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Teen adventurer takes time out in Raglan from epic trek

It’s not quite a Bear Grylls story but young Brandon Yelavich who arrived tired and very hungry in Raglan late last week — a hard eight-hour trek behind him, down the coast from Port Waikato — relies pretty much on his own resources these days, and wild goat or rabbit for dinner.

Even if he’d had the chance to hunt down dinner with his air rifle as he neared Te Akau at nightfall last Friday, he had no gas left in his cooker anyway — and he’d devoured his emergency supplies the day before.
So a lift across the harbour from local resident Ian Hardie to where Brandon’s North Shore-based grandfather was waiting at Kopua Holiday Park, with chicken for dinner, was a welcome relief.

And the following day’s respite in Raglan gave Brando, as he’s known on his Facebook page, a bit of a break just one month into the gruelling schedule he’s set for himself which is to circumnavigate the country’s coastline by foot, raising money along the way for Ronald McDonald House Charities NZ.

The 19-year-old solo adventurer is relishing the challenge. “I don’t (need to) rely on other people,” he says. “There’s nothing to worry about, no stress — obviously until I can’t find food. Then it’s hard.”

Brandon admits his six-month quest to conquer the coastline from Cape Reinga where he set out on February 1 — walking Ninety Mile Beach in bare feet — all the way down the west coast of both islands and back up via the east is a crazy idea.

But he always wanted to do something that nobody else has done, and if he’s successful this will be a first.
His trek will cover more than 6000 kilometres, which he likens to Sir Ed Hilary’s Everest — minus the support because he has no back-up crew, no sponsorship, only occasional offers of a bed for the night or a meal from locals and others following his epic journey on Facebook.

It’s “a bit daunting” at times, Brandon says, struggling with motivation and being alone so long. But he pushes on, living off what he can forage or hunt and walking with his 45-kilo pack of survival gear — not that far off his 60-kilo body weight — until he can physically go no longer.

He pitches his tent at night and sleeps on the ground.

Brandon carries three litres of drinking water, a GPS map tracker, his i-phone, a solar panel to charge it and an emergency locator beacon to use “if I’m dying”. Until he reached Raglan he had only the air rifle to hunt out dinner, but his grandfather brought down for him a sophisticated and lightweight crossbow to increase his odds of getting a regular meal.

Known as Running Fulla on Facebook, he’ d originally planned to run the course and prepared by doing marathon training every day late last year on Auckland’s North Shore. But without a support team to help carry his gear, Brandon resigned himself to walking the distance.

Covering from 20 to 50-odd kilometres each day depending on the terrain, he’s already into his second pair of tramping boots, and has raised about $1000 of the hoped-for $10,000.

He was heading off towards Ruapuke the second time the Chronicle caught up with him, walking the beach to the southern end of Ngarunui then around rocks to Manu and Whale Bays before hitting the bush. From Ruapuke he was hopeful of staying fairly near the coast as he headed on to Aotea and Kawhia, and had his fingers crossed help would be at hand for any water crossings.

*Follow Brandon’s progress on Facebook: RunningFullaNZ. Donations can be made to Ronald McDonald House Charity Coast.

Edith Symes

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