Tag Archives: Hiking at night

MoonTrekker 2012: A step towards my 2013 objectives

17 Jan

MoonTrekker happened three months ago but I have not gotten the chance or time to go over and share my story. With a new job that started one week after the event (happy dance!), I ended up focusing much more on my new workload than on the blog. But now, with almost three months into my new position and a few weeks of holiday in my hometown of Quebec, I have had time to regroup and put my thoughts into words.

I had initially planned on preparing a well-detailed race report with pictures and crunchy details. However, with this unfortunate three months delay, the anecdotes faded out. Preparing a race report was turning out to be a chore rather than a fun blogging experience, so I took some time off and decided to just sit back and get inspired by what this ambitious challenge had been like.

As expected, MoonTrekker ended up being an amazing experience for me. I loved every single part of it. From the moment I bought my energy gels for the night, until my hot shower on the Sunday morning before climbing into bed and getting some well-deserved rest. Here are some of the lows and highs we experienced:

My lows:

  • Seeing two of my teammates suffering from hip and knee injuries. Kudos to both of them for not giving up and finishing up the race in a more than impressive time.
  • Feeling as if that last 2km on concrete was never going to end. Feeling so close yet so far from the finish line…
  • Sitting on the floor of the MTR on my way home, dreaming of a hot shower and a delicious breakfast. Bacon had been on my mind since at least 4am!

My highs:

  • Feeling in top shape during and after the race. All these early morning hikes and late ascents of Lion Rock had paid off.
  • Eating some delicious pumpkin soup at CP3. Speaking of checkpoints, I have to add that all the MoonTrekker volunteers truly outdid themselves. They definitely made each checkpoint a relaxing and very enjoyable place to rest.
  • Reaching Lantau Peak earlier than expected. I had assumed that we were going to witness the sunrise from the top of the peak but ended up there at 5am. It was cold and windy so we decided to just head back down right away. On the way down, it was great to see Lantau Island slowly waking up. It gave us the unique opportunity to see the cavorting colors in the sky from the rising morning sun, combined with the contestants’ headlights piercing through the skyline, almost like a little light show.

Lantau Peak in the morning

Lantau Island waking up

Sunrise over Cheung Sha beach

After witnessing such a beautiful sunrise, we attempted to run (read fast walk) down to the finish line. We hugged. Some of us laughed, some of us cried… We quickly ate a more-than-average hot dog and then we went home. What did I do that weekend? I slept, I ate, I relaxed. It was simple but was much needed. It was finally over.

And now? What happens afterwards? What are my plans post-MoonTrekker? What do I have in mind for 2013? Well, I do have many ideas and objectives for the coming year… I definitely want to become more involved in similar events: trail running, hiking, mountain biking. And I will. Here is a quick overview:

First of all, I want to help. After MoonTrekker, I started to volunteer at a few outdoors events and races in Hong Kong. I was so impressed by the volunteers’ work ethic and passion. For example, in Moontrekker, they supported us all night. And I mean all night, in the October cold (HK standards of course! I’m from Quebec after all). Without them, the experience would have been totally different. So I want to help out as well. Thus, it is a good way for me to understand better how races work. This coming weekend, I will be volunteering for the Vibram Hong Kong 100, one of the most intense events in Hong Kong in my opinion. I look forward to it.

Secondly, I want to race. I want to get better at running so I registered for my next event, the Hong Kong Standard Chartered half-marathon. It’s not on the trails but it will definitely be a good way to test my running endurance. It will take place at the end of February. I must admit that I am slightly nervous, having never run such distance before. But I like challenges.

Finally, I want to join a trail running club and improve my running skills while training with like-minded passionate people. It does intimidate me but it will be good for me and will push me. There are so many trails to discover out there and I think I need some partners in crime.

In a nutshell, my objective for 2013 is to keep exploring Hong Kong (and some other regions of South-East Asia) on my two feet, whether it is by volunteering at races, racing, or training for these specific events. Who doesn’t love a little adventure every now and then? While training for MoonTrekker, I really got the opportunity to explore fascinating parts of Lantau Island that definitely evoked memories from my past outdoor adventures abroad. While volunteering at a few events over the past few weeks, I discovered new trails that I am quite curious to tackle. After my half-marathon in February, I have some new projects in mind. A little too early to disclose, but I have ideas….

