Women hike for freedom in New Zealand

03 Dec, 2013 | New Zealand
OM International
Skidding down the steep ridge towards Emerald Lakes during Freedom Climb New Zealand on Sunday, 1 December 2013.
On Sunday, 1 December, 22 women from their early 20s to late 60s took part in Freedom Climb New Zealand in an effort to raise awareness and funds for women and children trafficked in France and India.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a 19.4 kilometre hike in New Zealand's oldest national park and dual World Heritage Site in the Central North Island of New Zealand. It’s a beautiful and awe-inspiring landscape, shaped and hewn by millennia of volcanic activity.

“The whole thing was much more physically, mentally and emotionally challenging than we had realised,” admitted Varya Brandon, Freedom Climb New Zealand Coordinator. “Very quickly we split into groups of 2-4 as we went at different paces, with support men at the front and rear.”

Highlights of the day included resting at the shore of Emerald Lakes; enjoying the cool of bush walking towards the end of the hike; seeing women's friendships deepening and new friendships emerge; and stopping to hear about how the money raised would bring people out of sex slavery in France and India.

Despite the ridge near the top of the climb being very narrow and rocky, with sideways wind threatening to sweep the climbers off the mountain, all participants completed the hike within eight and a half hours.

“The South Crater was at times clear and at times shrouded in clouds, which reduced visibility greatly. From there we started ascending the rocky ridge, with massive boulders and little stones of all shapes and sizes. Climbing over rocks, with a sheer drop on either side, was the most challenging for all the women I talked to,” said Varya.

Many people were gathered at Ketetahi Hut, and with a loud voice, a few of the Freedom Climb participants read out information about sex trafficking in France and India.

“From the start of the campaign, supporters and climbers have been shocked that human trafficking is so prevalent in our world today,” said Varya. “People are very motivated to go out and give money, so the lives of women and children can be changed.”

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