A whole lot of blood – a lesson in hiking and mountain rescue

Writing has been getting a bit old lately.

Actually, it’s starting to feel more like a chore than something I do for enjoyment. Probably because I’ve somehow ended up trying too hard to be structured and interesting, rather than just writing for myself and writing whatever the heck I want.

So here is some whatever-the-heck-I-want.

I went hiking with people from work yesterday. They picked a very easy but also VERY boring route because, naturally, they want to be accommodating to everyone. So boring, in fact, a large part of the route involved walking on a road that wound its way through the country side.

I know a road in the hills in a country park is bizarre, but it was apparently built during the construction of the High Island Reservoir around which we walked, for builders and water-works maintenance.

The upside with hiking with work is that our transport and a massive very delicious fresh seafood meal by the seaside afterwards is all paid for by the company. Ha! The budget controller was with us on the hike, but as soon as she left our table at the restaurant to sort something out outside, the guys went crazy and managed to order a truckload of food before she came back. Awesome!

But that’s not what I really wanted to tell you about. I wanted to write about this guy with a bloody face that flew off in a helicopter. But since I’m writing however I want, I digress. Plus, a whole lotta food is always awesome right? And I digress.

After some too boring hiking on the road and a spankingly good suggestion on my part (*smug*), we decided to try a harder route (I told them it was easy peasy), a real trail that went up and down a hill to Long Ke Beach – white fine sand, clear blue waters, brilliant views.

Along the way, we passed a school group on what appeared to be a geography field trip, led by a teacher who, after short observation, we concluded to be loud, arrogant, proud and unpopular. We didn’t like him coz his group refused to give way, forcing all of us off the trail.

But whatever. We got down to the beach, sat around, I waded in the water, then we left. Everyone in my group went ahead back up the hill while I sat down at the bottom of the trail to dry my feet and put my socks and shoes back on. I then shot up the hill trying to catch up.

I passed the teacher again. By then, they were leaving too and he was waiting for his girls to come up off the beach. He was standing on a spot where the stony trail passed over a what-could-normally-be-a-rocky-stream. As such, the trail was lifted off the ground and it was about a 2 meter drop to the rocks below. I ran pass, but then doubled back to pull my camera out for this view:

Note where the shrubbery breaks off on the bottom left of the photo and the rocks going down hill. The guy was just standing to my left.

While watching me and giving me an unkindly lookover up and down, he was standing right on the edge of the 2 meter drop, casually swinging his hiking stick around in a circle, his feet hanging out. I didn’t like the way he was looking at me and I didn’t like where he was standing. I gave him one unfriendly glance, stuffed my camera back in and ran off.

Just after I’ve turned a corner further up, I heard the dull distinct sound of hollow metal on rock. Ting ting ting ting. Tack tack tack tack. I stopped.

Either he’s decided to chuck his stick down the hill, or his stick has accidentally fallen down the hill, or both he and his stick have went down the hill together. I paused and listened hopefully for sounds of the stick coming back up. No sound.

For a few seconds, I was undecided whether to ignore it and run on to catch my colleagues, or to go back down to make sure the dude was still there. I was very confident he was, so I almost ran off. There was no reason why he wasn’t. It was an easy, level rock path, not too far from the beach. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

I jogged back down.

I found him a few meters down from the trail, sitting up on the rocks below, back towards me. It’s amazing the number of thoughts that go through your head in the space of a few seconds. Everything I write from when I took that photo up until now happened in the space of seconds. When I saw him, I literally thought he’d just gone over for a sit down closer to the view. But then he was rubbing his shoulder. So I shrugged casually, “You alright?”

He had his hands on his face. He peeled them off and turned around to look at me. I have never seen so much blood before.

Like in a horror movie, his entire face was blood. His hands were blood. Blood down the front of his shirt. Blood on his trousers. Blood on his backpack. Blood on the rocks. It was blood EVERYWHERE.

He just looked at me and then at the blood on his hands. I just looked at him. I was completely, but privately, freaked out for about 2 seconds and then I dropped my bag and clawed out my phone. No signal.

I screamed up the hill for whichever workmate that was still within earshot to get a signal and call for help. The guy with the bloody face started telling me that he doesn’t need any help. Yeah right.

