A Whangārei woman is refreshing her resilience with a 300km Northland trek after a lifetime of challenges.
Abuse survivor Kathy Ramsay, 53, begins her walk on the Te Araroa Trail in Cape Reinga today and will spend the next three weeks winding her way from the country's most northern point through Ahipara, Raetea and Omahuta Puketi Forests, Kerikeri, the Bay of Islands, Waikare, and Whangārei Heads before finishing in the city.
A blended catalyst of the Covid-19 lockdown and George Chapple's book A Walking Guide to New Zealand's Long Trail Te Araroa, gifted to Ramsay by her 17-year-old daughter Angel Schluter-Ramsay and husband Neil Ramsay at Christmas last year, triggered Ramsay's initial plan to complete the 3000km trail, which trickles down the country to finish in Bluff.
"After a lot of reading during Covid-19 about the TA [Te Araroa] Trail I thought, why not", Ramsay said.
A friend's wedding in Rotorua next month has meant plans to do the remainder of the trail have been put in the calendar for a later date.
For travel consultant and part-time model Ramsay, walking has always been a lifeline to strengthen her mental wellbeing as she conquered alcohol addiction 24 years ago and overcame abuse.
"I have suffered with depression, PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] and anxiety. Walking played a big part in getting through that," Ramsay said.
"I feel enriched spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally when I walk."
Ramsay will be joined by Sally Lobb, 50, from Taranaki on the walk after they met on the TA Trail Facebook page.
Laden with 12kg packs - crammed with food, water, all-weather gear and camping equipment - the pair will camp at some Department of Conservation sites, "rough it" on some evenings, and look forward to staying with Trail Angels. Trail Angels are volunteers who are passionate about the Te Araroa Trail and offer walkers comforts such as hot showers or more comfortable accommodation.
"It's a big adventure," Ramsay said.
"The bottom line in my life is whatever I take on it's about having fun and being open to that."
To prepare, Ramsay found her "happy place" by joining the Whangārei Tramping Club and has completed daily one- to two-hour hikes for the last six weeks - with the Whangārei Falls track being her favourite walk.
"Before Covid I didn't realise there were so many beautiful tracks around Whangārei - it's just amazing."
Ramsay's family were extremely supportive of her latest adventure, which came as a surprise to the avid walker: "I wasn't sure how they were going to take my news but it was 'oh wow, you should do it'."
Her children told their mum that if anyone was going to do something like this it would be her, Ramsay said.
A born backpacker, Ramsay spent many years exploring the trails of Europe, India, Africa and South America. Places like the Himalayas and Annapurna Circuit in Nepal were her backyard.
Ramsay's zest for hiking has been sustained over the decades by her love of connecting with the outdoors. This is a big part of the excitement of walking the Northland leg of the Te Araroa Trail, Ramsay said.
"It gets you out in nature. You get to listen to the stream, walk on the beach, hear the birds singing in the bush - it's so good for us."
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 walk 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 New Zealand's beaches, volcanoes, mountains, rivers, lakes and valleys.