By Vicki Roos
Our good friend John, and his better half, Phoebe, have been our friends for more than twenty years. We essentially grew up together, spending endless vacations together, and traveling the world. We've explored and drank (or maybe it's drank and explored) our way through Australia, the vineyards of California, the pubs of London, the castles of France, and the resorts of Thailand. It was no surprise when we moved to Hong Kong that John turned up as our first visitor. Phoebe stayed at home (three kids will do that do you). John assured us he was only doing research for when Phoebe decided to cross the pond. Still sentenced to our temporary living quarters, reminiscent of a college dorm room, we rolled out the red carpet for John. He slept in Clayton's "mini" single bed and I cooked poptarts for breakfast. The most comforting thing about old friends is that he didn't mind; at least I don't think so, but he did go home a week early Maybe it was the hike.
After a night exploring an area of Hong Kong called Lan Kwai Fong (which translates into "lots of bar"), the three of us, still a little foggy and weary-eyed, pondered what to do the next afternoon. Brad's eyes lit up and he pulled out his Hong Kong hiking book that he has been carrying around with him since we arrived, and declared like a king, "We will go for a hike." John and I agreed, but decided that hiking alone would not be enough exercise. It was decided John would go for a run, and Brad and I would take a four-mile walk to warm-up. After the warm-up, we thought we should fuel up before the hike. John braved the grocery store, and we dined on French bread, pate, cheese, and wine. (Thinking back, who the hell eats and drinks THAT before a big hike?!) Because of our temporary living situation, we did not have the essentials to properly hike, so we would have to wingit. I never considered putting hiking equipment in the air shipment since the last hike I did was in California in 1991.
Brad scoured the hiking book and decided we would brave a hike called The Twin Peaks. It was rated a 4.5 out of 5 on difficulty; no problem since we'd already warmed up! Getting ready to go was a snap since we didn't have any equipment. We left armed with John's camera and his credit card. As an afterthought, I grabbed an 8-ounce bottle of water that was half-empty, just in case I got thirsty. We grabbed a taxi to where the book told us to start. We found the beginning of the trail and started our ascent up the hill with me in the lead. After about ten minutes, I stopped to catch my breath.
"Wow this is some climb!" I gulped the half bottle of water and continued on. After another ten minutes of going straight up, John and Brad paused to look at the views of the island. John pulled out his camera and took the first of a million pictures of the hike. He'll never admit to it, but taking pictures became a decoy for resting.
At the top of Violet Hill, I was feeling overconfident, and overwhelmed by the beautiful surroundings. I asked Brad where we were going next. He pointed to a mountain that I'm sure was as high as Mt Everest. I was sure I could see snow at the summit.
"That is the first of the twin peaks."
"What do you mean, first? I thought we just did the first peak."
"No, that was the warm-up hill. The peaks are over there." He pointed to what seemed like halfway across the island. Not wanting to show my fear, I shrugged my shoulders and said, "No big deal, lets go!" I picked up my pace and began passing other hikers. I was secretly thinking if I did the hike fast I would not wear out. My comrades kept asking me to slow down, but I was afraid if I stopped, I would not be able to get going again. Finally there was a breather, a descent; maybe we had finished the first peak!
I rushed down the stairs (FYI--in Hong Kong they have paved, hikes with stairs) and was waiting at the bottom when I ran into a weary pack of hikers who had come from the second peak. They looked tired and I was afraid to ask how difficult the next peak was. Thirst began to set in. My tongue started to swell in my mouth and my shirt was ringing wet. The temperature was still climbing to around 80 degrees and my forehead was starting to burn.
At the bottom of the first peak we found we were at a crossroad. We had a choice: climb the second peak, or go around (the easy way). Not wanting to let on I felt every bit my age plus an extra twenty years, I turned to the boys for the decision. Brad looked at John, "Hey Bud, what do you think?" John thought about it for a few minutes, scrunched up his face and exclaimed, "I didn't come out to do the easy one--and "If we take the easy way we won't have a story to tell." So we began to climb the second peak, which is as close to God as I'll probably every get.
I started like a racehorse out of the gate, but pooped out by the time I hit step number fifty (I had resorted to counting them for motivation). I was surrounded by Brad and John, and a whole group of newfound hiking friends who were also trying to climb into the clouds. We cheered each other on as we climbed five stairs at a time and rested. The experienced hikers (they read the book) came prepared with water and energy bars. I hallucinated about gulping a cool drink. After an hour of going up and thinking it must be almost over, I rounded the corner only to see more stairs. A very fit, 60-year-old woman coming from the other direction, without a drop of sweat on her, saw the defeat on my face.
"Oh, you can do it! There is only a little left!"
Her husband, right behind her said, "You young...you keep climbing." I could hear Brad behind me, telling me to slow down, we weren't in a hurry; but by now, I was not only craving water, but also a cold beer. As I reached the top of the second peak, I wanted to plant an American flag and declare victory. My thirst level was growing. I would have paid a million dollars for anything to drink. We tried to enjoy the view, but Brad's face looked like he might have a heart attack, and John was mumbling something about not needing a run that morning. I began climbing down the hill--still in the lead. I ran into a young, strapping Australian lad who offered me a sip--of water. I swigged from his jug like a contestant on Survivor, and I waited for the men to catch up. I felt suddenly refreshed and able to keep on the descent. Brad and John looked at me suspiciously, but I didn't let on that I got a little fuel to keep going. I kept this secret to myself, since I didn't want to hear about all the "things I could catch" drinking from a stranger's water jug.
As we made it to the bottom, haggard, sweaty, and tired to the bone, we hailed a taxi (remember we are in Hong Kong with no car) and found the nearest watering hole. We made John buy the beers and began to go over the days events sharing our story of our adventure with any one that would listen. No one seemed as impressed by our feet as we were.
Our question of the day was; If someone asked you how old you felt--not your chronological age what would you say? I would have said twenty-eight. That's how old I felt--before the hike. Hey, at least it created a story!
© 2003 Vicki Todd and The
Rebel Housewife, LLC.
All Rights Reserved.