South! – HK
Day 2,556 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 which I represent as a Goodwill Ambassador).
The final entry within this travel year
As the Saga began on October 10th 2013, we are now coming to the end of the seventh year of this project, this expedition, this mission, this madness; this Saga. A year from now I will write the same with one slight altercation.
Last week’s entry: My tropical ice floe – Hong Kong
Wasn’t last week’s title clever? Back in 1915, Sir Ernest Shackleton and his men were stuck on an ice flow after the good ship “Endurance” was crushed by surrounding ice and slowly sank. I have been unable to leave Hong Kong since I disembarked the good ship “Kota Hening” in January and COVID-19 struck, and have thus been stuck within these tropical surroundings for 255 days. I just looked at last weeks title now and thought it was clever – that’s all. It is funny how we often read a book and hold its content to be noteworthy of sharing for a while. I find that it often seems to be the case. And the book “Endurance” still lingers within me. The descriptions of how much those men had to suffer still echoes. Yet…their adventure “only” lasted a few years and they had each other throughout it. And they also had good times. The book contains plenty of descriptions of ball games, playing with the dogs, photo expeditions, reading, re-reading, telling stories, smoking, hunting etc. If you don’t know the story then I will not reveal how many of the twenty-eight men made it back to England alive. However, I will reveal that Shackleton made it back in 1917. And within a few years of returning home he published his book “South” which was written by Edward Saunders. In 1921 Shackleton once again left England on a ship heading to Antarctica. He died in 1922 on board that same ship, highly accomplished, heavily in debt and as an alcoholic. He was forty-seven years old.
"Round, round, get around, I get around"
Now once again playing with titles, I have named this entry “South”. Our remaining nine countries are all south of Hong Kong. Six of them are south of the equator. And furthermore, I recently made it to Hong Kong’s southernmost island. More about that in a moment. The world is no small place. It is well connected but certainly not small. We share a tremendous amount of commonalities with our neighbors all around the world and we spend a frightening amount of time on things which are not important. Over the years I find that this particular topic has been repeated many times already. I also find that it cannot be said enough. People are just people. We are all the same. We are all thieves, prostitutes and murderers. We are all doctors, teachers and astronauts. If disaster strikes tomorrow and your home country becomes unlivable then you will be a refugee. And things tend to change rapidly across this planet of ours. There is no difference between a mother’s love to her child across any border, wall or sea. There are no horrible countries. There is kindness and beauty to be found in any country across our pale blue dot. People are capable of falling in love no matter where they are. There are no countries where everyone has eight fingers, or four arms, or six eyes, or blue blood…we are the same! What makes us different are strikingly small things. What makes us the same is nearly everything. We do not cope with too much heat or too much cold. We die within days without water. We sleep. We eat. We breathe. All of this is true for animals too. What I find makes us special is the fact that we can be more tomorrow than what we are today. A deer is pretty much doing the same thing, which its forefathers did 10,000 years ago. It is not on its way up into a tree with a bungee cord. As humans we can read a book and get ideas, which were written hundreds of years ago. We can learn a new language or develop a skill. We can become better. Does that not obligate us?
Wong Chuk Hang, Hong Kong.
Once Upon A Saga is on one hand a highly celebrated and very successful project. Meanwhile it is also full of failure. To list a few failures, it is worth noting that getting into a taxi from Cameroun to the Congolese border was a big one. The story has been told countless times and can be found in “Cutting red tape like a mad samurai!! A day by day account”. It was also a mistake to apply for a Chinese visa in Mongolia while holding a “unique travel profile”. There’s a lot to that story but it ended up in a massive detour made visible in this YouTube video: “EXTREME overland detour!! 11,919 km (7,449 mi) across 7 countries!” Oh yes…mistakes have been made. And just here in Hong Kong I have had my failures as well. Trust me when I say I have tried a great deal of things to get the Saga out of here and on its way. None of it has obviously worked so far. My fiancée and I have tried very hard to find a way to reunite. Unfortunately, every attempt to get her to Hong Kong has been unsuccessful. The Saga was originally set to take less than four years but here we are at seven. I've also tried to obtain a Finnish passport from the Finnish Consulate in Hong Kong. My mother is from Finland while my father is Danish. We believe that I am entitled to have dual citizenship but so far I have been turned down. Most recently I have tried to create an event in which three Salomon athletes would compete in an extreme step challenge aiming for one million steps within a week. The event would potentially raise lots of funds for the Red Cross while generate visibility for all involved. Unfortunately, nobody seems interested to see it realized. And without the support of the Saga’s online community, Salomon, the athletes or the Red Cross there simply isn’t much hope that it will happen. However, that is familiar territory by now and I haven’t let that side project go just yet. Working on the impossible with little to no support has not always meant failure. Not listening when people have uttered “that is impossible” has time and again led to success. Not giving up a single time within the past 2.556 days has gotten the Saga to where it is today. And that is no small thing.
I had the pleasure of meeting James who studied architecture, works within travel and has a passion for Elephant Branded which in short are ethically made recycled bags or related products which sustains families and donates school kits to children. You've got to check this out! Great guy by the way.
