90 Mile Beach is About 55 Miles Long

90 Mile Beach/Cape Reinga/Kauri Trees/Sandboarding

The driver is an absolute character. Too long now since I took that bus, I don't remember the details except getting on the bus early as christ, and Mr. Bus Driver checks my name with my voucher, "Puh-vLLLe-skuhh! That's a winner of a name. Where do you hail from?"

"New York."

[insert confused look] "Well that's unexpected. I thought you were going to say something like former USSSR or some Balkan nation. Oh well, your name's almost as good as.. what was your
name again?"

He had just checked in a young lady from Brazil who had three middle names and two last names. Oh yea. This was going to be a fun ride. If you're in the north island and looking for a company to do these activities, look up AwesomeNZ and ask for the guy that used to be a school bus driver, though reviews seem to note that all the bus drivers are energetic and funny. After checking in everyone, he announces that we will be be racing a bus from a competing bus company so that we wouldn't have to wait in line for all of the stops we are meant to make.

Because the other bus was sandboarding in the afternoon when it was going to be scorching hot, MR. BD took us to sandboarding first so that not only were we not cooking at 12noon, we also got a bit more time in the dunes with no other company around. A pro now, I was not terrified of the height/angle combination at the top. What did worry me was that the board was different this time. No longer would I be strapping my feet to an oblong derivative of plastic; instead, I was going on foam, face first, downhill. Excellent.

Well, after the first couple of runs, I realized that being this low to the ground had its benefit: I was not going to fall on my butt. I could, on the other hand, crash head on into a tree or foliage of sorts. Luckily, neither happened. This time I was zipping down the dune with finesse. Granted, it looked way more awesome when standing on the board...

After this, we were taken to "90 Mile Beach." The actual length of the beach is 55 miles. Why keep the name? I haven't the faintest idea, but I can tell you what Mr. BD told us was the origin of the name. When the Dutch got here, because of the width of the beach and compactness of the sand, they used the beach as a sort of highway to transport product. Day one, they got up, transported the goods and calculated 30 miles for day one. Day two, got up, traveled again, and calculated 30 miles. Day three, repeat day one and two, and voila, 90 miles. And so it became 90 Mile Beach, until someone bothered to check the actual measurement.

The actual driving along this beach was particularly interesting because Mr. BD had to maintain a certain speed and also dodge the incoming tide. An interesting feat, because should he screw up one of those, the bus would sink into the sand or be washed away by the waves, respectively, neither of which are 'career-prolonging' maneuvers.

One particular tidal area was taunting, warming the cool of even a NZ Kiwi who has done it a thousand times. With his mic still turned on, we hear Mr. BD trying to verbally wrestle with the waves. "Come on...Come oonn," he pleads as he inches forward. Waves crash up the sides of the bus and over our passenger windows. Fairly confident we weren't going to make it before being dragged out to sea, my fellow passengers and I gather our stuff in a pile in case the need of an emergency exit arises. Still fighting with the waves, the bus lingers for a painstaking five minutes, with emotions of fear and excitement wrapped together.

Finally, the tide pulls back for a brief moment, and all we hear is "Yesss!" as bus jerks and accelerates across the beach. "Whew! That was a close one! In all my years driving this route, I've never come that close to the embarrassment of having to turn the bus around! But we've made it!" His energy is hilarious and infectious. True or false, we don't know, to us, or to me at least, it was a bit more adrenaline and hilarity than I expected from a casual drive along the beach.

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