Hong Kong has been good for the Saga - let’s go!

Day 2,423 since October 10th 2013: 194 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country 

(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross). 

Nothing is so bad that it isn’t good for something

pano

Am I the only one tired of hearing this phrase: “not this month but perhaps the next one?” Sure not! Hasn’t the entire world been in that situation long enough?

Tough times all around. If you missed last week’s entry then you can find it here. It was pretty good and the last time I had a drop of alcohol. Now the focus is on completing the 78km (48.4mi) highly mountainous Wilson Trail!! It will be the fourth and last of Hong Kong’s ultra-distance trails as we have already conquered the MacLehose Trail, the Hong Kong Trail and the Lantau Trail. The later turned into a really nice video which you can watch here.

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Just tap the image or click HERE to watch how we handled the Lantau Trail.

There’s is no doubt that I’m using the trails to cope mentally with the situation. There’s a time glass with sand pouring into the bottom half. I don’t know how many grains are left in the upper half but it’s not an endless supply. Quite fitting I’m at a cafe while writing this and the speaker is blasting out a bossa nova version of “should I stay or should I go now”. I’ve been contemplating what I want. I do want to complete the Saga and clock the final nine countries before heading home. And I know that will take no less than ten months to do. However I (like nobody else) haven't got any idea about when that might kick off? We’re just all asking each other in hope that somebody has an answer. Most of us have adapted to the new normal. Sometimes we hold our breath while passing someone and slowly exhale once we have moved beyond them. We are sometimes more cautious about something we touched and focus on not touching something else until we have scrubbed those hands clean. Masks are still the norm here in Hong Kong where we started hoarding toilet paper long before the western world. But life is going back to normal. The demonstrations, which had Hong Kong in the media before COVID-19, have been flaring up again. The Savagar’s who have been hosting me since I arrived are also finding a new normal. The oldest of their sons (12y) started school again last week. The youngest one (9y) will turn a year older in a few weeks. He very excitedly started school this week. Both of them on a half-day basis but they seem very happy. Their parents went back to work but ironically were advised to stay at home last Wednesday as the demonstrations were back (at least for a day). If it isn’t one thing then it’s another. Hong Kong is on a path to become completely observed by mainland China and the date at the 1997 handover was set for 2047. In Beijing a series of changes to how Hong Kong operates have been decided upon. This doesn’t sit well with everyone in Hong Kong. So there are two sides like in any argument and am not choosing any. I want to remain neutral and remind everyone that I’m a guest here. Besides as a goodwill ambassador of the Danish Red Cross I have a good excuse to stay neutral. The Red Cross is always impartial and neutral. The news reports that there’s a movement among the protesters to gain favour from the President of the USA. Some analysts warn that if the USA gets involved then it would give certain authorizes an excuse to respond more aggressively. Who knows? It’s highly complicated. It may seem simple on the surface but it truly isn’t. If you’re going to take sides then I advise you first to study the situation well. And once again...I’m staying out of this one.

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Eid Mubarak! Hong Kong has a small muslim minority but they were visible last Sunday as the eid began! :) 

This is going to be a short entry. You should know that being stuck in Hong Kong has been a blessing on many fronts but not a vacation or a rest. It has been a mental battle. Because as I mentioned I want to complete the Saga. However I also want to go home. I’ve been wanting to go home since 2015. I want to spend time with my parents before that’s too late. I want to wake up with my fiancée. I want to be there for my friends and family. There isn’t an unlimited amount of grains in that time glass. Yet it is undeniable that Hong Kong has been good for the Saga. Followers across social media have grown remarkably which is great. That means that the values of the Saga are reaching further and it likewise benefits the projects partners. I’ve without a doubt done more interviews out of Hong Kong that anywhere else on earth. I finally feel that it’s quieting down after a hectic month. Can you believe that it’s been more than a month since the CNN article ran and started an avalanche of interviews and collaborations. It’s usually “15 minutes of fame” but this turned into a month. It’s down from three interviews per day to about one per day now. And that will decrease further. What a ride! I’m a lot fitter now than I was when I left the ship on January 28th. I run regularly and then there have been all the ultras. I have an extensive network across Hong Kong and some really good friends. I’ve experienced four birthdays under the Savagar’s roof and it looks like I might get a fifth. There have been several wonderful collaboration with schools, companies and organizations. Last weekend I was invited to join the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) for half a day. They reached out and invited me to visit their Oceans Celebration event at Hoi Ha Marine Park. As a child I was a member of the WWF and received a magazine with pictures and stories about animals and how to preserve the environment.

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The very kind Pia Ricca and I before the WWF logo.

