Hiking, suiting up and turtles doing yoga - Hong Kong

Day 2,619 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). 

And the beat goes on…

pano

I’m trying my very best to stay upbeat and positive. And if I can do it then you can surely do it to. Let’s look for the sun beyond the silver lining, the half full glass and the needle in the haystack.

Last week’s entry: Finally, a really good week in Hong Kong

It is such a crazy thing!! I cannot believe that the Saga has been stuck this long in Hong Kong. And furthermore, under conditions which prevent my fiancée from meeting me. 318 days is a very long time. Am I patient or determined? This year has offered so many new buzzwords: novel, comorbidity, draconian, Wuhan etc…I’m sure many new ones will roll over our tongues as the vaccines begin to roll out. These are exciting times! We are about to make real history together!! We stand before the world’s largest vaccination program which is truly a testimony of mankind. And the first vaccines have now been administered in Europe as well. China and Russia have been going at it for a while already. You may think that the pandemic in itself is world history and naturally it is. However, there is nothing new about this planet experiencing global pandemics. However, developing a vaccine and vaccinating 5.5 billion people – THAT is human history at an awesome scale! Unfortunately, we also know that people are just people and with hundreds of thousands of people living in developed countries, swearing that earth is flat…well, it may be tough reaching heard immunity. I could go into depth on why vaccines work, but I am not a medical professional and it would at large just be me citing sources I trust. So, here’s my opinion: vaccines work. Get one when you can :)

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Sneaky Santa :)

The days just keep rolling in. I guess they do until they don’t, so we better make the best of them while they do. Last Friday I met up with Anita for our third foot massage together. It’s a nice little tradition which has developed and I have written about Anita before. However, I’ll refresh your memory. Anita is Danish, has lived in Hong Kong for more than a decade, she is married to Christian and together they have a tornado of a toddler named Victor. Anita works for Fossil Group and supplied us with the Misfit Command Hybrid Smartwatches we all got for the Ultimate Step Challenge HK, in which Anita took 201,360 steps over the week. Well, she is a lot more than all of that but the point is that we got our feet treated once again. I think the tradition began after I kept complaining about pain in my feet. My feet are by the way nearly back to normal now – four months later!! Its strange, because during the challenge I would be out the door 12-14 hours a day and averaged 54km (33.55mi) per day, which is something that seems unreal to me now. I’m arguably more fit today, but after a solid 25km (15.53mi) hike I now wonder, how I only four months ago, managed twice as much per day, every day, for a full week? Well, it’s a lovely tradition Anita and I now have.

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There isn't much you can't do, find or get in Hong Kong.

I follow the world news and at times I shake my head while sometimes I have to cringe my toes. The US elections along with Brexit appear to be something of a tragicomedy. It would be much easier to ignore if it wasn’t so overwhelmingly important for much of the world. It is interesting how listening to the news about a place we have a relationship to alters our perception of it. Let’s say, for instance, that you live in Germany and regularly go on holiday in Spain whenever you can. Then one day back home in Germany you listen to the news and hear report regarding politics in Spain…I would assume you would likely be far more interested in that, than if the report regarded politics in Zimbabwe. Someone who has been to Zimbabwe would likely take interest in that news and so on. Having been to nearly every country in the world, listening to the news throws my mind all over the place: Belarus, Ethiopia, Japan, Azerbaijan, Armenia...  Recently my home nation made international news as Denmark has imposed a partial lockdown in a number of main cities along with several other areas. The government reported that the infection rate was rising exponentially and as a result, Denmark has closed eating places along with sports and entertainment facilities until January 3rd. Furthermore, many school pupils will be sent home, to study online. Here in Hong Kong we are dealing with our fourth wave and such measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 have long since become common for us. As I wrote within last weeks entry: we had one job! We have always known that this would be a long hard winter. This is not the time to take shortcuts. Believe me I understand anyone’s frustrations related to the pandemic and the limitations which it imposes on our societies. This is a time in which we should adapt and improvise.

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The beauty of Hong Kong will someday be immensely hard to leave.

I have appreciated hiking for as long as I remember. Certainly the outdoors and much of my childhood was spent wandering between tree trunks with a green canopy above me. As I grew older, I also ventured on some proper hiking in Sweden and Norway with my friends. The amount of hiking I have experienced in Hong Kong this year completely surpasses all the accumulated hiking I have done across my entire life!! It just made sense after I got stuck here. Hong Kong has some brilliant hiking to offer and as the city on and off closed down and restrictions were tightened the mountains and trails were always a welcome alternative. Not just for me. Lots and lots of Hongkongers have taken to hiking this year. As I was hiking with Poul K from Denmark (who took 100,000 steps within a day in the prementioned step challenge), we began talking about the prospects of completing the entirety of the MacLehose Trail within 24 hours. It is already an annual event here in Hong Kong where teams of four complete the 100 km (62 mi) as fast as they can. The fastest known time is less than 11 hours and that is way out of my league!! To complete it in less than 24 hours one would need to keep a constant speed of little more than 4kph (2.5mph) for a full 24 hours. And as the elevation gain across the route is more than 5,000m (16,400ft) it would provide quite a challenge. I think I am up for it as long as I get a little help from my friends.

