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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hikers can enjoy challenging trails and breathtaking views
24 October 2008
South China Morning Post

Bowen Road
Source : http://www.pbase.com/bluetitan/pano



MacLehose Trail
Source : http://www.pbase.com/mcheng/mclehose3&page=all








There's more to Hong Kong than meets the eye. Despite its unenviable reputation as a concrete jungle, about three-quarters of Hong Kong's 1,104 square kilometres is made up of greenery.

On the outer reaches of the western side of Kowloon is Tsuen Wan and Kwai Chung which are surrounded by country parks managed by the government's Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFDC).

The choice of routes for visitors to Tai Mo Shan, Shing Mun, Kam Shan and Tai Lam, where well-equipped recreation facilities provide a safe and natural environment for hikers of all ages, is immense.

If you are a beginner or looking for some fun for the family, Tai Mo Shan and Shing Mun are both worth visiting.

Tai Mo Shan, the city's highest mountain, offers 1,440 hectares of natural beauty.

The Tai Mo Shan Country Park Visitor Centre, at Tsuen Kam Au, will provide information of the area.

The centre only opens on weekends and public holidays, offering insights into the area's history, geology and ecology, and exhibits of local flora and fauna.

It is a good learning ground for children.

After this, get ready at nearby Rotary Club Park where the 1km circular hiking practice trail is situated.

In 30 minutes, warm up by trying out the fitness facilities or learn basic hiking and safety tips.

When stopping at the hilltop lookout, you will find Tsuen Wan, Tsing Yi and Chuen Lung village below your feet.

The Shing Mun Country Park is an ideal place for morning walkers, joggers and family visitors as it's behind the Lei Muk Shue Estate. Enjoy yourself in designated recreational facilities, such as barbecue pits in the south and southeast near the dam, kiosk, rain shelter, jogging trail, the Pineapple Dam Nature Trail and a lookout, and a campsite near Lead Mine Pass.

A visitor centre next to the minibus terminus opens every day from 9.30am to 4pm. With clear signage, it's easy to navigate around the reservoir and appreciate rich woodlands, regenerated forest areas and maturing subtropical forests.

For experienced hikers, who look for challenges, stages seven to nine on the MacLehose Trail go from Shing Mun Reservoir to Lead Mine Pass, Route Twisk and as far as Tin Fu Tsai in Tai Lam Country Park. It takes about nine hours to complete this 22km route.

The starting altitude at Shing Mun Pineapple Dam is 200m and by the time you reach Tai Mo Shan it's above 900m.

Novice hikers may find this area - the 532m high Needle Hill and 647m high Grassy Hill - long and difficult to navigate as the track doesn't offer much shade.

This trail commands a splendid view of Shing Mun Reservoir that was built in 1936. Seventy hectares of agricultural land and eight Hakka villages, which made way for this project, are now under water.

From Lead Mine Pass to Tai Mo Shan, it's mostly ridgetop path across grassy slopes and a panoramic view of Tsuen Wan, Kwai Chung and Tsing Yi, though the summit of Tai Mo Shan is closed as it's a radio station. From there is a narrow paved road zigzagging down to Route Twisk.

If you have any spare energy, stage nine winds through Tai Lam Country Park from Route Twisk and ends at Tin Fu Tsai where an old village lies 2km from the head of Tai Lam Chung Reservoir. It's an easy journey of about 2½ hours, and most of the walk is under the bushy trail or inside woodland.

It is possible to follow the Yuen Tsuen Ancient Trail which connected villages between Tsuen Wan and Yuen Long in the old days. It was a vital passage to transport produce from the farms in Yuen Long to Tsuen Wan and return with daily necessities.

The AFCD recommends a two-hour, 6.5km route for a taste of this traditional route. Starting at Pun Shan Tsuen, close to Allway Gardens, climb towards Ha Fa Shan before joining this ancient trail towards Shek Lung Kung.

From there, it's a perfect location for breathtaking views of Tsing Ma Bridge, Tsuen Wan, Tsing Yi and distant Lantau Island. On a clear day you will be able to see the airport at Chek Lap Kok and Hong Kong Island.

Lin Fa Shan School comes next but it is abandoned and in bad shape. Keep moving towards Lin Fa Shan junction, which is on stage nine of the MacLehose Trail, and steer towards Twisk Management Centre back along the Route Twisk and enjoy your hike.

Ensuring your safety is paramount when hiking. Most of these scenic routes are remote without access to local kiosks. It is advisable to bring sufficient water and food.

Most importantly, never hike on your own.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Not so far from Hong Kong's madding crowd
Hiking in one of the most crowded places in the world? It sounds bonkers but, as Carole Cadwalladr discovers, minutes from the city's cocktail bars, there are spectacular peaks to climb, idyllic beaches to surf, coral reefs to snorkel...
4 January 2009
The Observer

Who needs a rucksack to go hiking when you can take a wheelie case? As well as strappy sandals, a summer dress, a Time Out city guide, a big fat novel, various hair products and unguents, and there, buried at the bottom of my case like an afterthought, a pair of stout walking boots, and a sensible fleece.

