Heart and sole motivate 3000km trek
BY JULIA WADE
After walking away from home, livelihood and controversy last year, an intrepid Mangawhai man has bared his soles – and soul – to the beauty of New Zealand’s terrain on a trek for a heartfelt cause.
For over two months, former operator of the Cool Beanz Cafe at Mangawhai Activity Zone (MAZ), Morgan Redfern-Hardisty has taken on the formidable 3000 kilometres of the country’s longest distance tramping route, the Te Araroa trail, walking for most part in bare feet.
Starting out from Cape Reinga on October 25 last year, Morgan has put one shoeless foot in front of another for his dual-purpose mission: ‘Barefoot walk for those who can’t talk’. Aiming to highlight awareness of plant-based living and promote the well-being of all animals, money raised from the walk will be donated to non-profit animal welfare charities, SAFE and Matakana’s The Animal Sanctuary. Each step of this journey has been illuminating he says, exposing just ‘how magical Aotearoa really is’.
“I'm very thankful to call this part of the world home, though I'm starting to realise that home is where my backpack is,” he says.
Morgan embarked on ‘Barefoot walk for those who can’t talk’ after he decided not to renew his cafe lease with MAZ following controversial disagreements with the park committee over his plant-based only menu he launched in August 2018. A passionate vegan and animal advocate since a dairy-free diet relieved him from the pain of Crohns disease over three years ago, he felt unable to ‘lay down his morals’ to sell or promote dairy products even though it meant walking away from his ‘beloved cafe’ he says.
“The only way forwards was to walk, to spread awareness about food for our own health as well as the health of our natural environment… through peaceful resistance.”
In a journey to date of over 100 days and over 2000 kilometres, Morgan’s travels have taken him through some of New Zealand’s natural and breathtaking landscapes along Te Araroa, often sleeping under the stars either alone or with the companionship of other hikers, including a pair of like-minded, barefooted vegan trekkers in Nelson’s Richmond Ranges.
Going mostly barefoot ‘wherever practical and possible’, Morgan clocks up long miles everyday, intertwined with kayaking and ‘zero’ days to rest.
While most would be cringing at the mere thought of naked feet crunching over long lengths of rough, spiky and hot terrain, Morgan spent two months in preparation, toughening up his bare soles with hours of tramping around local countryside in all weathers. Given the thousands of kilometres underfoot, his feet have now been seasoned by soft sands, dense undergrowth, healing mud, refreshing streams, gravel roads and the heat of the tarmac.
“My feet have been beaten and bruised, punctured and cut up from kicking numerous rocks, roots, unsuspecting snagging sticks and a handful of bee stings, to test my resilience. But they are hardening,” he says. “I've been getting accustomed to the longer days in varied terrains, regular trail meals and stilling my mind with longer periods without seeing other humans.”
Currently heading into the deep south of McKenzie country, he keeps followers up to date with his experiences via Facebook, with posts on the state of his feet, state of mind, vegan menu and even a bit of poetry, his thoughts on dairy farming spiking both supportive and inspiring, as well as controversial conversations online.
To date the adventure has raised $1700. Morgan says he could not be happier.
“My spirits are high and I am motivated! Thank you to all who are supporting my cause. The animals, the planet, and I are thankful and grateful for your generosity!” he says. “Each day on trail has so many magical moments… it has been worth my time and effort… my gratitude grows daily… I feel lucky to be here.”
Morgan says he expects to reach the end of his journey in late March.
Morgan says ‘To see a more sustainable future is the strength I need for this purposeful walk through our great nation, observing it from the slowest and most carbon friendly form of transport I know… walking.”
“The only way forwards was to walk, to spread awareness about food for our own health as well as the health of our natural environment…”