WHAT a relief it was to finally be able to take a real walk at Penang Botanic Gardens.
According to my walking app, we plodded across 8.32km. My top speed was 6.9km/h.
The highest elevation I tackled was 49m, with an accumulated elevation of 1.49km.
We did 10,077 steps in one hour and 41 minutes.
You could argue that I can do that up and down the emergency staircase of my apartment block but where is the fun in that?
Before the movement control order (MCO) was relaxed a little bit, the only place I could do brisk walks was the pocket park near my home, with a circuit of 320m that was completely flat.
To achieve enough mileage to work up a sweat in my pocket park, I walked around it so many times since the start of MCO 2.0 that I can memorise every crack and discrepancy along the concrete path.
And then there was the crowd. The whole neighbourhood relied on that one little park and in the mornings and evenings, the place was packed.
I took to walking there under the blazing heat, wearing a big hat and shielded in sunscreen, while other walkers ran for shade.
I saw that many went to Penang Botanic Gardens for the much-needed walk too but I did not perceive much of a crowd there last Saturday, especially as the sun climbed higher.
There were, however, a few things I did not like seeing.
One couple I came across did not really look like they were exercising.
They seemed more as if they were out on a date, taking selfies, laughing and hugging.
Then there was this family of six. They had a breakfast picnic.
They spread a mat on the grass outside the Penang Botanic Gardens entrance beside their car and were eating away.
I glanced at them for a second and the man, presumably the head of the household, stared back with a challenging set to his eyes.
Did he know that he was abusing the relaxed rules under the MCO?
For a moment, I weighed the option of going up to them and raising the topic of MCO compliance.
But I did not want to be a nosy parker and besides, I had a mission to walk as many kilometres as I could before my legs felt like rubber.
That family was also far from anyone else so it did not seem such a major lapse of due diligence in the fight against the pandemic.
I hope and pray that the infectivity rate will stay low enough for people to go out and get some sunshine and fresh air.
I found myself feeling proud of our Penang Botanic Gardens being so near to so many residential communities so that it is such a short drive for us to get there.
It is now flowering season, and it you take the long uphill way from the entrance, you will find a unique – slightly tangy and fruity – fragrance after passing the copse of odd-looking squat pine trees rarely seen elsewhere in Malaysia.
But take heed of the Covid-19 precautions and avoid causing crowds, please.
There is no need to wear masks while walking or jogging but please do so at other times such as when lining up to check in and enter, or when using the toilet facilities.
Try not to go too early in the morning because that is what many are doing.
Instead, take the time to fix yourself a healthy breakfast at home and then make your way there after 9am.
The garden is full of shady trees and so your walk will still be pleasant even after 11am.
Try to go on weekdays. So many of us work from home now and we have the flexibility of adjusting our work hours.
Unless you really have no choice, try to avoid taking your walk there on weekend mornings and give that window to those who really need to do it then.
Let us try to be civic-minded about this and ditch any sense of entitlement in us.