When I finished packing it struck me that it looked like the kind of case Bear Grylls might pack if Bear Grylls were a tranny, but then I was going on the most surreal hiking holiday known to man, in one of the most densely populated cities on earth, and, frankly, luggage was really the least of my issues.

I was, in fact, going hiking in Hong Kong, which sounds like one of those oxymorons made up by an overenthusiastic tourist board, like a Dubai culture break or a Scottish winter sun holiday, with the crucial difference that you actually can go hiking in Hong Kong. No. Really. Proper, in the middle of nowhere, slogging your guts out up a mountain trail, hiking. It surprises a lot of people who haven't been to Hong Kong but then again it also surprises a lot of people who have. I went pre-handover and had no idea it was anything but high-rises until my friends Aussie Pete and Czech Zuzana, who live there, rang up and invited me camping.

"Camping? Are you mad?" I said. But then I rang the tourist board and they said, oh yes, as if it were the most normal thing in the world, and found me a guide and a really spiffing hotel, the Mandarin Oriental, which, while not a tent - in that it had a marble bathroom as well as walls, a roof, a bed, liveried doormen etc - was, I decided, tent-like enough. For all I knew, Pete's idea of "camping" could easily involve sleeping rough on a Kowloon pavement.

There was a snag, though. Usually on a walking holiday, I end up in an Alpine hut sharing a room with four snoring Germans, the plus side of which is that when you put on your three-quarter-length trousers and your microfibre top, your thick socks and your stout boots, you don't have to walk past breakfasting businessmen and liveried doormen. I think I may have looked somewhat unusual.

Since Pete and Zuzana were working for the first part of the week, I was going to go walking in the day and then meet up with them for a spot of big city entertainment, and the tourist board had rustled up a walking guide called Fred.

Fred wasn't quite a walking guide, it turned out, so much as a guide, who appeared to have been cajoled into doing some walking. What do you normally do with your tourists, Fred? I asked. "Shopping. Always shopping. Sightseeing. Eating. But mostly people come here to shop." Not walking then? "Oh no!"

We were starting off with the Dragon's Back trail, a gentle warm-up on Hong Kong island, about a 20-minute cab ride away. I really couldn't believe that a 20-minute cab-ride could take you anywhere remotely wild, but by the time we had climbed to the first viewpoint, it was spectacular: undulating hills covered with thick vegetation, a series of beautiful bays, and not a soul to be seen.

It's the best urban hike in the world, according to Time magazine, although apart from a distant tower or two, and a couple of far-off villages, it didn't feel very urban at all. Over the top of the hill was the throbbing metropolis, the gorgeous shimmering Bank of China tower designed by IM Pei, and Norman Foster's HSBC tower, then the as-yet-unfinished International Finance Centre, which Batman jumps off in The Dark Knight . But on this side, butterflies fluttered in the breeze, and the sea shimmered in the distance.

"What's that building on the cliff top over there?" I asked Fred, thinking it must be some millionaire's pad. "That," said Fred, "is a prison."

There was something else bothering me. Where was everybody? "They are working. Maybe some come at the weekend but Hong Kong people are very lazy. Take me. On Sunday, I sleep until maybe one o'clock and then I go and see my family and eat a very big lunch."

The amazing thing about Hong Kong is that it is both one of the most populated cities in the world, and one of the least populated countries. . . well, not a country, a "territory", but you know what I mean. Everybody lives in tiny flats in soaring skyscrapers but only some 30% of the land is built on. Because of Britain's world-leading position in petty bureaucratic planning rules - and here feel your patriotic heart swell with pride - the other 70% is countryside, most of it protected national park.

Parts of it are nothing less than breathtaking. The next day, I went out into the Sai Kung national park in the New Territories with an outfit called Kayak and Hike, set up by an Australian called Paul Etherington, and couldn't believe that I wasn't in Thailand or back a hundred years in time - give or take the fact that we were in an ex-police powerboat of the type that tends to get blown up in Bond films. We zoomed out into the South China Sea, past tiny wooden boats containing fishermen wearing conical bamboo hats of the type I've only ever seen in blatant racist stereotyping, past towering sea-cliffs and circling sea-eagles and postcard-perfect white sand beaches and the occasional semi-abandoned village or lone building.

"What's that?" I asked Paul, thinking that it was perhaps a simple traveller's hostel rather like the ones you get on Thai beaches.

"A drug rehabilitation unit."

This is the madness of Hong Kong. Anywhere else, it would be a boutique hotel, but here people have been too busy working to take time to appreciate the glories of nature, so it has been left to the junkies and prisoners. Even the tourists don't come here. Everybody else on the boat either lived in Hong Kong, had lived in Hong Kong, or was visiting relatives in Hong Kong.

"I've tried for years to get tourists out with us," said Paul. "But they're just not interested. I think they prefer to go shopping."

