The natural dangers of running amok

THE recent Dragon Boat holiday gave me the chance to do something I would not advise anyone to do and that is go running in a country park.

Running at any time of year is an unpleasant experience, made bearable only by the knowledge that if you do it enough you might one day wake up and find that all the hard work has paid off and you look like Keanu Reeves, but without the haircut.

At this time of year running is worse. It is like being agitated in the spout of a steaming kettle for two hours.

You can replicate the sensation by doing Aerobics Oz Style in a sauna bath. For that real Hong Kong Country Park flavour scatter empty drinks cans at your feet.

The Great Outdoors, should you not have been there yet, is all around us. You can see it from the top deck of a bus.

You can smell it every time you fly in and out of Kai Tak airport.

In some areas, particularly the New Territories, it is encroaching on shopping arcades and housing developments.

There will come a time, if we do not take action, when we will not be able to leave our homes without hearing a bird sing or seeing a tree.

There is, of course, always the chance that you will find yourself in The Great Outdoors by accident.

After taking the wrong exit out of McDonald's, or losing your way in Pacific Place. If this happens, remain calm.

There follows an essential guide to The Great Outdoors and to the dangers you are likely to encounter in it.

Memorise the main points, but remember, the only sure way to avoid death or personal injury is to stay at home and have a karaoke party.

Red Powderpuff (Calliandra Haematocephala). Slow-growing cultivated shrub with large, red, pom-pom-like flower heads.

Leaves are divided into two pinnae, each pinna divided into 10 pairs of oblong leaflets. Thrives in parks and gardens.

Cham (Uvaria microcarpa). Very common among the undergrowth on The Peak. At this time of year produces reddish-brown flowers 2.5 to 3.8 centimetres in diameter.

Chinese Cobra (Naja naja atra). Black or brownish above, with whitish markings on its hood. Not aggressive, but this snake is venomous and will defend itself courageously against young women wearing Moschino rucksacks.

Many-branded Krait (Bungarus multicinctus multicinctus). Medium to large-sized snake with 35 or more white crossbands. Occurs throughout the territory and has a treacherous disposition.

Venom makes victims bleed internally and can lead to death in 15 hours. If you encounter a Krait, touch it only with a good-quality barbecue fork.

Mole Cricket (Gryllotalpidae). Abundant in leaf litter and agricultural situations but blimey, do they make a noise. If the sound disturbs you, use a personal radio to listen to the racing at Sha Tin instead.

Sony Walkman (musicus moronicus). Keep one handy at all times. The sounds of nature can be terrifying, so block them out with a high factor compact disc.

Kenny G and Leon Lai are recommended.

Hash House Harriers (Onus Onicus). Territorial sub-primates who mark their trails with chalk and hold macabre initiation rites featuring jugs of Carlsberg, nudity and an artificial breast.

They work in packs and are incapable of surviving without each other. Their screams can often be heard at dusk. If they ask you to join, under no circumstances panic. 'Sorry, but I'm working late on Tuesday,' often seems to deter them.

Rabid Dogs.

A new breed, peculiar to Hong Kong country parks and without a Latin classification. Bear a striking resemblance to Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver. Years of in-breeding has left most without any two legs of the same length.

Easily confused with Hash House Harriers. The key to distinguishing them is that rabid dogs usually go away when you shout 'bugger off'.

Old People (Pyjamus stripicus). Active before dawn, so sightings are rare, but they become highly irascible if disturbed, particularly during their mating ritual, often mistaken for tai chi.

Welcome Bag (Plasticus crapicus). Not as dangerous as its lurid markings would suggest. Particularly prevalent on beaches, where it has become a staple diet of Chinese pink dolphins.

Teenagers (Giordanicus horriblis). An exaltation of larks, a quantity of smelt, an inertia of janitors, an irritation of pubescents. Teenagers are dangerous and should be avoided at all cost.

There are two main species: the horriblis Hongkongis, recognisable by its excruciatingly painful two-pronged barbecue-fork sting.

The horriblis Expatricus sleeps late, rarely ventures into broad daylight, and often appears dazed and confused when asked to perform simple functions such as washing up.

Don't forget, enjoy your country parks. Even if it means making sure no one else can.