Monthly Archives: November 2012

Church Bazaar: Christmas is Coming

I was busy baking last week to get my contribution ready for the Christmas Market at St. John’s Anglican Church in the old township of Nelson in Burlington. The Church is over 180 years old–and this is old by Canadian standard–starting out as a pioneer church. Some descendants of the pioneers still come to this church. It is a small church, but comes church fair, everybody comes out to help. Every year, the bazaar is held on the last Saturday in November and this signals that Christmas is only four weeks away; time to get some Christmas shopping done.

There was a long line up to get inside. There were good bargains at the bake table, the knitting and crafts table, the lightly used items (called Granny Attic), jewellery corner, tombola and the Sunday Schools’s Christmas table. There was also a silent auction and a tea/lunch area. We shopped and we helped out. At the end of the day, we brought home our delicious purchases of baked goods, jams and preserves, and my daughter also found some beautiful decorations for her apartment. Another year of fun!

A Hike to Hilton Fall

This was my first hike since my long End to End hikes four weeks ago. I was admiring Fall colours  on my hikes back then, and now, the trees were all bare as they displayed a sense of ethereal beauty on this foggy morning.

My hiking group set off from the Hilton Fall Conservation Centre and our goal was to explore some of the overlapping trail loops in the conservation area before reaching the Hilton Fall. (For any visitor who just wishes to visit the Fall, there is a trail of about 1 Km in distance that leads directly to it.) For us, we first entered the Philip Gosling Side Trail and after a short walk, I was attracted by the moss-covered rocks which jutted from the brown fallen leaves. Middle Earth, anyone?

We joined a short section of the Bruce Trail Main Trail and turned into Red Oak Trail, which also was a Bruce Trail side trail. This was probably the most beautiful and challenging section of the hike. It rose above the Hilton Fall Reservoir, that we caught a glimpse of it occasionally from among the trees. All around us was moss-covered landscape. There were caves and cliffs and rocks, but photography was impossible, because with this terrain, it was easier to keep going than to attempt to balance and focus into a camera. In fact, I possessed neither the balance nor the photographic skills to even attempt.

Next we joined the Hilton Fall Trail, towards the direction of Beaver Dam Trail on the right of the fork; the left trail should lead directly to HIlton Fall.

The ground cover on the trail was a mottled brown and silvery grey.

One of the hikers who knew about forestry explained to us that the trees were planted in “military formation”, as they were straight and orderly.

We crossed the Beaver Dam, from which the trail was named, but there was a dam no more, because what used to be a beaver dam had blocked the flow of the water. Instead, we walked over a structure which served the purpose of a bridge and at the same time should prevent beavers from building a dam here.

The stream here is one of the feeders of the Sixteen Mile Creek.

We took a rocky side trail following the Bruce Trail blue blazers and arrived at the picnic area of Hilton Fall!

As a result of the persistent rain the previous month, water was rushing down the cliff edge of the Fall.

I was finally able to take a picture of the Hilton Fall in clear weather.

Just beside the Fall was was remains of a sawmill which dated back to the 19th century.

Besides heritage remains, another landmark revealing the history of the area was the pothole formed by the glacial swirl millions years ago.

We broke for lunch and then made our descent back to the conservation center.

I paid attention for the first time to the tamarack (larch). I always learned something when I hiked with this group of experienced hikers. In spite of its coniferous shape and needle-like leaves, the tamarack is a deciduous tree which shed their leaves in autumn. Its wood is used by the Algonquian natives to make snow shoes. Its golden glow transported me to a sense of satisfaction and peace as we concluded this hike.

Flora in the Hong Kong Botanical and Zoological Garden

When I went out for my walk this morning, I could not but notice that the deciduous trees were already bare, and the leaves were piled up along the gutter waiting to be picked up.The sky was grey and foggy too, and I began to miss the flowers that I saw in the Hong Kong Botanical Garden every morning when I did my power walk around the path that encircled the fountain. I launched into a foray of photography on the flowers before I left Hong Kong and going through these shots now helped bring back some colours to this autumnal day in Canada.

(This is my first tiles gallery display. My thanks go out to fellow bloggers Pat and Shelley for their support.)

