90 Mile Beach

Published: July 28th 2009
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Unfortunately we didn’t get to swim with dolphins. When we got to Phiaia there were two companies offering the tour. We decided to go to the tourist information office and ask them for their opinion. As they are not allowed recommend any one company she gave us the pro’s of both and left out the con’s. She told us that they had a 50% chance of swimming with dolphins. A chance anyone would take. We left there and said we would have lunch and decide which company to use. As we had already seen dolphins in Doubtful Sound we didn’t want to spend the money on just seeing them again. We passed the office of one of the companies and asked them when they last swam with dolphins. It was over a month ago. 50% chance my arse! With that information we found the office of the other company and they hadn’t even seen dolphins earlier that day on their morning cruise. There was no way we were going to spend over €100 on a chance. Even if you don’t get to swim you still have to pay for the cruise. It wasn’t worth it. We could have swam in Kaikoura but chose to hold out. Why wait until tomorrow, when you can do today, I suppose is the moral of the story! (Jesus, now I’m doing morale’s). We also said that no one would have any sympathy for us, as what we are doing is lucky anyway. Still, it doesn’t mean we cant be disappointed. There are only 15 places in the world where you can swim with dolphins in the wild and luckily eastern Australia is one of them. Its only a matter of time!

We left Phiaia that afternoon and went to Kiatia. We booked ourselves on to a tour of 90 Mile Beach. Its actually closer to 90kms but I’m sure somewhere along the line some one must have said ‘jaysus, that beach must be 90 miles long’ and that’s where it got its name. On this tour we would also get to Cape Reinga, see a gum diggers factory and sand board again on the sand dunes of 90 Mile beach.

As you can only drive on the beach when the tide is out, we took the main road up to Cape Reinga. It wasn’t so long ago that we left Bluff (the southern most point of NZ, but actually isn’t) in search of Cape Reinga (the northern most point of New Zealand, but actually isn’t). At the cape two seas collide. The Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea. You can actually see where they meet and wave can crash up to 10 metres high. We had been told about this but didn’t think much of it until we saw it. You can clearly see the waters from both seas crashing against each other and causing huge waves. This is a very mythical place in Maori life, where the spirits left the living world to go their motherland called Hawaiikiki (I hope I’ve spelt it right). Reaching Cape Reinga was also another milestone on our travels. It was like the closing of another chapter. We got our photo’s taken at the signposts, pointing out the different parts of the world and got back on the bus to drive down 90 Mile Beach. Rental vehicles are prohibited from driving on the beach as the tides can be very dangerous. The sand is hard but parts are like quicksand and only the drivers of the tours know these areas. Along the drive our bus driver stopped near a lone fisherman and his three dogs. The fisherman had caught a 5kg Trevallii (not sure about spelling again) and his dogs were guarding it from the overhead birds. We got off and I got my photo taken holding the fish. He also got us some Tua Tua shellfish, fresh from the sea while we were looking at his catch. He just went into the sea, knee deep, rooted around in the sand and came back with them. He cracked the shells open for us and cut out the meat and handed it to us on his knife. He told us that this was how they ate it. I had to try it so I didn’t refuse him. It was just like eating a muscle and tasted like saltwater. Michelle was on the bus looking out and couldn’t believe what I was doing. A month ago I wouldn’t eat fish and here I was after having, muscles, crayfish, scallops, blue nose and now eating Tua Tua from a stranger on a beach, without it even been cooked!! He then told us that he uses the meat as his bait for catching other fish! It was a simple moment but something that will stay me for a long time.

The rest of the journey we talked with the bus driver and a Canadian couple about different things. The driver told us about a big fishing competition that is held on 90 mile beach every year. It is NZ$250 to enter and there is only 1000 entries allowed. The prize for the biggest Snapper is NZ$50,000. The competition lasts 5 days and the beach is fished in different sections each day. Last year a guy caught a 9kg snapper on the first day and held the record for the whole week until the last few hours when another guy caught one weighing 9.3kgs. I can imagine its good craic for the 5 days as everyone camps just off the beach.

When we got back to the camper van we knew New Zealand was nearly over. For the next few days we would make our way towards Auckland, to leave Ted back, to his rightful owners. We would have to clean the van and get our dreaded backpacks back out again. Ted was a luxury really. Never once did we say ‘ah, feck this van’. Also, we had just survived 46 days in the van without killing each other! Everyone we had told how long we were going to spend in the van, winced with the thought of having to do it with their partners, husbands or wives. We cant believe how fast it went though. Its nearly 2 months since we got here. We are now officially at the half way point of our journey. Is the glass half empty or half full?!

In a bit: DH

Song of the blog: Billy Ocean - When the going gets tough

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