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Planning and Preparing for Kilimanjaro

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As mentioned in my previous post, The Road To Kilimanjaro, I had decided to do the Kili trek on my own. Although I’ll be traveling to Africa on my own, I’m not really alone in the mountain as I have a mountain guide. The park authorities require to have one.

There are several advantages about the planning the trek on your own. You can choose which trail to take, when to go and for how long. Basically, you make the decisions according to your needs and wants and not have to worry about someone else.

On the downside, trekking on your own is more expensive as compared if your trekking in a group. It also feels more safer and secured when you’re with a group.

With all of these in my mind, I know it was very important to carefully plan the Kilimanjaro trek to get the most value for my money without compromising my safety. At the same time, increase my chances of getting to the summit.

I would just like to share how I planned and prepared for the trek based on my research and actual experience. I have received questions from some of my friends after I posted photos of my Kili trek in Facebook regarding the budget to climb Kili. I find it hard to give a direct answer or an exact figure as it would depend on a number of things and the choices one makes.

My intention of writing this post is to provide the reader with some information how to go about planning a trek in Kilimanjaro and from there work out an estimated budget to climb Kili based on one’s needs and choices.

Mt. Kilimanjaro as seen from Barranco campsite

Mt. Kilimanjaro as seen from Barranco campsite

Selecting a licensed travel agency:

Park authorities require all trekkers to arrange their climb through a licensed travel agency or operator. They are the ones responsible for arranging the transportation, mountain guide and porters, food, accommodation and other logistics. Selecting a travel agency/operator is a very crucial decision which can make your Kili experience a pleasant or an unpleasant one. It may also affect the success of your summit bid.

I checked and inquired on the different itineraries and packages offered by various travel agencies/operators. Prices vary based on the route selected, the number of days included in the package, the number of people doing the trek, the type of accommodation (budget or deluxe) provided before/after the trek.

It’s best to check what’s included and what’s excluded in the package so you can find out what additional costs you still need to pay on top of the trekking package.

Usually the price includes the park fees (park entry fees, rescue fee, hut/camping fees), guide, cook and porter salaries (this is different from the mandatory tips),  transport to and from the mountain, meals while on the mountain, tent/dining/kitchen equipment and accommodation before and after the trek in Moshi or Arusha. Some may include free airport transfer while others charge an extra for this. The mandatory tips to guides and porters are usually not included in the package however, there was one operator I encountered whereby it was included in the package.

Booking directly with a trekking agency in Tanzania would be cheaper as compared to booking with a trekking agency outside as you’re cutting the middleman however, I was not comfortable waiting until I arrive in Tanzania before booking the trek. I prefer that everything is all settled before I arrived in Tanzania so I can just focus and prepare on the trek proper itself.

Another option is booking directly through the Internet however, some of the big operators are not exactly cheap as well. There are other travel agencies but it’s not easy to tell if they really are what they claim to be.

For my peace of mind, I decided to book through a travel agent in Singapore where I was based that time. There are a few operators in Singapore organizing a trek in Kilimanjaro however, most of them have fixed departures and the cost of the trek depends on the number of trekkers signing up. Also, most of them you cannot select the route as everything is already planned and arranged. All you need to do is just to sign up and pay if you agree to the terms and conditions.

After a careful decision, I decided to sign up with Pac-West. I first stumbled upon their website way back in 2009 after doing a search in Google. I sent them an email in February 2010 to get more information about the cost and the minimum number of people required to do the trek and got a response on the same day. Five months later, I visited their office in Chinatown in Furama Shopping Centre and spoke with, Francis, who has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro himself. He was very helpful and explained to me the itinerary and showed me photos of the climb. He never pressured me to sign up instead, he advised me to carefully think about it as climbing Kilimanjaro is expensive.

As my Kili dream had to take a backseat it wasn’t until in 2013 I went checking again with the different travel agencies and compared what each offered. What I liked about Pac-West is that they can customize the trek according to the needs of the client. You choose when to go, which route to take, for how long and they accommodate single traveler (have to pay a bit extra but even after paying the additional cost it was still cheaper as compared to joining a group which was leaving Singapore for Kili on a fixed date).

I visited their office several times last year as I had some worries about doing the trek on my own being a female traveler. Francis told me that they normally get the same guide for their clients and he personally knows the guide having done the climb himself. He told me that he will try to arrange with the trekking agency in Tanzania to get the same guide for me and if in case he’s not available to get his son instead as he is also a mountain guide.  This somehow alleviated my worries and I felt a bit more optimistic that things will be okay.

Selecting a route:

There are a few ascent routes to choose from when trekking in Kili. These are namely: Rongai, Marangu, Machame, Shira, Lemosho and Umbwe. The descent routes are Marangu and Mweka. Those taking the Rongai and Marangu ascent routes will take the Marangu descent route while those taking the Machame, Lemosho, Shira and Umbwe ascent routes will take the Mweka descent route.

Among the routes only Marangu will be sleeping in huts while the rest of the routes will be camping in tents.

I decided to do the Machame/Mweka route as it offers scenic views and because this is a longer route, it provides a better acclimatization schedule.

Although the Machame/Mweka route can be done in 6D5N, I opted to sign up for 7D6N to allow my body to acclimatize and increase my chances of summiting Uhuru Peak.

