events

Hong Kong: Sai Kung East Country Park

Now this is the starting part of 100km MacLehose trail. I did not intend to finish all of it this time and I did not take too much notes on the day of the trek itself. In short, total distance covered is around 25-30km over two weekends in searing heat and full of uphill and downhill. Bonus would be the hidden beaches, at least in the morning until the yachts from Hong Kong drop their anchor and noisy daytrippers hang around for a bit of sunburning. Recommended, but bring more water. I love it... Here goes...

*end*

Hong Kong Trail Part 5, Hong Kong: Shek O Road to Big Wave Bay

DSC4540.jpg

View of Shek O from the ridge

DSC4596.jpg

DSC4566.jpg

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.

20100510.jpg

GPS plots of Section 5, from Tai Tam Bay to Shek O via Dragon Back ridge

DSC4525.jpg

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.

DSC4534.jpg

DSC4536.jpg

Two pictures of Shek O from the start of the ridge

DSC4556.jpg

Looks tough, but the ridge is quite an easy hike. I’ve seen dogs and little kids on the ridge on this day...

DSC4591.jpg

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.

DSC4585.jpg

DSC4572.jpg

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.

DSC4615.jpg

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.

DSC4633.jpg

DSC4634.jpg

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.

DSC4638.jpg

End of the trail, entering BIg Wave Bay

DSC4644.jpg

DSC4648.jpg

DSC4652.jpg

Big Wave Beach: So named because... yup... of the big waves

DSC4655.jpg

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.

DSC4665.jpg

On the small road going from Big Wave to Shek O, its actually quite walkable

DSC4675.jpg

At the end of Shek O Headlands is this nice rocky waterfront

DSC4688.jpg

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 Odometer: 13.30km Moving Average Speed: 4.3km Total Ascent: 364m Max Elevation: 299m

DSC4697.jpg

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...

*end*

Hong Kong Trail Part 4, Hong Kong: Tai Tam Reservoir to Shek O

DSC4270.jpg

Start of Part 4: Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir

DSC4453.jpg

End of Part 4: Shek O village from Tai Tau Chau

This spring has been quite terrible here in Hong Kong. It rains everyday, and just like back in Shanghai, you rejoice when you get the sun, because it is rather rare. So it is with this I told myself, whatever happens I’m out to complete the Hong Kong trail this weekend. That would be Section 7 & 8 according to the official map. This would mean starting off at Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir, go right through to To Tei Wan and then up to the Dragon’s Back mountain trail and ending up at Big Wave Bay. Lets just get to the plot here, to mention that there’s a Part 5 after all, and I never made it to Section 8 on this trip as Dragon’s Back trail is a little too tough to complete in one afternoon along with the hike from Tai Tam reservoir.

sec4.jpg

GPS plots of the path (in green) for Part 4, with Stanley and Shek O in the picture for positioning

It’s the usual. After filling up on a heavy brunch, I’m off by MTR to Shau Kei Wan, and then onto bus 14 on the main road just before Chai Wan Road. Booted up my Garmin Colorado 300 GPS and got off the bus right before the reservoir. There are not too much space here for any lingering. The dam is so narrow, there is only room on the top for a 2 laned road, so the views will have to be appreciated either in the vehicle, or on one end of the dam. Water is choppy due to a drizzle, with wind from the sea whipping up small waves.

DSC4288.jpg

A road runs on the Tai Tam reservoir dam, but being narrow, I don’t think I want to walk on it while double decker buses come charging down one side.

DSC4289.jpg

Tai Tam Bay

DSC4303.jpg

The initial part of the trek is along thick forests, along a concrete path, so it is quite safe.

