My only complaint about the organisation of this trek - and, by crikey, it's amazing - is that we seem to have had the best day on only Day Two. We set off on a glorious morning, after waking to a misty dawn by the river, along the coast past farmland with good-looking Devon cows watching us curiously, and beside a series of stony beaches that dominated the day. The beaches, and the trees.
This is the Pohutukawa Coast, and even though the eponymous trees that sprawl and droop either side of the road aren't in flower (at Christmas, covered in scarlet, they must be truly spectacular), they are so artistically bent and gnarled, and huge and old, that they are still a spectacular sight. But there's more! When silhouetted against a shiny turquoise sea that's air-clear in the foreground, shading to silver-blue on the horizon - well, it's hard not to think they've been posed. Especially with silver driftwood contrasting with the dark shade of the trees.
We spent a lot of time today riding on the sea-side of the trees, crunching along the smooth stones, paddling in the shadows, spotting stingrays in the water, and stopping several times for swims. Well, not me - it was tempting, but too much work to strip off and then get dressed again; Lindsay, though, swore that the temperature couldn't have been more perfect.
The organisation ticked over smoothly today: the vet was handy to keep an eye on a fetlock scrape that Shine sustained yesterday, tripping while his nose was in the air; so was the medic with his fancy trailer, not that anyone needed him; there were hot and cold drinks at the lunch stop; and marshals again along the route cheering us on, taking photos and telling us how far there was to go.
Not far enough, really, even though the knees were complaining a bit today - after lunch we climbed up through farmland to headlands that gave us long views out over the Hauraki Gulf with all its islands, dominated today by Little Barrier looking not so little, close up. Fabulous scenery.
Then we dropped down again to where the camp was waiting for us at a farm in Port Jackson, a long wide empty beach where we hosed off the horses by a ford and went for a swim, finally, in the sea, easing off the muscles after today's 29km.