A Whangārei woman fresh off a challenging yet enriching trek from Cape Reinga to Whangārei says she is a changed person.
"It changes you," said Kathy Ramsay, 52. "You see things through a new pair of glasses."
The part-time model and travel consultant came to the end of the first 470km of the Te Araroa Trail earlier this month, after walking for 19 days – including 5 days off for her injured feet to heal.
"It makes you appreciate a hot meal," said Ramsay. "We had frost in the mornings and hot, humid days. But you adapt."
Hiking has been an important part of her self-care since overcoming alcohol addiction 24 years ago and past experiences with depression, PTSD and anxiety.
The mother of six was inspired to take up the challenge after reading Geoff Chapple's A Walking Guide to New Zealand's Long Trail Te Araroa during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Ramsay talked about the healing property of hiking. "There have been so many books about the benefits of being out in the bush," she said. "You just relax."
One of the most challenging parts of the tramp was Ninety Mile Beach. "It was 30km a day for three days into a headwind. It blew you around on the beach."
Ramsay and her group had the idea of imitating cyclists who draft behind one another to avoid the worst of the wind. "We took turns to walk in front. It definitely made it easier."
However, by the time she reached Kerikeri, she had nine blisters and two blackened toes. "My boots weren't right for it," she said.
After resting up for five days she was ready to go again, buoyed on by the camaraderie she found with strangers on the trail. "We were all doing the same thing and learning from each other. I couldn't have done it without that."
Ramsay said the trail was the perfect way to take some time out from your life in turbulent times, such as those enforced on the world by the Covid-19 pandemic.
"If there's change in your life, it's a good thing to do - take some time out for yourself."
She also found spending time out in the bush to be a spiritual experience. "Listening to the moreporks and the kiwi, you just feel like a part of it all."
"We saw some of our largest kauri trees – being next to them makes you feel so small."
Ramsay recommends the trek to anybody looking for a challenge.
"Anybody can do it – the oldest I met was 72 years old, and the youngest was a guy in his early 20s."
She is set to resume her walk on December 5, hoping to reach Auckland before Christmas and then taking another break. She hopes to make Wellington by the end of the summer.
■ 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.