Qianlong’s Secret Garden (Hong Kong Museum of Art 1)

I had a free afternoon after lunching with a friend in Tsim Sha Tsui in Hong Kong and I was within walking distance from the Hong Kong Museum of Art. It had been a long time since I last visited the museum and from afar, I could see two banners on the wall of the museum advertising an exhibition of the treasures of Emperor Qianlong and an art exhibition of modern Chinese artist Feng Zikai.

Emperor Qinalong of the Qing Dynasty enjoyed a long reign of over 60 years. The country was prosperous in his times and QianLong was reputed for his love for fine arts. The title of the exhibition was A Lofty Retreat from the Red Dust: The Secret Garden of Emperor Quanlong. (Red Dust is a literal translation in Chinese. It means the noisy secular world.) This title was taken from part of a poem written by the emperor himself.

The exhibits were on loan from the Palace Museum for the first time outside of China. Little was known about this Garden that Qianlong built for himself at the northeastern corner of the Forbidden City.

In the pamphlet handed out and display in the entrance hall of the exhibition, there was a map of the “Secret Garden”. There were photos of individual buildings in the garden. A digital portrait of Qianlong continuously display the morphing of the emperor from a young person to his senior years.

I was disappointed that there was not a model of the Garden. However, this was compensated by graphic displays of the various architectural styles of the roofs, the arches, doorways and some floor plans. I liked the paintings depicting the family life of the emperor and his children. His collection of artifacts, ranging from his tea set, his pencil cases, carved screens, furniture to a clock manufactured in Europe were also part of the exhibits. His taste apparently was eclectic. The exhibition succeeded in presenting Qianlong as a family man and an avid art collector of all kinds of curios.

Furthermore, his affinity for the Han culture was reflected by his dressing up his Han costumes in many paintings.

The exhibition provided a good audio-visual presentation on the life of Qianlong in general, and how specifically the artifacts were reproduced or restored by the present government. Although it sounded remarkable, for example, how a search team went out to look for embroiders in Suzhou and some 200 of them were recruited to reproduce the embroidery for the cushions on the Emperor’s chair, I could not help feeling sad that a lot of China’s national treasures had been lost or destroyed in a recent page of the country’s history under the same government. If now, why then? I asked myself.  I wonder if there is an answer.

Chiu Chow Fanfare in Hong Kong

Chiu Chow is a region of the eastern Guangdong province in southern China. It has its unique culture recognized as part of the world heritage. Chiu Chow cuisine uses the most expensive and the most mundane ingredients to create dishes that one can never forget.

I was invited to a banquet at the Chiu Chow Garden, which catered to the more high-end of Chiu Chow cuisine in Hong Kong on my recent visit. We were chatting over some tea and Chiu Chow pickles–tofu, pickled vegetables, peanuts and beans.

Then how I wished I had fasted for at least two days before this dinner when the dishes were brought in front of me one by one.

First of the roast pig. This is not exactly Chiu Chowese, but it speaks for the generosity of my hosts. Only the crackling and the tender layer of meat are served, and they are eaten on a thin piece of bread with hoi sin sauce. As if the pig is not extravagant enough, it is decorated with a tiny dots of edible gold leaves.

The four hors oeuvres are brought in with the carrot carving of a bird for decoration. It can sing! (This is food plating at its ultimate,)  My plate consists of jelly fish with sesame oil, crab ball with plum sauce, goose breast, and stir fry beef. Each bite is a delicacy.

The legendary Chiu Chow shark fin soup is next. (At this point, I do have to apologize to any supporter of endangered species that this may not be a politically correct item on the menu. I would not order this item for myself, but in Hong Kong, it would also be outright impudence to decline what your hosts offer you.) This is an expensive soup.  It is thicker and darker than the Cantonese shark fin soup and has a distinct flavour. One can add coriander and vinegar for extra taste. It is a very rich soup, and kung fu tea is called for to clean the palate before the next dish.

The star coral is a big fish. Its fillet is cooked in two ways: stir fried with broccoli and deep-fried with hot pepper and salt. Both dishes are delicious.

One of my favorite dishes is omelette with baby oysters. It is a traditional Chiu Chow dish because Chiu Chow is by the sea where seafood is plenty. The soft oyster meat is so tasty wrapped in egg. Since most dinner menus include a chicken dish, the steamed free range chicken is served.