The difference between the 7D6N itinerary from the 6D5N itinerary is that the trek from Barranco camp to Barafu camp is broken up into two days. On the 4th day, the trekker hikes from Barranco camp to Karanga camp and on the 5th day, hikes from Karanga camp to Barafu camp. This allows the trekker more time to rest before the summit climb which starts at midnight on the 6th day.

There is another variation to the Lemosho/Machame route. Instead of taking the Karanga-Barafu route en route to the summit, the trekker can take the more challenging Western Breach via the Arrow Glacier en route to the summit. Initially I wanted to do this trek but after thinking it over a few times, I dropped the plan due to safety and budget considerations. You have to pay a bit more if you take the Western Breach. If ever I have another chance to go back to Kili again I would like to take this route.

Before selecting a route, I would suggest to do a thorough research about the different routes. I cannot advise which is the best route because I have no point of comparison. I only tried the Machame/Mweka route via Barafu to the summit.

Deciding when to go and booking a flight:

There are two main trekking seasons in Kilimanjaro which are based on the mountain’s dry season. Although anyone who has climbed a mountain knows that weather in the mountain can be unpredictable.

The first season is from January to Mid-March while, the second season is from June to October which is also the peak season in the mountain as it coincides with the school holidays in Europe and the US.

As the first season was over, I  planned to do the trek in August. I searched for flights from different airlines and I was very happy to know that there were now direct flights from Singapore to Kilimanjaro Airport (the nearest airport). The last time I checked, my options were to fly to Dar es Salaam and then fly to Kilimanjaro airport or fly to Nairobi in Kenya then fly to Kilimanjaro Airport or travel overland to Tanzania.

Flights to Nairobi are cheaper but then I have to secure another visa in Kenya and another for Tanzania. For my safety and convenience, I decided to just fly directly to Kilimanjaro Airport from Singapore.

As it was still early I was fortunate to get an early bird promo from Qatar Airlines for a round trip Singapore-Kilimanjaro flight. It wasn’t cheap but I tried to console myself that this is a long haul flight.

The cost of the flight ticket was the second most expensive, next to the trekking package, that I had to spend.

Vaccinations and Antimalarials:

Yellow Fever vaccination is required to enter Tanzania. As soon as you land at the airport they will check on your Yellow Fever certificate.

After I made the decision to do the Kili trek, I visited Raffles Clinic and had my Yellow Fever vaccination which is good upto 10 years. I had to purchase the certificate of vaccination card separately with contains proof that I have done the Yellow Fever vaccination.

Yellow Fever Certificate

Yellow Fever Certificate

Other recommended vaccinations are the following:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Typhoid
  • Tetanus
  • Meningococcal meningitis
  • Polio
  • Rabies

Some of the vaccinations cannot be taken all together so it’s best to sort out the vaccinations a few months before your scheduled departure so you have sufficient time to complete the needed jabs.

Malaria is a big concern in Tanzania. It is best to consult  a doctor a few weeks before arriving in Tanzania as they may advise taking the antimalarials at least a week or two before arriving in Tanzania. In my case, the doctor initially advised me that I start taking the antimalarials two weeks before my scheduled arrival in Tanzania however, I was already past that time so I started my course a week before my arrival in Tanzania.

Trekking Gear and Equipment:

While tents, food, cooking and dining equipment are normally provided by the trekking outfitter/operator, personal gear and equipment are not.

Below is a list of trekking gear and equipment required or recommended for the climb and other optional items.

Equipment:

  • Duffel bag –  the bag that the porters carry for you. This contains equipment/gear that you don’t need while trekking during the day.
  • Daypack – a pack to carry the gear/equipment that you need during the day while trekking (including valuables) as you won’t be seeing the porters at least until lunch time, and sometimes not even until you arrive at the campsite at the end of the day. Get a comfortable and lightweight backpack as this is the pack you will be carrying yourself.
  • Backpack cover (optional) – waterproof to keep your backpack dry
  • Sleeping bag – four-season sleeping bag. If you don’t wanna buy one you can rent out a sleeping bag. You can check with your travel agency/operator how you can go about renting one. In my case, I was very lucky as Francis from Pac-West lent me his four-season, down sleeping bag.
  • Sleeping bag liner (optional) – for added warmth
  • Sleeping mat/earth pad – essential for those taking the camping routes but not for those taking the Marangu route. Sometimes travel agencies supply this so check if you need to get one.
  • Headlamp with spare batteries  for use at night at the campsite and during the summit assault to Uhuru Peak which usually starts at midnight
  • Water bottle/Hydration Bladder – It is important to keep oneself hydrated all throughout the trek. Bring enough for you to store water while trekking. It is easier to drink water from a hydration bladder while your walking but water stuck in the hose and/or mouthpiece may freeze while climbing to the summit. An insulated water bottle like the Hydro Flask is good as it can prevent water from freezing when going up the summit and it can also keep hot water for a few hours. The choice of bringing a water bottle or a hydration bladder depends on an individual. You can also bring both which is what I did.
  • Trekking poles (optional)

Footwear:

  • Hiking Shoes/Boots – waterproof, broken-in and comfortable
  • Socks – It is recommended to bring thick socks made of wool or synthetic and thin socks which are used as a socks liner.
  • Gaiters (recommended) – quite useful when you are walking in the dusty trail of Kili
  • Sandals/Flip-flops (optional) – for wearing at the campsite

