Two friends with a love for walking and talking are taking their passion one step further by building a business around it.
Sole to Soul is the brainchild of Sally Newlands and Juliet Gray, who both run family farming businesses in the Hakataramea Valley alongside raising their children.
They offer guided walks in their vast backyard, showcasing some of the unseen sights the Waitaki High Country has to offer and providing their clients with tailor-made active mindfulness excursions.
The hikes offered people the chance to be present in their bodies and get out of their own heads, Mrs Newlands said.
The idea began after a mutual love for the outdoors prompted them to enter an adventure race together. Training for the race reaped more benefits than just fitness.
“After we’d been out walking, we’d come back feeling so elevated. It’s amazing to be out in nature,” she said.
And they were keen to share the experience with others.
Mrs Gray is married to Richard, and is mum to Ben (10), Sophie (8) and Phoebe (5). Mrs Newlands is married to Wade, and their children are Grace (15), Fynn (12) and Lily (8).
Both also play active roles in their farming businesses alongside their husbands, and so are just busy enough. But when this new business idea started brewing in the back of their minds, it was just a matter of figuring out how to make it work.
“We talked and talked about it. And finally we decided to stop talking and actually do it,” Mrs Gray said.
“People are aware of what exercise does for your body. But not so many are aware what it does for your mind and your soul.”
The plan is to cater to their audience, so the pair are happy to provide a long day-hike, or just a short walk, depending on what suits the client.
“We can tailor it to their needs. And they can take as long as they want to take,” Mrs Gray said.
“We don’t want people to think it’s just about the fitness. We will do everything we can to help people get there. It’s a really neat feeling when you’ve achieved something.”
With “amazing” accommodation options in the Waitaki Valley available in all price brackets, there was also the option of staying for a number or days and going on multiple hikes. Or saddle-sore Alps 2 Ocean cyclists may want to have a day off their seats and use their feet instead.
Every walk will include a view of mountains, rivers and lakes. And there is a high chance of seeing a bit of wildlife, including quails, deer, pigs or even wallabies.
Sole to Soul has access to farmland that would not otherwise be open to the public, and it gives people the chance to see another side to farming – different from what is often portrayed in the media.
“Farmers love and care for their land,” Mrs Newlands said.
Mrs Gray and Mrs Newlands make donations for the land use, and a lot of the farmers pay it forward to charity, they said.
“We wouldn’t be able to offer the stuff we can offer without them.”
Both women have various qualifications relating to fitness and wellbeing and are eager to share their knowledge and experience while they walk.
“It’s something to calm the crazy mind. Everyone has a bit of anxiety and overwhelm in their life. And what might overwhelm someone and is busy for someone is not the same for someone else, and that’s OK. This is about stepping out and leaving all that behind.”