It is hard to tell one stunning beach from another in New Zealand because there are so many of them. Being a long, skinny island, water is never far off and the coastlines are spectacular, but today we did something that is truly unusual: we rode a full-sized 45-passenger bus for most of 90 Mile beach at speeds of 60 to 70 mph!
Due to a mis-estimation on the part of Captain Cook, he named the beach “90 Mile Beach” altho’ it is really only about 60 miles in length. The beach is a flat expanse of well-packed sand with no logs or boulders or channels, only some dead sharks deserted by offshore fishermen as well as other vehicles zooming by in the other “lane”, doing 60 mph, but going the other way. The hardest part was getting the bus onto the beach, but the bus powered through 100m of soft sand to reach the hard sand. The buses travel together, sort of like a small pack, in case of trouble. If that is not remarkable enough, to get off the beach you drive a couple miles up Te Paki stream (a true sandy stream) with water flying as the buses literally roar up the creek.
I want to do this on my own! And we also found there is a bus driver competition as one bus tries to beat the obviously inferior competition to the best picnic and bathroom stops — one of those sub-culture things that you don’t realize is there.
Our driver was a local from the Northland, as they call this part of New Zealand, and was rightfully proud of the role of his extended family—the Subrinsky’s—in the area. He is one of 15 children and teaches high school (called college here) as the mechanical shop teacher. His ancestors came from Poland in the mid 1800’s and the whole clan now numbers 5000 with all the branches and has married into the Maori (native) community. Our driver is three-fourths Maori himself. He had lots of stories of growing up in the North and pointed out his relatives’ graves, homes, and businesses, his church and other local sites on the journey.
Our trip was a one-day coach ride to the northernmost tippy tip of New Zealand (Cape Reinga).
This northernmost peninsula is all bedrock, except for the sandy beaches and dune fields, and is a mix of volcanic and low-grade metamorphic sediments. The northernmost outcrops are basaltic and provide the pathway for the Maori souls to go to their promised land of Hawaiki, a name only slightly different from the Hawaii we know and love. There is even one specific tree they have identified as the route a Maori soul takes climbing down the tree, down the roots, and into the water on its journey to Hawaiki.
I am probably being irreverent wondering what happens when that tree is gone. In front of the viewing platform, a Maori dad had his four children seated in the grass observing this scene, and they were having a very serious conversation. I don’t know what was said, but good for him.
Other highlights were seeing lots of sheep, cattle, sheep again, kauri trees (a really big tree, a bit like the redwood, that is now not very common), and more sheep — also lunch (included in the price) and an early arrival back at the motel at 4:30 … a very nice day.
So for all of you missing Jan’s exquisite prose, she will return tomorrow I expect. In the meantime, I am the substitute. While you are waiting, I want all of you within reach of a shoreline, whether lake or ocean, to find the nearest beach and try to reach 60 mph on it. Today, we did!