Australian runner nears end of trail

Australian adventure runner Richard Bowles - described as a ''hybrid of Bear Grylls and Forrest Gump'' - is entering the final week of a 3054km run along the Te Araroa trail, which stretches from Cape Reinga to Bluff - earning himself a well-earned lunch in Queenstown today.

Throughout his journey - which he aims to complete in 63 days - he has raised money for Project Crimson, a leading conservation organisation, which has made impressive progress re-establishing pohutukawa and rata nationwide by planting trees, co-ordinating and supporting a wide range of maintenance activities, scientific research, possum control programmes and public education.

Bowles set out on the Te Araroa trail on October 13 and has since traversed 2752km. He aims to finish in Bluff next Saturday.

In Queenstown, Bowles will be hosted at Josh Emett's restaurant Rata, as part of the Project Crimson fundraising efforts.

The flagship restaurant of Emett, a Michelin starred chef, Rata has joined Project Crimson's supporters, with a $50 four-course lunch offered daily, from which a percentage of proceeds are donated to the trust.

Bowles said despite knee-deep mud and overgrown trails, he had fallen in love with New Zealand's beauty.

''It's absolutely stunning. Every day is another bit of paradise."

While he was in awe of the country's beauty, he had also become aware of its dangers, having taken several ''decent'' tumbles down steep mountain sections, crossing fast-flowing rivers and traversing avalanche-prone regions.

While many people had run the length of New Zealand - 2200km - Bowles will run almost another 50% more on rugged, mountainous terrain.

''The trail less travelled offers the best adventures and I'm all about challenging myself on a daily basis."

Bowles this year became the first person to run the remote National Trail of Australia, the world's longest marked trail, raising money awareness and funds for Sane Australia, a mental health organisation.

In five-and-a-half months, he ran the equivalent of 127 marathons and traversed the treacherous Dividing Range mountains from Melbourne to Cooktown.


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