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Wildboy takes on New Zealand’s wildest island

Brando atop Magog during his 30-day tramp around Stewart Island. Photo: Brando Yelavich

Brando ‘Wildboy’ Yelavich has returned from a 30-day solo tramp around Stewart Island. Yelavich, who is known for his walk around the coastlines of both the North and South islands, had planned to circumnavigate Stewart Island, a journey he expected would take him up to three months. However, the extreme terrain and total isolation made him change his mind

“It was type-2 fun,” Yelavich said. “Looking back on it, it was awesome. But during the adventure itself, there were a lot of times where it was pretty miserable.”

While his original plan had him tracing the coastline, he quickly found it was slow going.  Dense scrub, heavy rain, and rough terrain slowed him down considerably, some days only making it half a kilometre.

“It was different to what I expected. I expected it to be a lot less wild than it was, but it’s one of the most wild places you can visit in New Zealand.”

In addition to the challenges of bush-bashing, he was surprised at how lonely he felt. In the 30 days he was out there, he said he only saw three people.

“That got pretty intense at times, and that was really different from my New Zealand adventure, where I met people every couple days, if not every day. This one was like, boom, nothing. No people, no phone communication – just me in my own head,” Yelavich said.

Once he changed his mind and decided to cut the journey short, he decided to move away from the coast and climb some of the ranges on the island, such as Mt Allen and the Ruggedy Range.

“It was the best decision I ever made,” he said.

Standing atop Magog,  the 202m sister summit of Gog in the south of the island, was a particularly special moment for Yelavich.

“It was the turning point in my mental head space,” he said. “To that point, I wasn’t really having fun. I was pushing myself through all of these hard challenges, reaching my breaking point almost every day.

“And when I got to the Gogs I made the decision there that, ‘right, from now on, I’m only going to do things that make me happy’. And the scrub wasn’t making me happy.”