The magic of the Hong Kong wilderness
I left New Zealand 12 years ago and did a wonderful three-year stint in the Japanese countryside. I learned some Japanese, travelled through Asia, met a whole bunch of electic types and developed as a person.
I was back in New Zealand for a year and found it pretty tough to settle again. Despite having lived in a tiny rural area of Japan the daily mysteries of a different culture meant life was challenging and fun. At the time New Zealand was easy and less so.
I decided I had some more wanderlust and took myself off to live in Hong Kong - wow, what a place! I arrived mid August where I was hit with 35 degree heat and 90 per cent humidity.
I was surrounded by masses of people and great slabs of sky-scraping concrete. It was exciting but also overwhelming.
The first few months involved settling into a Hong Kong workplace as the only foreigner, finding a place to live, meeting new contacts and learning how one lives in the metropolis.
Work dominates life for people in Hong Kong. The pursuit of wealth holds centre court for the seven million people squeezed into a land area which approximates maybe the Canterbury Province. This aspect of geography creates tension and stress so I went looking for positive experiences to alleviate this.
I ran, but I also played for a golden oldies type rugby side made up of wannabe Masters of the Universe and a smattering of local rugby enthusiasts. It was as far removed from a rugby team in New Zealand as is possible. The aftermatch were staid affairs dominated by a need to go big - but only for a short time. I stuck it out a season with another Kiwi telling me to go on a tour with the team and find more commonality. I went to Thailand with the team and it was my last involvement. I spent more time with the Kiwi teams that came up.
I threw myself into my running. I had loved it all my life and set about running in Hong Kong in a determined manner. I joined a club where I was the only foreigner and was taken under the wing by the expert coach in the club. He and the club took me to seemingly every nook and cranny of the SAR. They showed me where the snakes hang out and taught me which were the really scary ones. They gave me running-with-the-monkey-tips that saved me from vicious attacks. They showed me war catchments from the Japanese invasion. They showed me the smattering of illegal immigrants hangouts in the vast country parks of the city. Many visitors don't know Hong Kong is around 70 per cent wilderness. Wild boar, cattle, deer, monkeys and snakes kick around. It is simply awesome.
Lots of my friends have swung by Hong Kong - many for the famous rugby sevens. I always try to get my visitors into the wilderness. Last year New Zealand won and I had a some guests from back home. Their highlight? The 22km trail run we did from Victoria Peak to the stadium on day three.