This man's taking the long way home

ANNA WILLIAMS
Last updated 10:35 20/02/2014
Brando Yelavich
Derek Flynn

Brando Yelavich is on an extraordinary adventure, which has involved bushwhacking down the country's west coast and a diet of weta and seagulls

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Brando Yelavich has been walking for a long time.

The 20-year-old Aucklander set off from Cape Reinga on February 1 last year in a bid to be the first person to circumnavigate New Zealand's coastline.

By Sunday, he can tick off the South Island after he kayaks from Rarangi to Picton.

Mr Yelavich, who made the shortlist for Young New Zealander of the Year, got the idea for his 6000-kilometre mission after watching Into the Wild, a film about an athlete who gave his savings to charity and hitchhiked to Alaska to live in the wilderness.

Mr Yelavich was a city boy with a job holding a sale sign for a clothing and merchandise company on the roadside. "The idea had been brewing for about three years, and I knew there was no promotion coming," he said.

So he put in three weeks of training, including running marathon distances to shock his body, and set off on his journey.

He had learnt a lot along the way, he said.

"I know myself so well now," he said. "Mentally and physically - there is no limit to how far you can push yourself."

When he was not put up for the night by strangers, he lived off the land, killing wild animals and sleeping in a tent.

The Lions Clubs across New Zealand had been supportive and arranged places for him to stay, he said.

When he left Auckland, he only knew how to skin a rabbit. Now he hunted rabbits and possums with a bow, as well as deer, goats and pigs, he said.

Seagulls tasted like a leaner version of a mutton bird while a weta was up there with the "grossest thing ever", he said.

"I found it in my boot, already squashed, so I ate it for the protein," he said. "It tasted like the smell of vomit."

Mr Yelavich, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia, is raising funds for Ronald McDonald House Charity.

People have sponsored him $10,500 so far and he is hoping to get to $20,000 by the time he returns home to Auckland.

He hoped he would become a recognised adventurer when he finished, although getting sponsorship proved a challenge, he said.

A lot of people didn't believe he could do it in the beginning,

"I'm a doer. I'll finish it crawling if I have to," he said. "It's become a journey to inspire people to get out there and learn about the world. This is my university."

Mr Yelavich will catch a ferry to Wellington early next week and resume his mission.

He hopes to be home by June or July.

To donate access supportbrando.co.nz.

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- The Marlborough Express

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