Kayaking our way to glory

Author: ltcommander  //  Category: Hiking in Hong Kong, Kayaking, OTHER ADVENTURES



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Kayaking our way to glory

Full set of photos are here (warning: you have to be cool to watch them otherwise the link won’t open)

Ok, I’ll admit this post isn’t exactly about a trail run or even about hiking (well, I guess, technically, a walk from Habe Heaven Yacht club in Pak Sha Wan to the pier can be called a ‘hike’ but, yes, that’s a stretch).

Nonetheless, this post is extremely important because I have discovered yet another facet of genius in me that I’d like to humbly share with you. There was a time when I once discovered the hidden Gordon Ramsay in me when I cooked the world’s most perfect cup noodles. (The water temperature has to be just right when cooking noodles, every little slight difference in the temperature of water can adversely affect the texture, taste and smell of the noodles. Anyway, all that later). Today, along with my kayaking partner Carol, I discovered that there is a kayaking champion hidden in both of us. In fact, we even developed a new method of rowing synchronization today. Before I divulge this secret, let me emphasize that this technique is patented and any misuse/false claim of ownership (read: Hannes) will be dealt with severely under the strictest rule of law. It goes like this: when the guy at the backside of the kayak yells “1″, both kayakers have to lift their oars to the left and gently push the water at an angle of 45.6 degrees to the right using the right most tip of the oar. And, when “2″ is yelled, the kayakers will execute a symmetrical move the left. When “3″ is yelled, the kayakers will simply do nothing. They’ll chill. This state-of-the-art technique we invented helped us beat all other teams (including an overly competitive team consisting of Dominic and April). We won ourselves an award of excellence for this feat.

Roger preparing himself to come first but with us competing, he didn’t have a chance

Catch all the kayaking action up ahead



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Down for Maintenance

Author: ltcommander  //  Category: Hiking in Hong Kong, My Accident!, OTHER ADVENTURES



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Down for Maintenance

I don’t mean this website. I mean me – I am down for maintenance.

The flashback
It was a beautiful Saturday morning. After some heavy thunderstorms, the sun came out. The skies were blue again. The outdoors beckoned. I started my motorbike -Kawasaki Ninja 250cc- at 6am in the morning and accelerated. In less than twenty minutes, I felt the oxygen-rich fresh morning air of Sai Kung caress my face. What a feeling that was! It was a perfect day for a motorbike ride followed by a long run in the hills of Sai Kung.

The destination was Pak Tam Chung in Sai Kung – roughly 30Kms away from my home in Tsim Sha Tsui. I was humming the song “It is a good, good life” by One Republic and enjoying the motorbike ride.

Then came a sharp left turn. I saw a small, helpless rabbit in the middle of the road on this turn. I looked into my rear view mirror. A mini-bus was right behind me. Then a grave thought struck me. What if this mini-bus driver were to run over this helpless rabbit? Being the nice guy and real life hero that I was, there was no way I was going to let that happen. So, I swerved left and increased my speed. I took my left hand off the handle bar and reached it out as far as I could. With my usual immaculate timing, I grabbed the rabbit with my left hand and quickly banked right as hard as I could. But, alas! The bike skidded and I knew I was headed for a nasty fall, but less than a second before impact, I released the rabbit safely onto the far right hand side of the road. I then crashed into the railings.

My injuries did not matter. I had saved an innocent life – that is all that mattered.
[please imagine suitable background music playing. Maybe Terminator 2 theme music or some kind of superhero music]

The Hospital Experience
One day had passed. I limped over to the Hong Kong side from Kowloon to see my hiking buddies. They were generous in their ridicule of my DIY knee cleaning operation. They forced me to go to a Hong Kong Public Hospital.

Inflation, what inflation?
A HUNDRED dollars! 100 BUCKS! That’s all it cost me to consult a doctor, get a knee x-ray, check for ligament tears and any sort of muscle damage. True to superhero standards, everything was a-okay. The last thing left to do was to get my leg bandaged.