Technical Clothing

  • Outer Shell jacket – waterproof, breathable with hood. Must fit on top all of your clothes (shirts/baselayers, fleece and insulated jacket).
  • Insulated jacket – synthetic or down. Must fit on top of all the shirts/baselayers and fleece jackets you will be wearing.
  • Fleece jacket – Make sure the first fleece fits on top of all the shirts/baselayer you will be wearing and the second fleece fits on top of all of these. For Kili, I brought 3 fleece jackets (2 lightweight and one midweight fleece) as I didn’t had any down jacket.
  • Long sleeve shirt/baselayer 
  • Short sleeve shirt
  • Sports bra (women)
  • Trekking pants – take at least 2 pairs of trekking pants
  • Long underwear/Thermal underwear/long johns
  • Underwear
  • Shorts (optional)

Headwear:

  • Sunglasses
  • Brimmed hat or cap – for sun protection
  • Knit cap/beanie – provide warmth
  • Buff headwear (recommended) – multifunctional headgear which can be used as a neckerchief, scarf, headband, mask, bandana or wristband.
  • Balaclava (recommended) – to protect the face from wind and maintain warmth

Handwear:

  • Gloves – waterproof recommended
  • Gloves liner (optional) – synthetic, worn under gloves for added warmth

Safety and First-Aid Kit

  • Malaria Prophylaxis
  • Purifying Tablets
  • Diamox
  • Sunscreen/Sunblock
  • Lip balm
  • Insect repellant with DEET
  • Emergency Blanket
  • Whistle
  • Plasters
  • Bandages
  • Antiseptic solution
  • Paracetamol/Ibuprofen
  • Loperamide

Others:

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Toilet paper
  • Wet wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Pee bottle (recommended) – to avoid leaving the tent at night
  • Female Urination Device or FUD (for women, recommended) – quite useful for women so they can pee at night without leaving the tent. Some examples of FUD are GoGirl and Shewee.
  • Towel (optional)- lightweight, quick-dry
  • Poncho (optional)
  • Watch (optional)
  • Mobile phone (optional)
  • Camera with spare batteries (optional)

Insurance:

While nobody wishes to have an accident or illness while traveling, we cannot predict what’s gonna happen, so a travel insurance is essential especially that the Kili climb involves trekking at an altitude upto 5,895m which puts an individual at risk of getting AMS (Altitude Mountain Sickness).

Before signing up for an insurance policy, there were number of things I had to consider.

  • Does it cover the country I will be going to and the type of activity I will be doing?
  • Does it cover hiking/trekking upto 5,895m?
  • If I am unfortunate to meet an accident and hurt myself or become seriously ill (e.g suffer from severe AMS) while trekking, does it cover evacuation, medical expenses for treatment at a hospital or local medical center and/or repatriation home if needed?
  • Can the insurer pay for my hospital bills while I am still in Tanzania or do I have to cover the expenses myself first and then wait until I get home to make a claim?
  • Does it cover flight delays and baggage delays?
  • How much is deductible if I have to make a claim?

There may be additional things you may want to check and clarify with the insurer depending on your needs before signing up. It’s important to be clear what you’re covered.

Visa

Being a Filipino citizen, I needed a visa to enter in Tanzania. Visa on Arrival is available at the Kilimanjaro Airport for USD50.

To see if you need a visa please check the link below:
Countries eligible for Visas and Fee rates

Tips for guide, cook and porters:

Tipping is mandatory. Set aside money for tipping the mountain guide, cook and the porters.

Once you are there you will realize that the life of a porter is not easy. It’s a lot of hardwork carrying upto 25kg in the mountain. They do not only carry your personal gear but they also carry food supplies, cooking and camping equipment for the whole team as well as their own gear. Once they arrive at the camp site they setup your tent and help prepare your food.

Some of the guides and porters don’t even have the appropriate shoes and gear for the trek. They too can also get sick in the mountain which I have witnessed myself.

Before flying to Kilimanjaro, I consulted with my travel agency about the recommended tips for the mountain guide, cook and porters per day. The Kilimanjaro Porters Association Project has a website that offers tipping recommendations which I also used a guide. This website also provides information about proper porter treatment.

I also discussed with my travel agency how many porters I will be having and the total number of people in my crew so I can prepare the budget for the tips. Although I was aware that this number may change when I’m finally in Kili but at least I have a rough idea how much money I needed to set aside for the tips.

From my own experience, my mountain guide discussed with me about the crew tips on my last night in the mountain. He did not exactly tell me how much tip to give each individual however, he stressed to me about giving more tips to the summit porter as compared to the other porters as he went up all the way up to the summit which definitely was not easy.

Just to add as well, it is recommended that you meet your crew at the start of the climb so you can confirm how many people are in your team. At the end of the trek, it is recommended to give the tips individually to ensure each person gets his own fair share. I prepared small dollar notes and placed the individual tips in an envelope.

