All posts by The Accidental Hiker

Hiker, trail walker, occasional (mis)adventurer, sometime blogger, amateur photographer, pseudo naturalist and wannabe ophiologist. :p

Hong Kong records ‘serious’ air pollution levels, thanks to Nesat and Haitang

Hong Kong records ‘serious’ air pollution levels as Typhoon Nesat and Tropical Storm Haitang whip up unhealthy conditions amidst heat

Published: SCMP, 30 Jul 2017
Link to original article here

Hong Kong recorded “very high” to “serious” levels of air pollution across the city on Sunday afternoon [July 30; Saturday wasn’t much better], made worse by Typhoon Nesat and Tropical Storm Haitang as light winds hindered the dispersion of pollutants.

“Under the influence of the outer subsiding air from Typhoon Nesat and Tropical Storm Haitang, a continental airstream is affecting Hong Kong. The weather is very hot with moderate west to northwesterly winds,” the department said in an announcement on Sunday.

“Light winds hindered the dispersion of air pollutants formed yesterday and led to higher than normal pollution levels in the morning. The intense sunshine enhances photochemical smog activities and the formation of ozone, resulting in high ozone concentrations in the Pearl River Delta region.”

The high level of ozone has contributed to the formation of nitrogen dioxide particularly in parts of urban areas and along roads, the department said.

More monitoring stations are expected to record “serious” levels of pollution later on Sunday, it added.

A 19-year-old man was sent to North District Hospital after he felt unwell while hiking in Sheung Shui. The university student’s condition was later stated as critical.

Temperatures reached an average of 34 degrees Celsius on Sunday afternoon, with Sha Tin, Kowloon City, Happy Valley and Sham Shui Po recording 37 degrees. It was 36 degrees in Tuen Mun, Shau Kei Wan and Kwun Tong.

The Observatory has issued the “very hot weather” warning, meaning that the risk of heatstroke is high.


The Observatory said Typhoon Nesat had weakened, moving further inland into Fujian province in mainland China. Tropical Storm Haitang meanwhile moved northeast closer to the vicinity of Taiwan. The pollution levels in Hong Kong will remain higher than normal until Haitang reaches the southeastern coast of China.

When the pollution level is “very high” or worse, the elderly and those with heart or respiratory illnesses are advised to reduce or avoid outdoor activities.


Concreting Hong Kong trails harms runners’ joints, says expert

The repetitive jolts from landing on concrete causes tendinosis – irreversible injury to ligaments, tendons and muscles; a group is working with the government on alternatives to concreting the city’s trails

Published: SCMP, 22 Jul 2017
Link to the original article here

Rugby players play on rugby pitches, track athletes run on tracks, rock climbers climb rocks, mountain bikers go up and down mountains on bikes. So why should trail runners run on anything but natural trails?

Knee and ankle joints suffer from the impact of running or hiking on concrete, and steps force the joints into unnatural angles, causing further injury.

Yet the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) continues to concrete trails to “protect” hikers and runners. For example, part of section eight of the Hong Kong Trail across Hong Kong Island was unnecessarily cemented as part of a government project in Big Wave Bay, in the southeast of the island, in 2008.

The repetitive jolts that result from landing on concrete causes an injury called tendinosis, in ligaments, tendons and muscles, collectively known as fascia, says Alain Chu, Hong Kong physiotherapy and acupuncture expert and mountaineer.

“Every sport should have a suitable surface. For trail running, they should be on trails. I don’t know why the government needs to change the country parks into city gardens,” Chu says.

Do not confuse tendinosis with tendinitis, Chu says. “Tendinitis is an inflammation, but inflammation is the first step of healing and can be solved in three to five weeks.

“But the tendinosis means it cannot heal; there’s no inflammation, it just can’t heal. They lose the healing power pretty much forever.”

Tendinosis is a disruption of the cells at a molecular level, meaning there is constant pain, particularly walking down stairs. If the fascia ever recovers, it takes years and a lot of treatment, Chu says.

Runners and hikers with strong tendons are less likely to suffer from tendinosis.

“If you want the tendon to get stronger, you must get used to it,” Chu says. “There are many trail runners these days, but before trail running, they did not exercise, and did not hike.

“They just go straight to running. They should spend more time building that strength. Or, for me, I go to trails without concrete.”