They're mad. Really, they are. We stopped at a tiny village and then got into kayaks and paddled out to a crumbling sea arch, although the sea was too rough to go through it, and then off to a deserted beach where we snorkelled above a coral reef, climbed a hill to get a view of the bay, and then paddled back to the village, where we had a slap-up lunch in a simple fish restaurant.

It's a grand day out by any reckoning. And half an hour after zooming over the waves in the Bond boat, I was back among the skyscrapers of Central making plans to meet Pete and Zuzana in a bar.

"It's the best city break in the world!" I said. All the joys of a big Asian city, and none of the stuff you feel obliged to do on most minibreaks: the sightseeing, the museums, the shopping. Instead, it's all the spirit-lifting, feel-good, hard-earned kicks you get from a walking holiday.

The next day, I head for Lamma, an island a half-hour ferry from Central, and can't believe I'm just 30 minutes away from one of the financial centres of the world economy, in a hippy enclave that is one of the last vestiges of the old trans-Asian overland trail.

There are no cars, just bicycles, and notices everywhere for "Free Healing" and "Psychic Massages" and little shops selling dodgy handmade tie-dyed things last in fashion around 1969. And everywhere, ageing western men with greying ponytails who washed up here in the Seventies and appear not to have heard that Hong Kong has become a financial powerhouse, is part of the People's Republic, and that shrooms are now illegal.

It's lovely, though, Lamma. Once you're past an ugly power station, and the hippy bead shops, it has endless footpaths and a rugged coastline. At a beach at the far end, there is just enough civilisation - spotless showers and changing rooms - and a slightly disconcerting notice: "Please note that we have taken down the shark nets for annual maintenance." I swim anyway but keep feeling things brush past my legs, make a quick exit, and head back to Central and the sharkless water of the rooftop pool of the Four Seasons hotel. I swim back and forth in the fading light, with the neon lights of the skyscrapers all around me, as transcendental an experience as you can have on any Lamma shroom.

I've gone, deliberately, in the best month - November - when the raging humidity has subsided and the skies are blue and clear. There are other Asian cities, such as Shanghai, that are even buzzier and more exciting; or more exotic ones, like Beijing; but what Hong Kong has, like Sydney and San Francisco have, is an amazing natural setting that dwarfs even its tallest buildings and its busiest highways.

With Fred, I climb Lantau Peak, Hong Kong's second-highest mountain - a relentless vertical slog, capped with amazing views. But the highlight is my day back in the Sai Kung national park with Pete, who wants to take me to his favourite beach. We do a four-hour walk that culminates at a tiny semi-abandoned village, Ham Tin, on a gorgeous deserted beach and eat delicious beef fried noodles in a beach-side shack. "Wow," I say. "You're right. This beach is amazing."

"Oh no," he says. "We're not there yet." And we climb over a final headland to the kind of beach I've only ever seen in a Seventies aftershave advert - long, rugged, backed by dunes and jagged hills, and pounded by surf. It's completely undeveloped and we had planned to camp but Pete had an early shift the next day, and since the sun was setting we figured we ought to start on the two-hour walk back to the nearest stretch of road and the bus stop. And then we see the boat. It has brought in provisions for the restaurant and the boatman agrees to take us back to Sai Kung, the nearest town, for 20 quid a head.

"What a bargain!" says Pete. "I love a boat ride."

"Me too!" I cry and we take photos of each other larking around on the beach before getting on board. When I look at them later, they remind me of photos of young men playing cricket on the playing fields of Eton shortly before being slaughtered in the Great War. We were so innocent! It takes about two and a half minutes to realise that we have made a terrible, terrible mistake. It's a flat-bottomed motor boat, the sun is setting, and as soon as we're out of the little bay, the waves are huge. Of course! That's why there was such good surf. There's a single piece of rope to hold on to and we keep on hitting the waves at strange angles and ploughing into the troughs, and the boat is very light and very flat and I'm no marine engineer but this strikes me as not ideal when it comes to not capsizing. In the dark. In the middle of the South China Sea.

"We've gone on holiday by mistake!" I say, a line from Withnail & I , although I'm not sure Pete gets the allusion, seeing as how he's clinging to the rope and making strangulated noises.

"What's the worst that can happen?" I shout over the wind with extremely faux bravado. "We'll get wet."

"It's like concrete at this speed!"

I think back longingly to my day out on the James Bond powerboat. A lovely bit of soft adventure as opposed to the half-hour, white-knuckle, terror boat ride from hell, but then the marvellous thing about near-death experiences is that when you don't actually die, the adrenaline high makes you realise why people go sky-diving or take cocaine.

We arrive back in Sai Kung in the pitch dark, our legs shaking, our hair at 90-degree angles to our heads, laughing semi-hysterically. Thirty minutes later, we step off the metro, in the gleaming Central station, still in our walking boots and with crazy hair, and bump into some friends of Pete's before joining them in a city slicker bar. They have spent the day in the office. We feel as if we've come back from the moon. It's the best city break in the world, I tell you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Booting up for history
29 July 2009
The Standard

Two of my favourite things are hiking in the Hong Kong countryside and our city's heritage.

