Saturday, September 29, 2007

maclehose stages 1 & 2

We did another training hike today -- the longest I've ever done -- 33 km! It was a nice, clear day, which meant that Sai Kung was a beauty to behold! But the blue, cloud-free skies also meant that it was hotter than usual for this time of the year -- about 32 C! We originally planned to try Stages 1, 2, & 3, but because of the heat, thought twice about doing the infamously difficult Stage 3.

I was really glad to get out to Sai Kung again. It had been over a year since I'd been hiking out there (link).

I took some shots of nearby islands while waiting for bus #2 that took us to Pak Tam Chung.
Stage 1
High Island Reservoir

Long Ke beach
Stage 2
Tai Long Wan and Sharp's Peak in the distance.

I like the graphic design of this sign.

This was one of the small villages we passed.

The villages are a good place to buy water, and maybe get a bite to eat.

Here's a Nepalese team that blazed past us on Stage 2. The Trailwalker was originally designed to train Nepalese soldiers (Gurkhas) stationed in HK. The Gurkhas hold the Trailwalker record, which I think is somewhere around 12 hours for the whole 100 km (!?!), and a Nepalese first place is always pretty much a given.

Another view of Tai Long Wan. The tall pointy peak is called Sharp's Peak, and every time I see it, I thank God that it's not part of the MacLehose.

After reaching another small village, we decided to backtrack, thus avoiding some steeper climbs, but still getting in some distance.

Here's my dad near the end of the hike, in true form -- posing with a ridiculous sign. Not only is the wording funny, the sign is also positioned in such a way that no passing cars (drivers being the intended readers) would ever see it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

allergies and elephantitis

Ok, if you read my last posts, you might be wondering what all the allergy foreshadowing was about. While on today's hike, apart from normal allergy symptoms (watery itchy eyes, runny nose), my legs got very irritated by the tall grass. By the end of the trail, my legs were pretty swollen (my dad actually used the word "elephantitis" to describe their appearance... and he wasn't exaggerating!), and they started to hurt quite a lot as well.

After getting home, showering and taking antihistamines, I didn't see much improvement. I've had this kind of reaction to grass before, but never quite so severe. And with a less serious case, the itchy bumps usually remain for a few days. Needless to say, the prospect of walking around with elephant legs for the next few days wasn't too appealing. So finally I decided to go see a doctor.
Above are all the goodies the doctor gave me, and that's not including the extra-strength anti-histamine shot I got in the butt (the first in my memory!). He told me that my allergic reaction was moderately serious, which though slightly scary to hear, gave me some comfort, because I'd started to wonder if I was just being melodramatic about the whole thing (i.e. going to the doctor at all).

I think the swelling has gone down a little bit, but there's still a ways to go before my legs will be back to normal. You might have noticed that I have not posted any pictures of my legs... that's because they look like something you'd see in a medical book about scary skin conditions, and I don't want to frighten you, precious reader. But if you're really curious about the appearance of my legs, let me know and I'll send you your very own digital copy.

pat sin leng -- eight fairies

We had a public holiday today (happy lantern festival everyone!), and surprise surprise -- I went hiking. You may be curious why I've been doing so much hiking recently. Well, besides really enjoying getting out into HK's natural beauty, I'm also hoping to do the Oxfam Trailwalker in November, and for that reason am doing as much training as possible.

For today's hike, my dad and I decided to take a break from the Maclehose, and headed over to Tai Po to hike up Pat Sin Leng (a series of eight peaks literally translated "Eight Fairies").

Each of the fairies has it's own name and plaque at the top.

And here are some pretty flowers along the way (as close-up as my camera's focusing abilities allowed...)

I have more photos from the hike (and an interesting story too!) and will post them soon. (OK, the order of my posts got a little mixed up, so the photos are actually in the post below).

climbing the eight fairies

Here's my dad at the spot where we got off the bus and started walking. You can see the Eight Fairies in the distance... and if you count carefully, it looks like there are nine (?!). A view from a flattish part of the trail.

Flat part is over -- stairs begin!

Here are the other seven fairies as seen from the top of the first fairy.

Another view from fairy #1. You can see Ma On Shan in the distance. And below is the dam separating Plover Cove reservoir from the sea.

Tai Po in the distance. The village down below (Tai Mei Tuk) is where we started walking.

Here's my dad walking towards one of the smaller fairies.

This is fairy #7, the only one whose summit we did not reach (very disappointing), as it's actually off the trail.