I strutted into the wound dressing room looking like a superhero (albeit with a bit of a limp). I puffed up my chest and pulled back on my stomach to make sure that my 6-pack would be conspicuously visible. Unfortunately, that did not make much of an impression on the nurse. It seemed like she was under some kind of extreme time pressure and was overly eager to get to work. She picked up a tissue, dipped it in some antiseptic solution and rubbed it against my bleeding knee. My transition was instant – I went from being a superhero with a puffed up chest to a little girl screaming at the top of her lungs. The nurse wouldn’t stop – she was cleaning the wound as though she was ordered to forcefully wipe out that last speck of almost-invisible dust off a clean white wall!

Limpin’ around in the public hospital

The ordeal ended after several screams. I walked out of the hospital with a bruised and bandaged leg and a bruised ego.

The importance of yoga and flexibility in everyday life
My friend Vivek Vanwari is an ardent fan of yoga. He frequently tried to instill in me, the importance of flexibility in everyday life. “Can you bend over and touch the ground using the palm of your hands WITHOUT bending your knees?”, he would ask, while effectively demonstrating some yoga pose with a hard-to-pronounce name. A pose that he had probably spent thousands of dollars learning. I would invariably and almost instantly dismiss both the poses and the theory on flexibility as being absolutely pointless. My wallet was never going to be flexible enough for me to pay for those pointless lessons on flexibility. I was vocal in my disdain for yoga. The Gods of yoga must have heard that.

The average Hong Kong apartment is tiny. I live in one of them. Developers love to cut space in rooms that they believe you use the least, i.e. the bathroom. In an average HK apartment, the legroom for answering nature’s #2 call is much worse than the legroom you would get in an economy class seat on a cheap budget airline. My bathroom is no exception. One look at it is enough to say that it is designed for busy executives with limited dumping time. The legroom is mostly non-existent. Stretching the left leg beyond 20cms would cause it to knock against the adjacent bathtub. The only way to stretch the leg some more is to lift the leg up over the wall of the bathtub and maintain position.

And there came my problem. I could not bend my bandaged left leg enough to comfortably answer nature’s call in the limited space available and because of my disrespect for the Gods of yoga, I did not have the flexibility to lift up the leg and go over the wall of bathtub either. Moral of the story: “one can never underestimate the importance of flexibility in everyday life“.

An economy class loo for the busy executive!

The how-to-best-dump conundrum had an unexpected positive effect on my work ethic. I was in the office by 7.30am in the morning and left quite late. I was admired for my devotion to work despite my injuries. But, the real reason behind my sudden love for work was simple – it involved a certain “Lavatory for the Handicapped”. It came with plenty of legroom! Answering nature’s call was once again the greatest relief in the world!

Life in Slow Motion
Superheroes do things fast. Very fast. But, walking on a bandaged leg meant walking slow. Very slow. Hong Kong’s MTR (subway) has two main uses (a) transportation – you can get from one place to another easily (b) -and this is a secretive use that many people simply don’t know about- you can actually tell how fit you are by riding on the MTR.

Welcome to The Amazing [MTR] Race
The trains come and go at an impressive frequency – every 2 minutes on average. With the arrival of each train, an unofficial race is held. It’s called The Amazing MTR race. The goal is to try and be the first to leave the train and reach the concourse. The winner gets a coveted prize – undisputed bragging rights for a day! However, there is an ultimate challenge – the race participants have to make their way to the concourse by maneuvering their way around various human obstacles. These obstacles are large in number and fall into 3 main categories:

Category 1: “The super duper multi-tasking regulars”
These regulars are very busy commuters and ultimate multi-taskers who just have to have something to do during every second of their commute. They fiddle with their mobile phones, they send emails, they read the news, they play Angry Birds, etc, etc. All this while walking to the concourse. The elite ones even cover their faces with newspapers as they are walking to the concourse. Average walking speed is 1km per hour.