WWF was founded in 1961 and is today the world’s leading conservation organism with a global network across a hundred countries. On arrival I was greeted by Pia Ricca from France who runs the centre. And I’d truly recommend anyone to visit!! The location alone is spectacular. But so is the work they do. Before getting into the glass bottom boat we had a briefing on marine life and the harm which plastic waste does to it...and in turn ourselves! We are literally eating plastic at this point. While people are just people I’m ashamed of that element within us. What’s wrong with us? How is it possible to have “disposable plastic products” when we know it will outlive us on this planet when discarded? I learned a lot about corals too and after the boat ride I joined in on a Cantonese presentation called: “Sharks: Friends with Fins”. While I don’t speak Cantonese I still understood the message: we are not on their menu - sharks should not be on ours! Hong Kong handles at least 50%, and possibly up to 80%, of the world trade in shark fin. Yeah...the WWF is doing a great job.

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Spotting corals and sea cucumbers through the glass bottom boat.

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Sharks are our friends :)

This past week has been one of many good encounters. Am I happy? Well that seems like an existential question but I probably couldn’t be doing any better given the circumstances. I received yet another invitation to join the Leung’s for dinner. They are such kind people and it offered a nice oasis of quiet, kind comfort. My leg into a seat at that table goes through Svend from the Danish Traveller’s Club (DBK) as his lovely wife Ophelia. Both Svend and Ophelia work at SAAB and have been really helpful in an abundance of ways. Most recently Ophelia delivered the “new” Saga uniform to me at their office. It looks a lot like the one I’ve been wearing for the past 2.5 years however it now features three new elements on my left arm: Geoop, Ross DK and Denmark. I’ve always wanted to have ‘Denmark’ on the uniform but it seemed wise to be country neutral while going through some countries. With the remaining nine that shouldn’t be a problem at all. Geoop and Ross DK are the official financial partners of Once Upon A Saga and I just wanted to add them something extra for all their loyalty. They did not demand that I added it to the uniform...it was my choice and it looks good.Since Ophelia handled every arragement in getting the cloting done I had to ask her how much I owed her. She replied: "give me all your Egyptian pounds and Mongolian tugrik". It has been something of a joke for a while. I spent way less time in Egypt and Mongolia than aticipated and left both contries with too much spare money. For years I've been trying to exchange it but those are tough currencies to sell. We sort of figured I'd have a chance somewhere in Hong Kong and maybe that is true. But I never found that place and I have looked. Now I'm not particularly supersticious but sometimes I wonder if there are certain things which need to fall in place before I can move on. Such as: perhaps the universe will keep me "imprisoned" in Hong Kong until the pounds and tugrik have been traded?" Nonsense of course...but? No...it's silly...but? Anyway...Ophelia wanted to help and took them off my hands as part of the payment.

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Hanging out with the Leung's. Ophelia has a wonderful family :)

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TEAM SAGA! Don't we look sharp. We will be traveling together to the remaining countries ;) Not quite. But the SAAB team did accept to pose with me :)

And that’s just about it for this week. The entry could have been three times longer if I chose to mention everyone but that always seems to be the case. I’m grateful to everyone I’ve met, corresponded with or have heard from. Hong Kong has been kind and who knows how much longer we have here? I’ve been in dialog with Pacific International Line (PIL) and Swire Shipping | CNCo to hear what’s possible now. Not much it seems but they are keen to help. Not this month but maybe the next. Let’s see and keep on keeping on.

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Dinner in fine company! From the left: Ole, Sebastian and Marcia :)

 

 

I would like to thank our esteemed partners for their invaluable contributions to Once Upon A Saga: DB Schenker Denmark, Kameli, Red Sand Solutions, Salomon, the Danish Red Cross and Ross DK / Geoop

Hi Res with Geoop

 

If you enjoyed this blog or think I am doing a good job then you can support here below. The Saga needs funding. Thank you :)

 

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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - Thankful for all the kindness.
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"

 

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Once Upon A Saga

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What’s next? 115 days in Hong Kong

Day 2,416 since October 10th 2013: 194 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country 

(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross). 

And the beat goes on...

pano

I wanted to start this entry by writing “the kindness of people continues to surprise me”. However that’s not true anymore. It doesn’t surprise me. It rather pleases me that it is simply so.

