Tag Archives: Outdoors

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!

 

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Lantau Peak and I

14 Oct

As part of my training for the MoonTrekker event, I have been spending a lot of time on Lantau Peak lately. This race involves a lot of uphill training. Being 934 meters above sea level, the mountain serves as a great training ground. I have been going up and down Lantau Peak as much as my busy schedule would allow me. During my frequent hikes up there (which always occur either very early in the morning or fairly late in the evening), I am bombarded with mixed emotions about it.

With the night race happening in less than a week, (the countdown has begun), I have decided to take a few minutes to regroup and analyze my thoughts.

Lantau Peak: I seem to have a hate-love relationship with you as you make my life so difficult at times by pushing me on the verge of exhaustion, while still constantly bringing the best out of me.

1-

You make me get up way too early when we have our Saturday morning encounters. It is even worst when sleepy Chinese boyfriend looks so comfortable underneath the blankets.

On the other hand, I get to witness this colorful sky shooting through the morning mist, while sitting on the Star ferry from Tsim Sha Tsui to Central Pier 6.

And I get to enjoy the calmness and serenity of the night when hitting the trails after dark.

2-

You make my legs hurt. Really hurt. For a few days…

On the bright side, I am getting great muscular legs that are definitely making the boyfriend happy. A good little ego booster I might add! You are also a great excuse for a foot massage afterwards. Hello Chiba House!

3-

You are steep and challenging. You sometimes scare me when I look at you from afar especially after already having quite a few kilometers of hiking under my belt. I now know what to expect and I am fully aware that reaching the top is not going to be a brisk walk.

On the other hand, I am lucky enough to enjoy such breathtaking sceneries throughout the entire journey. Amazing panoramas I had no idea existed in a crowded and congested city like Hong Kong.

4-

Even though the more I hike, the easier it gets, you sometimes get so intense that I just want to give up and head back down. On certain occasions, you even make me doubt about my decision of enrolling in this 40km night race…

But in the end…

I get to enjoy all of this with three other great girls: the fried chicken dreamer/mantra repeater, the fit mother of one/insatiable skittles eater, and the proud wearer of the famous white visor/spider hater.

Most of all, I forget about my stress and my unhappy moments every time I hike up your steep rocky path. I am often left with this feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment as I head back home afterwards.

These last months of training have sometimes been quite intense. I had to make some sacrifices here and there to fit in the training sessions into my busy schedule. But in the end, let’s face it. My regular hikes up Lantau Peak have made me want to push myself a little bit further and definitely encouraged me to get involved in similar adventure events, which occur regularly throughout the year in Hong Kong. I secretly hope Team Moonshine will join me in my new aspirations!

This is my humble take on Lantau Peak. Is the hike up the peak worth a try? Definitely! Whether it is as a training session or as a weekend excursion, the journey offers incredible sceneries and needless to say that you will get a great workout out of it. It might be difficult to get a view from the top of Lantau Peak, as it often gets cloudy and hazy, but the way up and the stroll down will still be rewarding. Just be aware that this is not a walk in the park. Be prepared.

Where is it?

There are two ways to reach Lantau Peak. I have tried both hikes and each way has its ups and downs (no pun intended)!

Option 1: This path, also known as Stage 3 of the Lantau trail, will take you from Pak Kung Au to Ngong Ping via Lantau Peak. From Pak Kung Au, head straight up. Once you reach the peak, you go down the stone steps that will take you all the way to Ngong Ping and the Big Buddha, where there is food and places to rest. From there, you can catch a bus back to the Tung Chung MTR station. Or you can splurge and treat yourself to a one-way ticket, going down in the cable car. After such a hike, it is well deserved I reckon.

