It’s a beautiful stretch of sand on the West coast of New Zealand’s North Island, running from Kaitaia toward Cape Reinga, along the Aupouri Peninsula. The day we walked down on to the beach, it felt deserted, apart from one man and his dog, a fisherman’s 4wd, and one other vehicle parked close to the waters edge. Its occupants appeared to be enjoying watching the setting sun out across the gently breaking waves
90 Mile Beach is one of those spots that features in all the Northland tourist brochures. A number of tour operators run daily bus trips to Cape Reinga, New Zealand’s most northern point, finishing their day with a late afternoon drive homeward down along the beach.
As we stood on our deserted beach, my daydreaming was disturbed, as one of those tour buses appeared from the late afternoon glare, and thundered past, heading south along the hard packed sand. Perhaps the passengers on board the bus were as surprised to see us on this deserted beach, as we were to see them?
As the bus passed, we turned and started walking back up the beach to our car – the tide was coming in, the sun was getting lower and we still had a 100km drive ahead of us to get back home. As we walked, another Australian couple were heading down toward the water. We acknowledged each other and one of them motioned that the people in the car, still parked by the waters edge, were waving in our direction. I thought it was a very friendly gesture, and waved back. It didn’t take long to realise that their waves were not a friendly farewell, but a frantic wave of panic and a call for HELP.
Whilst the owners of the car may have been admiring the sunset when we arrived, they had now realised that their two wheel drive Dualis had sunk deep in the sand, the tide had come in, and the water was now lapping around them. All attempts to drive or dig their way out of this predicament had failed. It was time to call reinforcements.
Sadly for them, the only reinforcements on the beach were Anne and I, and the other Aussie couple. There was no way that we were going to add any great value in retrieving the car – their first request of us was to help “lift” the car from its sandy cradle. The only real saviour was going to be a powerful 4wd with a long and strong tow rope. Thank heavens, a young Kiwi couple with those two attributes happened along.
It’s difficult to find a tow point on a vehicle when its buried in soft sand up to its front axel, and continuing to sink deeper. The only option was to tie the rope around the drive arm connected to the front driver side wheel – it was that, or start removing all valuables from the car, before it was swallowed by the rapidly encroaching Tasman Sea.
The tow vehicle took up the strain and I gave the driver a thumbs up……as he accelerated, the rope stretched, and some odd noises of twangs and bangs emitted from beneath the solidly stuck car. I recognised one of the noises as breaking strands of tow rope. Thankfully, all of a sudden, and before the rope broke right through, the stuck Dualis leaped from its sandy grave, and was dragged by the tow vehicle to safe ground.
I was the only person on the beach that day with a sharp knife which was required to cut the tow rope free from the rescued vehicle. The Leatherman once again proved itself as a “must have” travel essential.
There is a simple moral to this story – don’t take your two wheel drive vehicle on to the beach nor park it below the high tide line……..next time the outcome might not have such a happy ending.
P.S. 90 Mile Beach is not 90 miles long – it’s only 55 miles……..go figure?