Today Edward Savagar turns twelve years old. That equals twelve trips around the sun without falling off the planet. Well done Edward! :) I’ve been around the sun 41 times. Age is a funny thing. I was listening to a podcast (‘You’re dead to me’ on BBC) where the guest kept saying: “I’m older than what I look”. I figure that beyond some point age measured in years is inaccurate and meaningless. Your body could be fifty years old but if you were in a coma for forty years of your life then what are you: ten or fifty? So on one hand it makes better sense to measure age in life experience. But how the heck do you do that? You may just run into someone who looks seventy but has 600 years of life experience. Or a fifty year old with the wits of someone half the age. I feel old. I find myself wandering between feeling smarter than everyone else and dumber than everyone else. Do you ever feel like that? There is so much which I don’t understand or which I grasp too late. On the other hand I may have forgotten more things then what most will ever learn? Silly me to start an entry like this. I guess I’m just tired. Tired in a fashion sleep cannot cure. But Edward makes me smile! He’s a bright one!! He has a complicated train of thought and excels in speculation. I bet he would be good at chess. Happy birthday Edward :)

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Congratualtions dear Edward! Enjoy your sorbet at FCC :)

Yeah, I’m not surprised by human kindness anymore. It seems to be the norm. I rarely meet someone unkind or unhelpful. Perhaps it’s because I smile a lot? Or maybe people are just like that. 115 days of observing and meeting Hongkongers is even more proof. For more than seven years I have not stayed anywhere on earth as long as I have here. It’s not even by my own choice but it couldn’t have been better. Hong Kong is really something special and that will probably never change. However Hong Kong will change. Hong Kong is like a unique, beautiful drop of water falling from the sky, heading towards the sea. Much can still happen before impact. Yet the ocean is constantly getting closer. Time will not stand still. Change is inevitable. At current many believe that whatever change will come can still be negotiated. Perhaps it can.

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I met up with Karena, Andy and Zen from Passion Times and we had a nice afternoon exploring Choi Hung Estate and doing some filming. In this picture you see Zen and his chest pocket reads: "Cuddle Team Leader" :)

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) is a brilliant place. I’ve never seen it as it is meant to be due to the unfortunate timing. Parts of the club are closed in order to comply with the fight against COVID-19. As such I have never had the chance to enjoy the jazz lounge. FCC is quite well known for having excellent speaking engagements. An impressive cast of business leaders, politicians, journalists, photographers, public figures etc. and even some internationally famed people such as Michael Palin and Muhammad Ali. It has even been suggested that I should speak at FCC some day when it again becomes possible to gather people. I dare not!! How can I follow such footsteps? How can I speak before journalisms finest and acclaimed photographers? I would be in the deep end of the pool for sure. The Rt. Hon Lord Patten of Barnes CH, Former Governor of Hong Kong, recently appeared as a guest speaker in an FCC webinar titled “What’s in Store for Hong Kong’s Future?”. My host James and I sat in his home office and logged in to the broadcast which was set up through Zoom. What a thing to witness! Lord Patten is a highly accomplished man and he is both sharp and well spoken. He was also fearless when it came to sharing his opinions. The webinar was hosted by Keith Richburg who is Director and Professor at the Journalism and Media Studies Centre (The University of Hong Kong). I’ve met Keith on a few occasions and he is both well-spoken and kind. While the Saga is not a political bastion I think it’s enough to say that the FCC stands for free speech and free press. And I can also hint that Lord Patten’s opinions did not fare well with policy makers in Beijing. The media has certainly had a lot to report on in the aftermath and Lord Patten must surely feel relieved that he is located in England, far beyond the Red Dragon.

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I had dinner with Peter who's another good guy. Afterwards we messed around on his electric skateboard.

Well, tick tock goes the Saga clock. Time flies – I don’t. Hong Kong is slowly opening up. Some students have begun to return to school. Edward is one of them and he started last Wednesday. Students are required to wear masks, frequently use hand sanitizer and are only at school on half day basis. Apparently the library as well as instruments are off limits however it is progress as they have not been to school for over four months. Other schools are opening up next week. Bars are again open and so are cinemas. Camping sites, picnic sites and parks recently opened in Hong Kong. Borders are still closed including the one to Macau. Temperatures are going up and the humidity is a killer. People tell me it is still nothing. But is certainly something. My short runs are getting harder. I find that I should tread lightly regarding my mental balance under the vast stress and pressure of this highly ambitious project. I could easily fall subject to depression and I am a firm believer in a healthy body being key to a healthy mind. So I try to run every second day. I also need to keep building my strength ahead of the attempt to conquer the 78k (48.mi) highly mountainous Wilson Trail. The heat will not help.

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The heat when running!

