Off the Top of My HeadBy Paul Murray
On day 173 of his epic attempt to walk the coastline of New Zealand, intrepid 19-year old traveller Brando Yelavich arrived at Rongo Backpackers & Gallery in Karamea at the top of the West Coast of the South Island.
Yelavich began his journey at Cape Reinga at the very tip of the North Island and walked his way down the West Coast to Wellington. He then flew to Picton with Sounds Air, who offered him a free flight and began paddling around the convoluted coastline of Marlborough Sounds and D’Urville Island visiting all the coves. Eventually arriving in Nelson, he again donned his boots (provided by main sponsor Scarpa NZ) and walked up through Golden Bay to Collingwood, around Cape Farewell and down the rugged Kahurangi Coast to Karamea.
While at Rongo, Yelavich agreed to a radio interview with DJ Crap on Karamea Radio 107.5 FM to discuss his ambitious tramp, experiences along the way, his motivations and insights from the many hours of solitude he has experienced as he makes his way around New Zealand on the coast, on foot.
Education for Yelavich was difficult. He was diagnosed early in his school life with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and is dyslectic, He had difficulty following classes to the point that he gave up and became rebellious and recalcitrant.
He left school early and at a loose end after a series of unfulfilling jobs and having his application to join the N.Z. Army rejected because of his dyslexia, he found an entry-level position with an advertising company. Standing on the side of the road in a sandwich board promoting Canterbury Clothing Co to the passersby at minimum wage afforded him an opportunity for personal introspection and life contemplation. Yelavich decided to take his future by the horns.
So, armed with a crossbow, a copy of Andrew Crowe’s “Field Guide to the Native Edible Plants of New Zealand” and a 35kg pack loaded with the essentials of survival, Brandon bade his supportive parents and his girlfriend of three weeks, Auckland schoolgirl Ella-Rose Bilham, farewell and headed off on his quest to become the first person to successfully circumnavigate New Zealand’s rugged coastline on foot.
Along the way, he has been encouraged and assisted by benevolent folk he has met on his journey. People have offered him food, accommodation, which he gratefully accepts. He’s also been offered rides in vehicles passing by, which he graciously rejects, as he is determined to walks the entire coast without such assistance.
He has only met one person who was less than helpful. Apparently, along the West Coast of the North Island, he inadvertently wandered onto Maori tribal land and was escorted to the boundary by a gruff gentleman who definitely considered the foreshore to be sacred Maori property.
With a little financial support from his family, Yelavich is essentially living off the land and sea on his way around the coast. He forages for edible plants, seeds, ferns, fruit and nuts, catches fish and uses his crossbow to hunt and kill animals for food. He is cleaning up some vermin along the way and has eaten a lot of possum, killed a few goats, rabbits, pigs and almost had a deer, which he shot and chased until it crossed a river that he was unable to ford and he had the agonizing hunting experience of seeing an animal die slowly at his hand…and the frustration of hungrily watching his dinner being so inaccessibly close.
Some of the more exotic dinners he has sampled include a weta he found in his boot one morning, “I wouldn’t recommend weta…they definitely taste prehistoric,” he said. Apparently, he saw the weta as an opportunity for protein to fuel his travels, however, crunching it up and swallowing it proved counterproductive as he then lost the previous evenings dinner after the peculiar piquancy of the weta disagreed with his constitution.
He also created some media controversy after admitting to having killed and eaten a seagull, which he claims was one of his tastier dinners. When this was reported in the Nelson Mail, many letters to the editor were received. Yelavich was quick to point out that the bird was in fact a black-backed gull, which are not protected and can be killed and eaten, especially as a means of survival.
The Yelavich family is very supportive of Brando’s quest. Todd Yelavich, an Auckland real-estate agent, is flying to Karamea to spend a few days catching up with his son while he rests in a comfortable bed and enjoys some more traditional meals courtesy of the Last Resort. Todd Yelavich will accompany his son on the Karamea to Westport leg of the journey to glean some understanding of the rigour of his quest and spend some quality time supporting his adventurous son as he heads south along the rugged West Coast toward Fiordland.
Todd considers it a proactive and positive step in the right direction for his son and thinks opportunities will abound for Brando once he completes his adventurous journey. “I’m calling it his university,” he said in an interview with TVNZ.
Brando also hopes his journey will inspire other young people to follow their dreams and realise the importance of believing in yourself. He has this message for the youth of New Zealand,
“In life, everyone can succeed. We’re not all good at academics though…don’t let that hold you back. Find something that you’re good at and you enjoy…all you need in life is to be happy, that’s the true secret to life…and yes, it’s as simple as being happy, just be you, just go with it…live your dreams and escape from the grasps of todays society…you’re the future, I’m the future, nothing can stop us, so what are you waiting for?”