So I am a big fan of a book published last year called Historical Hong Kong Hikes by David Pickerell.

This is a special book for me because David worked in my office as an intern a few years ago. I knew he was a clever young man, but I didn't think he would be writing a book so soon.

As you would expect, it gives detailed information on routes, how to get to them, how long they are and so on, complete with little maps.

Where it differs from other books of this type is that it also focuses on the history you can see while hiking: old monasteries, military structures, colonial buildings and villages.

Some of the routes are on Hong Kong Island, including an all-urban tour of the historic sites of Central and the area around The Peak (the book tells you who the Matilda in Matilda hospital was).

It is in the New Territories and Outlying Islands, however, where you can get a real sense of being away from the city.

Some of the hikes are tough (the book gives them a star rating), while others are suitable for a family stroll.

One of Hong Kong's most amazing features is its countryside. In what other city in the world can you hike through mountains less than an hour from the central business district, let alone see ancient villages and war sites?

What is even more amazing is that some people don't realize it.

Hopefully, David's book will inspire them to get their boots on.

Bernard Charnwut Chan, chairman of the Antiquities Advisory Board, sees culture from all perspectives.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Out and about
16 August 2009
SCMP

Hiking remains a perennially enjoyable recreation in Hong Kong, especially in the cooler months. Numerous books about the territory's wild side have been written down the decades and the past 20 years have seen increasing recognition of this natural asset. But appreciation of the landscape is nothing new - discerning residents have been drawn to countryside exploration since the first years of European settlement.

One of the earliest - and best - guide books to this countryside is G.S.P. Heywood's

"Few cities in the world," the author enthusiastically wrote, "can be so favoured as Hong Kong in the beauty of the surrounding country."

Much has changed in the 70 years since Heywood put down those words - and not all of it for the better - yet his call to the wild still resonates. "These pleasant places are remarkably easy to access; in half an hour by bus, car or train you can be out in the wilds; the town is out of sight, its bustle and unease are forgotten, and it seems incredible that three-quarters of a million people are pursing their business a few miles away beyond the hills."

Hong Kong's population has increased eightfold since then but - as any hiker will tell you - the rest holds true.

In Heywood's day, crossing into the mainland signified little more than a change of flag at the railway bridge. Few immigration formalities existed and Japanese incursions into the south had not yet started. He happily describes easily visited locations such as Ng Tung Shan, the rugged mountain on the northern side of the frontier, beyond Sha Tau Kok, and then slipping back across the border and home in time for tea. But not every place Heywood visited delighted him.

"Shum Chun [Shenzhen] is just as well missed," he tersely wrote, "for it is not an attractive town."

Some things never change.

Rambles in Hong Kong, published by the South China Morning Post in 1938; original copies have become expensive collector items. Charmingly illustrated with line drawings and artistic photographs, and enlivened by wry but affectionate observations, this delightful book is warmly suffused with the author's obvious love and enthusiasm for the place and its people. Hikes on Tai Mo Shan, Lantau and Ma On Shan, as well as the lowlands around Starling Inlet, Lam Tsuen and Pat Heung, are all described in picturesque detail.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Hong Kong in drive to boost visitor numbers
8 August 2009
South China Morning Post

Visitor arrivals to Hong Kong for the first six months of this year dropped 3.5 per cent compared with the same period last year. As a result, the Hong Kong Tourism Board - faced with an adverse global economy and the spread of human swine flu - is trying to turn things around and is looking specifically at initiatives to boost numbers from within the region.

"To minimise the shortfall in arrivals we are making the most of the peak summer travel season to step up our promotions, especially in the mainland and various short-haul markets," said Anthony Lau, the board's executive director. "We recently started a two-month campaign called the 'Hong Kong Summer Spectacular', which will run until August 31, and we are collaborating with our tourism partners to roll out tactical packages, and several shopping, dining and entertainment offers."

The tourism board is exploring several ways to promote Hong Kong. In October, it will organise a "hiking festival", inspired by the highly popular Trailwalker event organised each year by Oxfam, to showcase the natural environment and outdoor attractions. This will be publicised through direct marketing and by inviting media representatives and oversees trade guests to see things for themselves which, it is hoped, will generate positive word of mouth.

"We will continue to join with the travel trade to explore business opportunities in emerging markets such as Russia, India and Middle East countries," Mr Lau said. "We organised a familiarisation trip to Russia in June and will arrange another visit to India."

According to Joseph Tung Yao-chung, executive director of the Travel Industry Council, the number of inbound tourists from the mainland dropped 70 per cent in May and June this year compared with April, but things started to improve last month.

"The impact has been very serious," he said. "The number of tourists from the United States and Europe decreased between 30 and 50 per cent compared with the second quarter last year."

Mr Tung said as a result there were fewer jobs for inbound tour escorts and guides, with some having to take unpaid leave.

