A Hundred Words for Sand

Scott Macleod | Account Manager Lifestyle

Person walking on beach sand

They say the Eskimos have a hundred words for snow. After hiking Ninety Mile Beach, I can think of a hundred words for sand – mostly comprising four letters.

What to call the fine, white sand that twists towards you on the ocean wind, long lines snaking inches above the hard-packed beach, seeping through the mesh of your trail shoes and forming mini-dunes in your socks, just beneath the toes? And what of the coarse, gritty sand that infests your hair, ears and squinty-eyed wrinkles? Or the aggressive, penetrative variety that somehow invades your environmentally-sealed dry-bag to assail the joints of your camera lenses? What of the sand that inhabits the streams and, by extension, the bottle you dip for water? The one that imparts an unpleasant grittiness to your dry-lipped sips and an equally unpleasant crunch to your evening pasta. 

Then there’s the worst sand of all – the obnoxious “friend” that refuses to leave you alone, ingratiating itself into your tent, and your sleeping bag, and your clothes, reappearing when you think you’ve brushed and shaken yourself free.

All of these sand-types I know well, and few do I ever wish to meet again.

I came to know all of these sands while hiking New Zealand’s Te Araroa trail, which begins with a four-day tramp from Cape Reinga to Ahipara.

Sand is the main reason so many hikers struggle with this section. It stings the eyes and blisters the feet. One German companion was forced to quit because her ruined feet became dangerously infected.

But sand detracts only slightly from the beach’s many pleasures – the sealions, the wild pigs, the isolation and the solitude, the long stretches of quiet contemplation.

The night sky.

Awaking to the rhythmic crash of ocean waves.

Most of all, knowing you’ve earned chips and beer at trail’s end.