|Mum and Dad's house at Ohope Beach
The Opotiki Rodeo:
In a field in Opotiki, a remote town between the mountains and the sea, every year there is a rodeo (my friend pointed out I was erroneously pronouncing it like Rodeo Drive) which attracts world class cowboys riding the bunkingest of broncos. I was totally captivated by the hootenany drama until a bloke sitting next to me told me the animals buck because they have their balls tied tight for a few seconds.
"Painful, yes" my neighbour said: "But quicker than marriage."
He added: "When my wife comes back from getting the hotdogs, don't tell her I said that."
|Oooow! Cy, cousin Leah, Tallulah and me
Bike Ride up the Motu River:
The long term plan in New Zealand is to have bike paths running from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island. This seven-hour ride up the Motu is part of that vision. It has it all: old skool Kiwi farmland with number eight wire fences and rusty corrugated iron barns, deep Middle Earth forests and beach dunes with eight-year old kids riding horses bareback and their toddler brothers clutching around their waists.
We rented mountain bikes from the very helpful John of Bushaven who also dropped us off on a remote farm road in his van. It turned out the bikepath was missing a few dots - or rather the quarter of a mile between beach and hill - and I found myself wandering the beach for half an hour like a scruffy French Lieutenant's Woman until Dad found me.
|Sister Pietra, me and friend Reece
|Riding through the dunes
|Harley (middle) "safely" at home on the couch with his cousins
There were 12 of us riding including Harley, 15, and Jackson, 13. Harley whined at the start: "How could you make Jackson and me do this? We don't even know how to ride mountain bikes! How could you do this to us?"
White Island, an active volanic island:
This island is 1hr20mins off the coast by boat or a few mins by helicopter and they actually allow you to stand right at the edge of the crater (no fences! ) and stare in. This is something you could never do in America (because of the litigious society) which makes it more or less attractive depending on who you are talking to. We went with PeeJays which boats you across and drops you off with a guide, gas mask and hard hat. Like walking on a scary moonscape, you can also taste of the bubbling arsenic streams (only trace so it won't hurt you.) The island is currently blowing at Level 2 - if it reached Level 5, you'd have hot balls the size of cars coming at your face. The fact that miners spent three months on this place is incredible (they were paid the equivalent of $200 per day)
|Boating out to White Island
|Me and Tallulah wearing gas masks on White Island
|Full brekkie at the Quay Cafe
|Cousin Leah and Tallulah walking the golden triangle