History of the HKTrampers

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Published on Tuesday, 20 December 2011 12:13
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A Brief History of the Hong Kong Trampers

For several years new Trampers have demanded an explanation from 'the elders' as to who the hell was responsible for this chaotic group of friends who seem to take delight in taking hiking not quite as seriously as the Long March and whose only reliable map-reading skills seem to arise when in sight of beer.

The elders, looking around for scapegoats, have come up with four suspects who were lurking around the hills of Hong Kong during the springtime of 1997.

The Long Marchers

Needless to say, two of them were Australians. Chief culprit was Geoff Wade, a University of Hong Kong historian and researcher, in whose honour the Geoff Wade Navigational Award was named - awarded irregularly to the tramper who gets lost in the most spectacular fashion. Aiding and abetting was Alan Knight, a journalist notorious for his belief that journalism should be critical and informative, an idea that seemed rather novel to Hong Kong's new political masters after 1997. Alan told me in an email "Yes our first walk was just the two of us. Geoff and me in 1997 .. up those bloody big hills leading to Jardine's Lookout. We took the MTR to get there and almost needed an ambulance to get back. It seemed a good way to spend a Sunday, walking the Hong Kong hills and talking history and politics." Now this is clearly a sanitized version of the pub-crawl that undoubtedly took place when those two were together, but we'll let that pass.

Next on the scene was Tove Soldal Vaughan. Tove was and still is a diplomat for Norway, and after her stint in Hong Kong was posted to Singapore, probably as retribution. Word has it that Tove has recently managed to escape to the Philippines. "I think I joined Geoff and Alan on their third outing. Met Geoff at a party at Lantau at the house of a Swiss girl (Carolyn) from the University. Must have been in April/May 1997?" At this time Carolyn worked at the Centre of Asian Studies where Geoff and I were researchers, and later joined some of the walks. Cathy Poon, the first local Hong Kong tramper and an interpreter by profession - how else would two Australians communicate with the rest of the world? - became the fourth to join the group. And that was the first core, the long marchers so to speak.

The Elders

In a moment of derangement I joined them along with Joyce Nip, a local journalist-turned-academic from Baptist University, Cha our IT guru and web mistress, and Brian and Josephine, a lawyer and historian respectively. Others who joined for hikes around this time included Ye Zhou, Sun Wenbin, Yumi Seldon, Gui Qin, Chris Hutton, several Scandinavian friends of Tove, and later on Nicolas No.1 and Nicolas No.2, Randy, Tony Cowen, Germain, Chris Bailey and even a Nicolas No.3! Exact dates are rather fuzzy but by April and May 1997 there was small regular group of us. At first we communicated plans for walks by email but upon her return from a holiday in New Zealand in 1998 Cha proposed setting up a web page. We needed a name. Cha suggested ‘Trampers’ because in New Zealand hiking is known as tramping. In Britain tramping was a pre-industrial revolution way for people looking for work to move from town to town. It sounded sufficiently hit-and-miss, not to say downright down market to capture the spirit of the moment, so we became the Hong Kong Trampers. The website originally hosted by Lycos, was set up on 9 March 1999. We were then hktrampers.tripod.com. The domain name hktrampers.com was registered on 10 July 1999 and the website moved to its permanent (and ad-free) home on 31 October 2002.
Since those days we have enjoyed hiking over all parts of Hong Kong, and have welcomed many trampers. Some have become regular hikers with us others have been passing through Hong Kong for a few months or just for a few days. The character of this group of friends changes every year or so as trampers from all over the world come and go. Among notable milestones in my memory are the following: the ‘shock and awe’ bush whacking of Randy, now back in New Hampshire; the double backwards somersault timed to perfection of Amy No. 1 from California as she careened down a water gulley on Lantau Island; the better-late-than-never Spanish Armada of Cristina and friends now back in Spain; Marjorie’s complete songbook of Gershwin, Rogers and Hart and any other song written post-1900; Ravi’s mobile phone call back to Bombay (or was it Calcutta?) to inform his dad he had made it to the top of his first hill over looking China; from Thailand Amy No. 2’s aversion to snakes and their unfailing attraction to her; Grace’s circumnavigation of Peng Chau when the rest of us were on Cheung Chau for which she rightly won a Geoff Wade Navigation Award, and of course the other award winning German School of Navigation of Joachim, with Karl, Rosi, Michael and Thomas now doing their best to uphold its fine traditions. All the above aided and abetted by Asian residents in Hong Kong and local Hong Kongers, including bare-foot Andy, the Hong Kong Trampers are a pretty cosmopolitan bunch, regularly captured on camera by Brian in the early days and by Ken more recently.