Sleeping right by the beach, hearing the waves breaking on the sand, is such a pleasure that, after waking to a pink sky in the morning that promised nothing but lovely weather ahead, no participant in this Tour de Coromandel was minded to whinge even a bit about today's ride being just a circuit of the farm. That was because the Department of Conservation had thrown a late spanner in the works, and ruled against the horses crossing some of their (their? isn't that really our?) land, so the route was changed. But at least that meant we didn't have to pack up our tents!
So off we clattered, to the wide-eyed wonder of a big flock of sheep, along a creek and then up into the hills, the farmers amongst us looking critically, and approvingly, at the state of the land, fences and stock. The rest of us just enjoyed the rural loveliness, even the bikers, who had no choice but to get off, refusing all offers of a tow.
It was worth it. From the top we had huge views, all dominated by Great Barrier Island in the centre, looking close and at the same time remote. It was a blue and green day today, and everyone was grinning at their luck in being here, doing this, in such perfect weather. Farm ride? Magic!
It was as steep going down as it was going up, which added some excitement to the ride and ramped up the chatter at the lunch stop in Fletcher's Bay. It was only 11.30am, it turned out, though it felt as though we'd done a full morning's riding. That's what happens when you get up at dawn...
So we got back to camp in plenty of time for some larking about in the sea, to sort out the horses, have a drink, a natter, a nap - and that's despite volunteer Jay, who must be the world's most cheerful person, spending the afternoon practising his karaoke for the evening's entertainment.
I could even hear him, distantly, from the top of the bluff at the far end of that long, empty beach, where mine were the only footprints. I climbed up to the old pa site there and had a 360-degree view of sea, islands, bush, beach and farmland. Glorious!