"People in the industry understand that the situation is difficult, so most of them are willing to co-operate with their employers to overcome this adversity together," he said.

The government has approved a suggestion from the council to freeze travel agency licence fees for one year and has convinced banks to raise the credit limit for certain operators.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Adventure race by light of the moon
27 August 2009
SCMP

Presumably the temperature will start to cool down as September approaches. With more comfortable weather, the hiking and outdoor trekking season will begin. One new adventure race starting this autumn is called MoonTrekker.

Unlike other hiking and outdoor endurance competitions, this event - to be inaugurated on October 16 - aims to give competitors a real reward at the finish line.

To start in Mui Wo at night, it is divided into two courses, of 25 kilometres and a more gruelling 40 kilometres. They will take participants across scenic Lantau Island country trails as dawn breaks. Among the destinations are the village of Tei Tong Tsai and the vegetable gardens of Po Lam's Zen monks.

More significantly, the last section will take runners to the top of Lantau Peak as the sun starts to rise across Hong Kong's most famous dawn panorama.

This should give tired runners something to hurry to the finish line for.

The raison d'etre of the new race is to raise funds for the literacy charity Room to Read. Full details for entering can be found at

http://www.moontrekker.com
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Record number in new-look Trailwalker
30 August 2009
South China Morning Post

Oxfam Trailwalker veteran Whelan Leung Wai-lun has tested himself over 100 kilometres not just in Hong Kong but also in New Zealand, Japan and Belgium.

Mr Leung did his first event back in 1996 and has completed the track which follows the MacLehose Trail through the New Territories five times.

But now 44 and carrying the wear and tear of the years, what has driven him through the pain barrier in recent years, and what will drive him to complete this year's event, will be his promise to his four-year-old son, who is very proud of his dad's efforts.

"In 2006, I took part in a competition in New Zealand and I had thoughts of giving up," Mr Leung said at a briefing session yesterday for this year's event.

"But when I wanted to quit, when I thought I just could not go on, I thought of my family and my son waiting for me at the finish line. They pushed me to go forward.

"After crossing the finish line I was so happy to see my family, my pain evaporated. So, I will keep running for my son. If I can't do it, I will break my promise to him."

The Oxfam Trailwalker will be held from November 20 to 22.

Oxfam Hong Kong fund-raising manager Brenda Wong Yuk-han said the number of participants taking part this year would be the highest in the event's history.

Trailwalker started in 1981 as a training exercise for the Gurkha troops stationed in the then British colony. It was opened up to everyone five years later when Oxfam became a co-sponsor and now raises more than HK$20 million a year.

"Over 2,000 teams have applied to take part in this year's competition. But the cut-off is 1,100, 60 teams more than last year," she said.

Ms Wong also said the route had changed and the finish line moved. The run starts from Pak Tam Chung in Sai Kung and now ends at the Po Leung Kuk Jockey Club Tai Tong Holiday Camp in Yuen Long, making it two kilometres longer than the old route, which ended in Tuen Mun.

The theme of the event is to help the poor combat the effects of climate change and raise awareness about global warming.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Mobiles can be used on most hiking trails
23 September 2009
South China Morning Post

We would like to respond to the letter by Tobias Brown ("FM repeater network could be used by hikers in emergencies", September 11).

The article mentioned the existence of an FM radio repeater network where the amateur radio enthusiasts monitor the repeater channels on a round-the-clock basis.

I believe that the letter refers to the radio repeaters installed and operated by licensed radio amateurs in Hong Kong.

Currently, there are 13 of these radio repeaters providing fairly comprehensive coverage to most parts of Hong Kong.

Frequency channels for amateur radio stations are assigned according to the recommendations of the International Telecommunication Union, which is a United Nations organisation.

As required by the union, the responsible administration in each member country should verify the operational and technical qualifications of any person wishing to operate amateur radio stations.

This is to ensure efficient and orderly use of these channels.

In this connection, persons interested in operating amateur radio stations are required to pass an examination which is conducted by the Office of the Telecommunications Authority before they may be licensed for the operation of amateur radio stations.

As regards the use of walkie-talkies on a licence-free basis, we have assigned two sets of channels, at the 27 MHz and 409 MHz bands.

These types of walkie-talkies are readily available in electrical appliance outlets at reasonably low prices and do not require a licence.

Further, we have been working with mobile phone network operators for the establishment of more mobile base stations to enhance the mobile phone coverage in country parks.

With the support of the industry, at present about 95 per cent of the popular hiking trails in Hong Kong are already covered by at least one local mobile network and more mobile stations are in the pipeline.

A member of the public can contact the emergency centre of the police by dialling the emergency number "112" even if his own mobile network operator does not provide any coverage at a specific location in country parks. We conduct frequent surveys on the coverage of mobile phone networks along popular hiking trails in Hong Kong and we publish the survey results, in the form of large scale digital maps, on our Ofta web site (www.ofta.gov.hk/en/ca_bd/country_map/main.html) for public reference.

