Reviewed by Tony Orman

Author Victoria Bruce is a keen tramper. Two years ago battling “post-traumatic stress disorder” she decided she needed to escape the corporate world and all the stress and tension. So with her 7 year old daughter Emilie Victoria decided to tackle the Te Araroa Trail — the length of New Zealand from North Cape to Bluff. The motivation went deeper than just quitting the “rat race.”

Besides the personal re-assessment for the mother it would be an educational, character-building experience for her daughter. Besides, it was a golden opportunity to cement in a memorable mother and daughter bonding experience for both of them.

Deep down there was a much needed chance to deal with some demons from an erratic upbringing and uncertain adolescent years.

As I read the author’s account and of her past worries, I was reminded of the words of the great American conservationist John Muir who wrote, “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop-off like autumn leaves.”

The Te Araroa Trail was an ideal opportunity.  So she quit her corporate job in Auckland and took up the challenge.

The book is very much personal as the author recounts her dysfunctional upbringing, her time in state care and recovering from addiction and assault and overcoming the associated demons. Interwoven is the experiences of the pair along the way of the trail itself and a mother’s and daughter’s bonding.  There were glorious, sun-lit days in the wilderness, but character building stuff in battling some merciless weather and rugged terrain with inevitably one or two hair-raising experiences to deal with. 

The author writes candidly and in an engaging style.  The book is well illustrated with a substantial colour photo section and black and white photos scattered throughout the text. I strongly recommend it.

Adventures with Emilie: Taking on the Araroa trail in 138 life-changing days by Victoria Bruce, is published by Penguin Random House (NZ), RRP $40.