As Hong Kong has begun to open op so do my possibilities for doing speaking engagements. In fact I recently had my very first one this year. At least my first one face to face with an audience. I still had to wear a mask though but it was great to be out there again. The audience was that of Zim Integrated Shipping Services Ltd. (ZIM) which is an Israeli international cargo shipping company, and one of the world’s top-20 global carriers. ZIM’s HR Manager for Asia Pacific, Mr Kim Fung, reached out as they plan to deliver a series of ‘ZIM Talks’ (the name is initiated by TED Talks) for their staff internally with various guest speakers hoping to have them share successful stories about positive mind-set and can-do attitude. I was asked to focus on agility which is a one of ZIM’s core values. Ahead of the speaking engagement I met up with Poul who’s a friend here in Hong Kong and works at ZIM. We had a delicious lunch at Bentley Café which lies in connection to a Bentley car salesmanship. I don’t know much about cars by I know what I like. And for whatever reason I really like the shape of a Bentley. Meanwhile Hong Kong seems to be a “Tesla town” as they are everywhere. Hong Kong used to have a no tax policy on the sale of Tesla’s which even tax free are quite expensive. However there are enough people in Hong Kong that can afford them and tax free the Tesla’s became bargains. Getting back on track Poul and I had a good time (as we always do) and after lunch we proceeded up to their office and soon after that the session started. Great audience!! I received some really solid questions and the atmosphere was fantastic. I’m not sure why I over the years mostly end up speaking at shipping offices but I guess it’s because we all share a common interest in logistics. I wish I would have had the chance to speak at ZIM when I was in Israel but that day may still come.

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So wonderful to be face to face with a crowd again. A really great one too!! :)

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Where was it again? Oh yeah...at ZIM ;)

You know, it’s really hard to pick what to share and what not. If I had to describe this entire week which has passed then it would quickly amount to a book. For weeks I have now been mindboggling busy and the added workload has primarily been due to a high demand for interviews and local collaborations. Kate Springer’s formidable article in CNN a month ago truly became a diving board into global attention. For a while I have been averaging three interviews per day and it has been exhausting. It has been wonderful too. The Saga has recently been featured in: France, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Denmark, Italy, Egypt, Finland, UK, Hong Kong, Ghana, USA, Australia, Philippines, Iran, Georgia and some Arabic ones too!! At least those are the ones I know of…because it has really taken off. Much of this is also thanks to the incredible support of the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), which shared the Saga across their global platform. And I’m also helped by Herve Piglowski at Chateau Marianne. Herve basically just reached out early this year and offered to help find some interviews for the Saga. I’d say that on a normal week I do one or maybe two interviews. Three a day is a lot of work. In any regards I’m grateful to Kate, Herve and the HKTB. And to anyone else who means the Saga well. I’ve just recently finished a day of filming with TVB which is a big deal although I did not know it at the time. But apparently TVB is huge both in Hong Kong and in China. We filmed for the English speaking part of TVB and it will become a 15 minute episode which will feature in the upcoming weeks. And the media frenzy still isn’t over. Albeit my calendar is (thankfully) looking a lot more open next week.

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Hanging out with Tina, Louis and Kaho from TVB :)

Now – sometimes I’ll flat out write people’s names and sometimes I find that a bit of privacy is better. This may be a case for the latter. I’m very well connected here in Hong Kong and I rub shoulders with some highly prominent people. I suppose that would be the expected result of 6.5 years’ worth of networking. Hong Kong is highly international and under normal circumstances it would also be a place of people flying in and out. Things are a bit upside down these days to say the least and I hope you are keeping sane wherever you are. Here in Hong Kong a lot of residents would usually have left by this time of the year and the streets would normally be flooded with tourists. But this year there are virtually no tourists and all the residents are here. Strange times. Well in any case I’m far from the only Viking you might find in this Special Administrative Region. Two of my countrymen decided it was about time that I saw another side of the city and invited me for dinner at Wooloomooloo Prime in Tsim Sha Tsui. That night ended at Ned Kelly’s Last Stand!! When I arrived I found the well-dressed Vikings seated at a table with a backdrop view of the city skyline. There were two glasses of martini on the table each with olives in them. I was asked what I wanted to drink while one of the men casually commented that they were enjoying a real man’s drink! So I handed the menu over to the waiter and noted that I would have what they were having. I might want to add to this story that I hardly ever drink more than a social beer or a single glass of red wine these days. My binge drinking days ended decades ago and the last time I went completely overboard was in 2011 when a co-worker and I needed to let some steam out and pondered if we could actually drink a shot from every bottle at the bar. That night in 2011 did not end well for me. I had now arrived to Wooloomooloo with an almost empty stomach and after having been out for a run in the heat. I was checkmate from the get-go.