Rice and noodles are served towards the end, in case the guests are not full when they finish the main menu. The rice came with roasted nuts, diced yam and chicken. All these are mixed into the rice before the rice is served into individual bowls.

The fried noodles Chiu Chow style is also my favorite. The noodles are soaked in a broth before they are fried in a very hot pan on both sides. The end product is a crunchy outside and a soft inside. My slice is served with sugar and dark vinegar. So tasty!.

Desserts are absolutely indulgent!

My platter includes:(from top left clockwise): thousand-layered cake, date cake, yam ball in puff pastry, yam stick dusted with sugar and egg crunch. Kung Fu tea is served again with the fruits.  This is a meal that I shall talk about, blog about and continue to savor the memories of for a long time.

Chiu Chow Garden, Hutchinson House, Central, Hong Kong.

From Grimsby to Dundas: End to End with the Bruce Trail Iroquoia Club (Day 4)

This was the fourth and final day of the hike. We woke up with a mixed feeling of excitement and wariness.We had come a long way and we should be completing our first End to End hike of the Bruce Trail. At the same time, we did not want a repeat of yesterday’s soaking wet hike. To our relief, it was not raining when we drove to Mountain Brow Blvd. in Hamilton, near the arena to park our cars.

Day 4

The bus took us  to Grimsby to enter the starting point of Bruce Trail that was managed by the Iroquoia club. It was relatively dark still. We heard the leaves shuffling under our feet and the sound of the water rushing down Forty Mile Creek as we climbed up Grimsby Mountain. It was quite an incline, but once we were on top, and dawn had broken through, the hike became more relaxing. The first check point at Fifty Road emerged after an uneventful 9 Km hike.

We heard occasionally the sound of traffic and trains passing, which suggested that we were close to the rail track and the main road. The narrow trail surface was very muddy,  and often slippery. It started to rain too, although not as relentlessly as the day before.  It demanded full concentration on where we landed our feet with each step.

The check point at New Mountain Road was right beside the rail track. We quickly devoured our sandwiches with their water and hot cider. We only had one-third of the day’s journey to go–move on!

As if nature (or the hike planners) wanted to reward us for our effort, a waterfall came in sight. We did not have any sign to tell us what its name was.

When we went further downstream and captured a better view of the landscape, this was very well the Devil’s Punch Bowl, another punch bowl waterfall like the Borer’s Fall we saw on Day 3.  I was hiking near here in the summer but it was dry then.

Since this section of the trail was very popular with visitors who would come only to look at the falls, the surface was paved, and there were railings keeping people away from the precipice. Felkers Falls came into view next.

We made another turn to go around the gorge.

This creek further down probably fed into the Red Hill Creek,

which we crossed over a big metal bridge. These were the views upstream and downstream. The water level was high with all the rain in the past week.

We turned into the Red Hill Creek Side Trail uphill (left side of photo above). We came down here on Day 3 and hiked towards Dundas in the opposite direction on the Main Trail. Now we were finally out of the woods on Mountain Brow Boulevard. We climbed over the guard rails to cross the road to report to the finish check- point. We forgot that we were soaked through and proudly received our hard-earned badge that was awarded for the completion of the Bruce Trail Iroquoia Club End to End—a four-day hike of almost 130 Km.

Reference:  The Bruce Trail REference Maps and Trail Guide Edition 27 (2012). Maps 5, 6 and 7.

From Hamilton to Dundas: End to End with the Bruce Trail Iroquoia Club (Day 3)

We had five days to rest after Day 2. Came Saturday the following week, we were up again to meet outside Dundas Golf Club at 6:30 a.m. for Day 3. It had been raining the past few days, and it was still raining when we headed out. We had to wear our ponchos, which despite keeping us somewhat drier, also made climbing uphill more dangerous.

We had done almost 70 Km so far walking from north to south on the Bruce Trail. The organizers planned it such that the hike was in a south to north direction this weekend.

Day 3

The bus took us to Mountain Brow Blvd. on Hamilton Mountain. We entered the trail by the Red Hill Creek Side Trail (following blue blazers) and joined the Main Bruce Trail (following white blazers) at the bottom of the hill. The hike today was to walk across Hamilton Mountain, enter Dundas Valley Conservation Area to return to the golf club. We were hiking on the same elevation in the beginning, but because of the rain, footing was slippery, and we had to be extremely careful not to  step on the moss.