To make matters worse, hiking on stairs can put undue stress on joints. Paths such as the one up Lantau Peak require hikers to climb huge staircases.

The knee flexes to a far greater angle to get down each step than on a smooth gradients, Chu says, so that the ligaments and tendons are at maximum extension and pull on the knee cap.

This will cause more stress and impact, and the wear and tear of the joint surface. If the angle is very sharp, the force is very high; if you walk down slopes, the force is much less,” he says.

Continue reading Concreting Hong Kong trails harms runners’ joints, says expert

ICYMI: July 16 – World Snake Day!?

There are dedicated ‘days’ for practically everything nowadays, it seems. Even so, I was still surprised to discover on Monday that this Sunday past (July 16) was in fact World Snake Day. Wow, there’s a day for that? Who knew? Well, I do now – and so do you – so belated happy World Snake Day! Or should that be World Ssssnake Day? :p

In any case, World Snake Day is not an international day observed by the United Nations, so I don’t know how official it is, but it was official enough for National Geographic to publish this neat photo gallery of various snake species from around the world: See 22 Spectacular Pictures of Snakes (gotta like NatGeo’s no-nonsense headline, haha).

My favourite is #17, the Texas Coral Snake with the ringed colour and pattern mutation, as shown below (apparently this species is usually banded, not spotted). Stunning! Kinda looks like a bunch of Mexican black beans on oval nachos floating down a fiery river of hot Tabasco sauce. ‘Tex-Mex’ Coral Snake might be more appropriate in this instance, lol.

Stunning Texas Coral Snake with atypical spots instead of bands / Photo: NatGeo

To do my part to celebrate World Snake Day, yesterday I shared the following two pics of me with snakes to my new Facebook page and Instagram profile (theaccidentalhiker on both). That’s me below holding up a very large and super hefty albino python a few years back in Singapore. A pretty chunky fella, I must say, and certainly the largest and heaviest snake I’ve ever handled!

albino python
Whoa, now that’s a whole lotta solid snake! #albinopython #sizematters #toobigtofail

Thankfully for me, the python was recently fed, as you can tell from the odd bulge in its neck belly body (damn snek anatomy, you crazy, lol) near my elbow at far left. That must have been some meal! Oh, and excuse the attempt at preserving my online anonymity, haha. I’m actually making a kissy face in the undoctored pic, so it’s practically the same thing anyway. :p

snake talk3a
Greater Green Snake at the Pui O snake talk this May #emeraldbeauty #adorable #iwant

Rare white fox found on Lantau hiking trail

Animal, which is not native to Hong Kong, was rescued by authorities and is now being cared for by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Published: SCMP, 16 Jul 2017
Link to the original article here

A rare species of wild fox not native to Hong Kong was found trapped on a Lantau Island trail on Friday night [July 14] and was later rescued by firefighters, prompting authorities to investigate where the animal had come from.

The 1.5 ft-long fluffy white marble fox was now being cared for by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals [SPCA] after it was picked up by a pair of hikers in a diversion channel at around 10pm Friday night.


A society spokeswoman said that although the fox did not sustain any injuries and was able to eat, it looked skinny and frightened.

“The fox is scared of people. We do not know its sex and age at the moment as our vets cannot do a check-up on it. We will let it rest in a quiet environment for now,” she said, adding that it was in stable condition.

“We have to isolate the fox in our Kowloon centre as a wild fox might carry rabies.”

The group said the red fox was the native species to Hong Kong but had been all but wiped out, whereas the marble fox was a wild species.

“We do not rule out that someone brought it from abroad and kept it as a pet. The owner later dumped it or it got lost somewhere,” the spokeswoman said.

She added the group stayed in contact with Kadoorie Farm and departments including the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department to discuss further arrangements for the creature. Adoption is not possible since it is a wild animal.

The police confirmed that a 27-year-old hiker, surnamed Chan, reported the case at 10:27pm. Fire officers were called to the scene to rescue the fox, which was later picked up by animal inspectors from the SPCA.

Hiker Ivan Li uploaded pictures of the fox on his Facebook page, saying that he found it trapped in the diversion channel when he was hiking with a friend. He described the fox as “very skinny and (looks) very hungry”.