Option 2: This section goes from Pak Kung Au to Ngong Ping via Tei Tong Tsai (CP3 to CP4 as seen on the map of the MoonTrekker race course). This section (partly in the woods, partly on a concrete path) passes by the Po Lam Zen Monastery. Once you reach the Wisdom path in Ngong Ping (Ngong Ping campsite), keep going until you reach the base of Lantau Peak. From the base, it’s straight up.

Reaching Lantau Peak from there is shorter (a final push of 500m), but also much steeper. Once you reach the top, head back down in the direction of Pak Kung Au.

Anything else?

The actual race will be in a few days. Our objective is to make it to the top of Lantau Peak before sunrise. This means reaching the summit before 6:20am. Will we beat the sun? I really hope so. Hopefully all this training up Lantau Peak has paid off. Will keep you guys posted.

 

 

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!

Aiming for the moon… and for the sunrise

22 Jul

“Aiming for the moon and missing it is better than aiming for the ditch and hitting it” -Unknown

That’s what I told myself when I decided to register for a 40km adventure night race in Hong Kong. The first time I heard about the MoonTrekker event, I was chilling on a junk boat with friends while working on my tan. Living the glamorous HK life! I had recently moved to the city and was enjoying my new life in Asia with style.  I still didn’t know about all the hiking opportunities that Hong Kong presented and I was definitely unaware that the city hosted such adventurous racing events.

MoonTrekker immediately intrigued me… I liked the name (slightly mystical) and I was attracted by the idea of racing through the mountainous trails of Lantau island under the moonlight. Starting in Mui Wo and finishing at Cheung Sha Beach, the objective of the race was to reach the end before sunrise. How exciting it must be! That same night, I tried to register for MoonTrekker. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately for me since I had not done any training), the organizers weren’t accepting any more participants, as it was too close to the event’s date.  My registration attempt and hopes were shattered. Instead of being discouraged, I was determined to register for the 2012 edition. And that’s what I did at the beginning of May this year, along with three other highly motivated girlfriends. Team Moonshine was born and the training begun…

Preparing for this kind of adventure race is such a great way to explore the many trails the region has to offer. During our training sessions, Hong Kong’s abundance of lush green valleys and the limitless blue ocean often blow me away. This island is truly stunning but tourists and visitors don’t often get a chance to see this.

View from Dragon's Back, a famous hike in Hong Kong

View from Dragon’s Back trail, a famous hike in Hong Kong

As it will be our first time participating in an event of this magnitude, we don’t want to put too much pressure on our shoulders. We just want to finish. There are some hardcore athletes racing in this event every year and as I looked at the results from 2011, I momentarily second guessed my decision to participate. But then I decided not to stress about it. We are four fit, enthusiastic girls and we will train hard. We will aim for the moon. And try to make it to the end before sunrise.

My Hong Kong: Beyond the concrete jungle

16 Jul

Originally from Quebec City in Canada, I now call myself a Hongkonger since June of  2011. Hong Kong being my fifth international address in less than 10 years, I am hopeful that it will also be my last, or at least a very long-term one… It seems that I have finally reached the “I want to settle down” phase, much to my mother’s relief.

 The thing is… I really like this place. I have liked it since the beginning and for many reasons. The main one is definitely this cute little Chinese guy I moved to Hong Kong for. But there is also so much to do here and I too often get myself overwhelmed (in a good way).

I have a day job in Business Development, and it always makes me sad to hear international customers describing HK as nothing more than a concrete jungle full of shopping malls and skyscrapers, with lots of people, pollution and noise. Ok, I’ll admit that they are not completely in the wrong… But it is obvious that they also ignore what the rest of the city has to offer, which is the part of Hong Kong I prefer. I am referring to the easy access to mountains and ocean, and to so many other small things and quirky places that make this Special Administrative Region of China so fun to live in.

To resume it all, this blog is basically bits and pieces of my journey as an expat in HK, as I am discovering the city (and probably some other parts of Asia, everything being so close). It is about the side of Hong Kong that tourists and business travellers often don’t really know about, that side that I call my Hong Kong.

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