It all started towards the end of February 2014.


second ascentWhen the spring term started last year, I decided to embark on a walking programme, solo. On the whole I was in good shape thanks to my lifestyle and my upbeat outlook. However, long sedentary hours in the office worried me. Quite a few co-workers had reported severe backaches and neck aches. A couple of them were hence hospitalised.


Behind the school extends a wooded hill. Some years ago, the municipal government had a footpath paved along the ridges of the hill. The track is made of slabs. It stretches from the Sports Centre to the Junction at Xiongjiawan. For years I had walked in the morning at a different location. I had thought the new trail was too long to cover in half an hour.


I adopted the new track for my walking programme this time. Every day after I knocked off normally around 6 pm I left my office and walked all the way down to the lower end of the track at Xiongjiawan. Normally I carried my laptop on my back. When I got home it was usually around 6.45.


For the past year never did I go on any trip away from town that lasted for over two days. Even in the summer and winter holidays I was home most of the time. Therefore my walk was a daily fixture, except for the very few extreme weather conditions. In the summer holidays there raged a thunderstorm one evening, because of which I quitted the walk. There were a couple of staff meetings at the workplace which lasted past 6.30, which made me abort the walk too. Otherwise, the walk was there on my daily schedule. I went even on the few snowy days in January 2015, hearing the fresh snow cracking under my feet.


where the bird family fedThe track is popular with the residents of the communities around. I met a lot of fellow walkers all the seasons except winter. In winter, because of the weather and also because it got dark very early I found almost no other walkers when I was on the track. There were evenings when I found myself the sole soul on the track walking in the dusk and quietness. In December I often carried a torch just in case.


From the very beginning I did not feel the walk exhausting. Instead the little bit of sweating it cost was what I just needed at the end of a day. Of course I did not walk fast; I kept a steady pace. As days and weeks lapsed, my steps quickened. But normally it took me about 40 or 50 minutes to finish it. Most days I was home by 7. After a cold-water wash of my face, I felt relaxed and refreshed.


The walk, which starts low and ends at a higher elevation, consists of three climb-ups and three climb-downs. I start the walk with a steep ascent. The middle ascent is not long and winds its way through a thicket. The last ascent is the steepest, trees and shrubs on either side. Standing at the top of the hill I can see all the streets and communities around. The last descent takes me down to the Sports Centre, my home just across the main road from it.

last ascent 

The daily walk is beneficial to my general health. My immune system is obviously stronger. When the flu season was on, I sailed through with just a few coughs. My sleep improved a lot, too.


The walk benefits more than my physical well-being. The walk is a perfect time to be all alone and to be close to nature, in the midst of urban hustle and bustle. I often found my thoughts focused on some issues when I was walking up and down the tracks. A lot of inspirations occurred during the walks too. Naturally, walking the year around raised my awareness of the changing seasons. Vegetation along the way budded and flowered in spring, became lush in summer, yellowed and reddened in autumn, and withered and desolated in winter. Right now the circle is starting all over again. The other day I saw some trees budding on the hillside.


There were moments when sheer bliss came over me along the way. Somewhere on a spring evening, in the dusk, with a drizzle on, I spotted a family of pheasants some distance ahead on the tracks. Under an umbrella, I stopped dead in my tracks and let the moment freeze. The family of wild birds seemed to be pecking at the tasty morsels of food littered on the path by some walkers. With the noise of the traffic gently rumbling in the distance, I was all alone, relishing the private moments of the bird family.


During the several weeks in late November and December when day was getting shorter and shorter, I carried along a torch. Although I could have seen the tracks without a torch actually, I was a bit concerned about wildlife or some other unexpected circumstances. There was a scary moment on Christmas Eve. A wintry wind rose that day. I was beating the last slope with the wind howling around. In such weather, I would not expect any other walker around. I flicked my torch on and off just to give myself courage. Suddenly I thought I saw through the waving trees a figure somewhere ahead. I turned my torch light in that direction. I glimpsed a young lady carrying a shopping bag scurrying up the track. My hair stood on end. Oh my God! Was that a ghost? The mere thought sent shivers down my spine. Then a young man appeared on the track close behind the lady. And they started to chat a bit. It turned out that in such weather the lovers had been enjoying their private moment on a long stone bench by the track when I disturbed them. I felt apologetic about it.

green in winter 

There were lots of days when the idea of quitting came upon me. Sometimes the weather was far from perfect, with rain, mist or snow. Other times it was too late to set off. Whenever these circumstances presented themselves, I told myself to persevere. Time invested in the walk is well worth it. If I compare myself to a machine, the walk serves as maintenance and refuelling. If the machine breaks down, if the fuel runs out, it will be too late to fix it up or refuel it, and the cost will certainly be higher should the machine still be fixable or refuellable. With challenges glaring at me day in day out, I convince myself that there is no quitting, come rain, come shine. Keep walking, Shengliver!


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