Helmet cam: I perched my little point-n-shoot atop my riding helmet and rotated it backward to snap Marci while Strawberry “furiously charged” ahead.

Black sand beaches. Just the name sounds exotic. I’ve always wanted to see one and visiting the so-hot-it’s-cool Pacific Ring of Fire, I knew I’d have a chance.

We researched the closest black sand beaches to us in Auckland, New Zealand, knowing we were heading back to Australia that afternoon and needed a good cushion of time to get to the airport. After picking one and navigating to Muriwai beach, we pulled into the mostly empty car park with plenty of time. Mostly empty except for a horse trailer, then another, and then another. Muriwai Beach Horse Treks one had written on the side, hmmm …

Sure, why not, let’s ask. Yep, within a few minutes we found out an excursion was about to leave and for basically the price of “all our remaining New Zealand dollars,” we could join in if we’d like to. Well, the only other thing we could exchange our Kiwi dollars for was Australian dollars, so this seemed like a great bargain.

Putting Taylor and Marci in the galloping group and me in the 9-yr.-old-girl’s-birthday-party-group, we headed out. They sat astride horses with names, I’m guessing, like Spitfire and Daredevil; I rode out on Strawberry.

Hey YOU try taking a straight picture while riding a wild steed like Strawberry!

We plodded along a gorgeous, misty and mystical black sand beach, then turned inland. It was a lovely trek and my German guide, who lives in New Zealand had spent a year just north of Lansing, Michigan. Strawberry, however, was born and raised locally; no traveling for her, thank you very much. She followed the other horses even when I politely requested that she go elsewhere and NOT soak my feet, shoes and pant legs in the creek.

After two hours (maybe an hour too long for Strawberry’s slow, lumbering tastes) we reconnected again with the galloping group, wind in their hair, smiles on their faces, the joy of adrenaline stoked by fierce runs on black sand beaches pumping through their veins.

Taylor was late for her flight so we hopped off our steeds, or strawberries, and hoofed it for the airport. Our flights — Taylor’s back to Sydney, ours to Melbourne — were on lavish Emirates Air. These were the best flights I believe I’ve ever had; Corian sinks and bamboo toilet seats in the washrooms, nice looking wood trim around each window, yummy curried meals with free beer and wine, and the obligatory sky hostesses in their Dubai-themed uniforms and headscarf/hats.

Surely I smelled like horse still. A sweet young attendant asked what I’d like to drink and when I said lemonade, she handed me a 7-Up. Wait, what? Since lemonade here is carbonated, that’s all she knew; that’s what they call it. Darn, it sort of takes the healthy nature of lemon and sugar water down a few pegs when you realize it’s just 7-Up.

I decided not to push it and ask for a strawberry lemonade.

My selfie with Strawberry. She pushed the button, so forgive me for being mostly out of the frame.