This was the 36th Annual swimming race held in Tai Po. Whilst I thought we would be the only Western people amongst the thousands of Chinese folks I was wrong, there was one other Western guy looking equally out of place.
We ended up at this random event because of a Chinese friend who told us about it and translated the application form. As you would expect for an event that has taken place for the 36th time, everything was organized with near military precision.
We all met at a coach station near the local town and the idea was that you place your belongings in plastic bags that are numbered, then these bags are left on the coach and guarded by boy scouts.
However, the Chinese friend we were with had his dad with him who also owned a car! He felt that it was best that we leave the belongings in his car and then get on the coach to be taken to the starting point. This would mean that we do not have to wait at the finish line to collect our belongings which was good, but it also meant that we had to get changed to swim in the local town and walk to the coaches barefoot and in swimming trunks... which was bad.
In the New Territories of Hong Kong you get stared at enough just because you are white, but when you are with four friends striding up the street wearing swimming trunks then you are more than just a spectacle. At one point when we crossed the zebra crossing I had this flashback to that famous photo of the Beatles crossing the road, except this time it was the McDonalds overweight version.
The swim itself took me an hour from start to finish. The first half hour I was taking it quite easy, staring at the mountains around me and swimming on my back. Then in the second half I realised two things.
- One of my team mates called Don will be taking this race very seriously and wanting to beat me
- If you take longer than 1.5 hours to do the swim they pull you out of the water and onto a boat
At these two thoughts I started to really swim hard, and managed to keep slightly ahead of the average swimmers of the group.
I beat Donald too, which really made my day.
Although beating him may mean that I hurt quite a bit tomorrow.
ps: Thanks goes to the parents who took me swimming almost daily as a young boy
pps: Pictures to come soon!