View of Shek O from the ridge
Highlight of this trip: Dragon’s Back ridge, which is what you think it is: trail on a ridge
And what a way to end the Hong Kong Trail. On this last stage, officially named Stage 8, but for me this would be the fifth section, the sun would be out in full force. I’ve been doing this long enough, my backpack and shoulder bag is rather standard by now, including dinner packed to enjoy when I get to Shek O later in the evening. Except this is the second time I’m out with a new GPS, and this is Garmin’s Colorado 300. Hardly new, but as a replacement to my old eTrex Vista, it is years more modern. The way to get to the start of today’s walk is still very fresh in my mind. Take a metro to Shau Kei Wan, and at the Bus Terminus, jumped into a No. 9. The fare is around 6.90 HKD and all this bus does is to go up Chai Wan/Tai Tam Rd and then on to Shek O Rd all the way to the town that bears its name. The only tricky part here is I need to get off at the right bus stop. On the map, the coordinate of the stop is somewhere near (22.227375, 114.239611). I didn’t have my GPS out at this time because everything is packed shut in my backpack and I wanted only to take them out when I get to the stop. I remembered what the stop looks like, but with the speed buses go in these out-of-the-way roads, it is difficult to anticipate.
GPS plots of Section 5, from Tai Tam Bay to Shek O via Dragon Back ridge
Tai Tam reservoir in the background, on the way up to Dragon’s Back
At the stop, amidst tourists an local hikers and families I start to put everything into hiking configuration - camel bak piping, gps latched on bag, etc. I must say that this is the day when it seems everyone attempts Dragon’s Back trail. I see families with kids barely able to walk, and mainland chinese tourists overdressed in their faux-Burberry shopping attire. And these for a trail that’s rated as strenuous? I think I have to be up against an easy day today. Its noon by the time I start, and the first kilometer up to the top of the Dragon’s Back are steps and relatively tree-cover free. If you remember the last post in Section 4, this part of the Shek O Country Park has a lot less tree cover than the part closer to Chai Wan. There are some shade, but a nice had is in order for sure. Around the coordinate (22.229759, 114.24293) the trail branches into two and there is where the first rest stop lies, the right path leading up the hill to the top of the ridge, while the left goes in parallel but at the same altitude as the branch.
Two pictures of Shek O from the start of the ridge
Looks tough, but the ridge is quite an easy hike. I’ve seen dogs and little kids on the ridge on this day...
Shek O Peak with Big Wave bay in the background
In a short distance the trail hits the spine of the Dragon’s Back (22.229372, 114.243366). At this point there is a lookout, where Shek O and the golf course to the left of it is clearly visible. I’d spend some time over here surveying the vista, and this is one of the best place to take a bird’s eye view of Shek O village. In the afternoon this direction has the best lighting since it is looking towards the East. The west sucks. I think the 10 minutes I spend there, I could see at least 10 groups of people passing me. There is a bench here as well, so makes for a good picnic spot, but this is still early. It is easy to see why this mountain is called Dragon’s Back, from this end I could see a series of peaks that goes one after another along the spine. The path leads the way to the next, and the next before hitting Shek O peak. I suppose this is the highest peak on this path, but Mount Collinson could be higher. The path goes all the way to 22.241547, 114.24137 before turning left downhill to merge with the earlier path.
From here it gets boring. The tree cover is back, so it is a trek in the forest, not really gaining nor losing altitude. This goes on for kilometers till 22.255012, 114.23200 when it merges with a road. I believe on my GPS this looks like it is quite close to Shek O road where Bus 9 travelled through earlier. This is about the point where I realized I missed the path up to Mount Collinson according to the official map on the trail. I didn’t see the path that leads up the mountain. Blah. Took the left path on a concrete road till I got to a rest area around 22.255807, 114.24030. Straight on, it leads downhill to Big Wave Bay, but I noticed a little catch water path to the right. Thinking that this could bring me up Mount Collinson, I went ahead.
This path is, for most of the way, very narrow - enough for one person at the most. Along the way, met up with a man with plenty of dogs doing his stuff, whatever it is. Like a local Charles F. Muntz (see “Up!“). Darn barking dogs, I wait for one to come and mash it with my D3s, but the owner was kind enough to make sure the dogs don’t come close. Soon enough, the catch water trail ends and the path starts to turn to just bare earth and starts to go uphill. I think I might have found the way up the hill. It goes uphill or a hundred metre or a little more, and when I didn’t see the top yet and the vegetation starts to get denser, I made the decision to go back down otherwise I wouldn’t hit Shek O for the sun set. Little did I know, later viewing my GPS tracks, I was tens of meters away from hitting the spine to Mount Collinson.
Back on the track, the rest of the way down to Big Wave Bay is rather straight forward. First, all downhill. Second, tree cover, so you don’t really know where you are till you hit the houses in at Big Wave Bay village. Of course that was not the case for me, thanks to my new high sensitivity GPS unit.
I only realised it at the end, the distance post that I encountered in the last 4 sections had 100 parts to it, so you start with 0 and end with 100. That would make each post about 500m apart. Post no. 100 is just before entering Big Wave Bay.
End of the trail, entering BIg Wave Bay
Big Wave Beach: So named because... yup... of the big waves
On the right side of the beach: lifeguard tower just next to a little cove
Big wave bay looks like a small village. There cannot be more than tens of houses here. There are buses that comes all the way here but they stop outside the village, the roads being too narrow. There is a beach in this village, obviously the waves are big and full of surfers on this day. Now I also noticed 3 photographers with telephoto lens (amateurs perhaps since they are 70-300 and 70-200mm), and this makes me wonder what you are going to do with photos of strangers struggling to surf in medium sized waves? Anyways, this town is full of caucasian tourists and perhaps Hong Kong expats. Feels like I’m not in Hong Kong at all. Even the shops are all catering to the holiday makers. Took my audio recording of the beach and started my walk downhill to Shek O on the main road past the finely manicured golf course to my left.
On the small road going from Big Wave to Shek O, its actually quite walkable
At the end of Shek O Headlands is this nice rocky waterfront
Amazing what a nice 1000x ND filter can do with the wave...
Shek O is less european feeling as Big Wave, but still make no mistake about it, this is a tourist town. Walked to Shek O headland close to 5:30pm where I waited for the sun to set. Waited for the wedding photographers to finish their manufactured portraits and poor groom and bride pretending to be celebrities for the day. Sun sets around 6:45 pm at this time of the year, and the hour before sunset is the best time to shoot. And this is a a perfect way to end my experience of completing the 50km long Hong Kong Trail. Sandwich on the rocks in Shek O headland.
And it has been a fun 5 segment trek. I guess with much luck it could be done in 4 sections, but I really think 5 is stretching it. There are not too many places where you could end for the day and continue another. First of all, you’d need a bus stop at the section ends. But 5 days to complete it all is still not too bad. Out of the 5 sections, I think the best places to take photos is still the first section around the Peak, and perhaps Section 4 around Tai Tam Bay. Sometimes I think the best time to hike is when it is cloudy, but not raining. Sunny days are just bad for photography, and you sweat so much it is no fun at all.
Moving Time: 3hrs 05mins
Stopping Time: 2hrs 45mins
Moving Average Speed: 4.3km
Total Ascent: 364m
Max Elevation: 299m
Among the last shots of this Hong Kong Trail: it was getting very dark, I exposed for a few minutes for this view of Tai Tau Chau...