“The fox was hobbling. I thought it was injured. I felt like it was hungry, so I gave it my bread,” he wrote.

He later reported the case to the police and the SPCA.

Pic of the Day: Clear Water Bay

clear water bay

Here’s a stunning view of Clear Water Bay from High Junk Peak. Love the turquoise waters, which is a rarity in Hong Kong (a murky green is the norm). The breathtaking scenery more than made up for the steep, sweaty hike up to the super pointy summit, with the fab views continuing all the way down the (thankfully) much gentler descent.

I did this hike (High Junk Peak Country Trail) around three months ago, starting at Heng Hau and finishing up at Tin Hau Temple at Joss House Bay (missed out on the big Tin Hau Festival celebrations by a couple of hours, doh!), before crossing over to the small fishing village of Po Toi O. A great afternoon hike that took me far away from my usual trails, so a nice change to boot!

Incidentally, if you like nature photography, in particular flora and fauna pics, check out my dedicated pages on wild Hong Kong flowers and plants and local wildlife encounters, which contain lots of photos personally taken by me whilst out and about on my various hikes and walks. Enjoy!

Hong Kong people walk more steps per day than anyone else, says Stanford study

Published: Coconuts, 13 Jul 2017
Link to the original article here

Congratulations, guys – for once, Hong Kong has topped an international index for something other than being mind-bogglingly expensive! Apparently, on top of having one of the world’s longest average lifespans (all the better to pay rent with, my dear), Hongkongers are also walking more than everybody else.

According to a Stanford University study recently published in the science journal Nature, Hong Kong people walk an average of 6,880 steps a day, making us the most ambulatory populace out of the 46 territories and countries assessed [although that still falls short of the recommended 10k steps per day – or 15k steps per day, as suggested by another study]. How many of those 6,880 steps are actually spent going around other people hogging valuable pavement space remains to be seen.

In second place with a daily step count of 6,189 is China, with fellow Coconuts city Singapore coming in ninth place with 5,674 steps a day (full list here). Ha! Eat our dust, Singapore.

(Sorry, that was mean – we’re just lashing out because they’ve surpassed us in so many other ways. What, who said that?)

These results are based on data taken from the accelerometer-equipped smartphones of 717,000 people in 111 countries over the course of 95 days. (If you’re wondering, the 46 places that ended up getting ranked were chosen because they had over 1,000 participants.) On top of step counts, researchers also looked at obesity rates, gender, and income.

Researchers found that people from places with low obesity rates tend to all walk a similar amount each day, while people from countries with a high obesity rates tend to either walk very little or a lot, a phenomenon which they dubbed “activity inequality”. Using the data available, the researchers calculated an “activity inequality” score for each of the 46 places they ranked, with lower scores indicating a better distribution of physical activity.


According to the paper, “individuals in the five countries with the highest activity inequality are 196% more likely to be obese than individuals from the 5 countries with the lowest activity inequality”, while a high activity inequality also corresponds to a larger gender gap for physical movement.

Hong Kong, with the lowest activity inequality score in the rankings (22.2), is correspondingly a compact and highly walkable city (well, you know that), where people of both sexes walk roughly the same amount, which is all great news … now let’s work on that wealth gap.

Two men in hospital after Hong Kong wild boar goes on rampage

A dozen police officers and conservation workers sent to capture the animal in Tseung Kwan O

Published: SCMP, 24 Jun 2017
Link to the original article here

One of the city’s wild boar gave police and conservation officials the runaround in Tseung Kwan O early on Saturday morning [June 24], injuring two people in the process [as well as making international news: here’s a CBS video clip of the poorly handled incident].

Police received a report just after 7:30am that a boar had been spotted on the side of the road by bushes near Lohas Park.

A policeman responding to the call [stupidly] kicked the 60kg boar whilst trying to catch it. That caused the animal to attack the officer and a nearby elderly cyclist.

While the pig was on the rampage, it smashed into an Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department [AFCD] van, denting its side.

Raising concerns about the treatment of the pig, the Wild Boar Concern Group said the animal had been provoked, and was defending itself.

The 73-year-old cyclist suffered injuries to his arms, back and legs. The police officer, 34, fell over and hurt his arm. Both men were taken to Tseung Kwan O hospital.

