As my beard grows longer (Hong Kong)

 Day 2,472 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). 

We can do better folks!


The June step challenge between Jakob and I ended at 224,547 steps within a week. I remember when that used to be a lot of steps…prepare for change…

First things first! Accumulated the twelve of us managed 2.4 MILLION STEPS within a week earning the Red Cross a whopping HKD 20,533.00 (USD 2,648.00)!! So that is really something! And before we hand over the money I would very much like to see if we could raise the amount. So if you are feeling generous then please send your contribution to Once Upon A Saga’s MobilePay #12711 or PayPal account. Kindly mark it: HK STEP CHALLENGE FOR RED CROSS. You matter and so do your actions. Thank you :)




These amazing people made a difference!! And so can you! :)

And now the step challenge!! Well that quickly got out of control!?! Jakob and I brought ten of our friends into the challenge. My fiancée Le and my friend Lars in Denmark both joined. So did “Treadmill Poul”, Anders, Poul K, Kenneth, Thomas, Luis, Natali and Jorgen. On day one the top three positions read: 1) 51,380 steps, 2) 47,194 steps, and 3) 45,630 steps!!! We were actually thirteen contestants but after that start one left cursing our testosterone driven macho battle! :) Yeah…granted…that was a heck of a start. So Jakob, who is the Executive Vice President for Asia-Pacific at DSV, came up with the suggestion that our steps should count towards money for the Red Cross. And that was a really good idea because then it all seemed a lot less stupid. Jakob pledged to pay HKD 0,001 per step we accumulated if we reached 1 million steps. Jakob would pay HKD 0,0015 per step if we reached 1.5 million steps and if the unthinkable happened and we crossed 2 million steps then Jakob would contribute with HKD 0,002 per step! Well…things got out of control!! It did not take long before others joined. Poul K and Thomas generously matched Jakob’s contribution and so did “Treadmill Poul” through his firm Jointak Group Limited which is a professional in-house manufacturer of accessories for garments. On top of that Kenneth pledged to support with HKD 1,000.00.


Man I've seen a lot of Hong Kong!!! Walking home at night through the city.

It got bonkers!!! On average I managed 57,000 steps PER DAY!! That is far more than a full marathon distance per day. And I did not even win!! Last Thursday when I was writing last week’s entry I was realizing that I had no shot at winning. The honor would go to “Treadmill Poul” who was simply a machine! I call him “Treadmill Poul” because he has done about 20% of his steps on a treadmill under air-conditioned conditions. That is completely within the perimeters of the step challenge however a clear advantage compared to crossing mountains in 32 degrees Celsius (90F) with a humidity above 70%. However in “Treadmill Poul’s” defense he most definitely took the steps. And he is used to walking/hiking a lot and plays a lot of squash as well. Poul also somehow manages to smoke two packs of cigarettes every day?! :) There were several hiking enthusiasts in our challenge. Competition was fierce. Poul K for one did about 50,000 steps one day pacing back and forth in his apartment! The problem is that it is incredibly time consuming. If you calculate roughly 6,000 steps per hour then you would have to invest 9-10 hours per day to stay among the top three! Not everyone was that crazy. The three last positions were all below 85,000 steps (12,000 steps per day) which is far saner. I have no idea how this got so competitive but it did. And I had other obligations to attend to so I did not believe I could catch up to “Treadmill Poul” and mentally began to settle for a second place. However second place wouldn’t come easy either and had to be fought for.


I saw hundreds of monkeys last week.

Friday last week I was scheduled to speak at Maersk but it fell apart as new COVID-19 cases have lately been rising here in Hong Kong. Fortunately no new deaths so Hong Kong remains at four. However the new cases which are being referred to as ‘Wave 3’ have seen the region regressing to a former state. We can once again only gather in small groups, many offices have sent their employees home and the schools which were not already closed for summer have been shut down. People around the world are naturally sick and tired of hearing about the pandemic. We all want it to be over but it takes effort. We can’t just shrug our shoulders and cheat on the guidelines. This takes effort and the same stuff is still valid: wash your hands frequently, keep social distance, stay at home if you’re sick, wear a mask in crowded places and don’t cough and sneeze into open air (because the last one is just gross). Yeah, so while we were beginning to speak about “regional bubbles” which may soon be opening up we regressed instead. And pay attention to that! Because Hong Kong was dealing with COVID-19 long before the rest of the world…long before it was a pandemic. Most of you were laughing about Hongkongers hoarding toilet paper long before we began laughing at you for doing the same. We have generally been ahead of the curve here in Hong Kong and now things are regressing…meanwhile other parts of the world seem to be opening up and relaxing precautions. What do you think will happen next?


The promenade at Shing Mun River is lovely.