We hiked through King’s Forest and soon found ourselves on the Escarpment Rail Trail. The rail line was below us and Sherman Access, a thoroughfare, was above us. We heard the sound of trains and traffic, and this was a different experience from just hearing the sound of wind and rain splashing in the forest. On a day like this, I much preferred the feeling that I was close to civilization. The first check-point was at Beckett Drive.

The next lag was on the Chedoke Radial Trail and the paved surface was a reprieve in the rainy weather. Soon after passing the car park of the Chedoke Golf Course, we saw water rushing down from the mountain above. The rain had brought the waterways and waterfalls to life. However, it had also caused flooding. There was an area where we had to wade through a rushing torrent and our shoes and socks were all soaked. Fortunately, we had hiked on this section of the trail before, and the knowledge that after crossing the bridge over Hwy 403 we should be arriving at the second check point at Filman Road motivated us on.

The next section of the trail should also the most scenic. First we passed Tiffany Fall and its bridge.

Then there was Sherman Fall and we had entered the Dundas Valley Conservation Area.

Canterbury Falls soon appeared.

Then we crossed the Sulphur Creek.

Had it been a sunnier day, the Dundas Conservation Area would have been ideal for photography. Meanwhile, we focused on our hike and what a wonderful feeling it was to arrive at the third check-point at the Dundas Valley Trail Centre, where bagels with cream cheese were waiting for us.

We had less than 5 Km to go, and we knew that the end would soon be in sight when we were hiking along the perimeter of the Dundas Golf Club.

We were very wet and soaked at the end of the hike. It was a relief nevertheless that we had completed almost 30 Km on this third day. The feeling was more of anticipation than fatigue, because we only had one more day to go. We must rest well this night.

Reference: The Bruce Trail Reference Maps and Trail Guide, Edition 27 (2010). Maps 7 and 8.

From Burlington to Dundas: End to End with the Bruce Trail Iroquoia Club (Day 2)

After Day 1 and the Epsom salt bath when we got home, there was little time for recovery, because Day 2 followed immediately the next day, Sunday.

Day 2

The meeting place was at the entrance of Dundas Golf Club at 6:30 a.m. and the bus took us to where we finished the hike the day before on Guelph Line and No.1 Side Road in Burlington to begin the hike. No sooner had we entered the trail, we had to climb over a stile which demarcated private property line, and because the Bruce Trail was passing private property  the Bruce Trail Conservancy had an agreement with the owners for hikers to walk on their land. In fact, we climbed over several stiles on this day’s walk.

The sky was clear and the sun has come out.

It was a pleasant hike through open fields and farmland and we were hiking south-west passing Kerncliff Park and City View Park Side Trail (one of the newest Bruce Trail side trails). We reported to the first check-point on King Road and we continued on through Waterdown Woods. It was mid-morning and what a glorious day! The most spectacular sight came into view at the Great Falls of Smokey Hollow.

However, we had to slow down, partly to enjoy the scenery, but more so, to avoid colliding with the numerous photographers who had set up their tripods to capture the beauty of the falls. There was only a very narrow footpath to get by. We were essentially squeezing by with a  hanging cliff on our left and a ravine on our right. One faulty step and one could fall off the ravine.

The trails eased off along the banks of Grindstone Creek.

When we came out of Clappison Wood, there was a tunnel to cross under Hwy 6 to avoid the heavy traffic, and we arrived at the second check-point. Time for a quick lunch which went down well with hot apple cider, and up the hill we climbed again. We entered the grounds managed by the Royal Botanical Gardens.

A creek flew serenely on the lower grounds and on the higher grounds, the lookout onto the city was equally peaceful.

I was excited to see Borer’s Fall, one of the “punchbowl falls” on the Bruce Trail. The name “punchbowl” came from its semi-circular shape, which was formed by the erosive turbulence of the whirlpool of melting ice when it came downstream many years ago.

From the escarpment here, we looked out to the city near the horizon.

The Bruce Trail continued on Sydenham Road and we were walking on paved road again, down the city streets of Dundas, into its residential area and uphill to King’s Street West to our cars outside the golf club.

