It’s been a very long time since I wrote in this blog. I have returned to give some updates.
The foremost announcement: A lingering chest infection has meant that I am desperately behind in my training for Kilimanjaro 2021, which I had tentatively pinned for sometime in July or August of that year.
The doctor seems to think an allergy has aggravated my bronchial passageways and it was left untreated for too long. I have therefore developed a rather obnoxious cough and I am suffering asthma-like symptoms. I can’t train for high altitude camping or hiking with this.
Infection aside, it now looks like Hong Kong’s inability to acquire any vaccine for the population means that I would be held back by travel restrictions anyway. So, I have to push back this trip another year. It has also delayed my trip to England, where we now own a home. We have instead rented out the place and we are waiting to see how vaccinations develop there.
This blog was supposed to be travel-related, but often I have veered off into marketing updates, tips for founders, reviews of books, and more. My chest infection, and several quarantines have driven me back into my focus, and I am returning now to try to write more in this forum. I miss the comments I would get from readers, and I definitely miss that my travel writing and memories of nomadic adventures sparked so many reads and likes of my experiences.
I hatched this plan to climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa, sometime around 2016, after I had climbed to the highest pass in the world, Thurong La, in Nepal. It’s on a section of the Annapurna Circuit, and it was my first ever climb up past 8,000 feet. In fact, at Thurong La I had climbed to nearly 18,000 feet. The views and the feeling of tranquility I felt up there were extraordinary experiences.
We had left for the final 1200 feet ascension at something like four a.m., in pitch dark night. A sky of stellar needlework rose above us, and when we paused frequently for breath and to gain our bearings on the lightless mountainside, we could see several planets above the horizon and even the lacy stretch of the Milky Way.
And when I say it was tranquil, I really mean to say that it was dead quiet. The mountain peaks around us, reaching upwards of 20,000 feet into the thin air, were like black hulks, unmoveable around us. They seemed to hold us in a container of rock. I could hear nothing except my own breathing and the trickle of rocks cascading down to my lamplight as my guide Krishna walked ahead of me. I have never heard a silence like I heard on the mountain. Even when we could see the orange glow of a hut up ahead (the last stop for porridge before the icy trek across a wire bridge into the summit pass), I could hear nothing.
This silence felt so enriching. It filled me with a sense of peace and fulfilment.
Since the mountains blocked the horizon, I couldn’t see the actual sunrise, but I could tell that it had risen in the Kathmandu Valley to our southeast. The sky turned a shade of dark blue, then a paler blue, and then washed away into a pink glow, which eventually rubbed out the stars and turned a brilliant white. Absolutely no clouds soared overhead. It was simply sky, and it seemed thin, and artificial. Like one could literally lift up a hand and pull back the fabric of atmosphere wrapped around the earth, and peel back time itself.
As I rested in Manang, and later in Kathmandu, inside of the ancient Durbar Square of the city, I came up with the ambition to try Kilimanjaro. I could tell that I would be missing that feeling on the mountain until I could do it again. I was right. I think about it every week.
Other Things Happened
Four years later, I was introduced to a new form of my life: a marriage; a job in Taiwan; the end of a gig at an international school and then the development of my own learning and travel company — all of these have meant that I have kept myself quite grounded in Hong Kong.
Over at least three years, I did manage to go with my wife to Malta, London, Leeds, Japan and Okinawa, Tasmania, Melbourne, and Sydney, and took our annual family trips to San Francisco and North Carolina.
But I have done nothing like the nomadic alpine climb I made in 2016. And then quite near the time I had started investigating Kilimanjaro bookings, and trying to coordinate a trip out there, the pandemic came, and I found myself back at home, in my home, spending most of my time reading and working remotely.
This has been a good thing. I now have something of a library started in my home office. I have read over 80 books in the past six months. I’m not sure if it was the lack of distractions or something more cosmic, but I have endured what could have been endless boredom by diving passionately into things like Classical Greek philosophy, philology and Wittgenstein, some of the old British literature classics like “Pride and Prejudice” and “Emma,” as well as endless poems and short stories that range from Victorian Era musings to post modern fiction. It’s been amazing.
Right now, I am reading all of the Harry Potter series, and my house looks a little like this.
I have a desk that overlooks the Shing Mun River Valley in the New Territories, and I have a direct view of Tai Mo Shan, or “Big Hat Mountain,” the tallest hill in Hong Kong. I would call it a mountain, but at under 2800 feet, it’s really not much of one. It is lovely to look at though. In the evening, it turns a golden dusk color. There is little to no development on its slope — just one major apartment complex at its foot, and an ancient burial ground further up; and on its top a weather dome and a guidance system for the aircraft that come to land at the airport a few miles away.
I will continue to plan my trips. The latest expectation is that sometime in 2022, when we are all vaccinated, and it is easier to come and go from the city, we will go to Tanzania, and spend two weeks on safari in one of those tent villas overlooking the savannah. And then, as my wife heads home, I will spend nine days climbing Kilimanjaro.
Until then, I will use this blog to write about the books I am reading, and the travel I am planning, so that by the time I can leave the city again, you will have made yourself fully acquainted with the ins and outs of some of the world’s coolest destinations.
I do hope within the year to be able to post videos and updates on my travels. I may even post photo and video updates of my walks around Hong Kong. There are plenty of snakes and animals to see, and in a number of the places, the views are extraordinary.
For now, it’s rest, and Book Four of Harry Potter. My chest infection makes it nearly impossible to move up a hill without becoming a catatonic invalid. In another couple of weeks, I should be good.
Happy travels to all.