DSC4309.jpg

Tai Tam reservoir viewed across from the other side of Tai Tam Bay

DSC4324.jpg

DSC4338.jpg

Tai Tam Bay coastline

DSC4346.jpg

Lan Nai Wan Village

Then it is a short walk up Tai Tam Road before going into the forest on the right following a path where I left off in Part 3. Here the path should be rated as easy as it follows a catch water and the altitude reading on my GPS is pretty much constant throughout. Under this heavy tree cover, there are no photo opportunities except for plants macro. The trail are paved almost all the way to Tung Ah Pu Village. The trail is not really straight, quite simply because it follows the contour lines of the hillside. There are some areas where there are clearings and this is where the views of Tai Tam Harbor can be had. It looks across to a bunch of apartments on Red Hill. Some sections I could see Lan Nai Wan village in the foreground and the expensive houses on Red Hill in the background. So a nice mid telephoto lens like 105mm can be useful here. Wide angle lenses are ok, but because there are always shoulder level undergrowth, it is not possible to get a clear shot. When I was there, there were patches of rain cloud and some patches of sunlight, so I was hoping for perfect lighting to capture an interesting shot. I don’t think I was given that opportunity anyway.

DSC4363.jpg

Tung Ah Village

DSC4373.jpg

Tung Ah Village upclose

Tung Ah Village looks quite interesting. The houses there are old, no doubt, but it has a long jetty and it is around this area when the vegetations start to change. There are no longer tree shelter on the path and the plants look more like the ones you see near the seaside. However we are still about 40m above sea level at this stage but in the lighter tree cover, there are huge boulders made of reddish colored rocks.

DSC4377.jpg

Not too easy to see, but its a speed boat turning back to retrieve a fallen water skier

DSC4417.jpg

From here the forests give way to thick undergrowth that’s more representative of a coastal ecosystem

DSC4428.jpg

To Tei Wan, with the storms closing in...

It is somewhere near Ngan Hang Village when the trail turns from the familiar concrete into compacted earth and starts to go downhill. This continues all the way to To Tei Wan beach, I saw a sign that says the proper name for it is Deity Beach. This looks like where most of the watersports freaks take off. I counted sailing, water skiing and so on. My interest is somewhere else. It is almost 5pm right now, having spent about 4 hours to get form Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir to where I am. The path starts to climb from here up to Shek O road. The climb is tough but concrete stairs make it easy to climb in all weather. I’m tired because I think I’ve seen and climbed too many hills lately. Right along the road is the bus stop for Bus number 9 that will take you all the way back to Shau Kei Wan, or if you prefer, to Shek O. I checked my watch and there is no way I could make it on to Dragon’s back and to Big Wave Bay before night fall. So time to call it quits for now, and headed over to Shek O. The only way to get there is by bus since the road is narrow and you’d be nuts to be walking with bus traveling FAST on it.

DSC4435.jpg

I will miss Cape D’Aguilar this time, but I will be back on this one...

Made it to Shek O with an hour and half of light left for the evening according to my GPS sunset computation. Bus 9 stops right in the middle of Shek O town, and a short uphill walk brings you to Shek O Headland where plenty of cliffs await. The obvious thing when you get here for the first time is that this a choice spots for locals to shoot their wedding photos. I can’t recall how many brides and bridemaids I’ve seen during my walk here. More of them than groom for sure. At the headland on the way to Tai Tau Chau, I’ve tried to set up my tripod and take pictures of the waves crashing onto the rocks, but it is impossible as this place is filled with girl modeling for photographers. There is one corner where there were at least ten men with SLR cameras and funny flash diffusers shooting a swim suit model lying on the rocks. It must hurt.

DSC4437.jpg

Downtown Shek O

DSC4439.jpg

Village life in Shek O

DSC4445.jpg

Tai Tau Chau from Shek O Headlands

DSC4463.jpg

Rock patterns at the ocean end of Tai Tau Chau

DSC4500.jpg

DSC4502.jpg

DSC4480.jpg

Storms closing in, I took at least 20 pictures here, having brought a tripod but forgetting my RRS L-bracket of all things... This is a few second exposure to create the silky smooth waves.

