A nomadic woman who's spent two years horse trekking around New Zealand for charity has been humbled by the kindness of Northlanders.
Larissa Mueller and her horse, a grey stationbred called Sprite, are making their way down the east coast of the Far North having reached Cape Reinga on February 8.
Mueller's mission has been to circumnavigate the country on horseback without a support crew or a pack horse.
The trip has been breathtakingly beautiful, she said.
Even when local iwi Ngāti Kuri blocked her journey when she reached Te Paki - forcing her to hike along the coast to the country's tip on foot – she wasn't disheartened.
"They must have a different view of horses as opposed to vehicles and tour buses; I didn't get much of an explanation other than it was a very important place," she said.
"It was pretty disappointing, it's something that I've visualised for years. Getting to the Cape is a pretty major milestone ... it was still an achievement to get there but not what I imagined. But I'm not holding any grudges."
The 32-year-old outdoor instructor aims to raise $20,000 for Leg-Up Trust, a Havelock North charity that works with at-risk youth by teaching them how to engage and communicate with horses.
Mueller began her journey from Wellington in January 2019 with her other horse Popeye, who she rode to Taranaki before switching to Sprite.
The trip follows her circumnavigation of the South Island over two summers from late 2014 to 2016 with friend Kendall Waugh riding China during an adventure called Horsing Around Aotearoa.
Apart from a "whirlwind" driving trip to Cape Reinga in 2018, Mueller had not been to the Far North before.
Being in the Hokianga was a major highlight, she said, and it was "amazing" riding the coast from Herekino to Ahipara, seeing the wild horses.
She's been humbled by the generosity of residents who have offered her paddocks and water for Sprite along the way.
"People have been so welcoming," Mueller said.
"Everyone's really feeling the drought and lack of water and grass, and people still put us up and give my horse the best paddock. They're just so kind.
"They've been offering us water during the day if we ride past their place. Everyone's very considerate despite their own challenges."
Mueller and Sprite were in Houhora Heads on Wednesday before heading to Doubtless Bay and the Bay of Islands.
She's been riding an average of 20 to 30km a day, carrying a tent and food, and Sprite gets at least one day off a week.
"I get off and walk a lot. It's a very slow journey.
"Most people are used to travelling 100km/h, whereas I ride 100km in a week. It's a much slower way of life, which I appreciate."
Mueller aims to complete her epic journey in the Hawke's Bay in August.
After "sleeping a lot" she'll probably start planning another big adventure, she said.
Visit www.givealittle.co.nz/org/bennyboy to donate.