HONG KONG, Special Administrative Region, People’s Republic of China -- Traversing muddy trails alongside sheer cliffs and scaling rocky hills made slick by continual rain, the travelers pushed forward in pursuit of their ultimate goal – having fun.
More than a dozen Marines and Sailors from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) participated in a hike of the “Dragon’s Back” trail and received a family style lunch as part of the American Women’s Association’s Meals in the Home program here, Oct. 30.
Five local women volunteered their time and money to host the service members for the day, hoping to do more for the group than just provide a home-cooked meal.
“Most other hosts in the program do a meal within their home,” said Libby J. Alexander, a homemaker originally from Waterville, Maine. “We thought a hike would be something different and offer a unique view of Hong Kong.”
The Marines and Sailors departed their ship early in the morning, taking a 45 minute ferry ride to Fenwick Pier to meet their hosts. After introductions and a quick head count, the group hailed taxis to take them to the beginning of the “Dragon’s Back.”
Exiting their taxis after a 20 minute ride out of the city, the service members gathered at the bottom of a long, vertical staircase that disappeared into dense trees. Awaiting them was a challenging, 90- minute hike through the wind and rain. Despite adverse conditions and a daunting physical task ahead, the group teemed with excitement to begin.
“I think the wind and rain made the hike more memorable,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew M. Madonia, religious program specialist for the 31st MEU and native of Hamilton Square, N.J. “The enlisted Marine and Sailor thrive in difficult conditions, so for us, it added to the fun.”
The “Dragon’s Back” is part of a 50 kilometer trail in Hong Kong located a short distance from the distinct urban skyline, but still within the unspoiled wilderness surrounding the bustling city.
Part of the trail provides a relaxing walk under the canopy of trees, while other portions lead the traveler up rocky hills for a scenic view of the city and beaches. The trail ends in Shek O, where tired hikers have a selection of restaurants and bars to visit before heading off to the beautiful Shek O beach.
“It is one of the most scenic and popular hikes in Hong Kong, and it has a great restaurant at the end,” said Sonia S. Cantlebary, a homemaker originally from Monument, Colo.
After completing the hike, the ladies treated the waterlogged service members to a family-style, Thai lunch at one of their favorite Shek O restaurants. At two large circular tables, the group passed large plates of food around, all eager to try a little of each dish prepared.
The lunch included Pad Thai, curry, honey-glazed and fried calamari, spicy pork, kabob chicken with peanut sauce, steamed rice, and more.
“The lunch was fantastic. There was a plethora of food and a bunch of things I had not tried before,” said Lance Cpl. David J. Adams, a combat cameraman for the 31st MEU and native of Newport News, Va. “It was great to try new things with new people, and overall just a really fun experience.”
After lunch, the ladies took the group to a local market for souvenir shopping before providing them with bus fare back to the pier.
With handshakes and smiles, the Marines and Sailors expressed sincere gratitude for the day’s events, while their gracious hosts expressed joy for the opportunity to showcase the beauty of their home.
“You don’t get a lot of chances to show Americans Hong Kong,” said Cantlebary. “These service members are as close to family as we get.”