Since the event, I have been back on the trails only once when a former Moonshine team member and I hit Lion Rock one night after work. I have been running a lot, but on concrete more than anything else. Writing this post is giving me the hitch nonetheless. It is time to plan my next visit to the mountains. I am back from cold, artic Canada and ready to hit the trails this season!

 

The Chi Ma Wan country trail: By day, by night

5 Sep

It was already late in the afternoon when Team Moonshine boarded the ferry from Central to Mui Wo. The weather had been good so far, but a menacing typhoon called Tembin had been hovering around Hong Kong’s shores and we didn’t know what to expect. We had been debating all day: hike or no hike tonight?

Thankfully, at 17h30 the sky was rather clear and we could still see the sun in the near horizon. It looked like luck was on our side. Today’s objective: the Chi Ma Wan country trail from Mui Wo to Pui O, an 18 km loop within the Chi Ma Wan peninsula. Being a segment of the MoonTrekker 40km race course (from Start point to Check Point 1, via the Chi Ma Wan peninsula), we had decided it would be better for us to hike at night this time around to best prepare ourselves for the strenuous event. We were hoping to shave some minutes off from our last training session’s time, which had occurred a week ago, under a blazing morning sun. Deep down, I believed we were just hoping to finish today’s hike before any thunderstorm could hit us.

On the ferry, overcome with my usual anticipation, I kept envisioning what the scenery at night would bring us. In the daylight, this trail has some stunning views. During last week’s training hike, I couldn’t help but constantly stop to take pictures of the amazing panorama, with its different shades of blue and green. My photo sessions might have slightly slowed us down, but there was no way I was going to miss taking these breathtaking shots. The trail is only a 30 minutes ferry ride away from Hong Kong and yet, we feel so far from the bustling city. Once in a while, you will see a ferry passing by. Other than that, it is just you and the natural landscape with its panoramic ocean views.

Isn’t it beautiful?

As much as I like my new city of adoption, Hong Kong can be quite overwhelming at times. Crowds of people, lights, noises, long office hours… I have been going through a lot of stress lately and these moments spent on the mountain and out in nature with my teammates are what have been really keeping me together. The great outdoors have that calming effect on me. Being in nature has always been a key component to me finding my balance. And right now, more than ever, I need a place where I can think, breathe some fresh air and break out a good sweat, all at once.

We finally arrived to the Mui Wo ferry terminal a little after 18h00. It was still sunny out but darkness was just around the corner so we took out our headlamps and headed towards the trail. Mui Wo is an outdoorsy hub so hikers with headlamps are quite common around here. But as I passed by a group of foreigners having drinks at the local bar, I must say I felt kind of goofy, with that big lamp on my forehead. Headlamps are just plain unsexy, and I will have to get use to this unflattering look. The army of dragonflies hovering over our heads was a clear warning that it would probably be raining fairly soon. Hiking in the rain doesn’t really bother me, but I was dreading the ferry ride back home, in my wet clothes, with the heavy dose of intense air-conditioning on the boat, something so typical to Hong Kong.

The night hike went well. We reduced our time by at least thirty minutes, which was probably due to the cooler weather, making it much easier to maintain a faster pace. Thankfully, it only started raining as we got off the bus bringing us back from Pui O to Mui Wo. It looks like Typhoon Tembin had decided not to venture towards Hong Kong this time around, much to my liking.

It was time for us to head back home. Sitting on the uncomfortable wooden chairs of the slow-moving ferry, I experienced a mixture of emotions. I was happy that Team Moonshine had done a personal best in time that night. I was tired from the 18km hike in the dark woods. But overall, I felt in peace with myself, the way I always feel after a good workout outside. I had a big week ahead of me but I was now ready to tackle in on with full force.

Where is it?

From Central Pier 6, you must take the ferry to Mui Wo. As you can see on the schedule, there are two options: slow ferry (1 hour trip) or fast ferry (about 30 minutes trip).

As you get off the ferry, turn right (towards McDonalds) and follow the waterfront. Keep walking in direction of the forest. A trail sign will be on the right-hand side of the road. From the ferry to the beginning of the trail, it is no more than a five minutes walk. On the trail, just follow the signs leading you to Pui O.

From Pui O, it will be easy to catch a bus back to the ferry terminal.

Anything else?