 

*This post is part of my Kilimanjaro Diary:
En Route to Kilimanjaro
The Road To Kilimanjaro

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Race Report: TransLantau100

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Flew to Hong Kong for my maiden 100Km ultra trail race at the TransLantau which is now on its third edition (it was previously called Lantau50/Lantau100). This was my fourth time to be in Hong Kong for a running event. Last year I joined the Lantau50 where I had my first taste of the brutal but scenic Hong Kong trails. I hated climbing the stairs but I must be crazy to have signed up for this race again and even going further the distance.

TransLantau

TransLantau

I wasn’t expecting much as I was under-prepared to tackle this long distance race which I had no previous experience. The farthest I’ve ran was about 70Km during the Peak-To-Peak Ultra last 28th December 2013 organized by Singapore Fat Ass Runs which I didn’t complete. I had not been running in the trail after that so I was really worried. The Translantau100 race course is technical and very challenging. There are lots of steep climbs and downhills with a cumulative elevation gain of 5,800 meters.

TransLantau100 Profile

TransLantau100 Profile

A month before TransLantau, me and my friend Beeping, went hiking in Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia. I was hoping that the all the hiking we did was going to help us with the uphill climbs and downhills for TransLantau although it was just a short distance hike about 19Km from Mesilau-Laban Rata-Summit-Laban Rata-Timpohon Gate.

I received a blow about two weeks before the race.  After I came back from the Bohol trip with Beeping, I got sick. For two days I got high fever then followed by diarrhea which left me feeling weak and dizzy for several days. I began to worry if my body will be able to fully recover in time for race day. The night before my flight I remember telling myself that I’ll fly to Hong Kong as I have already booked my flight tickets but I’ll see how my body feels. If I’m still feeling dizzy and unwell I have no choice but to drop out of the race.

I had an early morning flight to Hong Kong arriving as early as 8:35am. I had to wait at the airport as my friends Beeping and Chee Wee weren’t arriving until later that afternoon on two separate flights from Singapore. While waiting for them, I saw Brokie and her hubby coming out from the arrival gate. It was great seeing other runner friends who were also in Hong Kong for the same event.

Hong Kong International Airport Arrival Hall

Hong Kong International Airport Arrival Hall

From the airport the three of us, me, Beeping and Chee Wee, took the S1 bus to Chung Tung Station then transferred to the 3M bus to Mui Wo. We checked in at Silvermine Resort which was just very close to the starting point of the race. We then hurriedly went out to Mui Wo Ferry Pier to catch the ferry boat to Central so we can collect our race pack at Action X in Sheung Wan.

TransLantau100 Race Kit

TransLantau100 Race Kit

After collecting our race pack we proceeded to Wellington St. in Central where we had King Prawn Wanton Noodle at Tsim Chai Kee for dinner. We then decided to drop by Tim Ho Wan in IFC Mall to have some of the famous buns and steamed egg cake before returning to Mui Wo.

KingPrawn Wanton Noodle at Tsim Chai Kee

King Prawn Wanton Noodle at Tsim Chai Kee

It was already late at night by the time we got back to the hotel and I was dead tired after having only 3 hours of sleep the previous night. I dozed off and woke up early the next morning. The race wasn’t starting until late at night, so I took the opportunity to have an early morning stroll in Silvermine Bay Beach. The weather was perfect for walking, it wasn’t as cold as last year.

Here are some photos of that early morning walk:

A bicycle parked just outside Silvermine Resort

A bicycle parked just outside Silvermine Resort

Rocks at Silvermine Bay Beach

Rocks at Silvermine Bay Beach

Tents setup at Silvermine Bay Beach for TransLantau

Tents setup at Silvermine Bay Beach for TransLantau

A buffalo roaming freely in Silvermine Bay Beach

A buffalo roaming freely in Silvermine Bay Beach

The rest of the day was spent resting and eating before the flag off at 11:30pm. I was happy to be at the starting line and seeing familiar faces. Some of them were running the next day for the TransLantau50 and Explorer15 but they stayed up late just to send off the runners doing 100Km.

Me, Beeping and CheeWee at the starting line

Me, Beeping and Chee Wee at the starting line

At the Start Line with Louis

At the Start Line with Louis

Moments before the start

Moments before the start

Start (Silvermine Bay Beach, Km0) to CP1 (Pak Mong Village, Km12)

At exactly 23:30 the 100Km race was flagged off from Silvermine Bay Beach in Mui Wo. We had to run in the sandy beach before turning left to the small road, continuing ahead then turning right heading towards Wang Tong village.

As we were running along, memories of last year kept flashing back in my head. Somehow I still remember portions of the trail going to Lo Fu Tau (465m). At the end of the village, we were greeted by the stairs. I knew it was the start of the endless stair climbing until the finish.

We continued our ascent to Lo Fu Tau. I thought it was better to run this section at night as last year I remember it being quite hot which caused me to stop a few times for a short breather. So far I had not made any stops despite all the stair-climbing and I was still feeling okay.

We seemed to have already reached Lo Fu Tau as the trail was now leading us downhill. We passed through a narrow trail with very thick bushes which was quite painful to the legs. This year they changed the route for TransLantau100, as CP1 will directly head to Pak Mong.

We reached a bottleneck as runners were queuing to go down a steep slope using a rope which was the same as last year. After the steep descent we reached the paved road. Chee Wee was just right behind me. I thought I lost him. I told him that there’s a public toilet ahead and I will be making a short stop. He told me that he will also go to the toilet and wait for me outside.

