The director of Hong Kong Hikers talks to Eric Ho about his journey from couch potato to seasoned hiker
I am originally from the UK. I was born in England but grew up in North Wales near Snowdonia – up until I was 11 years old. We moved around the UK quite a lot due to my father’s work and only lived in one place for a maximum of three years.
In 1989 I left to travel. I travelled all around Europe before spending time in Israel and Canada.
I ended up in Turkey in 1992 and spent 20 years there. That’s where I met my wife Jackie. We got married in Istanbul 6 years ago and had a great life there. My wife eventually got an opportunity to come to Hong Kong and we thought it was time for a change.
I was the trailing spouse and at first I wasn’t sure what I was going to do.
My sister-in-law, Roz, dragged me out on my first Sai Kung hike. We walked down MacLehose Trail Section 2 from Pak Tam Au. I remember the feral cows in the middle of the trail and making Roz walk past them first. Upon reaching Ham Tim, we ordered an ice-cold Ribena drink. We didn’t feel like walking anymore so the shop owner organised a boat for us. It was a stunning boat ride and it helped convince me to move to Sai Kung later on.
Living in Kowloon we never knew our neighbours, but when we first moved to Sai Kung we were given welcome cards and a bottle of wine from our neighbours – Sai Kung has a special communal feel.
My friend Paul had a hiking meetup group called Hong Kong Hikers. I went on a hike with him and some friends to Peng Chau. Walking up Finger Hill, I stopped four times to climb 100 steps from exhaustion. Everyone was waiting for me at the top whilst Paul was trying to encourage me to get up.
I realised how seriously unfit I was compared to other people. So I told myself I had to do it, I had to get better. At the time I weighed 125 kilograms and had only just stopped smoking.
I went on a couple of more easy hikes and then went onto a moderate one. I bought the gear, proper shoes and listened to the advice of fellow hikers. Within a year I started leading hikes.
I hiked the whole MacLehose Trail, although not in one go, to learn the trail. After that, I did the Wilson and then the Lantau trail. The last was the Hong Kong Trail which I managed to complete in one go.
Paul decided he didn’t want Hong Kong Hikers anymore so he asked if I wanted to take it over – which I did. At the same time I started getting enquiries from companies from Hong Kong and Singapore about doing organised team building hikes. I wanted it to be legitimate so I registered Hong Kong Hikers as a limited company – this was last year February.
Hong Kong Hikers now consists of two sides. The commercial side, where people come to me for our services and team building hikes. And the meetup side, the social aspect where we get together with hiking enthusiasts and do several hikes per week.
I love being out in the countryside. I’m getting to know the countryside and the nature but also getting to know myself.
I’ve lost about 25 kilograms since I started hiking, maybe a little bit more. I’ve always wanted to lose weight but never done a diet. I still enjoy my good food, good wine and good beer.
After a hike I usually end up in Anthony’s Ranch. Mainly because they have the coldest beers in town. Good service there, great food and very friendly people.
We currently have 1,700 members in our meetup group. I know there are bigger hiking groups around Hong Kong but we like to keep ours more social and friendly but most importantly safety first.
It gives me great reward to see people change from couch potatoes to semi-athletes who run and participate in races. No matter what their age or fitness level, I get a real buzz from seeing people transform their fitness levels just like I did.
We started Lost Soles, our 25 and 50-kilometre charity event two years ago. The name derives from a joke that I would lose the soles of my shoes before retiring from the trails of Hong Kong. Those who want to join but are just starting out, keep an eye out for any easy hikes in our meetup groups. Follow the leader and ask them questions.