MacLehose Trail / Monkeys

The next day, my dad and I woke up with a bit of a case of jetlag, making me wake up just a little earlier than usual. We decided to use the extra time to take a quick 2 mile run in the park next to our hotel. The neatest thing about the park, was all the people doing Tai Chi. There were at least a couple dozen groups, each with 20 to 50 people. Tai Chi is a stretching/relaxation exercise that resembles slow motion martial arts. Pretty neat to watch. I wasnít sure if I was allowed to join in, and seeing as I cant even follow the Macarena, I decided to pass.

After our run we went down by the docks. The waters are filled with these little boats called junks. Not called junks because of their condition, itís just how the name was translated. Some are floating stores, and some are just places where people live. Most of them are pretty rundown, nailed together pieces of wood and sheet metal scraps, all assembled on a floating shell. Some seemed to have fishing gear on them.

After going back to the hotel, we headed over to my companyís office in down town Hong Kong. The UUNET Hong Kong office is incredible. Itís on the 36th floor of the highest building in Hong Kong, the Central plaza. The office there has an air hockey table and is awaiting the arrival of the foosball table. In America, this might just be viewed as a cool office, but in Hong Kong, this is unheard of. The rent and scarcity of space is more so in Hong Kong than it is in NYC and Tokyo. Highest rent anywhere in the world. So, it is a prestige thing for a business to have any sort of a waiting area, or large offices, or office space altogether. But to have room for table games is unheard of. I was able to meet up with a guy named Tito who I had worked with a little bit back in the US, and he also introduced me to Paul McNulty, who I was able to meet up with later on in my trip as well.

Afterwards, we set out to hike part of the MacLehose trail. The MacLehose trail is a 100 kilometer (62 mile) trail that goes over some of the most treacherous mountains of Hong Kong, including all of the 3 highest peaks. Every year, they turn it in to sort of a mini-EcoChallenge, where teams of 4, including at least one member of each sex, will do the entire trail non-stop with out sleep. My dad did it a couple of years ago, with his team finishing in just under 30 hours, taking only 3 breaks (2 15-minute breaks, 1 40-minute break). About half of the teams that start actually finish. The trail is divided up in to 10 sections. Today, we decided to do section 5, it has some of the better views (meaning higher peaks). We started out at the MTR subway station in town, and walked up to a place known as the noodle shop. That was a hike in itself. It gets you from sea level to the elevation of the trail in about 30 minutes, at a rather steep grade. We stopped at the noodle shop, and luckily, there were people outside that could yell at the young boy inside in Cantonese to open up the store. Had they not been there, we would have started out with nothing to eat. Instead, we got to have a nice Chinese noodle meal before starting out.

Heading out on the trail, the first thing you notice is that its well marked. Most places the trail is well beaten pat about 2 feet wide, but occasionally, it gets wider. At some points, there are even steps that have been put in to help with the inclines. This isnít a trail where youíre going to need to become Indiana Jones and go through with a machete, but more a trail that will test you with constant hills and mountains. At one point you can go off the actual MacLehose trail and go up a peak called Lion Rock , named so because it looks like a lion sitting down from certain angles. It was one of the higher peaks that my dad and I went up. From the top you could see almost all of the city below, and had a perfect 360 degree view. It was incredible. Standing on the top, it was almost straight down on all sides. There were numerous signs all over restricting where you were allowed to go saying that there were steep cliffs. Most of them we heeded the warnings, some of them we peeked past. There were actually 2 of these peaks relativly close to each other, so I went for a little run and sat on one, while my dad took a picture from the other one.

As we neared the end of stage 5, my dad had told me that there were wild monkeys that sometimes gathered on the trail. No sooner did he say that, did we round a corner and come upon one. I was stunned. We had saved our orange peels from our last stop, and kept them to give to the monkeys. As you held them out, the monkeys would take them out of your hand and start chewing on them. As we walked along, we started to notice that there were in fact about 50 to 70 monkeys in the trees in our immediate vicinity, and not just the 5 or 10 that we saw on the trail. By the time we ran out of orange peels, we had attracted quite a crowd. It was then that my dad decided to tell me that these monkeys have been known to attack people. So we kept walking.

We got to the end of stage 5, and reached Tai Po road, which is where you can catch a bus back in to town if youíre done hiking. Thereís a few spots were the trail crosses (and even goes along) roads. This was one of them. The road that the trail now went along lead over a large dam, and in to a park. Although we didnít plan on doing stage 6 that day, I asked dad if heíd like to walk down to the dam so I could look around. Iíve never walked along the top edge of a dam before. As we walked towards the dam, we came upon a group a people feeding another group of wild monkeys. We started talking to one of the men, who told us that most monkey families you find out here could be dangerous, but that this family was not.

We decided to get out the other orange that we had left, and give them the peels. As I began to peel the orange, I took off a small piece of peel and held it out to a small monkey. It was then, that a bigger monkey decided that he wanted the whole thing and reached in my other hand and ripped out the rest of the orange. He didnít get a good enough grip and it fell to the ground and we both scrambled for it. I won. After a while, I would tear off the peels and hand it to them, and theyíd drop it and ask for more, as they didnít want the peels, they wanted the orange. Fine with me, it had holes in it from the monkeys fingers and I wasnít going to eat it anyway. But man, were these guys picky. The man who we were talking to had brought bread, and gave it to them. The monkeys would pick off the crusts and only eat the centers. After I ran out of orange pieces, the man we met was nice enough to give me several helpings of the food that he brought, so that I could give it to the monkeys. At one point, I was trying to feed a particular monkey who hadnít seemed to get anything yet. Another one came by to snatch it, and I pulled my hand back. Didnít matter, the other monkey began to grab on to my shorts and shirt and climb up me until he got the food. Crazy.

There were quite a few newborns there as well.

That night, my dad and I went to a restaurant called the Banana Leaf. The food was pretty good, and they served it to you on a banana leaf, too. By this time, I was getting pretty used to eating with chopsticks. Iíve always debated with my friends over which is the proper way to use them, so I figured Iíd watch these people and find out the right answer. The correct answer is: What ever gets the food to your mouth. I saw so many people hold them different ways, that no one way could be considered correct.

After the Banana leaf, we walked around town quite a bit, and ended up finding a bar named Chasers. We went there looking for a couple of UUNET people we had met earlier, but they ended up having a change of plans and not being able to make it. So my dad and I had a couple of beers and decided to call it a night.

Joe and the Garden Pub