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The two gentlemen were both senior to me and had furthermore been living in Hong Kong for twenty and thirty years. It wasn’t long before I was sipping on my second martini. Then we moved to another table and ordered dinner…and wine. The food was fantastic and so was the conversation. I remember that we ordered at least two bottles of red wine. Later on there was the beer and then those black drinks served in cylindrical glasses but I was beyond any hope by that point. Yeah…I wrote that the night ended at Ned Kelly’s but it actually didn’t. After having my complications with ordering and finding my Uber driver I reached “home” around 02:00am. I zigzagged my way upstairs and soon found myself in the bathroom with my head in the bathtub. At some point during the night I had tried to rinse out the bathtub with the showerhead but that just resulted in a nasty soup of half-filled tub to deal with the next day as I sobered up. MAN!! What am I? Fifteen years old? Well at least the last one of these was back in 2011 and not sooner. The hangovers were rough but in reality I found myself marked by it all for about three days. I may call myself a Modern Viking but the drinking gene seems to have weakened over the years. What a night. GREAT company though!

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Unfortunately the band was not planing at Ned Kelly's.

Ned Kelly’s puts a smile on many a face. The establishment has been around since 1972 and has seen its fair share of visitors. Hong Kong is a great many things. It’s a place which knows how to entertain! It’s green and beautiful. It is spiritual. Hong Kong is home to 7.5 million people which I find to be kind and considerate until you get in their way ;) Hongkongers are generally people who know what they want. I had the chance to meet up with Paul again from Walk In Hong Kong. It was in connection to the TVB shooting we did in central. Paul is such an amazing guy! He had planned out an interesting afternoon and guided me past the old police station at Tai Kwun, we took a selfie at the mural on Graham Street, had a drink at Kung Lee Sugar Cane Drink, touched the golden pen at the Man Mo Temple in Sheung Wan, notified the Gods we made a donation and finally we paid a visit to “the printer” at Kwong Wah Printing Company which was established in 1954!! Yam Wai-sang runs it and showed me an Alan Walker video on YouTube in which he is briefly featured (it has been seen 800 million times!!). It was partially a rainy day. I will be so sad to leave Hong Kong some day and all the friends I have. This always happens when I end up somewhere for more than a month. This has now been 115 days. If I stayed 115 days in all 203 countries then the Saga would take 64 years to complete.

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Selfie with Paul at the mural on Graham Street.

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Kung Lee Sugar Cane Drink.

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Golden pen at the Man Mo Temple.

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Kwong Wah Printing Company.

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Paul being interviewed by Tina at Kwong Wah Printing Company.

Hong Kong immigration has never disappointed me! It was easy when I first arrived in January and Keith, the agent from PIL, helped me through it. Then a month ago I had to approach the Immigration Tower on my own to request an extension and magically I was in and out of the building in less than twenty minutes?! Keep in mind that I have dealt with far more immigration globally than most people can brag about. So it should hold some weight when I say it has been easy in Hong Kong. The meeting for my extension was set for May 21st at 11:00am and this time it took less than two hours before I was set and left the building. And there were truly many people there. Afterwards I met the Chief Immigration Officer who handed me his card and told me to contact him if there was anything he could help with. Hong Kong immigration is amazing as far as I’m concerned.

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Standing before the Immigration Tower.

I miss my fiancée terribly. We haven’t seen each other since late August 2019. We are fine and stay in touch every day. However this long distance crap is getting old. We should be together. 2020 is however an easy time for people to stay in touch. It’s not like we need to look for smoke signals or wait for a pigeon to arrive. Another great thing about Hong Kong is the internet which is usually fast and stable. And it’s not too expensive. Sometimes it is even free. As such it has been possible for me to Skype and Zoom left and right with friends, family, schools and of course journalists. It feels a little more real when you have a video feed and can satisfy a second sense during a conversation. People keep asking me when I think the Saga will be able to move forward. I don’t know. Nobody knows what the future has in store for us. Things could regress and get worse. Hopefully they won’t but it’s out there as a possibility. If the border between Macau and Hong Kong cannot open then I have little hope for the rest of the world opening up anytime soon. However I do see baby steps here and there…and anyone who has ever been asked to watch a baby knows that you can’t turn a blind eye for too long. Let’s make for the great escape! Stay safe and sane out there. Thank you for all your love.

