A walk on the wild side
June 2, 2017
Words & Photos: Brando Yelavich
Fast going off the rails and hanging out with the wrong crowd, Brando Yelavich, a bold 20-year-old from Auckland's North Shore, decided he needed to change his life. He needed a mission. He was going to walk around the entire coast of New Zealand. Brando Yelavich, now known as Wildboy, gives us a glimpse into the daily dangers he encountered on his journey.
At nineteen years' old I found myself plummeting down a hole I would soon struggle to climb out of. Diagnosed with ADHA and dyslexia from a young age meant I never did well in school. I started hanging out with the wrong crowd, and quickly got caught up with drinking, drugs and girls. I had reached the lowest point in my life. I was off the track — way off it! I woke up one day and stared at the concrete box I lived in. One window. Cold white walls. I felt trapped. I needed an escape from both my mindset and my physical location. So, I came up with a crazy idea — to walk around the entire coast of New Zealand!
I walked, kayaked, rafted and swam 8700km around the entire coastline of New Zealand.”
Four weeks later I was dropped off at Cape Reinga — the very top of New Zealand. The feelings that were flowing through my body at this point were insane. I was so excited, it felt so perfect. At this moment, I knew I had already changed my life by taking a step in the right direction. I was exactly where I needed to be. But boy was I in for one hell of an adventure.
The entire journey took me 600 days to complete. I walked, kayaked, rafted and swam 8700km around the entire coastline of New Zealand. I changed my life for the better and created opportunities for myself that I never even thought were possible. In my book (Wildboy) I share my entire experience in the hope of motivating others to get outside and live their wildest dreams. But for now, I want to share one particular life-threatening moment from the Kahurangi Coast — a rough section of coastline on the north west of New Zealand’s South Island.
I had heard stories about this area having gained a very notorious reputation over the years. Everything from Maori battles to drownings, this is one of New Zealand’s last wild coasts, untouchable due to ruggedness. Planning was paramount on this section of the coast due to the high tide making areas completely inaccessible. I spent three days at the old lighthouse keeper’s hut waiting for the tides to be in my favour. During this time I would gather what food I could find from my surroundings. I tried eating wild onions — that did more harm than good and made me very sick, so I started digging up worms and collecting fresh nikau flowers.
"I changed my life for the better and created opportunities for myself that I never even thought were possible."
When the day finally came to push forward, I was more than ready. I woke up at 3am to make the most of my time. The wind was howling and waves crashed onto the shore with more power than I would have liked in the dark. There was about 5km of beach before the rocks started. From there, I started scaling the rocky cliff, climbing about 10 meters above the sea. With waves smashing the rocks below me, one slip or fall at this point would have ended me. The sun had just started to rise, revealing what lay ahead; 12km of near vertical cliffs that had to be continually climbed to avoid the sea. I pushed through the day, stopping only once for a snack. When I finally approached the area where I wanted to camp, the tide had come up so far, I couldn't get around the last bluff without getting swept off the rocks. Suddenly I was in danger. Hanging onto a cliff with the tide coming in, I was stuck. The only option I had was to go up. 35 meters up. I was terrified, I knew if I fell from that height, I was dead for sure. I perched my pack on a ledge, tied a rope to it, then started climbing. My legs were shaking, and my hands were sweaty. I was pushing through new levels of fear to keep myself alive. Once at the top I found a spot to haul my pack up. From here, it was all scrub down to the next bay. And by scrub, I mean some of the thickest vegetation I had ever encountered!
I pushed my way through the trees in search of a clearing big enough for my tent. Deciding on a small clearing on the rocky shore, I began setting up camp and searching for water. On discovery of a small creek in the bay, I spotted a deer! Instinctively, I switched into hunting mode. Moving very slowly I took my bow out of my bag, strung an arrow and took aim. Breathing deeply, I relaxed and let my arrow fly. It found its target which slumped to the ground. The creek ran red. I thought it was all over and excitedly ran over to my fresh meat. But before I could get there it sprung into life, stood up and darted into the thick bush! I attempted to track it up the valley until I lost the blood trail. I have never been more upset. I had just wounded this beautiful creature for nothing. I hung my head as I walked back to my tent. I was starving. That deer would have changed everything for me. At that point I needed food to keep my brain working. I was getting so upset with the silliest things and the tummy pains were almost unbearable! As the sun was setting into the sea, it gave me the most beautiful view and started to melt my angry feelings away. The end of the day had become my chance to start fresh. Every day was a new day, and I lived it as if it was my last.