Ah yes…I’m still thoroughly stuck in Hong Kong. It is the same “I am in a prison with the key” scenario I have described before. I can leave but then I have to give up on the Saga and violate the flying rule. Or I can wait but nobody knows how long. The shipping industry continues to be in a disastrous situation which should worry you. 80-90% of everything traded is transported on board ships and if that part of the supply chain stops then we are in real trouble. Since all of this COVID-19 chaos began seamen have largely been stuck on board their ships. Crew change has been made virtually impossible and the situation is dire. Meanwhile you are not feeling it because the ships are still going round and round with cargo from one port to another. However if we do not find a way to conduct crew change then it may all stop. The men and women at sea have families, emotions and limits just like everyone else. And the idea of getting me on board a ship during these times is just ridiculous. Meanwhile the borders around me remain closed and getting on board a sailboat appears suicidal. Even if I could find a sailboat crazy enough to leave Hong Kong then which country would accept us? We would be at risk of running out of provisions and dying at sea. And yet daily I need to reply to people asking why I am still here or the classic: “when do you think you will be able to leave?”


Last Friday I did however meet up with Cassie at Maersk as she had been kind enough to buy ten energy gels for me. I really needed them for the weekend. Afterwards I had lunch with Peter and Kristy at the Foreign Correspondents Club (FCC). They are both great people but I was only expecting to meet up with Kristy. In Danish it is evident in the language if one or more people are expected when saying ‘you’. But in English ‘you’ can be either singular or plural. I was writing ‘you’ referring to Kristy and she was reading it ‘you’ referring to her and Peter. Normally not an issue but as a guest member of the FCC I’m only meant to bring one guest inside so it had me a bit worried. It all went well though. The FCC is a fairly easygoing member’s only club and the staff is really kind and helpful. Peter, Kristy and I ended up having a good time. Later the same day I was invited to meet the team at Pacsafe. It is a brand of travel equipment with emphasis on anti-theft features which was founded in Hong Kong back in 1998. Pacsafe is headquartered in Hong Kong and I met Phil and Marcus who both work there in early July. So far they have gifted me an advanced 5-layer facemask with bacteria killing silver ions! Yeah! That is how high-tech I am now! They also gave me a 3L portable safe which I have decided is super cool but nothing I need for anything at all. However I just so happened to run into Michael on the street a few days ago. You will not remember Michael but we met up a few times months ago and he works within personal security here. It is crazy that you can bump into people you know in Hong Kong but it somehow happens more often than not. Michael and I got talking and he got really excited about the portable safe. It is simply a match made in heaven! Pacsafe also gifted me a new backpack which is super cool! So that one is a keeper. It has all sorts of amazing safety features which would have been a lot more handy traveling through the first 194 countries and less so for the last 9. However I’m keeping it! :) I did a small Q&A at Pacsafe with some of the staff and had a good time there. Among the audience was a psychologist who quickly identified that the Saga is a tremendously lonely ordeal and that I have been through quite a lot over the years. She offered me some pro bono counselling. And you know what…I might just take her up on that.


Sporting my new Pacsafe bag. Great stuff! :)

I realize that it sounds like fun: travelling to every country in the world. However there is a lot more to it than that and better people than me have tried and failed. And that is all I have to say about that. Last Friday I still managed 51,220 steps based on my idea that public transportation was a waste of time and could be deducted from hiking time. Yes…last week I basically walked/hiked everywhere! The level of “fun stuff” aka procrastination was brought down to zero. There was simply no time for procrastination. I did however listen to a few podcasts while out there. I found a really good one by the BBC World Service called ’13 minutes to the moon’. The podcast is from 2019 and tells the amazing story of the first moon landing which took place in July 1969. It is a tribute to the people who made Apollo 11 happen in spite of the odds being against them. Really good stuff! The music is produced by Hans Zimmer which should tell you something about the production level.


Walking until sunset...and beyond...


Hicking MacLehose section 4+5 with Andrew from Chicago.

Last Saturday I went hiking with Andrew again. My feet were killing me! I had originally thought that I could do 50 km (31 mi) that day or maybe even 60 (37). Then follow up with even more on the last day (Sunday). But my feet had so many blisters! It was tremendously painful and in addition to that it often felt like I was walking directly on my bones. I was especially in trouble when walking on the flat bits or downhill. In fact it barely hurt at all when walking up hill but that model seemed unsustainable. I decided to toughen up but going fast and far was pretty much out of the question. Meanwhile “Treadmill Poul” was uploading tens of thousands of steps and not showing any sign of weakness. What kind of futuristic terminator was that man?!? Andrew and I did a lot of elevation that day. We came past Buffalo Hill and West Buffalo Hill which are both among the twenty highest peaks in Hong Kong sitting at about 600 meters (2,000 ft) above sealevel. So we made a detour and I’m now left with only nine of the twenty peaks. That day I managed 62,182 steps across a 2,166 m (7,106 ft) elevation gain. And that had me in second place behind “Treadmill Poul” who had reached 346,329 steps (34,840 steps ahead of me). In order of closing the gap I would need to walk at a strong pace for about six hours! And “Treadmill Poul” was announcing he was planning at least 80,000 steps for his final day. What the heck!! I was chanceless.


