Welcome to planet earth – it’s your home | Hong Kong day 54
Day 2,355 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).
Making the best of everything
You are looking at the pandemic the wrong way. This is our finest opportunity to prove that we are strong together.
I have been stuck in Hong Kong for 54 days due to the COVID-19 virus. The media is currently a joke to me. Almost everything is “Breaking News” and most stories are a repetition of what I heard or read more than six weeks ago. I have basically already blogged about nearly everything which westerners are now trying to tell as if it is “Breaking News”. I stand firm of my initial assessment of the outbreak which is that while tragic for some it is not a big deal in the big picture. But leave it to people to create a storm in a glass of water. If this virus was truly a disaster for humanity then we would by now all have known someone who died from it. This is simply not that kind of outbreak. However this is not the time to be selfish. Many westerners are not used to being told what to do and think they know better. This is not the time for that. This is the time to follow the instructions given by authorities around the world. Listen and shut up! You are by all means likely to live through this but others will not and your disobedience should not be the reason why others will seize to live. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, wipe down common points of contact suck as door knobs, cover yourself if you sneeze or cough…this isn’t rocket science. You should have been washing your hands and covering your sneezing and coughing since you were a child. Bacteria is everywhere and much of it is beneficiary for us. Viruses are completely outnumbering us on this planet. These numbers are so vast that neither you nor I understand them but just for fun here you go: In a drop (one milliliter) of seawater, one can find 10 million viruses, one million bacteria and about 1,000 small protozoans and algae. Boom! Mind blown – right? My short calm COVID-19 video of March 12th is still valid because it is common sense. If you have not seen it then I welcome you to do so here:
Click HERE or on image to play video.
And yes – I’m still in Hong Kong. My goodness that question has become common. It has been 54 days now and where to should I have gone? The situation has gotten far worse. Even if I could board a ship tomorrow then I would not know if I could leave it anywhere. Maersk is a global leader in the shipping industry and they have officially announced that they will have no crew changes until April 14th at the earliest. Think about that for a second. Now, because Maersk announces something doesn’t mean the world follows suit. There is a multitude of ship-owners out there who set their own standards. However what Maersk says and does goes a long way. I am currently getting help from left and right but there is very little which can be done right now. The Saga is left with “just” nine countries and they are all fairly closed right now fighting the pandemic. I incidentally feel a little better now that this has become a pandemic and so many of you have been told to work from home, have lost rights and feel constrained. Not because I want you to suffer. Of course not. However since January when we reached Hong Kong this was my problem. Now it is our problem. And I simply feel somewhat better about being stuck when we are all stuck. I wonder where I would have been stuck if I had reached Hong Kong earlier or later? On a ship? On Palau? In Micronesia? Who can say? I am also curious to see how the outbreak develops. Some countries are bound to fair better or worse than others. It is a well-known fact that when the Europeans arrived to “the new world” hundreds of years ago, they brought with them germs which Europeans were already accustomed too. However the indigenous people of the Americas were effectively doomed. They had never experienced smallpox, measles or flu before, and the viruses tore through the continent, killing an estimated 90% of Native Americans. So who can say how COVID-19 will travel through the world? Perhaps Namibians go completely unharmed while it tears though the small isolated population of Palau leaving no one standing. Are you going to be the idiot who spreads this thing or will you follow the guidelines until we have it under some degree of control? Yeah – that was my two cents on the virus for this week. On to other stories.
The past days have been filled with hiking. That’s what happens when you are stuck for almost eight weeks in a place which is mostly made up out of nature and mountains. Since January I have had an enormous amount of screen time while doing research and networking left and right. I have been working so hard on leaving Hong Kong and as a result my Hong Kong network is vast today. I still have a lot of meetings and continue to network as you never know where that unlocked door might appear. However the current situation in terms of progress is ridiculous. And yes; Hong Kong is a good and safe place to be stuck in. There have been very few virus infections and only four deaths across 7.5 million beating hearts. Crime is really low, the police is quite outstanding and the demonstrations, while no longer gone, are at a minimum. The family I have been staying with are simply outstanding!! Harry, Edward and their parents, Cassie and James, are like family. I cannot remember that I have ever before stayed more than FIFTY days with a family which wasn’t my own blood? And Hong Kong has entered the list of the top ten longest stays within the Saga. What would this long stay have been like without such a family? Their flexibility is something! I was supposed to be here for a few days and have now been here for nearly eight weeks! That is the true spirit we need to see in this world right now. We are all in this together and none of us have ever lived through anything like it. Let’s get it right.
My hosts sure know how to throw a solid BBQ! ;)
Cassie is really sporty and invited me to join in on a hike together with her childhood friend Dehua who is also from Dalian in China. We hiked up a portion of stage four of the locally famous Maclehose Trail which virtually goes all the way across Hong Kong. All ten stages measure 100 km (60 mi) together. We didn’t do that much but enjoyed and really nice hike up Ma on Shan (Sai Kung) and clocked up around 15 km (9 mi). Good company. So good in fact that Dehua and I teamed up for another hike the very next day. That is what weekends are like for me. They are those useless days which are ripped out of the calendar of progress. Hardly anyone replies to emails, no meetings and no progress. Thankfully Hong Kong is a hiking wonderland.