After the quick stop, we continued on the paved path until we reached CP1 where we had our chip scanned by the timing staff after 2:40 hours of running.

at CP1, PakMong (Km12)

at CP1, PakMong (Km12). Photo by Chee Wee

I had two slices of orange and a half-cut banana. There was no Coke available so I took one tablet of NectarHydro electrolyte which was available at the CP. The electrolyte I had prepared was running out. I knew I had to refuel before proceeding to CP2 as the brutal Sunset Peak awaits.

CP1 (Pak Mong Village, Km12) to CP2 (Pak Kung Au, Km22)

From Pak Mong it was an arduous climb to Sunset Peak (854m) which is the 2nd highest peak in Lantau Island and the 3rd highest peak in Hong Kong. Although there was no sun as it was still in the middle of the night, I still had to catch my breath in between as we climbed the stairs.

The first part looked familiar however after some climbing we came to a very steep downhill that I never recall passing by last year. It was so steep that runners were cautiously going down. There were two ladies in front of us and they were kind enough to ask if we want to pass them and we declined at first as we were also going down slowly.The downhill was quite a long section and as we slowly went down a number of runners caught up with us. I gave way to the other runners who wanted to go ahead. There was this one guy who fell in front of me but luckily he was okay.

Chee Wee made his downhill move as he overtook the racers in front. I was struggling to gain my balance so I thought it’s better to be safe than be sorry. A guy behind me was telling the girl in front to go down slowly as there’s still plenty of time. As I was inching closer with the girl in front, the buff she was wearing looked so familiar and I realized it was Belinda.

Chee Wee was getting more farther so I decided to take a gamble and made my downhill move so I can catch up with him. I was so relieved when the very steep downhill section came to an end. As we continued on I realized the guy behind me was Kenny so we chit-chat for a bit but as the trail continued uphill I slowed down and he eventually went ahead.

The route to Sunset Peak seemed different this year however one thing remains – it’s still very challenging! The uphill climbing just never seemed to end. I was reminded again why I hated Sunset Peak last year. I kept wondering how far we were until we reach the downhill section going to Pak Kung Au.

It was cold and windy en route to Sunset Peak. Good thing I didn’t take any chances and wore my TNF Venture Jacket instead of my lighter Salomon jacket which had no hood. I used the hood together with the buff for added protection as my ears easily gets cold.

As soon as I saw the huts in the hill I knew we were near Sunset Peak. Honestly, I’m not really sure which one was Sunset Peak but I knew we just had to keep climbing until we reach the downhill section.

When we finally reached the downhill section, I was quite relieved as we still have enough time to make it to Pak Kung Au before the 7:30am cut-off time. As it was still dark I cautiously went down the stairs and decided not bomb the downhill like last year. I told myself that the immediate goal is to reach Pak Kung Au safely.

At around 6:04am we reached Pak Kung Au (Km22) after running/hiking for 6:34hours.

I ate a few slices of orange and ham, a cracker and hard bread with nutella which I didn’t finish. I was so happy the CP have Coke. Coke is like heaven for me when I’m racing.

I refilled my bladder with water and prepared to leave for the next CP.

CP2 (Pak Kung Au, Km22) to CP3 (Ngong Ping, Km34)

The trail was rolling at the initial part of the South Lantau Country Trail and even if I just had refueled I was lacking the energy to run. I wasn’t feeling good. My legs were feeling heavy and tired. I told Chee Wee to go ahead as I am just going to do a fast-paced walk as I’m not feeling good. I knew that if I force myself at that point of time my body can’t take it and I will have to retire sooner.

We went downhill which lead to a flat road. A running couple overtook me and encouraged me to press on. I replied that I will just do a fast-paced walk for now. Chee Wee had gone ahead but I can still see him from a distance as he wasn’t really running that fast.

Although I was walking I was quite pleased with my progress. I caught up with a few racers as well as Chee Wee however, not too long after the path lead to some very steep stairs. I felt demoralized. I told Chee Wee again to just go ahead as I will take my own time in tackling the uphilll climbs.

I struggled with the stairs as my legs were already screaming in pain but I encourage myself to just put one foot forward. Soon after I got a reprieve as the trail became rolling. I tried to do a run/walk but whenever I see any uphill I immediately switch back to power hiking. I enjoyed the solitude and the scenery along the way. On my left side was a reservoir which I kept looking. Later on I found that the name of the reservoir is Shek Pik Reservoir.

As I continued my hike I saw some big wooden columns on a hill from a distance (later on I found out those wooden columns are part of the Wisdom Path). I thought I must be nearby now to Ngong Ping however, I didn’t see the big Buddha. I was expecting to see the big Buddha considering it’s enormous size on top of a hill.

Two Chinese runners overtook me and told me that the CP is just nearby. I followed them and finally reached a paved road. I saw a gate which I took a picture without realizing it was the gate going to Lantau Peak which we will be taking later that night.

After 09:51hrs of running/hiking, I reach Ngong Ping (CP3, Km34).

Ngong Ping Lantau Peak Entrance

Ngong Ping Lantau Peak Entrance

At CP3, Ngong Ping (Km34)

At CP3, Ngong Ping (Km34)

Chee Wee was still at the CP when I arrived. He brought me a cup of hot noodles and I ate a bit. I also had a few slices of orange, dried mangoes and ham. I drank Coke again which made me feel so much better. I felt more energized after refueling in Ngong Ping.