Hiking some elevation. I had my Salomon gear in daily use during the step challenge.

However in a serious bid to do my best on the final day I began hiking at 08:15am. I walked down the hill to Shing Mun River which basically has a boardwalk around it. There are also shops and cafes for refreshments. I had attended to the worst of my blisters and sat out with energy gels, energy drink, painkillers, a battery pack, sunscreen and the final episodes of ’13 minutes to the moon’. At 09:00am I took the first painkillers knowing that I had to wait six hours before I could repeat that action. And round and round the river I went. “Treadmill Poul” was way ahead but I felt like my spot in second place was secure. But then it happened!! A message from “Treadmill Poul” appeared in our WhatsApp group!!! 8.11pm: “I will unfortunately not reach the 80k. Massive blisters on my heals have stopped me. So Thor and Jakob can chase first place and have a good shot at reaching it.” 8.11pm? So I had 3 hours and 49 minutes left until midnight when the challenge would end. I could do roughly 6,000 steps per hour so possibly 24,000 steps in that time. What was “Treadmill Poul’s” latest upload? WOW! I had a shot at it!!! With renewed energy I turned up the volume on my “step challenge playlist” and smiled!! ACDC were blasting “BACK IN BLACK” into my ears!!! However after 30 minutes I was feeling quite exhausted again. The prospects of winning wasn’t a large enough boosts. Earlier in the day I had marched into a Kentucky Fried Chicken and ordered a large bucket of chicken. I ate more than half of it before marching back out again. I had not had any dinner. But I did not have time for dinner. Ever second counted. I rationed my last energy gels and supplied them with water and energy drinks. I passed the 70k (43.5mi) marker and noticed that “Treadmill Poul” had uploaded an additional 11,000 steps!! NOOOO!!! I would need an additional TWO HOURS to reach that!! At midnight “Treadmill Poul” closed at 410,778 steps and I had reached 402,825 steps. That day I had been out for more than 15 hours and clocked 74.57km (46.34mi) which added up to 91,167 steps. Just not good enough. Later on I found out that “Treadmill Poul” had added his extra 11,000 steps by walking on his treadmill. He only did it out of fear that I would have beat him. Darn it…congratulations Poul! Well done!! And Well done everyone!! We accumulated 2.4 MILLION steps in a week earning the Red Cross the maximum sum of money we could. And with the ’13 minutes to the moon’ podcast on my mind I think it is only fitting to say: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” I Hope you will make a contribution.


Yup...5125 calories!! THAT DAY! ;)

So….past midnight I made my way back up the hill to Wong Chuck Yeong where I was greeted by Thomas. Thomas is the owner of the apartment I’m staying in and lives a stone throw from it. Thomas also set his personal record in the step challenge with 40,000 steps in a single day!! He’s a really good guy with a kind heart and a solid sense of humor. Thomas opened the fridge and nuked some dinner for me. I basically inhaled the meal so Thomas supplied me with an apple and an orange. I inhaled those too! Then I drank a camel’s share of water and went to bed somewhat disappointed. But it was fair. “Treadmill Poul” had taken an insane amount of steps that week. 410,000 steps dwarfs the 230,000 steps Jakob and I managed in the previous challenge. How many will we reach in the next? ;)


All the skin around my pinkie toe loosened and filled with fluid. It looked like a balloon!! I've never seen anything like it!! In the days that followed the toe turned into strange colors and I wondered if I was going to loose it? I have been waking up at night due to pain in my toes. Great stuff? However I'm much better now.

The following day everyone from the challenge (except Le and Lars in Denmark) met up for dinner and Jakob had arranged for diplomas and prizes for everyone. Good times and great people! Tuesday I met up with Immigration and received my second extension which now runs until September 9th.


Hong Kong Immigration is a blessing! Always so easy and efficient to deal with.

And apart from that I have been sleeping a lot and walking very little. My body took quite a toll. Courtney Dauwalter has been called the best ultrarunner in the world. I covered 318km (197.6mi) on foot last week (seven days). Courtney completed the Moab 240 (383km) in just 58 hours! She’s superhuman!!


Last Monday. Moments before putting my feet on the ground...



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

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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - I actually like "Treadmill Poul"
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