Saturday: Near Ma On Shan with the beautiful Cassie and my new hiking partner Dehua! :)
I wanted to go back up on Sharp Peak to see what it looked like on a day with visibility. The Sharp Peak Trail is perhaps the hardest trail you can find in Sai Kung. Dehua was game so the two of us met up and power hiked the darn thing! Haha! Full throttle!! I figure that it is a psychological coping mechanism for me in these crazy times of being caged. A part of the Peak Trail hike takes place on a section of the MacLehose Trail. It is generally a little difficult not to cross paths with the MacLehose Trail when hiking in Hong Kong as it is as long as it is. Oh yeah Hong Kong…you are a beautiful thing, you are.
Sunday: Dehua and I with Sharp Peak behind us :)
When the weekend came to an end I had a few meeting in Hong Kong Central and also found time to pay a visit to the Kowloon Walled City Park. Until I visited the park I basically thought that the Walled City was simply a reference to a highly dense neighborhood with tall buildings, which was demolished in the early 90s. That much is true. However as with many things the story runs far deeper than that. There had been several attempts to demolish the Walled City throughout history. It grew to become a real life “Sin City” with illegal housing, crime, poor hygiene and unsafe living conditions by the 1980s.
Kowloon Walled City as it looked before demolition in 1993.
The history of the walled city can be traced back to the Song Dynasty (960–1279 CE), when an outpost was set up to manage the trade of salt. A small fort was established around 1810 which gained significance in 1842 when the first opium war ended with the British Empire and Hong Kong Island was ceded to Britain. The then Qing authorities felt it necessary to improve the fort in order to rule the area and check further British influence. The improvements included a formidable defensive wall which was completed in 1847. Hence: The Walled City. The years passed and history unfolded. In 1898 Britain was handed “the New Territories” (which they are still called today), and China was allowed to continue to keep officials at the walled city as long as they did not interfere with the defense of British Hong Kong. But the Qing dynasty ended its rule in 1912 eventually leaving the walled city to the British. The walled city was just kind of left lawless after that and only housed around 400 residents in the 1930s. But by the 80s it was home to some 40,000 people and buildings had reached 16 stories. Today it’s a park and sort of free land museum which I very much enjoyed visiting.
What the walled city may have looked like 150 years ago.
Then at some point I decided I was capable of hiking the entire MacLehose Trial in just three days. I had done little research on whether that was something considered common practice? I simply researched the individual ten sections and planned out how I could accomplish it by sleeping at camping sites along the route. I knew about the Oxfam Trailwalker challenge which is a team event where the goal is for four team members to cross all ten sections in less than 48 hours. And I knew that the fastest time on record is an insane 11 hours and 1 minute!! That is as crazy as Eliud Kipchoge becoming the first to run a full marathon in less than two hours. They are not people. They are machines!! Surely I could hike it in three days? Well rather than telling you about how it all unfolded I would much rather invite you to what my very first documentary! I have named it as such because it is a 47 minute video where I have paid special attention to video footage, sound and music. I hope you will enjoy it as I am quite happy about certain parts of it (teaser: day two may surprise you).
Click HERE or on image to play video.
Oh well…upon my return I discovered that most people who opt to hike the MacLehose Trail in one go actually choose to do so in 4-5 days. In fact a highly confident and self-declared very fit young man set out to complete the trek in three days but failed and later shared this within a forum:
"I've been meaning to reply to this thread... I couldn't get it finished within 3 days (although my execution certainly wasn't perfect). I'm going to head back to HK in the future and finish it off over a weekend.
I'd say you probably need 4 days to do it at a push, and you need to get started as early as possible in the day.
I was staying in ShaTin, and the commute added an easy couple of hours onto my morning which wasn't ideal. The terrain was also tougher than I was expecting, and I'm in good shape (I ran a marathon last weekend).
If you go for it, good luck - but I'd consider adding an extra day in for insurance if you have the time. And don't underestimate the task & terrain, it's definitely hard going."
Reading that made me feel a lot better about my accomplishment. Somewhere else I read: “We did this in one night and four days although 3 days is achievable for the super fit”. Yup – so consider me “super fit” and with a "perfect excecution" from now on ;) Kidding aside I have since last year suspected that this project is making me less and less empathetic. I do feel that I have seen too much. I have learned too much. I have met too many people. I have experienced too much. Not in general but in a much too short amount of time. The Saga is full power even when I try to take a break which has proven to be impossible. My beard grows long and we are no closer to completing this project than what we were in January this year. No wonder I do crazy side projects. Thankfully I am receiving support from left and right. I could not possibly cope with this project if the planet we share wasn’t full of good well-meaning people and the constant love of mothers from one border to the next. Yeah…and I was in a great deal of physical pain upon completion of the 100 km (60 mi) trail…and also not doing to hot the following day. But it passed and I’m back. On another note we don’t know when this pandemic will end. However it will. That we do know. Over and out.
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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - on this pale blue dot with you.
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Once Upon A Saga