It was a day blessed with nice weather, breath-taking scenery, and great comradeship walking with other hikers. We looked forward to resting our feet in the next five days before Day 3. We did almost 70 Km so far in two days.

Reference: The Bruce Trail Reference Mpas and Trail Guide Edition 27 (2012). Maps 8 and 9.

Weekly Photo Challenge: RENEWAL

Here I present two different photos of two different locations in two different parts of the world. They are worshipers of two different religions in two different cultures. Yet they both fit into my conceptualization of the theme “Renewal” for this week’s photo challenge.

Long Shan Temple, Taipei

Wailing Wall,  Jerusalem

Rooted in the human psyche is a universal need inside many people  to seek renewal of their faith with the god(s) they believe in through prayers and offerings. This is true of the eastern inasmuch as of the western world.  It was an ordinary weekday when I visited the Long Shan Temple in Taipei, Taiwan and the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, Israel, and both places were crowded with devout believers offering their prayers or reading their holy texts. Their body language and their facial expressions suggested that they were very focused on their activities. My visual images only capture part of the experience, because you have to add in the rhythmic chanting that resonated in the background. It is powerful!

To me, the emphasis is first on the “re-” in “renewal”. The process is not creating something entirely new. It is an activity to bring forth a new element based on what is already there. In the tangible world, clicking  the “Reload” or “Refresh” buttons on the computer allows us to come back to the same page, but sometimes with new information when it has become available. In religious terms, the renewal of a person’s faith is to bring one closer again  to his or her god(s) by reaffirming one’s belief in the religion as well as one’s hope and gratitude about blessings.

In broader philosophical and existential terms, “renewal” applies to reminding ourselves of our beliefs in life and our hopes for a new day on the basis of what we have experienced so far, be it positive, negative or neutral. What has been already there in us is not lost, but it is the foundation which supports us to see a bigger picture, to breathe fresher air and to gain a different perspective.  Let us not forget the second aspect: the “new” element in “renewal”. We cannot lock ourselves in the cell of our own past with the shackles of memories, be they good or bad.  Reliving the past is not renewal. It stops us from growth. We must not be afraid of losing ourselves–because we will not–by renewing our knowledge, our faith and ourselves as a person. The is the process of enrichment through living.

From Kelso to Burlington: End to End with the Bruce Trail Iroquoia Club (Day 1)

The Bruce Trail (Ontario) runs a total of 885 Km along the Niagara Escarpment from Queenston in the south to Tobermory in the north. It is divided into nine sections, each managed by a local Bruce Trail club. The Iroquoia Club takes care of the section of the trail that runs between Grimsby and Kelso, and it is my home club. Every year at late Fall, the Iroquoia Club organizes an End to End hike which spans four days over two consecutive weekends. The total distance is about 130 Km. A badge is awarded at the end of the four-day hike. My husband and I were first-time participants in this year’s event.

Day 1

The first day started at 7 a.m. and we parked our cars on the shoulder of Guelph Line, Burlington, just north of Hwy 5. It was still dark. The morning air was cold. However it could not chill the excitement of the hikers who were in full gear for a one-day hike of about 40 Km. We were taken by two school buses and were dropped off at the northern-most point of the trail in Kelso near Hwy 401 for the start.

The organizers had planned out check-points en route. This was to make sure that everybody who signed up reported there and to get some refreshments,or other assistance. The volunteers who came out brought juices, water and hot cider, as well as cookies, muffins, granola bars and cheeses.

Dawn had just broken as we set foot on the Bruce Trail in the Kelso Conservation Area. We hiked through the Glen Eden ski area and got to the top. Here the ski lifts looked forlorn while they waited for their time to wake up with the winter skiers.

The trail was covered by fallen leaves. It had rained the night before, and we had to watch our steps, because there were often slippery rocks under the wet leaves.

Even so, we took time to take in the view of the Carolinian Forest at this time of Fall.

After the first check-point at Appleby Line and Steele Avenue, the trail entered the Crawford Lake/Rattle Point Conservation Areas. This was a very rocky section which involved climbing up rocks faces and this brought us to the Nassagaweya Canyon. The view was spectacular once on top of the gorge.

Although the elevation flattened out slightly, the trail was rugged and footing was poor, and then there was a rocky downhill, reaching the second check-point at Twiss Road.