Category 2: “The ultimate camera-wielding tourists”
These tourists always remind me of tamed goats following a lone herdsman. The difference, in this case, is that the “herdsman” (tour leader) carries a hoisted red flag instead of a stick to tame the goats (tourists). The “goats” are allowed to wander here and there but are instructed to always keep their eyes on the flag to avoid getting stranded. The goats also typically suffer from OPTD (Obsessive Photo Taking Disorder). They take photos of the ticket vending machine, the floor, the roof, a fly on the wall, etc, etc. Average walking speed is 0.5km per hour.

Category 3: “High-heeled beauties”
I am not sure which is worse – limping on a bandaged leg or balancing the entire body weight on a pair of 10cm long and pointy stilettos. These high-heeled beauties have both my sympathy and my admiration. Sympathy because several of them struggle with their gait and end up on the verge of falling. Admiration because they would rather fall than give up wearing those high-heels! Average walking speed is 0.3km per hour.

Now, the fitness test says this: “He who shall beat all three categories of obstacles, shall be pronounced fit!”

Back in the day, I was the undisputed MTR Race winner but, unfortunately, during the early days of injury, I wasn’t even able to get past the high-heeled beauties (no, it was not intentional).

Getting better required changing my leg bandage every day.

There is a hidden Rambo in everyone – especially in nurses
I had to visit one the “Hong Kong Outpatient Clinics” every day to get my leg bandage changed. There was invariably some timid looking nurse who looked like she couldn’t hurt a fly. But, the minute she would see my wound, she’d pick up her forceps and turn into super-nurse with the strength of Rambo! After the first two painful bandage changing sessions, I realized an important lesson: “Never trust a lady with a pair of forceps in her hands“.

And so, with each new day, came a new bandage. And there will soon be a day when I will once again be the undisputed winner of the MTR race. Until then, the superhero in me is going to say “I’ll be back!”



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Fo Tan Hike + Pakistani Curry

Author: ltcommander  //  Category: Curry Hike, Hiking in Hong Kong, OTHER ADVENTURES



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So, you are stuck in an office in Central and looking out the window. You are gazing at the many skyscrapers outside with admiration for the work of man but you really wish to see the work of nature instead. Well, all you need is a green getaway, and what if I told you that that’s barely 40 minutes away from the hustle and bustle of Central. That’s the beauty of Hong Kong. You are never too far away from a mountain, waterfalls or a beach!

Probably one of most under appreciated places in Hong Kong, Fo Tan has all the elements of a quick getaway. Bamboo forests, abandoned houses, ranges of mountains, birds chirping and a view of the city from 674m above sea level. And, as if this weren’t enough, there’s also a place that serves some mouthwatering curry!

We started at Fo Tan MTR station and took a beautiful trail up to Grassy Hill. The picturesque trail passes an abandoned house, an abandoned school and mini bamboo forests, before going up to Grassy Hill (app 674m).

Abandoned House
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I checked the fridge. Nothing in there
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Abandoned School
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I never miss an opportunity to advertise this site
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The beauty of the trail
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Leave Central and in 40 minutes, you can listen to birds chirping instead of buses and cars vrooming

Finishing in curry style! Very cheap, good quality and DELICIOUS!
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All pictures here.

GPX File

Elevation Profile
Speed Profile
here.



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Hiking, 2009-10-15, Veg Biryani hike + Grassy hill

Author: ltcommander  //  Category: Curry Hike, Hiking in Hong Kong, Hiking walk reports, OTHER ADVENTURES



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Pictures here.

Fabulous hike!! HK showing off its natural beauty. Wonder how many people know that there is a pristine forest right next to Fo Tan KCR (now MTR of course) station. Steven Sparky lead this hike from Fo Tan to Grassy Hill (via a spectacular, pristine route) and then across Needle hill (reverse) to Smuggler’s Ridge. Golden Hill was next and finally the hike ended at Kwai Chung district in a Pakistan Muslim restaurant for a much needed Veg Biryani.

