Wildboy set for last leg of epic trek

By Morgan Tait

After heading down the wrong road in life, young adventurer embarked on a 7000km walk for charity.

Brando Yelavich says he has already accepted the fact that he could die. Photo / APN
Brando Yelavich says he has already accepted the fact that he could die. Photo / APN

Brando Yelavich has fallen from cliffs, suffered from hypothermia and nearly drowned during a 16-month solo circumnavigation of New Zealand's coastline.

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Travelling on foot, the 20-year-old Aucklander has hunted all his own food from Cape Reinga, down the west coast to Bluff and traversed the east coast back to his home city.

The Greenhithe man, who goes by the name Wildboy, has raised nearly $18,400 for Ronald McDonald House since setting out on the 7000km-plus trip last February, and on Monday he will begin the last eight-to-10-week leg of his adventure up the east coast back to Cape Reinga.

"I walk on the beaches and over the rocks and over the mountains, so I go the hard way," he said.

"I am from Auckland, so learning to kill and skin and cook an animal was a learning curve."

Inspired by the movie Into the Wild, about a young American man who shuns convention to live in the Alaskan wilderness, Mr Yelavich hopes to be the first person to circumnavigate New Zealand on foot, walking up to about 20km each day and kayaking or rafting across waterways.

"I was headed down the wrong road in life, I was getting in a bit of trouble with the police and with my mum and dad, and I decided I wanted to change my life."

Videos on his Facebook page show him jumping rocky crevices and climbing steep hills along the country's rugged coastline and photos depict campfires used to cook the food he hunts and fishes for, hand- made driftwood rafts and many of the people he has met along the way.

He set off with a backpack weighing more than 50kg and containing a range of survival tools including satellite navigation gear, an air rifle, life raft and his tent, but soon scaled it back to just the essentials.

Just weeks into his journey, he was rescued from rocks near Muriwai as he was caught by an incoming tide, and a river crossing nearly turned fatal in Golden Bay near Nelson.

"I have already accepted the fact that I could die. It is something I have had to come to terms with already and it doesn't faze me any more. It's the life I have chosen to live."

Mr Yelavich speaks to schools and community groups around the country about his travels and many have gone on to donate to his chosen charity.

Videos on Brando Yelavich's Facebook page show him jumping rocky crevices and climbing steep hills.

"I am doing this to be a role model and to inspire people to be happy and do what makes them happy."

Mr Yelavich said his dreams of joining the army were dashed when he was told his poor academic performance meant he would not get accepted.

"I have dyslexia so ... I couldn't have passed the preliminary tests to get in because I can't do the maths or anything."

Instead, he hopes to forge a career in adventure and has plans to write a book and try to film a documentary or television show.

Although he has spent most of the time in his tent and living off the land, he has also accepted meals and accommodation from strangers.

Brando has also been nominated for a Pride of New Zealand award in the Fundraiser of the Year category. You can find out more about the awards here.

Watch videos and read status updates at Brando's Facebook page here.

- NZ Herald

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