I scrambled down the rocks, almost slipping myself. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I suppose I just wanted to talk to him and to have a better look and make sure he doesn’t bleed out.

I looked at his face close up. He looked like he somehow fell the 2 meters and then just slid downhill on his face over jagged rocks. There was a big long gash right down the middle of his forehead, which continued over the side of his nose, and then down to his upper lip, which was split in half and the flesh was splaying out.

I swallowed. Hard.

He didn’t seem to be bleeding too much anymore and I told him to just keep pressing on his wounds until help gets here. But he wouldn’t listen.

By that point, three of my workmates and the other teacher and his students have arrived. They all stood aghast. I asked the girls to check if their phones have a signal and they just stood and stared. Argh. Luckily one of my workmates did and started relaying info to the emergency services. It was really hard trying to describe where we were. (“Uh, yeah, we’re somewhere on the hills off Long Ke Beach. Uh, there’s lots of trees around?”)

At this point, the guy with the horrible gashes tried to resume his all-knowing all-commanding tough-guy attitude and yelled at his girls to complete the hike out by themselves and that he’ll walk out on his own and get to a hospital himself. All of us were like, fuck dude, sit the back down coz if you collapse on the trail, there’s nothing we could do! He waved at us to hang up the phone, insisted that he was fine and grabbed his pack and stood up, trying to clamber back onto the trail.

Imagine a bloody apparition appearing on a remote hillside. That’s him.

I was the only one down on the rocks with him. Everyone was standing securely on the trail. I thought about going across to sit him back down, but thought the better of it. It was quite slippery and I decidedly did not want to roll down the hill myself.

With about 10 people yelling at him to settle down, he gave up and slumped down on the rocks. With a rescue helicopter on its way, and he wasn’t gushing blood anymore, I finally had enough of standing on a rocky slide and felt like getting back onto solid ground. I clambered back on to the trail and felt that my climbing skills have finally paid off!

While the others waited, I ran ahead to catch up with everyone else to let them know of the hold-up. As we all waited, we watched a rescue helicopter swoop in while the coastguard parked a ship down below. They winched someone down from the chopper, bandaged him up and whisked him away into the air.

When we finally got back out to the end of the hike, and onto the service road, we realised that a full on rescue mission was actually commenced. Two fire engines with ladders and an ambulance were there waiting. Men in fatigues were hiking up the trail. I suppose with a call like that, they’d have no idea whether the injured is reachable by the chopper or if he will need to be rescued from somewhere way off the trail or if he’ll need to be carried out on a stretcher. So with every call that comes from the hills, it’s a full-on all-out mission. Even the police got involved.

We all came out with renewed awe and respect for Hong Kong’s emergency services. It was fast, professional and efficient.

Why that guy fell, we have no clue. Although a bit rocky, it was a flat stable path and under normal circumstances, no one should be going over. But like I said, he was very casually swinging his stick with his feet over the edge so he probably lost his balance. My workmates joke that he either fainted at the sight of me or I shot him an especially evil look. The blokes spent the rest of the day going, “If looks could kill….” Typical.

No, we didn’t much like that guy. But no one deserves an accident like that. Hope he wouldn’t have too much scarring. It’s his face afterall. :(

I came away with renewed respect for the hills. Having gone up Snowdon hands and feet and a little-talked-about experience of scrambling up Tryfan (also in Snowdonia) that almost left me in tears whimpering about impending death, I’ve thought little of Hong Kong’s hills and mountains. But you know what, I know it makes me sound like my dad, but an accident is an accident and there’s no telling where it’s going to happen. Just the weekend before, I bombed up and down an even rockier and much harder hike by myself, all the while thinking “I did Tryfan, so this is nothing.” Definitely a wake-up call to reassess.

So anyways, that’s my bit of the weekend and writing whatever-the-heck-I-want. Let’s see what I come up with next.

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2 thoughts on “A whole lot of blood – a lesson in hiking and mountain rescue

  1. I’m really happy with your whatever-the-heck-I-want-writing … It’s what I do mostly too :-)
    Try to enjoy it and not see it as a chore… writing, you do for yourself…
    Btw, amazing story… really read it from begin to end… :-) nice picture too :-)

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