Zascha Mann is planning to walk the length of the South Island in September, raising money for two animal welfare charities. Photo: Phillip Rollo.

Travelling the South Island… on foot


When someone tells you they’re planning to spend three months walking the length of the South Island – most of it by themselves – one of the first questions you have to ask is “why?”

Zascha Mann, a former Nayland College student who recently graduated from the University of Otago, is set to undergo the 1360 km journey through the Te Araroa Trail in September, and he has a couple of reasons as to why he’s doing it – and no, it wasn’t inspired by the film “Into the Wild”. “I guess it starts way back in my childhood. My family used to always go on holidays to the Marlborough Sounds, Golden Bay and the Nelson Lakes, and we’d always do awesome outdoor activities like tramping and kayaking and pretty much everything outdoors,” he says. “It developed a real love for the outdoors and a real passion for adventure.

“After high school I went on my O.E through Asia. I really got to see the affect pollution can have on the natural environment and it made me realize just how lucky we are in New Zealand. It’s a pretty beautiful country.”

Zascha studied neuroscience in Dunedin for three years, and was hungry for another adventure when he graduated. “So I guess all of that stuff led to the idea of travelling New Zealand and I wanted to do it in a way where I could make a small difference to the planet.”

The 22 year old is using the adventure to fundraise for animal welfare charities Save Animals from Exploitation (SAFE) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and has already raised half of his $3000 goal.

He will be holding stalls at markets across the region, including the Nelson Saturday Market on May 24, to hopefully raise the rest. “I want to inspire positive change in New Zealand, and once I’ve done the walk I’m going to tour the South Island and visit schools and do sustainable activities, whether it’s planting trees or cleaning up the beach, just something that gets them out in the nature and having a real experience.”

Zascha hasalready had to overcome one hurdle, rolling his ankle twice and moving the departure date back to September. He will take a sleeping bag, tent, camera and a week’s worth of food on the journey – picking up food packages his dad plans to drop off in towns along the way. “People can get in touch with me via my website and join me for a few days if they want, but I understand it will be quite lonely and I’ll probably start talking to trees. I think I will learn a lot about myself.”

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