Driving down 90 mile beach had started off as an awesome experience. Neither Lio nor me had ever cruised down a beach before. Perhaps Cindy had (the van), but we didn’t really know a lot of her life before us. I persuaded Lio by explaining to her all the time and petrol we would save by going a steady 60 km/h on a beach that was as flat as a board. No curves, no steep hills, no gravel. Just us, Cindy and the beach.
After a while we could see the tide coming in and we decided to find the nearest exit. Getting off the beach would soon prove to be a lot harder than getting on. It seemed that everyone had used the same exit and the sand was neither hard nor flat. Cindy had been a beaut of a van on the road but she wasn’t up for this. Stuck.
It was as if he were waiting for us or maybe he could sniff us out like a shark can smell a drop of blood from 2 miles away. Stranded tourists. At first we thought of him our saviour, knight in shining armour, whatever. Just the guy that would give us a tow to solid grounds as an act of kindness. He circled around Cindy in his black 4X4 ute, a big ngapuhi sticker on the rear window. The way a shark would close in on his prey. We were dead in the water. I helped him hook up the tow line. Just before he got in to his car he turned around and charged.
“Oh yea, we do charge $40 around here for this” he casually said “So how do you want to do this?” I expressed my disbelief, thought it was a joke. He was adamant, claiming we should count ourselves lucky because: “normally they charge vans $60”. I told him I wasn’t sure we had that kind of money on us. “No problem, we’ll just go down to the shops”.
The towing took exactly 7 seconds. I know this because Lio recorded it with her camera. I got the wallet, took out the money and asked Lio to go give it him. His grin upon receiving the money was that of shark. No more, no less. Congrats. Way to go. Thanks for ripping us off. I don’t think you did your iwi proud that day.
Now I know it’s not your job to make sure everybody gets off the beach safely. We don’t expect you to tow every tourist that gets stuck. We would have gladly bought you some beers for your trouble. Pretending to lend a helpful hand before overcharging people who have no choice is not the way to go though.