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  • Writer's pictureMichael Van Elsberg

The MacLehose Trail

Updated: Oct 6, 2021

I'm going back to Hong Kong in about a week to face the MacLehose trail for my third time. It's a daunting prospect. The Mac is the first, and the longest (100 kilometers), of the Hong Kong Four Trails Ultra Challenge. When I faced Needle Hill, pictured above, for the first time (and on my second attempt), I was not looking forward to going up and over it. I had already been on the trail for many hours, from early morning, and I should have reached it much earlier than I did--it should have been broad daylight if I had been on pace. It was not. And it was also the second time I had been out on the trail up to that point in slightly less than a week. Instead, it was already getting close to dusk and I just didn't want to do it. It looked terrifying and it was just that. I took several pictures from up there and my legs were shaking when I did. It was not because I was tired. I just don't like heights. It was, however, exceptionally beautiful out there so I'm glad I kept going and didn't give in to my fear. The pictures just don't do this trail justice and I was lucky that the weather was good that day.

Chris and I had stopped a less than five kilometers from that point six days earlier when we ran out of water and there was no place to get more. The first place we would have done so no longer had the vending machines we were expecting and the second place was a visitor center that turned out to be unexpectedly closed. The third and last place we might have gotten any water did, in fact, have two brand new machines that vend filtered water. These new machines were meant to replace the older ones that had already been removed. The problem was that they were covered in plastic and had signs on them that said, "Waiting for Licensing." We still don't know why they didn't leave the old ones until the new ones were operational. But by this time we had already been out of water for about ten kilometers and completely exposed for about the last ten. The Hong Kong Four Trails Ultra Challenge is entirely self-supported and figuring these things out on your own is part of the challenge.

On my first trip to Hong Kong back in November I got to know the city and also did a recce (I love using that word) of three of the four trails: very small portions of the Hong Kong and Wilson trails, and also, of course, the Mac. This coming trip I am also going to stay on Lantau island and begin to get familiar with the last trail in the challenge, which is coming up on the first three days of the Chinese New Year, January 25th, 26, and 27th. I will be volunteering this year and next while Chris and I are still training to participate in 2022. I have already fallen in love with Hong Kong. I love the place and also the people I met who live there and I plan to visit and train there as often as I can manage to go.

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