'Wildboy' comes home

JENNY LING
Last updated 05:00 27/08/2014
Brando Yelavich
MICHAEL BRADLEY/Fairfax NZ

INSPIRATION: Brando Yelavich has walked more than 8000 km to the South Island and back again in a bid to turn his life around and inspire others.

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He's faced near-death experiences, hospital and hunger on his epic 18-month walk around the country's rugged coastline.

Now Brando "Wildboy" Yelavich, New Zealand's own cross between Bear Grylls and Forrest Gump, has reached the end of the road where it all began - back at Cape Reinga.

The 20-year-old has walked more than 8000 km to the South Island and back again in a bid to turn his life around and inspire others.

And he's has raised more than $31,000 for Ronald McDonald House Charities.

"It's been crazy. It's been amazing, I'm part of nature at the moment really.

"I've saved the best till last. It's so beautiful up here in the Far North. It's quite a special place."

Yelavich, from Auckland, began his journey on February 1, 2013.

He's walked an average of eight hours and 25kms a day - wearing out three pairs of hiking boots while walking, scrambling up rock faces and swimming.

Yelavich carried a tent, clothes, fishing spear and bow and arrow wherever he went.

People gave him food along the way but he was largely self-sufficient.

A typical day involved waking up and eating what he'd caught the night before; fish, deer, goat, rabbit, possum and birds - "anything that didn't belong to a farmer" was all fair game.

"It's been very rewarding," he said.

"I've been walking 560-odd days and I've probably in total missed about 30 meals. The longest I've been without food was three days.

"I thought it would be easy to walk around New Zealand.

"I thought I would take six months, but at six months I wasn't even at the bottom of the North Island."

Yelavich finished his trip on August 23 at Cape Reinga where he was met by his parents, sister and friends.

He was inspired to walk New Zealand after becoming disillusioned with his life.

"I was heading down the wrong road and I needed some way of escape," he said.

"I was smoking dope every day with my friends and I could tell it was ruining my life. So I decided to go on an adventure, to change my life and hopefully inspire others to do the same."

That has involved stopping at more than 150 schools and giving inspirational talks to students on his journey.

He has had many adventures - some dangerous - including falling 3 metres near Raglan and cracking his ribs.

He nearly drowned after falling from his raft in Waiau river in southland and becoming trapped underwater.

Yelavich had two weeks off over Christmas and spent a couple of days in Auckland after being nominated for the Pride of New Zealand awards. He also spent several days in Dunedin hospital after drinking bad water.

Otherwise he's been on the move fairly constantly.

But the highlights have outweighed the risks, he said.

"I've got a totally new outlook on life.

"Before I was quite naive and I didn't care about my future.

"I was just about getting high and having fun. Now I have a purpose, I know what I want to do. I've got bigger dreams."

Those dreams include making a documentary about the trip and he has already been approached by a few directors and producers.

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Yelavich also wants to write a book and do public speaking.

Dad Todd Yelavich walked with him for four days earlier this month from Te Maru to Rangipaura near Doubtless Bay.

"He's done awesomely well," Todd said.

"We're really proud of him, it's a pretty awesome thing he's been doing.

"As it's gone on it's got bigger and bigger."

Visit supportbrando.co.nz to make a donation.

- Northern News

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