Today I did something I swore I would never do. I stripped off and swam across Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour. For as long as I can remember, I have been sceptical about joining the city’s beloved Cross Harbour swim. While beautiful, the city’s harbour isn’t exactly known for its clean water. I mean, the annual Cross Harbour swim, which was first run in 1906, had to be stopped for 33 years from the late 1970s until 2011 because of fears over the water pollution levels. I remember reading a story from 2018 about improving e-coli levels in the water in the harbour. While, don’t get me wrong, that is positive news, it didn’t exactly make this swimmer want to switch from a chlorinated pool to a potential Petri dish. So fearing an ear infection, I could be forgiven for not jumping at the opportunity to swim in the city’s harbour when the Cross Harbour was last held in 2018. But skip forward to 2021, I found myself in the middle of a pandemic with an itch to throw caution to the wind, jumping off a barge attached to the Wan Chai waterfront ready to swim across to the Avenue of Stars. And you know what, it was a fantastic experience. The winter sun was warming, the crowds of swimmers (1,200 in total) were joyous and cheering each other on and most of all the water was surprisingly clean and clear. I still took precautions like ear plunges and did my best to keep my mouth closed especially at the beginning and the end when there was an odd smell in the air. But in general the water conditions were so good it was almost easy to forget you were swimming in the middle of a harbour. By the end of the race I was more focused on dodging rogue breaststrokers so as to not get kicked in the ribs, than I was fearing the water conditions. The best part of the swim was by far the view. Hong Kong’s skyline is breathtaking at the best of times, but being able to float in the middle of the harbour and soak in the sight of the mighty towers was a beautiful moment and one I don’t think I will forget. The buildings towered above and looked as if they were shooting up directly from the water. In the middle of a city where pandemic restrictions are still in force and could change at any minute, you have to take each and every opportunity to find moments of joy. For me that meant doing something that was out of my comfort zone. More than the skyline and the swim itself, I will remember the smiles and the waving of the competitors and the general feeling of togetherness and excitement that has been missing over the past two years. The event was cancelled for the past two years because of the 2019 protests and then the pandemic. After the Hong Kong Marathon, it’s the second mass sporting event to be held since the start of the pandemic. Because of pandemic restrictions, entrant numbers were capped at 1,500 this year, down from the 4,000 in 2018. I can only hope that next year more people can swim and experience the exhilaration I found this morning. And if all is well, I will be there again – ear plugs in hand – and raring to go.