THE rugged wilderness of Stewart Island is the setting of a new book by Brando “Wildboy” Yelavich.
Wildboy: To the Edge and Back, by Yelavich with Nicola McCloy, was released last month by Penguin Random House New Zealand.
The book details the 23-year-old adventurer’s journey – the ups, downs and life lessons he learned on the way.
It is the second book by Yelavich, whose memoir Wildboy: An Epic Trek around the Coast of New Zealand was released in 2015.
However, following that journey he felt like he had missed something and decided to take on the wilderness of Stewart Island before Christmas last year.
“When I walked around New Zealand I saw quite a lot of the south, but I’d never been to Stewart Island so it was quite amazing and eye opening to experience how wild it is down there,” he said.
“It’s pretty crazy once you get off the tracks and into wilderness.”
Yelavich said he originally intended to spend about 60 days walking around the island, but conditions meant he changed his plans along the way.
He said the scrub on the south-west coast of the island was “next level thick”.
“You couldn’t even move, I was moving 200-300 metres a day.”
Weather was also difficult, with rain most days. Along with dampening his spirits, it also affected his ability to catch food.
“I was supplemented with paua and rats and anything that I could find really… [but the swell got] too big for paua or fish and as soon as it rains the rats all hide in their holes, so there was nothing to eat. I was pretty hungry.”
Yelavich said he reached a point where he decided he wasn’t having fun.
“So I sat down and examined my map and looked for different key features that looked really interesting on the map and decided to just walk between those.”
He said the journey was still incredibly hard, but it gave him a new goal.
“What I try and almost preach to people is that if you’re doing something in your life and you’re not enjoying it – change it, it’s as simple as that.”
And the new plan paid off.
“Once I got into it I suddenly realised ‘whoa, this isn’t so bad’. I started having that reconnection with nature, and I really started to understand the power and importance of it in my life.”
Yelavich said he set off on his original journey around New Zealand in 2013 because he made a snap decision to turn his life around.
Using drugs and “on the dole”, he realised he was “going nowhere with this lifestyle”.
“It wasn’t me and it wasn’t who I wanted to grow up being, and it especially wasn’t who my parents raised me to be, so one day I just woke up and told my mates I was going to walk around New Zealand and a few weeks later I was off. That was my way of changing my life.”
He said he loved being a modern day explorer and he also hoped to inspire other people to live their dreams.
“For me my goal is that what I do inspires people in a positive way to do what interests them and do what they love.
“I don’t care if I get to the top of the mountain as long as the message that I can share with my audience is a positive one. For instance, if I fail at something in my own sense, I explain to people that it’s still a learning curve and failing is a part of living.”