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I spend an awful amount of time on the otherwise efficient public transport system in Hong Kong. And I have been through Prince Edward station many, many times!! But this time with Edward - and on his birthday :)

 

I would like to thank our esteemed partners for their invaluable contributions to Once Upon A Saga: DB Schenker Denmark, Kameli, Red Sand Solutions, Salomon, the Danish Red Cross and Ross DK / Geoop

Hi Res with Geoop

 

If you enjoyed this blog or think I am doing a good job then you can support here below. The Saga needs funding. Thank you :)

 

 Patreon Picture2MobilePay

 

Best regards
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - somewhat overworked.
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"

 

Thor emblem

Once Upon A Saga

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The 70k highly mountainous Lantau Trail in 22hrs – and more

Day 2,409 since October 10th 2013: 194 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country 

(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross). 

It became Time To Play

pano‘Time To Play’ is Salomon’s motto just as it is ‘Deeper Understanding’ for Ross DK, ‘A Stranger Is A Friend You’ve Never Met Before’ for Once Upon A Saga and ‘Always Present’ for the Danish Red Cross.

While I want this entry to be about the Lantau Trail I will just quickly list some of the activities I have had this week: there was a Zoom interview with The Hindu, I had a service call with Stripe in order to fix online payment for the OUAS SHOP, I was interviewed by Phil Wheland at the RTHK station, I met up with Salomon in Hong Kong, I was interviewed by Johan from Dagens Industri SE, I met up with Pavel who’s a friend and reporter, I met with a representative from Hong Kong Tourist Board, I had a Zoom call with Liz and her 2nd graders at the Rooftop School in San Francisco (USA) and in addition to all of that I had an average of three written interviews per day to reply to, social media to manage, a broken body to recover, family life with the Savagar’s, a long distance relationship with my fiancée to manage and naturally all the time spent in public transportation as well. And that is just some of it. However the main event for me was making it through the Lantau Trail and living to tell the tale.

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Finally got to meet the "king of the airwaves" Mr Phil Wheland :)

So here we go! I am not a professional trail runner. I’m not even a semiprofessional trail runner. At best I’m a “headstrong amateur” and I was hardly ready for such a challenge. We do not need to go far back in time to find me moving less than 2km (1.2mi) a day. Towards the end of 2019 I was splitting my time between container ships and tiny Pacific island nations. I’ve been doing my daily pushups but that was just about it. Once my stay in Hong Kong began to get prolonged during early February I began to take up running again. And the Savagar’s whom I was living with (and still host me today) are avid hikers and brought me along to see some of Hong Kong’s splendid nature. I have always enjoyed hiking and Hong Kong is just perfect for it. So I took advantage of the many trails and continued pushing myself harder and harder with more and more difficult trails. I’m sure all the hiking lately has mostly been rooted in anger and frustrations but at least I find that it was channeled well. I soon learned about the 100k (62mi) MacLehose Trail and decided to do that in just three days. It has an elevation gain of 4,730m (15,518ft). Mount Everest is 8,848m (29,029ft). That meant about 10-12 hours of hiking per day and I was tired once done. However I naively also thought that I had “conquered hiking” in Hong Kong at that there couldn’t possibly be anything that could beat that in little Hong Kong. And I was so wrong. It took no time at all before someone told me that MacLehose is only one of four major trails in Hong Kong. For the next one I recruited some friends! Leon, Brett and Dehua joined me for the 50k (31mi) Hong Kong Trail which we completed it about 12 hours. That one just has a 2,400m (7.874ft) elevation gain. Those hikes did not worry me. I felt (over) confident that I could hike MacLehose in three days and fully confident that the four of us would manage the Hong Kong trail in a day. However the 70k (43.5mi) Lantau Trail with an elevation gain of about 3,500m (11.483ft) had me both scared and excited. Could I do that in less than a day?

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You can find me at the club...

It is not a problem to do the Lantau Trail in less than a day. The record is set at around 7 hours for the entire trail!!! Yeah…that’s where the “I’m not a professional” comes into the picture. Well, if I was going to fail then I wanted to do that in style so I reached out to Salomon to see if they would send me a care package for the challenge? They did not hesitate and I was soon fully equipped. You could hardly tell me apart from Mira Rai or Kilian Jornet. Well…on a photo at least. In reality they would both leave me in the dusts and likely set a new trail record. I’m so impressed by those two athletes! With the equipment in hand the next step was to reassemble the gang. And I almost succeeded. Dehua had to cancel due to a client meeting and Leon couldn’t be there from the beginning but would join in. However Brett from The Running Klub was game and by far the fittest of all of us. I was banking on having Brett steer me through it with advice and energy. Brett suggested that we would start the trail at 10pm last Saturday and walk throughout the night. He calculated that we would need 17-20 hours to complete the trail and perhaps even more. Temperatures have been climbing fast in Hong Kong recently so a night hike sounded good to me. And I had been training hard and living (sort of) healthy in the days up to Lantau. In fact I was ready to run some of the flats and downward sloops. I met up with Brett in front of McDonalds in Mui Wo and off into the night we went. Brett is among many things a tennis coach and had been working forty hours during the four days up to setting out on the trail with me. He’s ten years younger than me but still!!