Tai Tau Chau is an easy walk, and it is possible to walk all the way to the end. The trick here is that the farther you go towards the end, you get less photographers. I guess models don’t like hiking. Right at the end is some water station of some sort, but there is a rocky platform large enough if you are willing to jump the railing. There is enough space here to picnic with the waves crashing below you. The air here is filled with salt water mist, so keep your expensive equipment in the bag. It was close to 6pm when I got here, and it is time to have a last break before I make my way back to Shau Kei Wan on bus 9 to mark the end of Part 4.

Moving Time: 2hrs 50mins Stopping Time: 3hrs 12mins Odometer: 14.95km Moving Average Speed: 5.3km Total Ascent: 367m Max Elevation: 44m

DSC4462.jpg

Stormy seas from Tai Tau Chau

DSC4398.jpg

Storm closing in on Stanley

Next and last part: Go to Part 5...

Hong Kong Trail Part 3, Hong Kong: Happy Valley to Tai Tam Reservoir

DSC3688.jpg

From the top of Quarry Bay on the way up to Mt Butler

Part 3 for me would be equivalent to section 5 and 6 of the Hong Kong trail, but with a twist. I will start at sea level in Happy Valley, walk up the hill along Stubbs Road and Wong Nai Chung Gap Road, and join up the Hong Kong Trail where I left off the last time, walking up Jardine’s Lookout and to Mount Butler, before coming downhill all the way to Tai Tam Reservoir water system and ending at Tai Tam Road where I will take a bus back to civilization. A little bit like Man vs Wild, but less drastic.

sec3-2.jpg

GPS plots of the path looking from Causeway Bay. Waypoints in capitalized scripts are my own GPS waypoint.

Packed lunch I made myself, and a 1.5L Camel bak and my usual grab bag filled with a tripod, and landscape filters, though I don’t think I will make use of them today. Brought a D3s with 24mm f3.5 PC-E as the primary lens, and a macro and another spare lens just in case. And for audio recording, I needed the Sony PCM-D50 PCM recorder. I also packed in a rolled up waterproof jacket and all sorts of rain covers just in case. The weather today was not that great. Some weather forecasting service predicted rain, and some sunshine, but I think looking out my window all I could see was just heavy fog coming from the ocean.

DSC3596.jpg

Recreation boats stacked up on Wong Nai Chung Reservoir (22.257078, 114.19507)

DSC3593.jpg

Like all reservoirs I’ve seen throughout this trail, they all have lower than usual water level. This is Wong Nai Chung Reservoir.

Sure enough, the walk up from Happy Valley along Blue Pool road is a long slug up the mountain, and looking up I was able to see the mountain and quite likely most of Mount Butler will be up in the clouds. There are no sun today in the dense fog coming in from the sea. Before long I reached Wong Nai Chung reservoir up along Wong Nai Chung Gap. This reservoir is surrounded by apartments, and like most of the reservoirs I have seen so far in Hong Kong, the water level is way below the highest water line. Doesn’t seem as though there’s a drought here. At this reservoir there are boats tourists could rent to paddle around the small lake formed by the dam. I had to rest a little bit as the walk up was quite tiring, sweating in a sub 20C weather.

DSC3601.jpg

Here’s a substation just after passing the reservoir, before hitting Parkview apartments

DSC3603.jpg

Guess I shouldn’t get too close...

A little bit up hill, just when reaching Hong Kong Parkview apartments is the left turn branch off up to Jardine’s lookout. It started off with dense forest and a sign indicating Osborn’s Memorial. A Plaque stands there erected by the Canadian army telling a story which I read, and something about this guy that saved his comrades. Was a good break from the uphill climb. There are plenty of places to look out to the city, but today the peak where I was is just up above the clouds so all I could see was white. Everything was white. Nothing but white. I could see that the clouds are coming from the sea as it flows up along the mountain and crests at the top. The trail goes along the spine up to Jardine’s lookout, the first peak. It is marked with a geological marker and this is where I stopped for lunch as it is already 1pm by now. Started my walk around noon. I marked my GPS so that I can get back here in the future for the HK view when the weather is better.

DSC3648.jpg

In the heavy fog, you can’t really see too much where you’re going. But the GPS (and path) puts me on the right track...