We have covered over 307,686 km (191,000 mi) which is more than seven trips around the planet!! We have reached 194 of the 203 targeted countries so far and have 9 to go. We have visited and promoted the Red Cross and Red Crescent in 189 countries. And perhaps most importantly we have promoted the good and interesting in each nation, we have never given up and we have times and times again proven that a stranger is a friend you’ve never met before. We got this far because of the incredible amount of support which has come from so many places. I’d like to use this occasion to give a shout-out to Ross DK and Geoop (developing green energy from geothermal resources) whom have been partners of the Saga from day one!! While traveling for this long may sound like a dream to many of you, I am personally thinly worn and have made countless sacrifices to my personal life. I aim to show the good and hide the bad in the shade. This world seems fairly occupied with uncovering the shade and needs no help from me. Let’s continue to focus on the light.
The good ship "Cam Hong" (70 feet long)
And now to something complete different. Because last weekend I was privileged to join a Chinese Junk and visit Hong Kong’s southernmost island Po Toi. The island is known for its rock formations and is home to some rock carvings believed to date back to the Bronze Age (around 1500-700 BCE). As I’m still taking part in the 1,000 km (621 mi) in 100 days Sydney to Melbourne Virtual Challenge (I’ve covered 180 km (112 mi) by now), I am aiming for roughly 10 km (6 mi) per day and figured that Po Toi might offer some of that. A quick web search sent me to “For Something More” which is operated by my friend Seth and his wife Julia. I quickly found their description of a 5 km (3 mi) circuit for which they recommended to bring plenty of water.
"Cam Hong" between islands.
This daytrip all came about after Kate invited me for her birthday. She was turning twenty-nine once again and had organized a Chinese Junk Trip to the island. Kate is a published author and freelance journalist working for the South China Morning Post (SCMP), which is Hong Kong's newspaper of record. Kate is a wonderful woman whom I first got to know back in February when she wrote “The man visiting every country in the world without flying is on the home stretch, and looking forward to reaching journey’s end”. We have since had the chance to meet several times at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC). And the FCC was kind of central to most of the other passengers on board the good ship “Cam Hong”. As a matter of fact, the owner of “Cam Hong” happened to be Tim whom I first met back in March at the FCC bar. And that was a memorable evening. Tim is a man of many talents. He enjoys motor racing, journalism, boating, socializing, he is the Director of Mandarin Shipping and he is also the Second Vice President at the FCC. We were about twelve people on board the good ship and set out towards Po Toi under a beautiful blue sky.
The birthday assembly with Kate in center front.
Po Toi, Hong Kong.
I really enjoyed the company on board. Although we were a small group, we still represented a great deal of different nationalities and professions. That is Hong Kong for you and it was really easy to strike up a conversation. Once the “Cam Hong” reached Po Toi, a tender brought us ashore and we all sat down for lunch at a wonderful restaurant. We were seated at two tables and furthermore separated by protection screens to accommodate COVID-19 regulations. The food was amazing! I sat next to Tim who told me that he had been coming there for thirty years. The place was destroyed under Typhoon Mangkhut in 2018 and many of the regulars afterwards came together to see it all rebuilt. I had some champagne and a welcome drink while on “Cam Hong” and now we were having a few beers. Meanwhile my belly was filling up with some amazing tofu, squid, vegetables and more.
Po Toi, Hong Kong.
After lunch I wanted to do the five-kilometer circuit. Everyone else got back on board the Chinese Junk and went to a nearby quiet bay where they could relax and celebrate Kate. Tim told me that I had to be back at the pier no later than after 90 minutes if I wanted to return back with them. And off we went in separate directions. I figured I had to run as much of the circuit as possible in order to make good time. And so I did. Hong Kong has been an excellent “training camp” for me and I doubt that I, for several years, have been as physically fit as I am now. There is still room for improvement but I’m certainly capable of running and hiking under the tropical sun. And after about fifty-minutes I had made it around the island to the bay where “Cam Hong” was at anchor. For a while I stood on the coast hoping that someone would see me and send the tender. But then I eventually opted to jump in wearing my shoes and all. It wasn’t much of a swim but it was a lot further than what I have covered in a single stretch for many years. And the socks, shoes and polo shirt were not helping. Besides I was feeling rather dehydrated at this point given that I had not brought “plenty of water”.
Back on board - drying my shoes ;)
We had another thirty minutes in the bay before slowly heading back to Aberdeen Marina Club where we took off several hours before. And once we were moored at the marina we actually stayed on board and chatted for a while longer. They say you can measure a person by the people that surround them. The company on board certainly confirmed that Kate is a wonderful woman. Happy Birthday Kate.
Kate (in shades) surrounded by friends.
Hong Kong continues to be a wonderful host. On the surface I cannot complain. I meticulously noted down every cost I had throughout September and at the end of the month I had a USD 30 per day expenditure. While the Saga has a USD 20 per day budget USD 30 per day is not too bad here in Hong Kong. September included a haircut, a trip to the cinema, two birthday gifts, a visa extension and a host gift. Apart from the financial sponsorship from Ross DK and Geoop I have also received several kind donations from many people across MobilePay, PayPal and Patreon. I have a roof over my head, clean sheets to sleep in, I eat three times a day, I have friends whom I see, I have friends at home I do video calls with, I am safe, I am reasonably healthy and I have a loving woman at home who looks forward to seeing me again. The hardest visas are behind us, the conflicted countries are behind us, we have support from some of the world’s largest shipping companies and Hong Kong continues to handle the pandemic very well. And at this current moment I do not foresee that I should become neither alcoholic, hopelessly indebted or die before I turn fifty. But let’s see. THANK YOU to all of you. And with those words I conclude the final day of the first seven years of Once Upon A Saga.
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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - seven years wiser.
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga