A story of perseverance and bravery, Keira Pacheco
Wildboy: To the Edge and Back
Penguin Random House
12 March, 2021
“I was on the brink of being so cold I couldn’t feel anymore, I realised I had hypothermia and I needed to do something right now, if I didn’t I was going to die…”
Wildboy: To the Edge and Back by Brando Yelavich talks about his death-defying walk around Stewart Island. This is a sequel to Wildboy – an adventurous account of his 600-day trek around the coastline of New Zealand but on that journey in 2014, he missed out on the hardest part of this beautiful country – Stewart Island. Now, on this new adventure, Wildboy (Brando) recounts his epic expedition to walk the coast of Stewart Island.
Yelavich was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia at an early age and in his teens tried to escape his rollercoaster life with drink and drugs. His relationship with the people around him was at a breaking point but then one morning he decided to walk the coast of New Zealand and this changed him forever. Walking over 8000km, he found joy in living off the land, returning to the basics of life and meeting new people. “That journey changed me and I forged a new future for myself.”
Two years later, after having back surgery and trying to find a purpose in ‘normal life’ by studying adventure tourism in Nelson, Wildboy gears up and sets off on a journey he thought he was ready for. Keeping a real account of the hardships and challenges of his 31 days on Stewart Island, he wrote this book to show people what it’s like in the wildest part of the country and how things can go very wrong on an adventure. “The switch had flicked on in my head that couldn’t be switched off. I had my new dream. I had the next adventure. I was going to be walking into the wild – no tracks, no people, no huts.”
This Stewart Island adventure was no easy road: “The water was suddenly up to my shoulders. It was terrifying. Every time I moved I went a little bit deeper.” As I read it, I felt sorry for him, having to push his way through scrub and nearly freezing to death, but it taught me lessons I could use on my own adventures. Wildboy changed his plans on Stewart Island a number of times because of the conditions and terrain and we learned about how we have to adapt for survival.
The book is structured like a diary or journal. It includes what happens every day on his walk and what he felt and saw. This book makes me feel like I am actually there with him tramping around the island seeing seals, kiwi and amazing views; feeling the cold mountain air. I also felt the gruelling mud, constant rain, freezing hail, hungry tummy and sodden socks. Compared to other books that I have read, that have the same structure, this is my favourite one. With a handy map at the front, you can follow the journey he took around the island.
The story is unique as it has more descriptive language than any other book in its genre I have ever read, and when have you ever got to read a true story about someone walking around the coast of Stewart Island? It is pretty epic!
I felt I could relate really well to this book because I have recently been to Stewart Island and it does feel like you are on the edge of the world and the little part I did adventure in was beautiful but like Wildboy, I thought the water was freezing. So this is a great book for people who have visited Stewart Island but also for those who haven’t. You can have an adventure without leaving the comfort of your home and learn about that often forgotten island right at the bottom of New Zealand.
No doubt as you read Wildboy, you will conclude that he has a lot of determination, perseverance and bravery when faced with deadly challenges like quicksand, hunger and hyperthermia. He learns a lot about himself as a person while on this walk and shares his ideas with you throughout the book. “I had definitely learned the value of being true to yourself and to the people around you that was something I knew I really needed to change.”
There are also lots of handy tips about adventuring around DOC land and the unique aspects of travelling the coast of New Zealand. What to eat and not to eat, how to cook damper (a type of bread), hunting rules, crossing rivers and how to deal with sea lions – just to name a few. As well as an adventure that will keep you hooked until you get to the very end of the journey, it’s a survival guide from our very own Kiwi Bear Grylls.
My favourite little snippet was the history of the Tin Range. The Tin Range was originally discovered by gold miners who had come to the island in the 1880s. There was no gold but there was tin. The tin rush only lasted between 1912 and 1917, but a lot of people came to the island. They didn’t get much tin, but they did build a 7 km long tramway. Just one of the many historical facts you will learn from this book and see through the eyes of Wildboy.
Wildboy: To the Edge and Back was very well written and helped me remember that you should always be prepared when going out into the wild. I think that if more people had this book on hand, they could avoid the many misfortunes adventurers have on our amazing islands. My family and I like to go on lots of different bush walks and adventures so I feel very well informed and prepared for my next adventure – thanks for sharing your story Wildboy.
- Keira Pacheco is 12 and lives in Auckland.