CP3 (Ngong Ping, Km34) to CP4 (Keung Shan, Km45)

Took a quick stop at the toilet before continuing to CP4. Chee Wee advised me to treat my blisters before it gets any worst. I taped my right foot where the blisters were starting to form.

We had to run in a road initially until we reached a crossing where the marshal directed us to an entrance of a trail park. After climbing one hill I realized there were many more hills ahead of us. It looked daunting but this part of the race is very scenic. In fact I stopped a few times to take photos as the scenery was just beautiful.

A participant negotiating the stairs at Keung Shan Country Walk

A participant negotiating the stairs at Keung Shan Country Walk

Shek Pik Reservoir as seen from Keung Shan Country Walk

Shek Pik Reservoir as seen from Keung Shan Country Walk

Me taking a photo of the scenery below

Chee Wee caught me taking a photo of the scenery below

The trail at Keung Shan Country Walk

The trail at Keung Shan Country Walk

Still at the  Keung Shan Country Walk

Still at the Keung Shan Country Walk. Photo by Chee Wee

Keung Shan Peak (459m)

Keung Shan Peak (459m). Photo by Chee Wee

Keung Shan Peak (459m) with Chee Wee

Keung Shan Peak (459m) with Chee Wee

After traversing many hills we finally reached the downhill section. Me and Chee Wee moved quite well in the downhill which helped us regain some lost time during the slow uphill climbs.

We reached CP4 around 12:10pm after running and hiking for 12:40hours. The volunteers at CP4 were mostly Filipino and they looked excited when I told them I’m also Filipino. They asked me where I’m from and if I am working in Hong Kong. I asked one of the Filipino volunteers if they still have Coke however, I was told it was already finished. I had no choice but take the electrolyte tablet.

I ate two slices of orange and a few pieces of ham. We didn’t stayed long in the CP and started our move to Tai-O.

CP4 (Keung Shan, Km45) to CP5 (Tai-O, KM57)

The trail started with a very steep uphill climb. I had to go very slow again. This section of the race course seemed very long and tiring. There were never-ending hills that we have to traverse but we just have to keep moving.

We took a few minutes rest as Chee Wee wanted to eat his bakwa. He gave me two pieces which I initially declined however, after he pleaded that I take some I willingly obliged.

After eating we continued climbing the stairs. I was glad I ate the bakwa as it boosted my energy.

We finally came to the downhill section. I was thinking we must be nearby to the CP however, as we reached the paved road the CP isn’t anywhere near to it. Chee Wee went to run ahead while I continued my fast-paced walk.

I can see runners crossing a long bridge ahead and I followed.

at Tai-O leading to the bridge

at Tai-O leading to the bridge

Tai-O Bridge. Photo by Andy Ng Soon Yee

Tai-O Bridge. Photo by Andy Ng Soon Yee

After crossing the long concrete bridge the path lead us to a road with many tourist buses however, CP5 was still nowhere to be found. We followed the markers along the road and finally found CP5 after some confusion.

We reached CP5 at 3:39pm after being on the trail for 16:09hours now. CP5 is inside a school. There were quite a number of runners still at the CP and I saw some familiar faces like Kenny who was taking a nap and Charlotte who seem to be preparing to leave.

I ate three crackers, a few slices of orange and ham then drank Coke. Afterwards, I went to the toilet.

As it was already 4pm I called Beeping using Chee Wee’s iPhone and asked her how she is. She told me that she made it to Pak Kung Au before the cut-off and she’s now walking to the next CP as she doesn’t have much time to rest.  I was very happy to hear this news as I know the chances of finishing is quite high if one makes it to the cut-off of Pak Kung Au.

I topped up my bladder with water before me and Chee Wee continued to the next CP.

CP5 (Tai-O, Km57) to CP6 (Ngong Ping, Km69)

We left CP5 a few minutes after 4pm. Me and Chee Wee were so busy talking  that we ended up missing a turn. We were already walking quite some distance when we realized we had not seen any trail markers so we turned back.

After retracing our steps, we found the marker that we missed. We were careful to follow the markers this time as we were walking in a small village. The path lead us to a bridge but when we reached a junction that seems to be heading to the mountain we didn’t see any marker anymore. Me and Chee Wee decided to split up to check which trail has the markers and come back to the junction. The trail I was on didn’t had any markers and it didn’t seem like anyone was going there. The trail Chee Wee was on had people coming out however, when he came back he told me there was also no trail markers.

We walked all the way back to where we last saw the markers where it was tied to a lamp post. I told Chee Wee that there’s seem no other way but go to the bridge. We checked the map but it’s not a detailed one so we can’t be sure. Chee Wee asked me if we should call the organizers and I said okay. While he was making a call, a Chinese guy who was bringing a camera approached me and told me that we were already in the right direction. The runners we’re all heading in that direction.

I told Chee Wee about this and he dropped the call. We thanked the man and hurriedly went back to the bridge. We have already wasted more than 30 minutes after getting lost twice.

Our 1:40hours of buffer time has been reduced to almost 30 minutes. Both of us were silent as we continued along the path. After a few minutes we found the trail marker so we got confirmation we were on the right path. Chee Wee started running while I continued to power hike.