We crossed  a couple of creeks, up and down hill again, before reaching the third check-point at Blind Line and Britannia Road. The feeling that we were over half the day’s designated distance was very encouraging.

Mixed in with the rugged trail were a few paved road surfaces which also formed part of the Bruce Trail. Given the long distance of the day, it was nice walking on flatter surfaces but extra care was necessary because there was passing traffic. The flat stretch of Collin Road led us to the entrance of Mount Nemo Conservation Area. My heart leapt, because the city of Burlington was in sight. The Brock Harris Lookout provided a panoramic view of the city.

A steep climb down from Mount Nemo took us to the fourth and final check-point at No. 2 Side Road and Walkers Line. We felt re-energized after drinking the hot cider served by the volunteers. There was a long stretch of paved road along Walkers Line, and turning into No.1 Side Road, but we still had to follow the white blazers (for the Main Trail) of the Bruce Trail. It started to rain, and we picked up our pace. We turned into the unpaved trail again and soon emerged into an open field. We followed the path which took us to where we parked our car in the morning on Guelph Line. We checked off our names and enjoyed the cheeses and the drinks before heading home for the day.

Our legs were tired, but we were very happy that the longest lag of the four-day hike was done. Day 2 would be a shorter day.

Reference: The Bruce Trail Reference: Maps and Trail Guide, Edition 27, (2012).  Maps 9, 10 and 11.

Restaurante Litoral: Portuguese Cuisine in Macau

Macau, a Special Administrative Region in southern China,  was a Portuguese colony until from about the mid-16th century to 1999. Portuguese presence left a significant influence on what is known as Macanese cuisine, the local cuisine.  Most characteristic is the use of spices. Popular cooking methods are roasting, grilling and baking. Just as seafood is famous in Portugal, Macanese cuisine also uses seafood a lot in its ingredients.

I spent a day in Macau on my recent visit to Asia and our group went to Restaurante Litoral. The setting was traditional, with wooden gabled ceiling and greenery on the wall. Decor was mainly artifacts from Portugal.

All of us like the vegetable soup. It came with warm, crusty garlic bread.

We also ordered the plate of clams, which arrived aromatic, spicy and fresh.

The baked stuffed crab had a lot of crab meat inside. It was flavorful and the salad was a great complement.

The baked duck rice was very delicious. Morsels of duck meat were embedded in the rice, topped with bacon and sausages and baked until the rice was cooked. It was the most tasty dish on that day.

The braised ox tail and the African chicken were also tasty, but they were too similar in taste.

In fact, I found the gravy of the African chicken too overwhelming. Our group also wondered why our previous experience of African chicken in another Macau restaurant was a grilled dish, hence the name African chicken.

On the other hand, the roast lamb was done to perfection. Tender and tasted delicate.

It was overall a hearty meal, and we had some authentic Macanese cuisine.  Service was good and I gave this experience a three-and-a-half out of five.

Restaurante Litoral, ruo do Almarate, 261A, Macau

Road2Hope: Racing for Hope in Hamilton, Ontario

This was the Sunday when the New York Marathon was cancelled and I think rightly so, because New York City definitely needed to devote its focus and effort to the recovery measures after hurricane Sandy. The races in Ontario were not affected. In fact, as soon as the news of the cancellation of the New York Marathon was announced, many disappointed athletes who had signed up for the New York race immediately switched over to this side of the border to do the Road2Hope in Hamilton. It was very important for them, because they had been training and preparing for this race day, and this would also be their last chance this year in North America to qualify for Boston. Even though I am not a runner, I have been meeting and talking to people in the athletic community long enough to appreciate how much this means tho them.

My friends and I participated in the walking division of the half-marathon at Road2Hope. The was the first time I attempted this race course.

This race is ranked #1 Boston Qualifier in Canada for a good reason. The course is relatively flat and has a significant downhill component, which favours a fast run. However, for the power walker, it poses a different challenge, because the form of a good power walker requires a straight leg heel landing. It demands good technique to maintain the form and achieve the desired speed.

We arrived at 7 a.m. to board a school bus which shuttled us to the start line at Dofasco Park. It was a well-chosen location because we could wait inside the building of the F.H. Sherman Recreation and Learning Centre away from the below seasonal average temperature. There were sufficient toilet facilities both inside and outside the building for the release of some nervous tension.

