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Surreal Drive on 90 Mile Beach

11 February 2011 | Cape Reinga, New Zealand
Sunny, Spotty Rain, mostly Fine
Since our last update we have covered a lot of ground. Leaving Wellington on a rainy and cold day nearly a week ago we headed directly to Auckland where we would meet-up with Herb & Betty on S/V Sula who have been dragging our back-up transmission across the Pacific from Tahiti. After a long hard drive for more than 9 hours we passed through the modern city of Auckland where it felt like passing through San Francisco. A truly spectacular looking city from the Auckland bridge crossing the bay. About 30 minutes past Auckland we arrive on Whangaparoa Peninsula where Golf Harbor Marina is located and where S/V Sula and S/V Freezing Rain have moored for the season. When we arrived we exchanged a case of wine for our transmission and Herb was happy even after months of slogging a 85 pound weight around. We now have our tranny sitting in the roof rack making an already top heavy vehicle even heavier.

We stayed in Whangaparoa for only two nights then heading north as far as we could arriving at 90 Mile Beach just south of Cape Reinga which is the northern tip of New Zealand. The actual length of Ninety Mile Beach is more like 60 miles (96 km), but visitors need not feel short-changed as the scenery is breathtaking and seemingly never-ending. The beach seems like it continues to infinity as you drive your vehicle on the hard-packed sand. Yep, you can drive your car on the beach for the entire length of 96 km. It is highly recommended that you have 4x4 for this beach travel since the entrance and exit from the beach is through either a river surrounded by sand dunes or a steep sandy hill at the south end. When we arrived at 90 Mile Beach it was late and the tide was getting too high for us to make the run all the way up the beach. Even so, I told Lori it was a must do bucket list kinda thing that we would do in the morning. Lori didn't seem too sure about the idea but recognized that it was something that was probably going to be done. So, we camped at the southern end of the beach with the plan to make the 96 km run just after low tide at 9:00 am.

Stolen aerial view to give a better idea of the scope of the 90 Mile Beach.

Rear view of the fogged in beach as we cruise along at 100 km/hr on wetted beach sand.

The next morning I was in a rush packing the van in anticipation of the beach fun was this going to be! Lori was a nervous wreck. In general, Lori doesn't like anything that could potentially result in being stranded or dead. As we pulled out onto the beach, we could only see a mile or so up the beach due to fog which was rolling in off the Tasman Sea. Even so, I dropped the van into 4 high and punched it until we were doing 60 km/hr. The sand was solid and we didn't have any trouble with traction or digging in. The beach itself is very unique in that it is almost flat with hardly any slope resulting in an extremely wide section of wetted sand between the surf and the dunes which frame the natural freeway. The experience was absolutely surreal and rated up there with anchoring in Beveridge Reef...this was especially the case with the fog ahead, sun shinning through from above and glowing white sand dunes off in the distance. It honestly felt like we were somewhere in the Sahara. During the 69 km treck, we passed several other Delica vans and we got passed by a huge bus while we were doing 100 km/hr. The bus was doing at least 120 km/hr and doing it further out in the water too. All the passengers waved as they blew by.

Tour bus blowing past us at 120+ km/hr.

Lori rejoices that we didn't get stranded on the beach.

After driving a surreal hour, we arrived at the end of the beach located in the Te Paki sand dunes where the Te Paki Creek runs out through the sand dunes and you must drive through the center of the creek without stopping to prevent sinking. The signs actually tell you not to stop due to the potential of getting stuck in what is essentially quicksand. On both sides of the creek are huge sand dunes and the surreal experience continues to grow. Approximately 3 km up the creek and through the dunes we rounded a corner where a road meets the creek and we easily drove out and parked and enjoyed a few hours of sand surfing using our plastic table top.

What you can't see is the sand spray going into every orifice.

A photo just can't capture the true size and grade of this was extremely hard just to climb up as you can see by the zig zag prints.

Land meets dunes.

After playing in the sand dunes, we ventured the final few kilometers north to Cape Reinga. Cape Reinga is a spiritual place. It is spiritually sacred to the local Maori population because of the many killed there in inter-tribal warfare two centuries ago and also because the last point of land is considered the place where the souls of the deceased drop off into the water on their journey to the afterworld known as Hawaiki.

Cape Reigna light house. Can you believe that some actually prophisized that a light would eventually be placed here?...amazing eh ;-)

We spent a wonderful day hiking and driving then decided we wanted to do it all again the next we drove back to the camp ground down south via the highway and woke the next morning to do it all over again. What a kick in the pants!

Convergence of the Tasman Sea with the Pacific Ocean at Cape Reinga.

Many more pictures being added to photo gallery of 90 Mile Beach.
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