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My face got intimate with more than one of these!! 

A lot was going on in Brett’s life. His beautiful wife Emma was almost ready to give birth but was snug at home cheering on Brett through WhatsApp. Brett and his partner are trying to get The Running Klub off the ground. COVID-19 had the tennis courts closed and coaching only just began again. Emma and Brett may even be moving soon. So as Brett took his first few steps on the trail he felt tired. Really tired…but he soldiered on. I had a bad bowl of soup earlier the same day and had to spend some time on the toilet. I was hoping to have slept a few hours prior to the trail but things got in my way and while my first steps on the trail where not as hard as Brett’s I was still quite weak and staring into a long night of darkness. But we had each other and that was enough. Brett is such a good guy on so many levels. As we walked along the trail it quickly became apparent that we had a lot of cobwebs to deal with. Freshly finished strong cobwebs with big spiders in the center. Most often perfectly constructed to the height of our faces. We dodged a few and hit a few. It slowed us down considerably. With the rising temperatures the snakes also begin to appear. Generally snakes try to avoid humans but we were hearing lots of stuff on either side of the trail. So look down to spot for snakes and get a cobweb and a spider on your face or look up to avoid cobwebs but step on a snake? Brett was in pain. He had to stretch a lot. We were talking and having a good time but moving slow. We were joking that Brett was doing a Benjamin Buttons with his pain. He would start off bad and uncomfortable but gradually get better and finish with no pain. Well…after several hours it wasn’t looking good for that theory.

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At times the moon would provide enough light for me to turn of my head torch.

We were only moving ahead with about 3 kph (1.86 mph) and Brett was getting worse. Severe pain in his back. Finally we decided that a bit of rest would do him good and he laid down to get a few minutes of sleep. He probably slept for no longer than 4-5 minutes but rested for about 15. Then he stretched and suddenly he was fine!? Now we were running!! Unfortunately we found out that we were running in the wrong direction so we turned around to head back and look for the turn we had missed. That sat us back about 3.6 km (2.24 mi) but we got back on track. And we were doing well. Running…walking….running. We even hit a few more cobwebs along the way. The sun rose around 05:24am and we were running. At 06:06am we teamed up with Leon who greeted us with a big smile!! After an ultra-short break the three of us continued: the three Musketeers.

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The Three Musketeers having breakfast in rural Hong Kong :)

At around 8am we had breakfast but it felt like lunch given that we had pushed throughout the night. I changed my socks and fixed my blisters. Brett and I restocked on water and away we went again. The weather forecast had predicted rain and thunder but that had been pushed to the following day. So we were blessed with a bright blue sky. Spirits were high and we were moving along. Parts of the trail was pure magic. There were lots of butterflies and the Lantau Trail is overall the most beautiful trail I have seen in Hong Kong. While we were walking I was updating social media in real time. Brett was strong but still stopping to stretch out now and again. Leon was just one big smile and full of spirit. He always seems to be. Leon is passionate about his family, tennis and his business (Lasvit). Before noon I found myself running low on power. I was also running out of water. I kept pushing but eventually I had to tell the guys that I needed to sit down. It was like hitting the wall. The sun was up high. I was drenched in sweat. We had far to go. I sat down and the guys sat down with me. We talked about if I needed a short nap somewhere. Eventually I got up, took the lead and pushed on. Leon and Brett followed. I wanted to stop a million times but I wanted it to be perfect: a pavilion in the shade. That never appeared. Eventually we made it to the peak of Ling Wui Shan at 490m (1.607ft) and shortly after that I found some shade under a tree and took a 20 min rest. Perhaps I even slept for a minute or two. When I got up Leon gave me some water. About 250ml which was a welcome gesture. And then the tree of us powered on all the way to Ngong Ping.

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Ngong Ping. You can see the Buddha in the background.

