*Short Tales from the Road is a collection of my travel stories on the road while walking the world. It’s about the good, the bad, the funny and the unexpected situations that I’ve encountered on my travels.*
NINETY MILE BEACH, NEW ZEALAND
It was the final league of our New Zealand road trip. My family and I had spent an entire month traveling the length of New Zealand’s South and North islands — and we had finally reached the top of the North Island. We based ourselves in a little cottage near the Ninety Mile Beach just west of the town of Kaitaia. The entire month was spent moving from one hotel to another as we traveled the country, so it was nice to finally have an entire week at just one place. The cottage was at the end of the street, with three other cottages just before it.
The Ninety Mile Beach is only a 10-minute walk from our cottage, and runs along the Aupouri Peninsular all the way up to Cape Reinga — right at the tip of the Northern end of New Zealand’s North island. While at the cottage, we had visited most of the tourist attractions around the area — Cape Reinga, the Kauri Forest Reserve, Ancient Kauri Kingdom, Gumdiggers Park, and the many beaches and bays around Northland.
We had spent Christmas at the cozy little cottage, and were just two days away from flying back to Malaysia. That evening, we walked towards the Ninety Mile Beach to swim in the sea and watch the sun set at the end of the day. It was dark by the time we decided to make our way back to the cottage, and we had to use torch-lights to light our way back home.
My teenage cousin Ben, my 5-year old brother and my 8-year old cousin sister decided to make their way back to the cottage first.
“We’re leaving!” Ben said, “I’ll take the kids back for a bath.”
“I’ll come with you in a bit,” I told him.
“Me too,” my other teenage cousin, Jim said.
My parents, aunt and teenage sister were still walking along the beach under the moonlight. I couldn’t really see what exactly there were doing.
Ben had walked ahead with the younger kids. I followed about 5 or 6 meters behind them. Jim took his time shining his torchlight around the beach before deciding to trail me, a little distance away,
The pathway back to the cottage was dark except from the dim lights from the other cottages along the way. I was walking alone without a torch, but I could see the shadows of the three people in front of me. My little brother was shining the lights all over the place and talking loudly, so I could make out where they were heading and just followed suit. We have been walking this dark path the last few days, so I was pretty used to it by now.
I was passing the last cottage just before ours when I heard a slight commotion coming from it. I turned to look. And then everything happened like a flash of lightning.
I saw a dark figure charging towards me. I tried to make out what it was but before anything could register, the figure jumped onto me and roughly pushed me down to the sandy ground. I could hear the loud thud as I fell, and felt the sharp pain as my knees, elbows and palms got scratched by the sand. And then I saw that one image that I will never forget for the rest of my life.
The sharp teeth and dripping saliva from the opened mouth of the fiercest black dog I have ever seen. Right in front of my face.
And then everything turned slow motion.
Those evil teeth got closer and closer.
I lifted my arms to shield my face.
I closed my eyes in anticipation of the pain I knew I was about to feel. I really thought I was going to die.
And then I heard a shout.
The pain didn’t come. The heavy weight on top of me disappeared. I was left on the ground feeling sore all over.
I was in such a daze that when I finally came to my senses. The first thing I heard was my cousin Jim shouting my name — his footsteps against the grainy sand, running towards me in the dark.
“Mynn! Are you okay?” I heard the urgency in his voice.
“I don’t know,” I said. I could barely reply him.
From a distance I could also hear what seemed to be the rest of my family running over.
As Jim helped me up, I saw my aunt walking over to a figure in the dark. It most likely was the owner of that evil dog. I couldn’t make out what my aunt said, but her voice was shrill and filled with anger.
Mum and dad had arrived at the scene as well, and asked Jim to escort me home immediately before joining my aunt.
It was a painful walk back, and it was only when I got into the cottage and under the lights that I saw the extent of my injuries. Cuts and scrapes, and blood all over.
“I just want to take a shower,” I told Jim, and walked into the toilet.
Once I was alone, I carefully inspected my wounds… and then I bawled my eyes out.
I cried, and cried and cried.
I guess it wasn’t so much the injuries, or the pain. I think it was more of the shock and the feeling of complete helplessness in that situation. It was the fear. It was the image of the dog above me. It was the thought that I was going to die.
It haunted me for a little while — but I am okay now. The wounds, both outside and inside, have healed. And I still love dogs.
The owner came over to apologise to me after the whole episode. He even asked us not to lodge a complaint in fear of what might happen to the dog. We didn’t, but we did tell him to keep it under supervision — we don’t want anyone to get mauled to death. Somehow, I was thankful it was me than anyone else in my family.
So I decided to forgive that terrible, terrible dog.
But I will never forget those horrible, horrible teeth.