Route overall:
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Route from Fo Tan to Grassy Hill:
Maclehose Stage 6 is BORING! This route we took today is nature at its best. Bamboo forests, ivy flowers, orange orchids, chameleons, snakes, cows, beautiful butterflies, cactus trees, palm trees, banana trees make up this trail. The only thing artificial is a plane flying overhead almost every 30 seconds!

Hong Kong has gone on a tree naming spree
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Banana trees – so many of them here
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Ivy flowers – they are creepers and a tree parasite. They cling onto trees, vie for sunshine and eventually kill the tree
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Wildlife – Chameleon. Look how it’s so beautifully camouflaged
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A pristine forest welcomes hikers near Fo Tan
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This is the summit of Grassy hill
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On the way to Needle hill. The weather was super today
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Needle hill in all its glory – was an easy reverse climb thanks to our fitness
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Needle hill in all its glory – view from the summit. Shing Mung, Wilson 6 are in the pic
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As we were walking towards the summit of Grassy Hill (app 540m), we came across an abandoned school. It has a TV from early 1900s! The black board had “2003″ on it.

Abandoned school. You’ll see from a later pick that Ming is in love
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Abandoned school. TV from 1930s!
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Bamboo forest
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Plane flying overhead every 30 secs
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Monkey zone
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One of these monkeys went about shaking a nearby dustbin vigorously. Unfortunately, there was no garbage that he and his troop could savor.

Smuggler’s ridge is in the pic. Name because this was a smuggling point back in the day. Tsuen Wan is nearby
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Lion’s Rock peak and Beacon Hill are seen from Smuggler’s ridge
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Golden Hill – GP batteries are got their name because of this hill (Gold Peak)
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Finish point – Pakistan Muslim restaurant
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Fabulous hike! Would recommend it to anyone who loves nature. We also saw a green snake but it slithered away before my camera could be activated!



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Of snapping shrimps and whales…

Author: ltcommander  //  Category: Articles, Everyday life, Hiking in Hong Kong, Kayaking, OTHER ADVENTURES



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A while back, Max organized an amazing kayaking adventure. Paul Etherington of Kayak and Hike Limited gave us a whirlwinding tour of Hong Kong on a police speedboat! I was the only one who needed a life jacket to live through the day! Well, anyway, as I took a small dive in the clearer waters of the South China sea, I could hear crackling sounds underneath the water as though an engine’s spark plug was continuously going off. My CSI instincts told me to suspect foul play. Could the noise have emerged from a murdered diver’s watch? Luckily, I didn’t express my opnion to anybody and pinched myself a little to safely return to the peaceful world.

Weeks later, I saw on the TV show Animal Face-off that whales could actually emit noises that are no less in decibels than the noise that Boeing 747 jumbo jets produce when taking off. Whales’ snouts produce a crackling sound to identify objects in deep waters using SONAR. I rubbished that little annoying voice in my head that kept insisting that the chances of finding whales anywhere near Hong Kong waters would be no greater than seeing UFOs and little green men hovering around the IFC mall! But, nonetheless, I conveniently assumed that the mystery was solved and the case closed UNTIL…

Denise from Saturday hikers sent me this:

“Saturday hikers were swimming off Po Toi today and we also heard the crackling sounds (like bacon frying) that you mention were heard on the kayaking trip. Romantic as the notion of whales’ sonar is, I don’t think it is correct. More likely to be snapping shrimp.”

Denise, you ruined my day! ;) Denise also sent me two links that clearly put a full stop to the mystery.

Exhibit A: Listen to this (source is here)

Members of the jury, that’s the crackling sound I heard.

Exhibit B: Article on ‘Snapping shrimps’: (source is here)

“FOR years, snapping shrimp have been an intriguing mystery to me.

First, I couldn’t figure out what was making that crackling noise I heard when I was swimming underwater or sitting below deck in my sailboat. The distinctive sound reminded me of bacon frying.

Eventually I learned that the noise came from the forceful clicking together of the giant claw of little creatures called snapping shrimp.

Read more…



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