To improve continually the radio coverage of various mobile communication services in country parks and the remote areas, we maintain a dialogue with the industry and relevant government departments on how this may be achieved.

We also welcome views and proposals from other interested parties.

T. F. So, assistant director (operations), Office of the Telecommunications Authority
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Trail braves aiming to take 100km-walk on the cool side
The Standard
Monday, November 16, 2009

Several teams competing in the gruelling 100-kilometre Oxfam Trailwalker hope the cool weather will stay for the rest of the week.

Their training has been stymied by the unusually long hot summer, with August and September setting 40-year records.

The warm weather has forced organiser Oxfam Hong Kong to reschedule the event three times.

The trek from Sai Kung to Yuen Long - mostly over the challenging MacLehose trail - begins on Friday morning at Pak Tam Chung in Sai Kung and will end on Sunday at Po Leung Kuk Jockey Club Tai Tong Holiday Camp in Yuen Long.

The Hong Kong Observatory forecasts temperatures of 14-20 degrees Celsius for those days.

Eric LaHaie, 29, coordinator for the S36 team, sponsored by Columbia stores and Racing the Planet online stores, said: "I think this year more people will finish in the cooler weather."

LaHaie, 29, a manager at Racing the Planet, said his team aims to finish the run in 14 hours.

The team includes: Rupert Chamberlain, 39, a partner at KPMG, who is a veteran of 12 events. Chamberlain said: "It is a difficult course. I have practiced it three times and it is certainly a much tougher finish than before. It is a very hilly finish as opposed to a flat finish. But realistically we are shooting for a top 10."

Clement Dumont, 32, a research professor at the University of Hong Kong's Swire Institute of Marine Science, has competed in both the Mont- Blanc mountain race and the Marathon des Sables desert endurance race.

Dumont said Trailwalker is quite a different challenge. "You go up and down so you are not always in very good shape, and because you are a team, it's not up and down at the same time for everybody. This is the challenging part in running as a team."

Its fourth member, Dan Parr, 32, associate director of brandRapport agency, has been a winner of the Repulse Bay King of the Hills.

Another team, the University of the Philippines Alumni Association-Hong Kong chapter, will be happy to finish in 34 hours because its members are first-timers. Jerico Abila, 31, a magazine editor, Victor Bautista, 43, an engineer, Wilbert Jarato, 46, also an engineer, and Mario Libunao, 44, an infotech specialist, have never been in such a competitive race before.

Training for them has been an "eye-opener," Abila said. "Those white sand beaches in areas we never knew existed in Hong Kong ... it is the fun part of discovering new things."

Michael McCarthy of State Street Bank, the event's principal sponsor since 1999, said apart from supporting Trailwalker, the US-headquartered bank aims to be a green corporation.

"We monitor, track and report environmental performance across global operations and are committed to reducing our carbon emissions," McCarthy said.

The bank recently launched its environmental management system in Asia-Pacific. New targets for reducing emissions from energy use and business travel are being set.

Oxfam Hong Kong will also for the first time carry out carbon footprinting to measure Trailwalker carbon emission data.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Dam fine reason to take a hike
The Standard
Wednesday, January 20, 2010

We all know that the community has become much more aware of the importance of Hong Kong's architectural heritage in recent years, bringing greater pressure to preserve old structures.

This raises a problem: assuming we can save an historic monument from redevelopment, what should we use it for?

In some cases, it is clear cut. A place of worship, for example, can continue to be used as a temple, church or mosque.

In the case of the Tai Tam Tuk reservoir - with its dam, old valve house and stone masonry bridges - and the rest of the Tai Tam reservoirs dating from the 1880s, we have no choice.

These impressive structures were built between 1904 and 1918 to expand the public water system - perhaps like some of our big infrastructure projects today - and played a key role in the growth of Hong Kong.

The great thing about them, however, is that they are still in use. The whole reservoir complex can store over 8 million cubic meters of water and, if you live on Hong Kong Island, chances are your morning shower came to you courtesy of Tai Tam.

Set in a country park, and on a famous hiking trail, the area is well known among people who enjoy the outdoors. Time magazine even ranked it the best urban hike in Asia. There is a shorter heritage trail dedicated to the dams, pumping stations and other features of the reservoir complex.

This is the perfect time of year for a country walk, and this is one I can definitely recommend. Bernard Charnwut Chan, chairman of the Antiquities Advisory Board, sees culture from all perspectives.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Killer python poses wildlife challenge for Hong Kong
27 August 2010
China Daily - Hong Kong Edition

A series of attacks on pet dogs by a large python on a popular Hong Kong walking trail has led to calls for action by countryside officials - and triggered fears that the next victim could be a child. Simon Parry reports.

When a four-meter-long Burmese python coiled itself around his pet dog Phoebe and tried to squeezed the life out of her on a popular Hong Kong walking trail, school teacher Robert Stearns only had two weapons at his disposal: A HK$10 IKEA umbrella and his bare hands.

