Three ex-Napier Boy's High students walking from Wellington to Napier to raise money for prostate cancer say they have been blown away by the kindness and hospitality of the locals they've encountered.
Due to finish at the Napier Sound Shell today, 21-year-olds Ellery Nott, Cameron Poole Smith and Jordan Boyle have finished their studies at Victoria University for the year and have walked home along the east coast, a journey more than 300km long.
The aptly named "Hitting the Track for the Sack" has kept them on the road for the past 11 days, during which they have blistered, chapped and bruised their feet, but have also been blown away by the support received.
Averaging 30km per day, they have spent between seven and 10 hours walking daily, allowing for scroggin and water breaks each hour.
Former head boy Mr Nott thought of the idea at the pub when he was considering something special to do before he went overseas. Originally a walk along the coast of Hawke's Bay was planned to see a part of the region they had not experienced, when friends and family suggested they do it for charity.
The walk has been as close to the shoreline as possible, in areas not seen when travelling by car.
"That was the plan, to see country that we've never seen before." Mr Nott said. "Most places you can't do by road. They've turned out to be the most amazing little beach towns - Riversdale was amazing."
Mr Poole Smith, an anthropology and history student, said their planning had been "minimal". They stocked up on enough canned food and water to keep them going until they reached a town they knew had a shop, but thanks to the free dinners offered they have yet to run out, and Mr Nott confirmed he was still carrying cans bought in Wellington.
Last time they counted they had raised $450, just shy of their $500 goal.
"If we exceed that, then that's great," Mr Nott said. "It was a pretty conservative goal. People have been really supportive. The real eye opener of this trip has been the hospitality."
The sweet shop on Middle Rd near Havelock North collected donations from staff, others have offered them beds or a piece of grass to pitch their tent.
In Homewood they were walking along a sheep track when the local farmer spotted them. "All of a sudden this guy pops up out of nowhere and said 'you can have the shearing shed'," Mr Nott recalled.
Later that day the farmer's wife found them and shifted them to the cottage where they were given dinner and beer.
Mr Boyle, a law student, said the generosity was amazing. "We thought we'd be lucky if he let us go over his land. We kind of look at all that stuff people give us as their form of donations."
They estimate only half the nights on their trip have required the tent, the rest have been spent at the homes of people they've met.
There had been no major arguments despite their close proximity over the last 11 days, although Mr Boyle took responsibility for losing the camera and causing a backtracking delay.
"It's all about keeping good spirits," he said.
The final two nights have been spent at a grandparents in Havelock North, and a friend's property in Haumoana, as they near the finish line.
Final donations are still to come, including $300 from Mr Notts' stepdad which is dependent on crossing the finish line as well as a $50 bet Mr Poole Smith has with his mum. Donations can be made on www.givealittle.co.nz/cause/trackforsack.