About 12 police officers and officials from the AFCD were sent to capture and restrain the animal, which was eventually subdued with nets, [riot] shields and a rope tied round its neck. The boar was taken away.

The case is not the first time a wild boar has run amok in Hong Kong’s urban areas.

In December last year, a 50kg wild pig haplessly wandered into the restricted zone at Hong Kong International Airport, alongside planes and airport vehicles. It was hit by an airport vehicle [not what was reported at the time, interestingly], and had to be put down.

Wild boars also fancy a spot of retail therapy. Back in 2015, one of the porcine pedestrians strayed into a shopping mall in Chai Wan, causing much disturbance.

[See also Second wild boar encounter over weekend as four animals subdued in Aberdeen, Hong Kong, which occurred the very next day following the above incident, so on June 25. Fortunately, no wild boars were kicked this time and nobody was injured.]

Know your venomous snakes! And what to do if one bites you…

Snake season has arrived in Hong Kong, so here’s a brief introduction to some of the main venomous land snakes you might stumble across (not literally, I hope!) whilst out hiking, trail walking or visiting a country park, and what to do if you’re unlucky enough to be bitten by one (also published as a static page here). But first, a quick lesson in terminology!

Poisonous vs Venomous

These two terms are often confused and used interchangeably, but simply put, poisons are secreted (so bad to touch or eat), whilst venoms are mechanically delivered (so via fangs, stingers or spines, etc.). Both poisons and venoms are toxins, which is the umbrella term for all harmful (organic) substances. The difference is in the delivery: poisons are passively ‘delivered’ for defensive purposes; venoms are actively delivered primarily for offensive (but also defensive) purposes.

‘Toxic’ snakes are thus largely venomous, although there are a handful that are also poisonous like the Red-necked Keelback, which has both a venomous rear bite (rarely utilised) as well as poisonous neck secretions acquired through its scrumptious diet of poisonous toads (clearly not poisonous enough in this instance, lol). Cute, non-aggressive snake, though, so have no fear! Especially since the Red-necked Keelback can often be found hanging out on local trails during the day.

poisonous vs venomous
Remember: If you bite it and you die, it’s poisonous. If it bites you and you die, it’s venomous. :p This frog looks rightfully cheesed off, I should add, lol

poisonous vs venomous cartoon

Hong Kong’s Venomous Snakes

Here’s a table from Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) showing our most common venomous land snakes. I cropped out the rarer venomous species and non-lethal ones. For the complete listing, with active links to further details on each snake species, see the original table here. See also the external links at the bottom of this page for more comprehensive information and guides on Hong Kong snakes, both venomous and non.

In summary, however, the kraits and cobras are the ones to be the most wary of, as they pack the most lethal bites. The Coral Snake is also lethal but fairly secretive, whilst the Red-necked Keelback is pretty docile and only bad if it gets with you with its rear fangs, which is rare. The Bamboo Pit Viper (pictured at top) is both aggressive and venomous (bad combo!), accounting for most snake bites in Hong Kong, but fortunately it’s not very lethal. Phew!

Also worth noting, of the snakes below, all are strictly or nearly always nocturnal, except for the cobras and Red-necked Keelback. So, if you stick to daytime hikes and walks, it’s only cobras that you really need to watch out for. I say “only cobras” like it’s no big deal, lol, but you catch my drift. Problem is cobras can be easily confused with non-venomous rat snakes, which are also diurnal, so when in doubt, err on the side of caution! Don’t forget, cobras look just like regular snakes when their hoods are down…

hk venomous snakes chart
Source: Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD)

Continue reading Know your venomous snakes! And what to do if one bites you…

Pic of the Day: The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Funky caterpillar with a big appetite, unfortunately species unknown

I spotted this very hungry caterpillar out of the corner of my eye soon after passing Discovery Bay’s Lo Fu Tau a few weeks back. Love the funky colours, ‘design’ and prickly barbs. No idea of the species or what it turns into, unfortunately, or whether it’s toxic in any way, so if anyone knows, do tell me in the comments section. Thanks!

You can see more of my local wildlife encounters here – it’s an ongoing work in progress! (I seriously need to chance upon more snakes, lol.) If you’re interested, I also have a page dedicated to wild Hong Kong flowers and plants, with lots of photos personally taken by me whilst out and about on my hikes and walks.