Love was in the air when US hikers Stephanie Winslow and Dan Moore trekked New Zealand's Tongariro Alpine Crossing .
This is a tale of three countries, two little arrows and one happy couple who want to say "thank you Aotearoa New Zealand".
Hiking New Zealand's Tongariro Alpine Crossing has long been on Kansas City resident, Stephanie Winslow's bucket list but ticking that off with a mountain-top marriage proposal has culminated in a dream holiday she'll never forget.
Finally making it to New Zealand and walking the spectacular volcanic trail - through a Dual World Heritage Area and famed as one of the world's best one day treks - on a beautiful autumn day last week made it pretty special. But, what Stephanie didn't know was that her partner Dan Moore, from Tulsa Oklahoma, had plans to make the day even more memorable.
Dan-the-romantic had plotted - with the help of some New Zealand friends who would secretly go ahead to the track's highest point - to surprise Stephanie with a proposal scenario she'd find hard to resist ... beginning with a set of little yellow arrows pointing the way.
The significance of this story covers a few chapters including a first meeting 40 years earlier, and the period when Dan and Stephanie's lives finally "merged" two years ago in Spain as they fell in love while walking the Camino de Santiago Trail - a route that's marked out by little yellow arrows.
"After 800km following those arrows, they became the symbol of our personal journey so that any other yellow arrow anywhere in the world immediately takes us back," Dan said.
At the same time, they made some new friends - New Zealanders Paul and Trish Green who were also walking the Camino. Between them, Dan and Stephanie have knocked off a number of the world's celebrated long distance treks but, they told the Greens, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New Zealand's World Heritage Tongariro National Park was the one-day walk they both wanted most to do.
Fast forward two years, and so ... awaiting Stephanie at the top of the Blue Lake on Mt Tongariro last week were two yellow arrows and, along with the inevitable photo opportunity, a banner announcing 'Buen Camino for Life ... Together' - the marriage proposal that she never saw coming.
'Buen Camino' is the greeting shared between walkers on the Camino. "The literal translation is 'good way' but it can actually be translated in many ways," Dan said. "Walk well, may your life go well, walk with God, hello, goodbye ... you get the idea."
"After the Camino, when we'd both returned to the US and our respective homes, I sent Steph some flowers with a card saying 'Buen Camino for Life' meaning 'may your life be forever blessed with the beauty of the Camino'."
Since then the couple have continued a long distance relationship between Tulsa (Oklahoma), where Dan is CIO of Tulsa Wealth Advisors, and Stephanie's home four hours away in Kansas City (Missouri), where she runs a business importing wool and yarn from around the world (including New Zealand).
"Now we're looking forward to doing that together because Steph said YES!"
"The day spent in the splendour of New Zealand's beauty with fine Kiwi friends met upon the Camino in Spain could not have made such a special life event more meaningful," says Stephanie. "Thank you for everything New Zealand - forever a special place but with such great people it's hard not to, even if it hadn't included a marriage proposal."
Fact Box: Tongariro Alpine Crossing, New Zealand
Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a 17km one-day hike, past Mt Ngauruhoe and over Mt Tongariro, with panoramic views of active volcanic areas and crater lakes.
Tongariro National Park was New Zealand's first national park, and the world's fourth.
The vast mountainous park with three active volcanoes - Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro - is recognised as a dual World Heritage Area for its treasured natural and intangible cultural values.
Ruapehu - which translates as 'pit to explode' - has the world's only ski field within 500m of an active volcanic crater.
Stay eco-style at Woodpigeon Lodge Raurimu (just 20 minutes away from Tongariro Alpine Crossing) or at The Chateau - one of New Zealand's grand old resort hotels.
Hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing with Adrift Outdoors - knowledgeable locals who offer year-round hiking adventures.