While hiking on that trail the past few times, we crossed paths with some mountain bikers. Mountain biking? Really? Great news for me! I had been wondering where mountain bikers were getting their fix around Hong Kong as I am an avid one myself. I did some more in-depth research afterwards and found out on the Hong Kong Mountain Bike Association website that Chi Ma Wan country trail is a great single track, with just the right amount of technicality and not too much hill climbing. Must try it as soon as possible.

On my next visit to my motherland of Quebec, my beloved mountain bike, which has been hibernating in my parents’ basement for the past year or so, will be dusted off and traveling back with me to Asia. This is definite. I am looking forward to rediscover this trail, this time on two wheels.

Braving the dark, the pollution and the big flying bugs

4 Aug

Lion Rock is a fairly popular hike among the HK community, as it is within the metropolitan area. It is part of the Lion Rock Country Park, between Kowloon Tong in Kowloon and Tai Wai in the New Territories. It is therefore very easy to access by MTR and most public transportation. It is also pretty short (a 1.5 to 3 hours hike depending on your physical level), making it quite an attractive option for busy Hongkongers.

The picture says it all

While labeled as a short hike, Lion rock is still a good workout as it is fairly steep with a gradual incline the whole way up. When hiking up the trail, it is fascinating to see the abundance of skyscrapers in the distance amongst the green valleys surrounding me. It leaves a picturesque image with a unique combination of modernism and nature. There is just something beautiful about this and it is something I have always liked when hiking or trail running in Hong Kong.

View from Amah Rock, on our way to the top

As part of our MoonTrekker training, a few of us headed to Lion Rock last Friday night after work, in order to test our headlamps and get used to hiking in darkness. It was a nice way to end the working week. It gets so quiet up there. The city feels so close yet so far away. It is a welcome sense of relief and often serves as a quick escape for one, especially after a long day in the office.

(Image: The Office)

It’s been a long week…

While the view in daylight is quite amazing, the scenery is truly stunning at night, with a colorful clutter of lights in the skyline. There had been a typhoon around Taiwan during the week that had affected the wind in Hong Kong. Therefore, the pollution index was very high which made the view a little blurry. From the top of the hill, on a clear day, one can see all the way to Hong Kong island. On Friday night, with the high pollution index, we could barely point out the location of Mong Kok. It was a sort of wake up call for me actually. You always hear about how polluted the city is. I must say being able to see the heavy smog hanging over Hong Kong was slightly disturbing. I mean, I am breathing this air everyday now… What will it be like in a few years?

 View from Amah Rock, at night

 View from the top of Lion Rock

Where is it?

The beginning of the trail is right next to the Tai Wai MTR station and it ends close to Lok Fu MTR station. Very easy to access as you can see.

The good?

Lion Rock is a good option for breaking a sweat if you only have a 3 to 4 hours window, which is something many business travellers are seeking, especially for those staying on the Kowloon side. Lion Rock is short, fairly steep and easily accessible. From East Tsim Sha Tsui to the beginning of the trail, it takes about 40 minutes to get there. Worth a try if you want to exercise but don’t have a lot of time.

The bad?

I am not too fond of the flying and crawling insects. And many of them came out to check up on us that Friday night, most likely because of the light from our headlamps. But in normal conditions, Lion Rock doesn’t present any major drawbacks. Give it a shot!

Anything else?

If you hit Lion Rock early in the morning like we did a few weeks ago, you will cross path with many Chinese elders, exercising and stretching their legs up against a tree. Despite the hot and humid Hong Kong weather, they are walking up the hill, slowly but steadily, with an umbrella in their hand.

Jóusàhn   (早晨)! Jóusàhn (早晨)!” they’ll say, smiling and looking at the sweat dripping off our face. “Very wet! Very wet!”

“Yes, indeed, very humid!” we’ll reply, amazed by the fresh look on their face and their steady breathing.

It is actually pretty impressive to see them working out, some of them being more than twice my age! And at times much more flexible than I am, I must admit… My Pilates instructor would not be proud. While observing them, I tend to make a comparison with the older folks back home in America. How many of them would be able to walk up a similar hill, at 8am on a hot and humid Saturday morning? And I am talking hot and humid in Hong Kong standards (over 30 degrees Celsius with a humidity factor of 95). The high level of fitness of the older generation of Chinese in Hong Kong always makes me wonder… Is it the rice? The tai chi? The genetics? Whatever it is, I hope some of it rubs off on me!

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