New Zealand Straight Line Mission Challenge Interview

This is a copy of an interview I did for the LDWA, but I liked the theme as it reminded me of my bravery on the LDWA 100 (which I may have mentioned). The comments on cows are entirely accurate, they’re dangerous bloody things along with snakes, pigs, sheep, horses and other things that farmers keep putting in their fields. Actually, I accept farmers don’t tend to pro-actively put snakes in their fields, but they’re still there and someone needs to take responsibility.

I’m not brave enough for a straight line mission, but I like the adventure behind it, which reminds me that I’m meant to be finishing the fourth GeoGuessr thing, so I’d better start planning for that. I’m also not very adept at climbing over fences, which wouldn’t be ideal if completing a straight line mission. And I’m scared of farmers, not that I’ve ever even been told off by one. And the other problem with a challenge like this is that the pub I’d want to divert to wouldn’t likely be on the straight line, so that would annoy me.

Anyway, my wittering aside, watch the videos, they’re very good!

A popular YouTube series over the last couple of years have been the Straight Line Mission challenges which have been undertaken by Tom Davies (user-name GeoWizard on Youtube). One of the most exciting elements of this has been how it’s inspired adventures around the world, getting people out into the great outdoors to challenge themselves and see new environments.

OK, maybe the challenge of climbing over fences, crossing gorse and being scared of cows (very understandable, they’re big!) isn’t for everyone, but there’s a challenge out there for everyone. And we liked the efforts of two younger New Zealand adventurers, Ollie Taylor and Finn McKenzie. They’re uploading some really well produced and fun adventures of their attempt to cross New Zealand in a straight line, something much easier in theory than in practice. And they kindly offered to answer some questions for us about their bravery.

How long did it take to plan this adventure?

We started figuring out a possible line in July 2021, so it was about 6 months of planning, involving scouring maps and satellite imagery for hours on end, calling up and emailing landowners, doing research into water levels, equipment, land information and much more. In the end our planning document had over 40 pages.

You secured the permission of many landowners in advance, were most keen to help and were they understanding?

Most of them were pretty confused at first, but once they understood what we were doing they were either super supportive or didn’t really care about a couple of teenagers crossing their land, so all positive outcomes. As you could tell from the farmer in episode 1, everyone was very chill about the whole thing, which was a bit of a surprise for us after watching Tom fleeing from very angry landowners.

I’m scared of cows (and indeed most other forms of wildlife in fields), how scary were those encounters?

Very! Being born and bred in a city we didn’t have much experience with livestock so crossing through those paddocks was terrifying. The horned ones in particular were very intimidating, which prompted a fair bit of running on our part. [NB, I fully sympathise with this bravery!]

You don’t have snakes in New Zealand which must have been a relief?

They didn’t really cross our mind at all to be honest, but having to deal with snakes would have been quite the headache. In other countries where snakes are more common that would take some serious planning to sort out.

That gorse looked painful? Do you still have flashbacks?

Absolutely. Every time we see the smallest patch of blackberry we are taken back to the hideous forestry block that was effectively a kilometer long blackberry bush we walked straight through!

What foods did you take with you as a suitable treat to reward yourselves?

Fruitbursts were the main one, they sustained us through some very low points indeed, but we took various other snacks packed with sugar [I approve, it’s about all the energy]. Ollie is also very partial to vanilla ice Up and Go.

It looks like you remained friends throughout the adventure, were there any challenging moments to your friendship?

We were almost always too tired to even talk, and the many moments of pain only brought us closer together. There was never really any reason to be mad at each other as all our pain was inflicted by external factors. Helping each other was the only way to really conquer these brutal challenges we faced.

Do you look back on your challenge with fondness or questioning your sanity as to why you started?

When we were actually doing the mission we questioned our crazy idea a lot, but looking back it’s one of the best things we’ve done and a truly unforgettable adventure. We experienced some awesome stuff, had some amazing views, interacted with some super cool people, and even the most painful experiences now make very entertaining stories.

Would you recommend that others try their own form of challenge, whether that’s a long distance walk or something similar to your brave expedition?

100%. No matter what your fitness level or background, even if it’s just a small day walk get amongst the outdoors. There are so many awesome places to explore all over the world so don’t let them go to waste! Something like a straight line mission is not for the faint of heart and requires a lot of mental toughness, but it’s super rewarding and makes a great story for afterwards.

Tom Davies has of course produced some guidance for those undertaking these challenges and you referred to this in your videos. Do you have any additional advice? So much. We learnt a lot on the mission and there are far too many intricate details to cover in entirety, however we can say that it is definitely a lot harder than it seems, Tom Davies is truly an expert and it seems a lot easier when watching him on the sofa then when you’re actually out there. So I guess in general if your looking to try something big, definitely work up to it and know your limits, and at the end of the day it’s all about having a good time and enjoying what your doing. We will cover some advice more straight line specific in videos to come. 

What plans do you have for future challenges?

Along with the standard adventure racing and weekend tramps, we may or may not have some other (equally mad and possibly stupid) ideas in the works. We don’t want to reveal too much but we are always keen when it comes to adventure!