The ice cream was delicious and the portions are massive. Unfortunately, after eating our ice cream, Joe got word that portions of the road ahead were washed out and closed. He then made an executive decision to feed us the included picnic lunch then and there so that we could see if the road could be opened again.
After lunch, Joe got word that he could try to proceed with caution up to Cape Reinga, which is the northernmost spot in New Zealand. The further our bus continued along the road towards the Cape, it became evident that we were in a bit of danger. After skidding around and almost losing control a couple of times, Joe decided to turn around. Unfortunately the road wasn’t wide enough and we had to continue along for another 2km until we found a suitable spot to make the turn. It was touch and go for a while as the bus lost traction a few more times, but eventually we turned around, as did all of the other buses behind us.
On the way back out we hit the same rough spots and after twenty minutes we were finally on the paved road to 90 Mile Beach. Before we could start driving on the beach though, we still had one last activity to partake in. The entrance to the beach lies among massive sand dunes and a trip down them in a toboggan was part of the tour. At this point the wind was blowing hard, but we decided to give it a go.
After taking Shawn Reece about halfway up the hill, I let him slide down and then proceeded my way to the top for my turn. The whole way up and once I arrived the sand battered me. The wind at the top was so strong that seeing anything was impossible as I was instantly blinded by the sand. Finally, after ten minutes of waiting for others to go when the wind broke a little, I climbed down about halfway and went myself. The whole experience was unpleasant to say the least.
After getting off of the dunes it was time to partake in the last part of our journey, a drive back down on the 90 Mile Beach. The 90 Mile Beach is an official highway and tour buses plow down it all day long. The drive was nice, but it was hard to see outside at times because mud had completely engulfed the bus. At one point we stopped and I braved the high wind to take a picture, but everyone was exhausted and many fell asleep as we made the drive back towards town.
Before dropping us off, the bus made a quick stop for a wash at a store that sold furniture made from the Kaori trees. It was nice, but we were eager to get back. After twenty minutes, we boarded the bus again and were finally dropped off. I drove straight back to the cabin and collapsed. We enjoyed the 90 Mile Beach, but wished that the weather had cooperated more, since I am sure it would have been much nicer had the sun decided to come out. Oh well, we’ll get ‘em next time. The tour did leave us with plenty to do for the next couple of days, since it took that long to get most of the sand out of all the various parts of our bodies. Oh joy!
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The Coomer Family