Yelavich is also raising money for Ronald McDonald House, a charity that offers financial support to parents with sick children. So far, he has collected $5,266 and has a goal to raise $10,000 for the organisation, which he chose as a charity providing valuable service to people in need. To donate money to help Brando Yelavich toward his goal, please visit www.supportbrando.co.nz and give generously. To assist Brando with his personal expenses (and to save some seagulls and wetas) drop into your bank and deposit or online transfer some $pondoolie to Brando’s personal account:
Kiwi Bank: Account Number: 38-9008-0603923-00 –
Follow his epic journey on FaceBook:https://www.facebook.com/RunningFullaNZ
Or give him a call or e-mail a message of support:
Ph: 021 1101983
“My name is Brandon Yelavich and I am circumnavigating New Zealand’s Beautiful coast lines (cross-country). I will be climbing, walking, running and swimming plus who knows what other crazy stuff I may come across. I am determined to live off the land, catching fish, wild birds, wild rabbits and whatever else I can get my hands on. I have a guide to all of the edible plants to also help me out along the way. I am doing this for the Ronald McDonald house Charities NZ to raise money and awareness for all the children and families who are under their care. The total distance is about 6000+ KM.”
Nelson Mail: Out of the Mainstream and Paddling Hard http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/opinion/columnists/naomi-arnold/8821112/Out-of-the-mainstream-and-paddling-hard
Nelson Mail: Discovering a Taste for Seagull
Brando Update July 2015:
‘I went to every town and I’m sure that I found the right girl’: How a 21-year-old thrill-seeker who became the first person to walk the circumference of New Zealand unexpectedly found love on his journey
- Brando Yelavich, 21, began his treck around New Zealand when he was 19
- He became the first person to walk around the country’s entire coastline
- 400 days into his 600 day journey he met his girlfriend Ngaio
- He says he never expected to find love on his adventure
- The pair have been together for over a year now and live with each other
- Mr Yelavich walked the 7000km coastline with just a 50 kilo backpack
Mr Yelavich, 21, became the first person to walk around the entire 7,000 kilometre coastline of New Zealand, setting off solo at just 19 with a 50 kilo backpack and plans to live off the land.
However, just 400 days into his 600 day adventure, Mr Yelavich met a man called Brett Gregory while walking through Hahei, who had him over for tea and invited him to stay at his home as long as it was okay with his daughter Ngaio, 23.
Unexpected love: Brando Yelavich, 21, found love while adventuring around the New Zealand coastline
Coincidence: Mr Yelavich met Ngaio Gregory, 23, when her dog showed up at his camping ground
‘I gave him my number and left, and headed down the coast, I didn’t really think anything was going to happen,’ Mr Yelavich told Daily Mail Australia.
Later that day, a dog showed up at Mr Yelavich’s campsite which bared a striking resemblance to the dog he had seen Brett’s house.
‘An hour later Brett’s daughter, Ngaio, rung up to say I couldn’t stay because she was going to be home late and I said to her ‘I think I have your dog’,’ Mr Yelavich said.
Instant attraction: Mr Yelavich asked Ms Gregory out for pizza and wine and ‘the rest is history’ he says
New companion: Mr Yelavich met Ms Gregory 400 days into his journey, and she joined him when she could
‘She had to pick up her dog from me and she came down to the campground where I was staying and she took me up to the house and we had dinner and I ended up staying in the spare room… I actually saw a photo of her on the wall of the house [when her dad invited me down to the home] and I was pretty happy she invited me back,’ he said.
A few days later, Mr Yelavich invited Ms Gregory out for pizza and wine and says the rest is history.
‘Ngaio followed me up the coast when she could while I finished my journey, but that was only for about 10 days so it started off as quite a long distance relationship,’ Mr Yelavich said.
The one: Mr Yelavich is sure he found the right girl because has been to every town in New Zealand
Making history: Mr Yelavich is the first person to walk around the entire 7000km New Zealand coastline
The adventurer never for a second thought he would find love on his journey but says he is very glad he did.
‘I went to every town in New Zealand and I’m sure that I found the right girl,’ Mr Yelavich said.
The two have now been together for over a year and live with each other at Mr Gregory’s home.
Mr Yelavich documented his journey via Facebook and his personal website, taking photos with his mobile and GoPro which showed him walking down long train tracks, in front of picturesque backdrops and under water.
Riding solo: Mr Yelavich set off on his adventure when he was just 19 with a 50kg backpack
Documented: Mr Yelavich documented his journey online and in his book, Wildboy, which is available now
Mr Yelavich, who struggled with ADHD and dyslexia, dubbed his adventure as his version of conquering the world’s tallest mountain, Mount Everest.
‘I had wanted to circumnavigate the New Zealand coastline for several years – inspired by the movie, Into the Wild,’ he wrote on his website.
‘Because of not achieving at school as a result of ADHD and dyslexia, and not being able to get a decent job I decided to wipe the slate clean and do something great which helps others so I decided to support the Ronald McDonald House Charity (I have always loved kids) and carry out my epic adventure to circumnavigate the New Zealand coastline – over 7000km – living off the land, the sea and the kindness of others.’
Mr Yelavich’s book Wildboy is available worldwide from his website.