Teenager starts epic journey

By Peter Jackson of the Northland Age

Teenage adventurer Brandon Yelavich, all packed up and ready to begin his marathon journey, with his great-uncle Drago Yelavich and father Todd.  Photo / Supplied
Teenage adventurer Brandon Yelavich, all packed up and ready to begin his marathon journey, with his great-uncle Drago Yelavich and father Todd. Photo / Supplied

An Auckland teenager has began a 6431-kilometre marathon to walk the entire coastline of New Zealand.

Brandon Yelavich, 19, has been planning the epic journey for five years and finally set out on February 1.

Accompanied by his father Todd and uncle Dana, Brendan arrived at great-uncle and aunt Drago and Anna Yelavich's home in Kaitaia last Thursday evening, and was delivered to Cape Reinga the following morning.

He began his journey from the water's edge below the lighthouse, accompanied by Drago on the first short, steep stretch to the Cape carpark, but from there he was on his own.

The plan is to walk the length of the west coast of both islands (crossing Cook Strait aboard the Interislander), then back up the east, to Cape Reinga.

All going well he plans to complete the journey in about six months, although neither he nor his family were quite sure last week how challenging some stretches will be.

Originally Brandon was to have kayaked some of the way, but plans for a support crew fell through, so he switched to Plan B, which saw him heading south totally self-sufficient. Everything he needed, from a tent to a cell phone with a solar-powered charger and a global locator gizmo, was on his back, as were a fishing rod and a rifle, which he hopes will help feed him.

He would be living off the land, he said, and while he had a modest sum of money in his pocket he wasn't planning on spending it. Small game and fish would be on the menu as opposed to anything that had to be bought, and his uncle Dana was relieved to hear that the shellfish ban imposed on the lower Northland west coast late last year, in response to high toxin levels, had been lifted.

He would be swimming across some of the smaller stretches of water that confronted him as opposed to walking around them - his gear was all stored in dry bags, and he was carrying a pair of flippers - but was hoping to cadge a lift with a fisherman or someone of that ilk to get past the likes of the Kaipara Harbour.

Todd said his son was very fit and determined, and he had no real concerns for his safety.

"Drago and Anna will do the worrying," he said.

"This is a man who leaps off bridges to amuse himself, and he has everything he needs, so we don't really have any fears. He'll be fine."

Brandon had already excelled at an outdoor pursuits course in Cromwell, and as a limited services volunteer with the Army at Hobsonville, where he won the Warrant Officer of Defence award.

There is more to the adventure than a personal challenge though. The second aim was to raise money for Ronald McDonald House Charities. Some $250 had found its way into the kitty late last week, mainly thanks to Brandon's family and friends, but he was hoping for much more before he gets back to Cape Reinga.

Contributions may be made via www.fundraiseonline.co.nz/aroundthecoast, while Brandon's progress will be updated daily on www.facebook.com/runningfullanz

- The Northland Age

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