October 21

It turns out that last night we stayed on some type of bird reserve. There were all kinds of crazy birds that I had never seen before wandering around everywhere. I was really hoping that we would see a kiwi, but no such luck.

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We headed out in the morning for our scheduled activity for the day, horseback riding on the beach. We were very excited to fulfill one of Lindsay’s lifelong ambitions. We headed out to Pakiri Beach for an hour-long ride. On the way, we stopped at a fabulous cafe and had our best meal yet. It was a vegetable frittata and a corn stack with avocado and poached egg.

When we arrived at the farm they assigned us horses and two guides. Lindsay has quite a bit of riding experience so it made sense to send her with someone and me with someone else, as I had never ridden before. I was assigned an older horse named Stu. They warned me that he could be grumpy and drag his feet on the beach. We mounted and headed out with our guides, who were young female woofers from Sweden and France. I wasn’t really given much instruction on what to do, but I think I bore up reasonably well under the circumstances. We had a nice walk down the beach along the surf. The sun even came out while we were riding.

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There weren’t any problems until the guides decided that we should trot. My horse was apparently the self-proclaimed leader and he wasn’t happy that he had to follow the guide’s horse. He kept jerking forward and trying to cut her off. Trotting didn’t help this. We had to stop because he was so out of control. We headed up away from the beach along the dunes and the guides decided we should canter. I was already freaked out about the horse’s attitude, but they seemed to think it was a good idea. So we started to canter. My horse took off to beat the leader, cut off the other horse, fell down a hole and nearly bucked me off. It was one of the scariest moments of my life. I hadn’t been instructed on what to do with my feet or hands so I was just clinging on for dear life. Lindsay watched the entire thing and was completely livid with the guides and the owner for putting me, a complete beginner, on an out of control horse.

Fortunately, we made it back without incident and Stu seemed to rein it in (get it?) for the rest of the ride. I can’t say that I was sad to see the back of him. Once we were back to the farm, it became obvious that the guides had realized how terrible the situation had been, but they were young and ill prepared to handle it. Lindsay had words with the owner who barely even gave us an apology under duress. It’s too bad that my first riding experience ended up being less than stellar. However, I truly feel thankful that I didn’t fall (which is a miracle, given what happened) and break something.

Once we left Pakiri, we headed to Waipu to a craft beer brewery and pizza place that had been recommended to us. It was absolutely fantastic pizza. The owner had us (well just me, because Lindsay can’t consume gluten) sample some of their newest beers, including one brewed with chili sauce. They were excellent.

Tonight, we are staying in Paihia at a campground just outside of town. We are excited to have hot showers and cooking facilities.

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