Another view of the Plover Cove reservoir, which is one of two (I think) HK reservoirs occupying area that was once sea.

A view from the final and tallest fairy. This is the mountain we went over next...

Though the trail is part of the Wilson trail, sections of it were very overgrown. I would've given anything for a machete or a weed-wacker at the place below. I am allergic to grass, and when I get little grass cuts on my skin, they swell up into little welts.

Walking through lots of tall grass + wearing shorts = lots of little welts = both of my legs swelling up a lot. But more on that later...

Mountains and islands in the distance in Tolo Harbor (I think...).
Check out this cool quartz intrusion! (At least, that's what I think it is, but it's been a while since my intro college geology class)

A marker along the way. Hok Tau reservoir is where we ended up.

A view of peaceful Sheng Shui (HK) meeting the wall of high-rises in Shen Zhen (mainland China). Shen Zhen is the poster-child of city-planting. It was originally a tiny border village until the Chinese government decided it should be a huge metropolis... and it definitely is.

And the trail continues...

I'm not sure about the name of this place, but apparently it's one of the last untouched valleys in Hong Kong. Developers wanted it, but thankfully they've been denied... for now at least.

A zoom-in from the last shot. You can just barely make out a tiny village at one end of the valley -- the only sign of human presence. I think the village is now abandoned... it would be cool to check out at some point!

The Hok Tau reservoir, aka the smallest reservoir I've ever seen. Really beautiful place though!

After the reservoir, we had a few km of road-walking until we found a minibus that took us to Fan Ling. My allergies were making me pretty uncomfortable by this point... but more on that in the next post...

Monday, September 24, 2007

liver birdthday

I had the pleasure of attending Kaiser's 28th birthday-Liverpool party Saturday evening (after hiking, tutoring and belt-making -- to put this in the context of my other recent posts...). Sal came over in the afternoon to bake the cake and make some frosting(as HK seems to be completely out of Betty Crocker Vanilla frosting!! Unthinkable!). But not to fear, we found a trusty Betty Crocker butter cream recipe and whipped it up quickly. I made the mistake of questioning Betty's recipe -- wondering if it would be enough to ice a 9X13 cake. We decided to double the recipe, and then after further beating, ended up with a ridiculous excess of frosting.

Yeah, that's a lot of icing. Eat up, Sal! (She did a wonderful job with Kai's Liverpool cake, by the way. For photos of the whole cake-decorating process, check out her post here.)
Here's Kai enjoying the party. Check out the cake! I love the attention to detail -- the freshly mown field, not to mention the incredible liver bird kicking a football. Great job, Sal! Ever consider a career in cake decorating?

Here's Helen holding a selection of the yummy jello cups that Sal has become so famous for.

And here's the game of Cranium that I did not stay long enough to play.

It was a very memorable night -- thanks Sal and Kai!

So Sal, are plans for next year's cake on the drafting board yet? :)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

maclehose stages 6 & 7

At the risk of overloading you, dear reader, here's my fourth post of the day! Below are some shots from the hike I went on yesterday -- Stages 6 and 7 of the Maclehose. It was a beautiful day -- comparatively low in smog -- and the trail provided some great views, as well as a veritable abundance of wildlife. I also got to do Stage 5 of the Maclehose this afternoon, but the weather wasn't as agreeable, so no photos of that.

Monkeys at the start of Stage 6. We probably saw a couple hundred monkeys in total... and thankfully there were no attacks this time.

This is a familiar sight if you've done much hiking on the Maclehose. It's one of the many markers assuring you that you're still on the trail.

A view of Needle Hill (which we had just climbed over) from Grassy Hill. I guess it was still pretty smoggy, but nothing compared to last week's air pollution.

A sign post on our way to Lead Mine Pass.

A little plug for my favorite sports drink. It tastes great, and who wouldn't want to drink something with the word "sweat" in it?

My fellow hikers.

Cows! This sighting explained the existence of the many dung piles along the trail...

More wildlife: huge black horned beetle! This thing was about 2-3 inches long. I think they sell them as pets in Mong Kok (at least, I know one 2nd grader who bought one there...), but it was nice to see it in it's natural habitat (albeit, this asphalt road probably isn't it's natural habitat...).

A lovely babbling brook at the end of our hike. This was actually part of the Wilson trail, not the Maclehose... it was the easiest way to get back to civilization from the end of Stage 7.