BLISTERS, electric shocks, stings and bites are just some of the pains one man has gone through as he trekked across New Zealand in memory of his nephew who died aged just one year old.
Computer software engineer Joss Smales followed a 1,864-mile trail across the country in memory of his nephew Quinn Mills who died of a rare form of childhood cancer.
He explained that his nephew died nearly five years ago, after being diagnosed with a kidney tumour when he was just 11 months old.
“He was a beautiful, lively little guy who loved to kick a football, enjoyed watching Antz, would point to birds flying in the sky and said ‘hello’ to passing dogs, and was always smiling,” said Joss from Chichester.
“He endured six months of treatment, undergoing surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy and died on September 1, 2010, on my birthday. “I miss my little nephew like mad and wish, more than anything, that he was still with us.”
He said Quinn was looked after by nurses at The Sussex Snowdrop Trust, a charity which provides at-home care and support to children with life-threatening diseases and their parents.
“Snowdrop were an invaluable help to Quinn and our family during the difficult last months of his life,” he said.
“Snowdrop nurses visited several times a day, administered drugs to Quinn and also very sensitively provided practical and emotional support for our family.
“We will always be grateful for the help of this amazing charity.”
Joss chose to take on the Te Araroa trail, also known as The Long Pathway, New Zealand’s newest long-distance trail.
The trail officially opened just four years ago and it leads from Cape Reinga to Bluff.
It allows walkers to take in some of the country’s most spectacular landscapes, from beaches and volcanoes to forests and cities.
Tramping the full length of the trail takes three to six months.
Joss commenced his expedition with a fellow hiker in September last year.
His efforts have raised £3,150 through his JustGiving page.
“It’s an incredibly physical and mentally-demanding trail and is, without doubt, the hardest challenge I’ve ever undertaken,” he said.
“I’ve suffered many blisters, aching feet, back pain, knee pain, shoulder pain, wasp stings, mosquito and sand fly bites.
“I’ve had mice crawl over me in the middle of the night and had a rat get into my backpack and eat my porridge.
“I’ve waded through rivers and mud, had shocks from electric fences, climbed mountains in the pouring rain – leaving me with wet clothes to put on the next day – and fallen or slipped over countless times.
“So why spend the best part of six months putting myself through this? Well, despite the difficulties I’ve pretty much loved almost every minute of it. However, my main motivation since the early stages of planning this adventure has been to raise money for The Sussex Snowdrop Trust.
“I hope that the sponsorship money raised will help Snowdrop to continue their brilliant work in providing support and nursing care for children with life-threatening and terminal illness.”
Diana Levantine, the co-founder and chairman of Snowdrop, said: “Joss can be proud of his incredible achievement, and has honoured Quinn in a fantastic way enabling us to help others today.
“He deserves a big thank you – and a long sit down.”