A Barefoot Hiker’s Guide to the MacLehose Trail
Saie Ryu Lee is a Learning Support Assistant at ICHK
I was heavily inspired by British barefoot running enthusiast, Tony Riddle’s personal challenge of running the length of the UK completely barefoot in 30 days. His life story and message really resonated with me, and sowed the seeds for the idea of undertaking a long barefoot walk myself.
I also found that an earlier transition toward training and taking all my physical practices outdoors, was having such a substantial impact on my overall well being. For the first time in a long while, I felt invigorated with a renewed sense of clarity and emotional stability, which I attribute to the cumulative beneficial effect of spending more time immersed in natural and living surroundings. This inspired me to dig deeper and incorporate elements of breathwork, movement, cold water swimming, and subsequently also barefoot running into my practice.
The walk took me a week in total, which I split into two parts. What kept me going was the support of friends (including our very own Alex Edwards and Dave Addis) who joined me on various legs of the journey. They all offered encouragement, (fair and unfair!) criticism, laughter, and also some much needed supplies too. Not being too fixated on the actual distance I covered helped a lot too. I began creating my own more tangible goals, for instance, aiming to reach the summit of a mountain that I could see, or aim to reach a freshwater stream. I also often found myself occupied with focusing on every single step I made, which though at times was exhausting, helped anchor my mind to the present. Cultivating a sense of being unconfined by time was also in turn a liberating experience.
Walking on the long concrete sections of the trail was surprisingly tough. Despite it being flat, the surface is often harsh, and the lack of feedback would make my toes go completely numb. I also underestimated just how difficult it would be to carry all of my luggage along with me. It meant that I was weighed down and forced to trudge my way along the trail; often also resorting to side stepping down any large steps. I realised that I hadn’t packed my belongings effectively for the first half of the journey, so I made more of a concerted effort to reduce the size and weight of my rucksack for the remaining second section of the trip. The increasingly colder winter nights, which was supplemented by instant noodle meals also left me feeling depleted at times.
The main highlight was the MacLehose trail itself. The varying stunning scenes of Hong Kong often left me in awe, and by walking along it at a snail's pace, I was really able to capture stunning mental snapshots of the scenery, and savour some special moments. Finding myself alone on the trail also satisfied the yearning for adventure and solitude. I also feel a deep sense of gratitude for the moral support I received, from both colleagues and friends, and also to everybody who was able to help raise funds for Feeding Hong Kong and Food Angel; organisations who work tirelessly in helping to support underprivileged people in our community.