Temel Atacocugu met some ‘‘beautiful people’’ in the Waitaki district when he passed through on his ‘‘walk for peace’’ from Dunedin to Christchurch.
A survivor of the 2019 mosque terror attack, Mr Atacocugu is walking the same route the terrorist travelled, in the hope of spreading peace.
He left Dunedin on March 1 and walked through Waitaki at the weekend, staying in Oamaru on Saturday night.
‘‘I met lots of beautiful people out there in the country,’’ Mr Atacocugu said.
Lots of people stopped to say hello and offer their support, or tooted as they drove past.
Waitaki Girls’ High School wrote the message ‘‘We’re with you Temel’’ on a electronic sign outside the school, which made him feel emotional and happy.
‘‘I was so surprised,’’ he said.
One woman, who was celebrating her 90th birthday, shared her cake with him, while children drew him pictures.
Mr Atacocugu also met Hilderthorpe resident Helen Simmons, who invited him to cool off and relax under the shelter of trees in her garden. She also gave him blueberry muffins and free-range eggs.
‘‘We appreciated what she did for us.’’
When the Oamaru Mail talked to Mr Atacocugu on Monday afternoon, he had walked 24km and had 6km to go.
His ankles, knees and hips were sore and blisters were causing him trouble.
However, he was determined to complete the walk, as it was also a fundraiser for Save the Children, Child Cancer Foundation and Gumboot Friday.
He was passionate about mental health, children’s in particular, and wanted to ensure they lived happy, healthy lives.
‘‘We are very lucky we are living in New Zealand,’’ he said.
‘‘We won’t let that March 15, 2019, extremist ideology destroy our peaceful life.’’
Mr Atacocugu was shot nine times while worshipping at the Al Noor mosque three years ago. Fifty-one people were killed and dozens more injured.
‘‘It’s going to haunt me all my life. I will never forget what I experienced on March 15, 2019, at Al Noor mosque.’’
Mr Atacocugu was set to arrive in Christchurch on March 15, but a blood infection, resulting in a stay in Timaru Hospital this week, has delayed him. He still hoped for a ‘‘twist” that would allow him to reach his goal.