Anticipation at the start line, and off went the crowd.

It was indeed a fast course: the route was flat leaving the Park, going along First Road East to Mud Street. The wind picked up on Mud Street and it remained windy after we turned to go downhill along the Red Hill Valley Hwy. Half of the highway was closed to traffic for this race. We left the highway ramp at about 12 K and raced along Bartan Street East. There were many volunteers along the way to direct the athletes and police were out to direct the traffic. We joined the Red Hill Trail and there was a short section of unpaved trail, but there was enough room to pass. It did not bother me since I often trained on trails. The route flattened again when we went eastwards along Van Wagner Beach Road, and turned to join the Hamilton Waterfront Trail at Dynes Park. We only had 5K to go. It was a straightforward finish at Confederation Park.

There were bands and drummers along the race course. They always pumped up my spirit and my speed. There were many water stations on the way.Cheering crowds perched on the over passes of the highway to  lend support. More people came out from the local neighbourhood to cheer in the final section on the Waterfront Trail. There were a few mascots on the way too to add some light-hearted components to the day. One could tell who were the hardcore racers and who came out to enjoy themselves, because only the latter would stop for their photo-op with the mascots or take a shot of themselves on the way.

The medal, a bottle of water and a sheet to keep warm were handed out at the Finish Line, and it was only a short distance from the refreshment tent, where bananas, apples, cookies, muffins and drinks were waiting. I headed straight to the hot soup station and found my vegetable soup with a piece of foccacia bread an absolute delight.

The Road2Hope is a worthwhile race in many sense. It is a race to raise money to build schools in Haiti, and to support a Hamilton charity, City Kidz, whose mission is to inspire hope in children who live in low-income families. Hamilton is the city with the largest number of families living below the poverty line, more so than Toronto.

This year’s race had a special meaning on top, because Hamilton played host to many athletes whose hope to qualify for Boston would have been dashed as a result of the cancellation of the New York Marathon. As a Canadian, I felt proud that they had come to such a well-organized race. Everything was seamless–from the transportation to the race, race course support all the way to the finish. Many volunteers came out and they were battling the cold weather just as the athletes. They did it with such grace and generosity of their time. This is a race I would recommend to both runners and walkers. I have no hesitation doing the race again.

Weekly Photo Challenge: GEOMETRY

My most unforgettable moment at the Sydney Running Festival was finding myself looking up at the structure above me while I was racing across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I have re-cropped my photo for this Weekly Photo Challenge in order to better appreciate the geometrical design of this structure. Indeed, triangles are the strongest structure from the architectural point of view.

Unlike some pictures that are taken after the photographers have spent time waiting for the perfect moment or manipulating the camera until the subject matter is at the best angle and has the ideal lighting, this photograph is a piece taken “on the go”. In short, I was race walking across the Bridge.  I just paused, took a quick second to aim, and clicked. After all, further lingering would block the other athletes coming up behind me, or I ran the risk of being knocked over.

Looking at the composition, I may not have achieved perfect symmetry. However, I am quite pleased with the perspective and depth the upper beams of the bridge have captured, as well as the curvature that broke the monotony of the straight lines.  I could not have asked for a better sky and its changing shade. It brings simplicity to the complexity of the architecture of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in this picture.

My Gym in Hong Kong: The Botanical and Zoological Gardens

I miss my trails when I am travelling. Now that I am in Hong Kong, I am fortunate that I stay at a hotel close to the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, the oldest park in Hong Kong and it has turned out to be my gym.

There is a fountain in the middle of the park. People gather at the crack of dawn for their exercises. Tai chi is popular and a group gather at the inner circle that surrounds the fountain every morning.

The outer circle is taken up by jogger and walkers like myself and one loop conveniently makes 200 meters for anyone who wants to know the distance.

The walks around the park is lined with trees, flowers and plants. I usually power walk around this loop for twenty minutes, followed by my drills on the steps several times.

At the top of these steps is a bronze statue of King Edward VI.

Then I proceed to my strength and balance exercises in a quieter corner.

The Botanical Garden is not a big park, but given the small size of Hong Kong and the density of the population, it has provided its visitors a green surrounding to rest and to exercise. I absolutely enjoy my moments working out there, followed by a cool down stroll to enjoy the greenery before continuing with my day.