Northlanders who open their properties to walkers on the Te Araroa Trail are expecting a busy summer season, despite no new tourism from overseas.
Trail Angels provide trampers on the Cape to Bluff hiking trail with a space to camp, a hot shower and sometimes home-cooked meals.
"It's Northland hospitality," said Alex McPherson, an artist who lives with her partner at Helena Bay, the 290km point on the trail.
She allows trampers to use her land, shower and tea kettle for koha, and said the numbers haven't dwindled much since Covid-19.
"It's been a bit quieter, but the numbers of Kiwis coming through has increased."
McPherson is happy to see so many New Zealanders exploring their own backyard.
"People are learning that you don't have to go miles and miles away to see somewhere beautiful."
Te Araroa executive director Mark Weatherall expects record numbers of New Zealanders on the trail this summer.
"We've obviously lost almost all our international guests to Covid-19 and the closed borders," he said.
"But we also have a bunch of Kiwis who have decided to walk the length of their country for the first time."
Sheryl Wikaire is a Trail Angel who provides hospitality and transport for a small fee to adventurers arriving at the end of the Waikare Inlet, on the edge of Russell Forest.
She agreed this summer will be busy on the trail, although her own property has been cut off for the time being by a rāhui placed on Russell Forest by iwi to combat kauri dieback disease.
"It's encouraging to see Kiwis moving around the country," she said. "It's going to be very busy."
Wikaire started opening her front gate to walkers when they would appear asking for somewhere to stay.
"Some of them can be quite lonely, and there's no infrastructure or anything out here. So it's a two-way thing – a good exchange of socialisation."
As a Rongoa Māori practitioner, Wikaire is able to provide tired and sore trampers with soothing kawakawa balm and kumara syrups.
She said being a Trail Angel was a great opportunity for cultural exchange, and she learns as much as she teaches.
"We encourage walkers to write down their mountain, and learn how to share their whakapapa. They give back as much as they get."
Alex McPherson also relishes meeting the diverse array of people walking the trail.
"You meet people from all walks of life," she said. "We love it. We're people people."
McPherson and her partner found their travel halos when a nearby friend moved away.
"He had been doing it until he shifted, and there is no other campsite nearby – so there was a need.
"We saw all these walkers with nowhere to go," McPherson said.
"We have shifted around a lot so we know what it's like."
Although most Te Araroa walkers are New Zealanders this year, a fair number of foreigners are lacing up their hiking boots.
"There are still people around who didn't go home and got their visas extended," she said.
Wikaire noticed this too, with some recent overseas tourists getting a real kick out of the do-it-yourself approach she promoted at her place.
"We had two young guys from Canada just last night who wanted to eat our chickens."
Guided by Wikaire's husband, the travellers slaughtered, plucked and roasted the chickens, along with a karakia to bless the meal.
"They were overwhelmed with how they were able to do it in a self-sufficient way, without the supermarket."
Te Araroa - New Zealand's Trail - is a continuous 3000km walking track from Cape Reinga to Bluff. Te Araroa is the ultimate Kiwi experience. It can take months to walk the whole thing, or a few hours or days to do a local segment.
Te Araroa is a different kind of trail from traditional back-country tramping tracks. It connects people, towns and cities.
The track showcases everything New Zealand has to offer. Te Araroa starts and finishes on the edges of New Zealand's seas. Along the way, people can explore beaches, volcanoes, mountains, rivers, lakes and valleys.