Ngong Ping is famous for its big Buddha but we were delighted because the area had food and stores. We had done about 55km (34mi) at this point, the temperature was above 30C (86F) and the humidity was around 85%. Brett and I had been going for almost 18 hours at this point. I hydrated and so did the others. Then we had something to eat. At this point I felt pain in places where the sun never shines. Obviously my underwear was not suited for such a distance. We had something to eat and a bit of a rest. Then we hydrated some more. To my great surprise Brett decided to return home!? Brett was by far the strongest of us all and has a parade of physical achievements behind him. However he explained that the pain in his back was out of control and that stretching was no longer releasing the tension. He had in fact been in a lot of pain for several hours. It was the right choice although it was a shame we couldn’t complete the trail together. He wasn’t losing out in terms of the trail though. Brett had already done the part we still had ahead of us: Lantau Peak! Lantau Peak sits at 934m (3.064ft) and is the second highest peak in Hong Kong. The climb is steep and highly demanding. Brett is a sensible kind of guy. He knows when to quit and he also knows that his career depends on his body. I don’t have a sliver of that kind of sense. So we parted and Leon and Leon and I continued up the steep climb. While Leon is slightly older than me he had only covered half the distance. So he was my beaming light ahead of me saying: “come on Thor! You can do it! Breathe through your nose. It’s all in your mind. It is really flat. Come on!” I had an energy which I didn’t have before. I powered up the steep climb. Leon wanted to run but I was nowhere capable of that. But eventually we reached the peak. It was windy, slightly cloudy and beginning to look like rain. I had not looked at social media for a while but whipped out my phone to take a few photos before heading down the other side of the mountain.

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Leon and I with renewed energy on the home stretch!

Apparently running down stairs was my forte. Leon had a hard time keeping up with me. I was flying down the steps which were created by rocks in various sizes. And after 30 minutes of running down the stairs I had to stop up and wait for Leon. But as soon as he caught up he was in the lead again. Funny how that worked out. Leon was super strong on the uphill stretches as I was on the downhill. It basically meant that we had to wait a little for each other depending on whether we were heading up or down :)

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Leon was definitely the stronger one on uphill stretches!

Then the thunder and lightning began! It was frequent!! Probably more than twenty lightning flashes per minute. The wind picked up and we knew we had to get down from the mountain fast! The rain slowly began. We were racing down the mountain making excellent time but as it got late it also got dark and we had to fit our head torches and slow down a bit. And as such the trail had taken me from night, through the day to night again. Leon and I kept pushing and exactly 22 hours after Brett and I sat out, Leon and I finished! It came out to 72.67km (45.16mi) and in the process I had burned 7.341 calories amounting to 13.6 Big Mac’s!! On that day my step counter read 94,424. Now that was something! Leon and I sat down in a bar and had a beer before taking two separate ferries out of Mui Wo. Leon returned home to Discovery Bay and my ferry brought me to Hong Kong Island from where a taxi brought me back home to the Savagar’s, a shower and a solid meal provided by James. I love that family!! Then I slept.

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Back "home" and after a shower. Victorious! Tired :)

I did not leave the house the next day. My legs were not as sore as I would have imagined but they got worse as the day progressed. The next day I had four meeting downtown and just had to hump along. Now four days later I mainly feel the blisters however still some fatigue. My friend Pavel is a former athlete and told me that I should rest for a full week before running again. That sounds about right although my body is calling for another run already.

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Thankful to James and Mandy at Salomon HK. And to Adrian and Bruno in France! :)

That concludes three of Hong Kong’s four major trails. That means we are now left with the Wilson Trail which is slightly longer at 78km (48.5mi) and boasts more than 6,000m (19.685ft). So tell me…how can I stay away from that? ;) In other news Brett made it home that evening after Leon and I continued on our own. When Brett made it back home Emma went into labor and they are now parents to adorable Grace Claire Hillier. If Brett had not parted with us, then he would not had made it home in time. Wild!

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Alright now…lets round this baby up. I have now spent 109 days in Hong Kong adding a full week on top of the old record which was Lebanon at 102 days. That means that in the past seven years there is no place where I have spent as much time as I have in Hong Kong. And for good or for worse I have sort of built a life for myself here. I have friends, routines, running routes, a favorite café, a favorite restaurant and I’m even a guest member at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC). It will definitely be bitter sweet to leave Hong Kong when the time comes. I now have too many and too much to part with. My friends here are local, they are expats and I even have some from my home country. And the day will come. Day by day it is looking better and there is a chance that the Saga will move on before May is over. I wouldn’t put my money on it though but let’s see what happens. The Saga is well connected and I am certain that when there is an opportunity – then we will be notified. And, like that, he’s gone…

 

 

I would like to thank our esteemed partners for their invaluable contributions to Once Upon A Saga: DB Schenker Denmark, Kameli, Red Sand Solutions, Salomon, the Danish Red Cross and Ross DK / Geoop

Hi Res with Geoop

 

If you enjoyed this blog or think I am doing a good job then you can support here below. The Saga needs funding. Thank you :)

 

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Best regards
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - #TimeToSleep
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"

 

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