Kiwi to walk length of New Zealand to repay heroes

Daniel Lee in front of a rescue helicopter (Supplied)
Daniel Lee in front of a rescue helicopter (Supplied)

Twenty-three-year-old Daniel Lee is tackling the adventure of a lifetime to pay back his local helicopter trust for saving his life.

The Hawke's Bay local "went under the wheel of a tractor" when he was six and suffered serious haemorrhaging to his head and torso.

The Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter Service landed on his front lawn within 15 minutes.

"They flew from Hastings Hospital down to Waipukurau ... an ambulance would have been 40 minutes one way," Mr Lee says.

Ten minutes later, Mr Lee was in the Intensive Care Unit.

The only permanent damage he suffered was partial nerve damage behind his left ear.

"Since then throughout high school I sort of realised the seriousness of it all, I always thought to myself 'I'd love to give back'."

While working at an Australian outdoor education school, Mr Lee heard about the Te Araroa trail - a little-known 3000 kilometre trail from Cape Reinga to Bluff opened in 2011.

"An Australian guy actually told me about this walk... I thought 'wow that would be pretty cool to do'," he says.

"I thought 'bugger it, why not combine the two', so I'd do the walk and fundraise for the choppers."

Mr Lee finished studying at Lincoln University in June this year and has been back home working and saving for his trip.

He expects it will take him five months to complete, averaging 20 to 25 kilometres a day, and hopes to raise $10,000.

"Everyone who's asked me in person about this has said 'you must be walking down the roads', but it's actually a proper trail and National Parks that I'm doing."

"It would be pretty cool to help spread the word [about the trail]."

His parents took some convincing however.

"Mum and Dad were pretty shocked at the start," he says, "but [my siblings] were super excited so that definitely helped bring them round."

As for him, it's more excitement than nerves for now. 

"It's the first two weeks that I'm a little bit nervous about and how I'm going to unravel my routine."

"Once you get through those first two or three weeks you're pretty well set and nothing can stop you after that.

"I've basically got everything in my pack that I can literally just walk out in the bush and be totally independent."

Daniel Lee in front of a rescue helicopter (Supplied)

The Lowe helicopter service shares his excitement.

"It's really good for us actually to meet people that we've helped, especially when it's been so long before because it's nice to see how people are getting on," fundraising and marketing manager Laura Hyde says.

"I'm glad he's walking it rather than me if I'm honest because it's going to take a long, long time and it's a long distance," she says, "but we just really appreciate the support, without fundraisers like Dan we wouldn't be able to continue with providing a free 24-hour service."

Mr Lee says it will be challenging not having any company for most of the journey.

"There will be a few times where I'll be looking over an amazing view but I won't have anyone to share it with."

However, he says it's a challenge he's looking forward to.

"Mum reckons she's going to do the Tongariro Crossing with me so that will be pretty cool."

Mr Lee will set off within the fortnight.

You can view his Givealittle page here and the 'Dan's Walk' Facebook page here.