The time spent trying to look for the trail marker drained my energy. I began to think if we should not have stayed too long in CP5 and instead went together with the others. Then I also thought about the costly mistake of missing a turn because we didn’t paid attention. I was wondering if these mistakes were going to cost us the race.

I ran the downhill paved path and was able to catch up with Chee Wee. Not too long after we were able to catch up with a group of Chinese runners walking the road. We walked together with them until we reached a trail sign leading uphill.

Their group went up first  followed by Chee Wee. I opted to go to last as I know I was going to be slow with the uphill climb. It was quite steep that I have to stop occasionally to catch my breath. The trail was very narrow and the tall bushes made me feel like I was gonna get suffocated if I don’t get out soon. The confined space made me feel claustrophobic and I kept wishing we would be at the peak soon but it was a long torture. It did offer a good view of the Hong Kong Airport. Just as I thought there was clearing ahead, another uphill climb with the tall bushes presents itself.

The Chinese group were quite fast and soon they were out of our sight. Chee Wee looked worried as we seemed to be the last heading to Ngong Ping from Tai-O. I told him that it doesn’t matter if we are the last. We just try and see if we can make it for the cut-off.

It was getting dark and I was wishing we will be out of the tall bushes soon. After a long uphill struggle we finally reached a clearing. We can see the big Buddha on the our right side on another mountain and the cable cars going in that direction. I was wondering if we had enough time to get there.

Across from where we were standing there was a cable car station and we spotted the Chinese runners going up there. We went down the stairs and then climbed up. We found the trail sign and continued ahead.

The trail was mostly rolling at this point and I was glad that my legs can rest for a bit. We can see headlamps ahead of us so we know we are in the right track.

We reached Ngong Ping (CP6, Km69) at 7:37pm after being on the trail for 20:07hours now.

I ate a few slices of orange and crackers then drank my favorite energy booster, Coke. I decided to a eat bit of cup noodles as the next peak will be Lantau Peak (934m) and I needed all the energy I can get.

Chee Wee didn’t looked good. He told me he was feeling cold. We rested for a few minutes in the CP. I asked him if he wanna continue. I tried to encourage him by telling him that it’s not like we are climbing from sea level all the way up to 934m. We are already at an elevation in Ngong Ping based on the race course profile. I told him if ever he decides not to continue I will go on my own to Lantau Peak. He answered me and said he will give it a try and go with me.

He asked a marshal if they got any spare gloves but none of them have. He decided to just use the buff to cover his hand. I advised him to put on his jacket hood so it helps cover his head.

CP6 (Ngong Ping, Km69) to CP7 (Pak Kung Au, Km74)

We left the CP and walked in the dark to the gate where the trail starts for Lantau Peak. It was uphill all the way and quite windy too. We took our time as we climbed the stairs, occasionally stopping. We can see the big Buddha across.

As we were going up, we heard a bursting sound followed by a liquid being sprayed on my face. I got terrified wondering what it was. Chee Wee said it might be an animal. We continued ahead and then the noise came again and the liquid sprayed on my face. This time Chee Wee saw it and he laughed. He said it’s because of my water bottle which had Coke on it. We both laughed and I was relieved it was not something creepy.

We continued the steep climb until we reached a clearing by then the visibility was pretty bad. The Big Buddha cannot be seen anymore. Chee Wee asked if we can rest. I told him it’s not a good idea to rest at this point as it was too windy and cold. We need to get out as soon as possible.

I realized it was not yet the peak. Lantau Peak was still up further ahead. It was quite hard to see what’s ahead due to the fog. We caught up with a couple and we followed their lead. The strong wind was threatening to blow us off the ridge. I held on to the railing and rocks as we climbed to the top.

When we finally reached Lantau Peak, the highest peak in Lantau Island and the 2nd highest in Hong Kong, a marshal advised us to immediately go down. There was no opportunity to take any souvenir photos as it was too windy and foggy. We took another trail going down to Pak Kung Au. The couple went down first and after a few minutes they were out of our sight. As we continued the downhill, the wind was still very strong so we had to be cautious with our steps. The strong windy conditions remained until we reached the CP. I was so relieved when we made it safely down to Pak Kung Au.

We arrived in CP7 around 10:30pm, exactly 23hours after flag-off. We had about 2 hours buffer time.

I ate 2 slices of orange again and some ham. I had no appetite to eat other food. The CP had ran out of Coke but luckily I still have some left from the previous CP.

Chee Wee looked like he wanted to rest more at the CP but it was cold and windy to stay long there. I tried to encourage him by telling him that the trail going to the next CP is mostly rolling but after that there will be an uphill before going downhill. In the end he agreed to move on.

CP7 (Pak Kung Au, Km74) to CP8(Chi Ma Wan, Km84)

We crossed the road to the other side where the kiosk was after going down from Sunset Peak and followed the trail from there. We passed by Kenny along with a few other runners who were taking a short nap on the side of the trail. After hiking a few minutes I asked Chee Wee if he’s okay and he told me that he’s very sleepy.

We decided to take a few minutes break so he can take a short nap. I just sat in the corner while I waited for him to wake up. Kenny and a few other racers passed by and asked if we are just okay. I told them he is just taking a short nap.