"The first thing I did was try to uncoil the python which was absolutely useless," said Stearns, a 60-year-old grandfather. "The second thing I did was try to prize the top jaw of the python off my dog's head so she could get her head out of its mouth. That didn't work either and I ended up slicing my thumb.

"The third thing I tried was to take the metal tip of my umbrella and see if I could pierce the snake or irritate it enough to make it let go. I ended up bending the tip of the umbrella."

By now, the 15 kg cross-breed pet may have been only seconds from death. "The poor dog couldn't breathe anymore," he said. "So my next, desperate move was to grab the python by the tail and drag it - and that worked. It started to uncoil. I couldn't believe my eyes."

Phoebe wriggled free, aiming a snap of her jaws at the giant snake as she struggled back to her feet and retreated. "When I dropped the tail, the snake recomposed itself and turned to face us," Stearns said. "We left pretty quickly at that point. We weren't going to hang around."

Phoebe's brush with death on a May morning in Pak Tam Chung near the entrance to Sai Kung Country Park might at first appear no more than a reminder of the little-known wild side of Hong Kong, one of the world's most modern and densely-populated cities.

After all, everyone who lives away from the high rises in the rural New Territories knows the hillsides and footpaths that thread through it are crawling with a variety of venomous and non-venomous snakes and jumping with civet cats, barking deer, wild boar and porcupines.

What made the python attack in May unusually worrying, however, is that it is the third such attack along the same family walk in the space of four years. There are concerns that one particularly aggressive snake may be behind the attacks and that it might be tempted to try human prey next.

Burmese pythons crush their prey to death and then eat them whole. One large mammal can give it sufficient food to last it weeks. In July 2006, along the same stretch of path, a python grabbed and killed a 22 kg husky dog called Paro. Owner Esther Leenders said afterwards: "Paro was light on his feet and the size of a small child and I felt the snake could have taken on me if it had wanted to."

A year later, dog owner Catherine Leonard freed her 20 kg mongrel from the grip of a similar python by kicking and punching the snake. Convinced the same python had struck twice, she warned: "That snake meant business.

"These two attacks have both been close to the family walking trail and people do go out hiking with young children. A small child would weigh less than my dog."

The government body responsible for wildlife management, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) is now under pressure to take action to capture and relocate the python before it strikes again.

Guy Shirra, chairman of the Friends of Sai Kung, has had email exchanges with AFCD officials calling for action to capture the python but said nothing had been done. "People come to live in Sai Kung which is a rural area and they should realise there is wildlife around and accommodate the wildlife," he conceded.

"But as far as the python is concerned my view was if this is the same one which is most likely and it is guilty of attacking three dogs, then they should make some attempt to capture it and move it to another location where it is not likely to attack any more dogs."

The Pak Tam Chung python had to be treated as an exceptional case, Shirra argued. "It is unusual and given the history, it is quite likely to happen again. If they are not going to do anything about it, they need to make sure people are fully aware of the fact that there is a python in the area."

After the first attack in 2006, warning signs were put up at the beginning of the trail in Pak Tam Chung. No attempts have been made to trace or relocate it, however, and the AFCD's only action in response to the most recent attack was to place an educational article on snakes in an online Sai Kung community newsletter.

The article by AFCD senior information officer Sally Kong makes no mention of the Pak Tam Chung attacks and described Burmese pythons as "timid creatures", saying: "They normally flee when they find themselves being threatened. Snakes are unlikely to attack or bite unless provoked."

The article advises people to stand still or move slowly away to give the snake a chance to escape without harming anyone and to dial 999 if a snake poses an instant threat or enters your home. However, it concluded: "Snakes are part of our natural environment. By adopting proper measures and attitude, we can always live in harmony with snakes."

It is a sentiment that snake catcher David Willott, who captures six to seven pythons a year since taking up his role 13 years ago, would fully endorse. However, he too feels the case of the Pak Tam Chung python is an exceptional one that calls for a unique approach.

"Normally I would say leave snakes where they are and live with them," Willott said. "However, in this case, the AFCD is going to have to admit there is a problem and tackle the problem."

The potential dangers should not be overlooked, Willott said, conceding it was possible the python could attack a human. "I think it's unlikely but I can't say it will not happen," he said. "There is a possibility that it could happen, although I have never heard of a case in Hong Kong where a python has tried to attack a person. But it is quite a large snake and you have to be careful.

"Ideally it should be left where it is but this snake could be responsible for attacking three dogs so it would be fair enough to try to translocate this one somewhere else and tag it. It should be taken to somewhere in the middle of a country park - somewhere where there are not many houses but lots of food."

Willott sees the Pak Tam Chung python as an opportunity to study Hong Kong's python population and develop a policy for dealing with the city's python population. No official study has ever been conducted into the python population and there are no estimates as to their numbers, although anecdotal evidence suggests their numbers are growing.

Their movements and habits are a mystery. The only attempt to track a python was made 20 years ago by amateur snake watchers who tagged and radio-tracked a female python on Lantau island and found she covered 30 hectares over a period of 24 days, suggesting pythons roam but are broadly territorial.

