A man on a mission to raise awareness for Kaikoura's new hospital is planning for an incredible adventure which will see him walk 5000km across mountainous terrain and desert to complete the Continental Divide Trail.
This is not the first such adventure for David Murphy - the 27 year old geologist completed the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) just last year, taking five and a half months to cover the 4200km trail. He hopes to get through the longer Continental Divide in just five months, and knows he will definitely have his work cut out.
"The PCT was easier because you just have to follow your nose pretty much. This will be tough. It's the equivalent of a marathon a day, and there is much more navigation and route-finding to do."
The 50 mile wide corridor follows the Continental Divide of the Americas along the Rocky Mountains, crosses five U.S. states and is a combination of trails and road walking. Only about 50 to 60 people attempt the trail in its entirety each year, and Dave is well aware of the potential pitfalls, which include solitude, physical strain and getting lost, something which is likely to be a regular occurrence.
"It will be a logistical challenge - apparently you get lost on average once a day. I have done a lot of navigation as a geologist and have got quite good at it, and I enjoy the challenge of it."
Dave's epic adventure begins on May 1, so he is currently in training, which includes a lot of mountain hiking, running and diving as well as reading extensive amounts of literature to ensure he is as prepared as he can be.
He will need to have completed the trail by the beginning of October, or else risk being snowed in, so the timeframe is already set for him. But he is confident of completing it in time, and glad he has made the decision to go ahead with a plan which has been a long time coming to fruition.
The idea of doing it for a good cause came about to add that extra challenge and commitment.
"Last year [the PCT] was mostly for myself, to see if I could do it. I had read about it in the Press in 2007, and had never really had a challenge like that before.
"This time I don't want to make it about myself because I know I can do it - it's good to up my game a little bit."
Dave's decision to raise money and awareness for the new Kaikoura health facility - for which the community is trying to raise $3.5 million - came about because he wanted to support something local.
"I felt like so many people give to a big charity, which is great, but I thought a local charity was something I could really get behind more. I will raise as much as I can but it's about raising awareness too."
With a Facebook page and website already up and running, Dave hopes much of the charity side of the work will be done before he sets out as it will be difficult to actively fundraise along the way.
He will be updating his blog and contacting his parents one a week wherever possible, but is unlikely to have much wi-fi access along the way so he wants to spread the word before May, and donations are already coming in.
While the whole idea might appear to some of us a complete nightmare, he seems to be looking forward to the experience.
"There is something about being alone in the wilderness. There is so much more to look forward to, and be scared of, from the navigation and solitude to the intense physical aspect of it."
Sleeping under the stars, which Dave intends to do for the most part, he will be open to all sorts of dangers, from rattlesnakes and scorpions to rodents, which he anticipates will be one of his biggest annoyances.
But up in the mountains bears become a problem too and he will need to be careful about storing his food up high.
"I will be in grizzly habitat for some of it. I have never seen them before, and they are bigger and much more aggressive than black bears - you have to treat them very differently."
The other challenges will be heat and dehydration in the desert, as well as the walking itself, particularly across the snow.
Dave will not be carrying proper mountain hiking equipment as it is just too heavy, in fact he will be limiting himself to carrying a pack of just seven or eight kilograms, plus another 8kg or so of food. Which is not that easy when you consider he will be eating about three times the amount of calories an average person consumes.
And if you think that this all sounds like just too much of an adventure, Dave will not be finished after this; he hopes to tick off the Appalachian Trail to get the Triple Crown, as well as New Zealand's own 3000km Te Araroa Trail, from Cape Reinga to Bluff.
To follow Dave on his awe-inspiring journey, and to find out how to donate to the Kaikoura Health Facility Charitable Trust, visit hikeforahospital.com, find him at givealittle.co.nz, or see his Facebook page.
- © Fairfax NZ News