After a few minutes he woke up and said we can continue. As we continued hiking in the dark trail Chee Wee didn’t look good as he kept tripping over the rocks. I asked him again if he is okay and he told me that he is sleep walking but he insisted that we continue. I gave him half of my Coke in the hope that it will keep him awake.

I was worried he would fall off the cliff if he’s sleep walking. Every now and then I would look back and check on him if he’s still behind me.

He kept burping and I asked him if he feels like vomiting. He told me he’s not. He just feels sleepy. He reasoned out that it’s because of the orange and Coke that he took.

After about 7.5Km we finally reached the road. A marshal assisted us in crossing the road and informed us that there’s another 2.5km to CP8. Chee Wee asked for a few minutes break so he can take another short nap and I agreed as the next one will be steep uphill climb.

Two runners went past us and asked if we are okay. After a few minutes Chee Wee woke up and said he’s okay to continue.

We climbed uphill and after that it was all downhill all the way to CP8.

We reached Chi Ma Wan (Km84) around 2:26am. We have been running and hiking for 26:56hours now. Our buffer time was cut short to just one hour.

I took orange again and ate a bit of spaghetti.

CP8 (Chi Ma Wan, Km84) to CP9 (Shap Long, Km95)

From Chi Ma Wan it was a steep uphill climb to Lo Yan Shan (303m). My legs were very tired but I know I have to keep on pushing. When we reached the peak there was a bit of confusion where to go as the runner ahead told us he can’t find any trail marker. After surveying the place there was no way but down. Three runners went down first and then after climbing the steps, found the marker.

There was a lot of going up and down the stairs. At this stage of the race I just really hated it.

Chee Wee’s headlamp was running out of battery. Both of us had already used our spare batteries as this was our 2nd night of running. He had another spare headlamp but it wasn’t so bright. From time to time I would look back and help him light his path.

I looked at my watch and I was beginning to worry if we can make it on time for the cut-off at CP9. I walked very fast but it seemed like we were still very far away as we had not pass some areas which I remembered were near to the CP.

I heard runners from behind as they try to overtake me. I started to run as well as I know there’s not enough time and my headlamp battery was also running out. It was was a mad dash to beat the cut-off time. I was pushing myself very hard. During the uphill climbs I just bear the pain and just tried to be quick as possible.

I was so relieved when I finally saw the gate and felt even more lucky the CP was just around there. I didn’t have to run quite far like last year.

I didn’t stop for any drinks. After the timing staff scanned my chip I immediately went ahead as I only had about 1hour and 25 mins to cover 5Km which still includes a lot of uphill.

CP9 (Shap Long, Km95) to Finish (Silvermine Bay Beach)

It’s a paved road all the way to the finish but my legs totally had no power left after pushing myself so hard in the previous section. My quads and calves were in so much pain. I can’t run anymore even a short distance. I told myself that if I walk with a 15mins/km pace I can still make it for the 7:30am cut-off.

Walking was even a pain now but I know I have to keep moving. After about 2.5km I had to go pee in the bushes. As I returned to the paved road I saw Chee Wee. I was happy that he made the cut-off at CP9. He told me that after I started running together with the others he also started to run as his headlamp had ran out of battery.

As we reached the pier area I know we are moments from finishing this grueling 100Km race. Beeping was waiting for us near the ferry pier as she had been tracking our progress from the website. She walked together with me to the finish. A group of Singaporean runners who were gathered outside Silvermine Resort cheered me on as I was nearing the finish line.

After 31:46:06 hours of running and hiking 100Km and more than 32 hours of no sleep, I finally reached the finish line.

I was extremely exhausted but very happy to have finished my first ever 100Km ultra trail race.  It’s hard to believe I did it! I felt grateful and blessed.

Thanks to Chee Wee for being my running buddy during the race, to Kenny Lim who provided encouraging words each time he saw me in the trail or CP and most especially to Bee Ping. I am happy that she also finished her 50Km race.

TransLantau100 Finisher's Medal

TransLantau100 Finisher’s Medal

TransLantau100 Finisher's Medal

TransLantau100 Finisher’s Medal

TransLantau100 Race Results

TransLantau100 Race Results

 

Gear Packed/Used:
Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest (12L)
One 20oz Ultimate Direction water bottle
Hydrapak Reservoir (1.5L)
Salomon Soft Flask (237mL/8oz)
Petzl Tikka XP2 with spare batteries
Black Diamond Headlamp – backup headlamp/not used
TNF Venture Jacket
Nike Dri-Fit Shirt
2XU Compression Shorts
Columbia Trekking Shorts
Buff
Nike Dri-Fit Cap
Compressport R2 calf sleeves
Feetures! Elite Socks
Salomon Women’s XR Crossmax Neutral Shoes
Suunto Quest and Suunto footpod
First Aid Kit
Salomon lightweight windbreaker – not used
Drymax socks – spare, not used
Space Emergency Blanket – not used
Coghlan’s Fold-a-Cup – not used

Fuel:
Packed energy gels, energy bars and bakwa but I didn’t really took them. I only opened one Shotz Berry Banana Energy Gel but didn’t finish it. I was mostly drinking Coke and eating the fruits (orange/banana) and other solid foods available at the aid stations. Also took the NectarHydro electrolyte at the CP when Coke was not available.

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