Australian Montana O’Neill is making the most of the transtasman bubble to deal with some unfinished business in the Whanganui and Ruapehu region.
O’Neill is one of the first Australians to visit New Zealand since the bubble opened two weeks ago, taking the opportunity to continue his Te Araroa Trail journey.
He began the adventure before the Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020 as a tribute to his long-time friend Jake Apps who died of cystic fibrosis in October 2019.
“I was on a seven-month trip hiking across Europe when I heard the news of Jake’s passing,” O’Neill said.
“We grew up together in Gunning, New South Wales, went to the same school, played rugby, and shared a lot of adventures together. He was only 25 years old when he passed.”
Less than three months after his mate’s death, O’Neill took his first steps on Te Araroa Trail in January 2020, starting from Bluff and heading north towards Cape Reinga.
He completed the South Island in 60 days and was at the beginning of the North Island when New Zealand’s nationwide lockdown came into effect.
“I was lucky enough to have been able to stay with family in Tauranga during the lockdown.
“But even once I had returned to Australia during this period of uncertainty, I always knew I would come back to finish what I had started so it feels great to be here again.”
Doing Te Araroa Trail to raise awareness for cystic fibrosis added mental and emotional aspects to the already gruelling physical challenges of tackling the 3000km pathway, he said.
“The struggles I’ve faced have helped me heal in so many ways and given me a renewed sense of purpose. Day in and day out, your legs are burning, blisters make you feel every step but, at the same time, it’s being on the trail that I’ve experienced the highest sense of camaraderie and community I’ve ever known.
“So being able to share Jake’s story and shed light to finding a cure for cystic fibrosis is just my way of giving back. My goal is to raise $25,000 for this fundraiser and am over halfway there.”
Australian-based sponsors ETMP and Rubik3 have supported O’Neill’s journey from day one with sponsorship towards gear, flights, and accommodation.
O’Neill, who is currently in the Ruapehu area, said some of his highlights in the region included canoeing down the Whanganui River and biking the Mountains to Sea Trail from Pipiriki to Whanganui.
He will hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing this weekend and The Timber Trail in coming weeks and invites anyone in the area to join him on this part of the journey.
To follow Montana O’Neill’s story or donate, go to www.facebook.com/Trek-for-Jake-Walk-for-a-Mate-105956137581534/, https://cure4cftrek.raisely.com/trek-for-jake-walk-for-a-mate or www.instagram.com/trekforjake/
this originally ran in the herald and Montana has given us access to pre post