"There is an opportunity here to tackle the python problem in a positive way," Willott said. "And I would like to get involved in catching it. It would be quite a challenge."

Phoebe's owner Stearns, a Canadian who is head of secondary at the English Schools Foundation Renaissance College in Ma On Shan, wishes no harm on the python that nearly killed his pet dog but said: "I think David Willott's idea is a good one.

"It's an aggressive python and this is the same thing that we do with black bears in Canada. We coexist with black bears but occasionally we get aggressive ones and they have to be dealt with because they have a preference to go after people. In the end sometimes they have to destroy them because they start to kill people.

"In this case I'd say the same thing. If we have a python that is being particularly aggressive and that poses a risk, obviously humans do come first. I don't think that python needs to be destroyed but if we can put it somewhere where it is less of a risk, that would be a good move and the scientific research aspect of it would be very valuable too."

The AFCD has not yet responded in detail to the request from the Friends of Sai Kung to capture and relocate the python and declined to directly answer questions from China Daily about whether it would take any further action.

In a written statement, however, Kong indicated the AFCD was disinclined to track the snake down, saying: "The AFCD will continue to promote public awareness of wild snakes among the public ... In recent years, no captured Burmese python has been relocated to the local countryside environment."

In the meantime, Stearns and other pet owners are altering their walking routes to avoid potentially deadly encounters with a reptile that has provided a dramatic reminder of just how close the jungle is to the urban jungle in one of the world's most cosmopolitan cities.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Macau hike to be held despite fight over name
3 September 2010
SCMP

Organisers of an outdoor hiking event in Macau plan to go ahead with it despite objections from Oxfam Hong Kong, which does not want the name Trailwalker to be used.

Next weekend's inaugural event has been named the PokerStars Macau Trailwalker. Oxfam does not want the name used in an event unrelated to its annual hiking fundraiser in Hong Kong in November.

Oxfam has sought legal advice on the matter. "We have been told that we have a case," Oxfam Hong Kong director general John Sayer said. "There is a demonstrable use of the name and, clearly, Macau is aware of Hong Kong's Trailwalker."

The local Oxfam branch is highly protective of its popular 100-kilometre hiking fundraiser, which originated in the city and which the humanitarian organisation has been a part of since 1986. Oxfam now stages Trailwalker events in 12 other cities around the world. Sayer said the Trailwalker name was registered in jurisdictions where the event took place and where Oxfam operated. Oxfam did not start a Trailwalker in Macau because there were no 100km trails, Sayer said. The Macau event, on Coloane, consists of a main 30km race and a 12km event for families.

Sayer said some Trailwalker fans, who were confused over whether the Macau and Hong Kong events were related, alerted Oxfam Hong Kong to the Macau event on June 21. A meeting with the Macau organisers was arranged for July 22 but Oxfam failed to persuade them to change the name to avoid public confusion. In a statement, Kowie Geldenhuys, a director of the Macau Trailwalker, said there was no legal basis for preventing the use of the Trailwalker name in Macau.

"The company Macau Trailwalker Ltd is a commercial company with limited liability, is legally registered in Macau and fully supports charity work in Macau. As you are aware, according to Macau's laws, before the company designation was approved, the Commercial Registration Department of the Macau SAR ensured that the name or a similar name was not in use or applied for in Macau," Geldenhuys said.

"Therefore, and since this event is strictly for Macau, we do not understand which legal grounds Oxfam claims to have to try to prevent this event to be designated as the 1st PokerStars Macau Trailwalker. It is our decision that, until we receive any legal reasons or explanations why the name 1st PokerStars Macau Trailwalker cannot be use by our organisation, we will continue to proceed without change."

Geldenhuys is also a director of the Macau Daily Times, which is jointly organising the event with Macau-based Upward Bound Unlimited, which offers team-building events and adventure expeditions for clients and corporations. Upward Bound's president, Robert Kirby, referred questions about the event to Geldenhuys. PokerStars Macau, which operates poker rooms and tournaments, is a key sponsor of the September 11 event, along with Stanley Ho Hung-sun's Sociedade de Jogos de Macau and many other corporations.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Don't go it alone, hikers warned
1 November 2010
The Standard

If you are accident-prone don't hike alone.

That was one of the messages coming out of Mountaineering Safety Promotion Day 2010 held by Civil Aid Service, along with 16 government departments and mountaineering organizations in Causeway Bay yesterday.

According to Civil Aid Service statistics, there were 19 mountain rescues involving lone hikers in 2009 and 16 of those were male.

In the first nine months of the year, of the 21 mountain rescue cases involving lone hikers, 19 were male.

The service urges the public to hike in groups of four to six, with some members possessing hiking experience and first-aid knowledge.

The Promotion Day showcased advanced mountaineering equipment, such as a newly purchased cross- country vehicle to enhance rescue efficiency.

Digital maps, a global positioning system device and mountain rescue tools were also displayed.

The public was also allowed to try out amateur radios, night vision goggles and a computerized weather map.
 
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