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Poul K and I heading up where we belong! :)

In last weeks entry I also mentioned that I have been offered a job as the new junior assistant at the Danish Seamen’s Church. The immigration process has now begun as I handed my ‘application for entry for employment as professionals in Hong Kong’ form over to Hong Kong Immigration. The ball is now in their court and there is nothing else to do but wait. I am not permitted to work in Hong Kong until the application has been processed and approved by immigration. Under normal circumstances the process is nominated to take between 4-6 weeks but these are not normal times. It could be much faster because there are few people in Hong Kong compared to normal or it could take longer because so many are working from home. I stop by the ‘Danish Room’ at Danish Seamen’s Church every now and again as there have been all sorts of Christmas activities throughout December. Unfortunately the remaining activities have now been cancelled in compliance with recent COVID-19 restrictions as we were hit by wave four. Overall Hong Kong has handled the pandemic very well but it is clear that even in Hong Kong people are just people and you only need to give this devil of a virus a single chance. It is very much like building a card house on the living room floor when someone all of the sudden opens the door and lets the wind inside.

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The Immigration Department Mail-in Box.

A memorable hike from this week was taking on the Lo Hon Ridge together with Anders who clocked up 505.054 steps during the Ultimate Step Challenge HK (do you see a pattern forming here?). I am at last into my final 100 km of the Sydney to Melbourne Virtual Challenge, which in its full length is 1,006 km (625 mi), and we have 21 more days to go. I figure I’ll be done before Christmas Eve and until then I’m up for any and all hikes!! :)

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Hong Kong: 75% nature / 25% urban area.

Anders and I went up Lo Hon Ridge on Lantau Island and continued across Lantau Peak to Mui Wo making it a 20 km (12.4 mi) hike with a solid amount of elevation. It took us six hours to complete and we finished off with some delicious Turkish food served with strong tea. You can get a lot of talking done during six hours in the mountains and Anders and I also touched upon my idea of doing the entirety of the MacLehose Trail in less than 24 hours. Eight months ago, I did the trail over three days by camping along the way and carrying about 9 kgs (20 lbs) on my back. The accumulated time hiking during the three days was 25 hrs and 24 min, which came with two nights of sleep in between. I did not have any of my Salomon gear back then apart from my footwear, socks and pants. Now I’m much better equipped thanks to the care package Salomon sent six months ago. I could run some of the flats and downhill stretches and I know the route quite well. I think I might just give it a go next year. Let’s see.

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Some hikes are more challenging than others...

Anders is another Danish Dane from Denmark who has spent many years out here in Hong Kong. He’s a really good guy and this became our second hike together. I haven’t yet decided what lies at the end of the “Sydney to Melbourne challenge”. It could be a case of lying on my back, eating pizza and burgers for months to come…or I may continue this active lifestyle – but it will be nice to go for a run or a hike when I want to and not just because I have to.

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Anders looking out across the world from a very shallow cave - but what a great effect.

Brett from the Running Klub (also in the Ultimate Step Challenge HK) is from Australia and became a friend early on this year. He invited me to do a training session with him in which he plans to analyze my style of running (which needs improvement). He showed up with his wife Emma along with Sydney who both work for the Running Klub. Emma and Sydney did some filming while Brett and I did laps around Kwai Chung Sports Ground, which is a facility made open to the public for free. Hong Kong is good like that. Brett and I set out to do a 5 km (3.11 mi) time trial which amounted to 12.5 laps around the track. The key was to do it fast! Before we sat out Brett asked me how fast I thought I would be able to manage it? I’m a strong hiker but not a fast runner so I guessed 23 minutes. Then we went.

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Kwai Chung Sports Ground. Open to the public at no costs.

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Brett and I with Sydney in the center.

Brett is an accomplished runner and once went across Australia (from Melbourne to Perth) raising awareness on bullying. He’s actually an accomplished sportsman across several fields such as tennis and rock climbing as well. And he is also a really down to earth guy. Sometimes I find it improbable how many nice people I have met across this planet. But perhaps its just yet another testimony to the true nature of mankind behind the cameras of sensationalism. Anyway, Brett completed the distance in 18 minutes and 10 seconds!! I came in at 22 minutes and 11 seconds at which point Brett took a couple of extra laps together with me. I am going to miss him. He is due to leave Hong Kong with his family for Czechia soon.

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Well, my week has been full of meetings, Saga related work and errands...the blog contains some of it.

Let’s round this entry up. What’s going on with the title? Well, not long ago I met up with Mike from the Royal Geographical Society HK and his friend Jo. And Jo happens to work at a tailor in Mong Kok, Kowloon. During a lovely dinner the three of us talked about how you haven’t really been to Hong Kong unless you had a suit done. It used to be a classical thing to do in Hong Kong and it somewhat still is although times have changed a lot over the last few decades. Jo works at Oscar Suit at Golden Plaza shop nr. 104. I know that because I’m now having a suit done. Jo has offered me a special price and with both Christmas and New Year’s coming up I might as well suit up. Furthermore, I have had a few occasions in Hong Kong where it would have been nice to show up in a suit. Look forward to a flashy photo somewhere down the line.

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Picking the fabric together with Jo! She has been absolutely wonderful! :)

And as to “turtles doing yoga” – well, what the heck else would you call this? These turtles have been with the Danish Seaman’s Church for more than a decade and nobody is sure about how old they are. They live in a small pond on a terrace in connection to ‘Danish Room’. One is named Pelle and the other is Palle (I think). My best guess on when we might be departing Hong Kong is March 2020 or beyond. So, I’ll see you again next week. Have a great weekend wherever you are. Yeah – it might be tough as things are…but give it a shot.

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Turtles doing yoga at the Danish Seamen's Club - HK.

 

 

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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Best regards
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - learning yoga from turtles

"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"

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