Sunday, 9 March 2014

Early Morning Charity Hike

At the start of a hike for a charitable cause with lots of corporate sponsorship
A friend of mine put out a call on Facebook asking her friends if they'd like to participate in the Hike for Hospice 2014 in Tai Lam Country Park in Yuen Long.

Making our way up the stairs at the start
I asked hiking expert YTSL about the easiest route of the three, which was 8km long and she said there wasn't much to see. However I figured it was a good way for me to get there since transportation and a curry lunch were provided and contribute to a charitable cause.

The only catch was that we had to be at the Central ferry pier by 7.10am and so I dutifully woke up at 5.30am -- when it was still pitch dark -- made some breakfast and got ready. There was rain in the forecast so I threw in my umbrella, though the temperatures were still cold at around 13-15 degrees Celsius.

There were a few taxis in front of my building at 6.50am and within minutes I arrived as well as many others. It turned out Medicins Sans Frontieres also organized some charitable event as well in Cheung Chau which explained why there were so many people there.

Verdant scenery set against overcast skies and no rain!
But eventually the two groups sorted themselves out and we boarded chartered buses -- including a few canine participants. In less than an hour we were out in Yuen Long, a place I haven't visited in many years and I'd never hiked before.

The country park is well equipped with washroom and barbecue facilities, and so it is a good place for large gatherings such as this.

As we arrived, several media outlets were there too and we wondered why, but then we soon found out. Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah showed up and I was tempted to complain to him about being so fiscally conservative, but most people treated him like a celebrity and took pictures with him which seemed bizarre.

Overlooking civilization down below
Dr Edward Leong Che-hung was there too, a non official member of the Executive Council, but no one seemed interested in having photographs with a former legislative councillor...

After some short speeches about the hospice, which will be completed next year, we were off at 9am. There was a bit of a log-jam near the beginning as we had to climb up some rock stairs one by one but after a while the groups kind of spaced out.

For me hiking is a quiet contemplative exercise, but for many today it was a chance to socialize with friends, and while I enjoyed catching up with my friend, we wanted to avoid the noisy groups too. One guy even brought a radio and cranked it up loud which seemed to defeat the whole purpose of hiking...

The gods of the mountain hanging out in a temple
What was interesting about this park was that periodically we would see these concrete buildings and one would think it was a restroom, but it was actually a mini temple, with various statues lined up and incense offerings given to them. Nearby was a mini hut with a cute-looking elderly couple who are apparently the gods of the mountain. I saw three of these temples on the route that looked very similar.

YTSL was right -- there wasn't much scenery to see apart from some panoramic landscapes and a large reservoir area. And as she pointed out, now was not the time to find bugs either!

The large reservoir we hiked around
Nevertheless I enjoyed the hike -- it was relatively cool and in the second half of the hike I went off on my own, passing several groups along the way and appreciated the walk. The last section that included walking up stairs was a bit tough, but they were spaced out enough for people to catch their breath.

In the final stretch I wasn't quite sure if I was going the right way but then I saw a sign that said "The curry is cooking" because we'd been promised a curry lunch at the finish. But I still didn't see the finish line and it wasn't for another 20 minutes until I finished reached the end. If you subtract the time I waited for my teammates at one checkpoint, then I probably finished it in about 2 hours and 15 minutes.

The curry lunch? It was pretty good -- the restaurant seemed to have trucked in most of the food, but reheated it there, and even brought a portable oven to make delicious nann bread.

The finish line is here somewhere...
Sated and tired, we clambered back onto the bus and I pretty much napped all the way back to Central!

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