DSC3636.jpg

Who says you need bright sunlight to find something interesting? I pack my 105mm micro for occasion like these...

DSC3654.jpg

The 105mm also doubles as a short tele lens. I like this one so much, a landscape version is one of my random wallpaper now. Fog is good.

DSC3665.jpg

Geographical marker at the top of Jardine’s Lookout.

DSC3663.jpg

Next destination...

DSC3685.jpg

Right after Jardine’s lookout is downhill, all the way to a disused quarry that looks like it’s currently used to blow up other things other than rocks. I see charred carcasses of cars and what looked like an armored personnel carrier. The trail continues along the top of the quarry, still going along the spine of the mountain, and then it starts to climb again. Steps are the worse thing you can have when you’re already tired of climbing. Checking the map, it looked like it was possible to take one of the left turns before Mount Butler and end up in Taikoo Station or Quarry Bay. But I have a mission today, and soon I ‘m up on the top of Mount Butler. Was hoping to get a nice rest here but a group of Filipinos with blaring small radio and loud talking came a few minutes later and took the mayorship of Mount Butler (thinking of foursquare here). Figuring I was not going to get any peace here at the top of the mountain, I started going down.

DSC3686.jpg

I guess is the Quarry that made Quarry Bay what what it is. It looks deceiving, but this is high up in the mountains!

DSC3708.jpg

Downhill from Mount Butler, towards Tai Tam Reservoir

The way down was short in terms of distance, but is rather steep. Guessing it is not more than 300m in distance, but from the faces of the trekkers I’ve seen going up this flight of stairs, it was not an easy distance to cover! I did not tell them there’s no view by the time they get to the top thanks to the fog. At the bottom is a picnic area, and Mount Parker Road passes right though it and as you might have guessed, for the first time today I see normal families with their dogs and young kids staring at all these sweaty people coming down the mountain. There’s a map here and I check it to make sure I’m on the right path.

DSC3714.jpg

Mount Parker Road, towards Tai Tam Reservoir

Then its time to turn right down to Quarry Gap road. This is what it says it is. Now I start to walk on a proper road under the cover of trees. Wasn’t hot at all, and by now I am below the fog lines but looked heavily cloudy from here. The road is single lane here, and there are no cars as at the top I could see a barrier preventing them using it. The road goes downhill with many series of switchbacks and around zero photo opportunity. On a clear day there might be an opportunity or two, but here fresh air is all that you will get. And no noisy tourists. The road leads right down to Tai Tam Reservoir. Along the way you’d come across a junction and you should go towards the Tai Tam Reservoir (right turn) and not the left which is a quicker way to the major Tai Tam road.

Before long, I’m at the upper Tai Tam Reservoir. The maps here get a little confusing as they are no longer about the Hong Kong trail but specializing in the Tai Tam waterworks heritage trail. I was confused for a while and figured out that the logical thing to do is to go downhill from here. And the trick worked. But the trail does go through the whole complex that is the Tai Tam Reservoir, I remember a spillway, and there’s a Lower Reservoir as well. After a while I see another map and this time the Hong Kong Trail starts to appear on it again. The choices now is to either continue down the road, or branch off uphill on a dirt path around Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir towards my end point which is the main road for my “extraction”.

DSC3722.jpg

Tai Tam Reservoir dam

DSC3731.jpg

Again, low water levels

DSC3736.jpg

Interesting architecture here at the Tai Tam Dam

Naturally I go on the path. This one cuts through a forest where you can hear sounds of waterfalls for most part of the trip. Look out for trail runners, there seem to be everywhere on this stretch. As its a wet foggy day, the path is wet and slightly muddy in some parts, but still nothing to worry about as it doesn’t get too crazy. Somewhere along the path, I come across a nice stream and took the time to relax here and get some recording of running water with the audio recorder. Luckily there are no passerby to pollute the recording and I was able to get about 10minutes of solid recording. I checked my watch and it is half past 5pm already by now and the skies are starting to get dark. I shouldn’t be far from the road now. After another 10 minutes of trail walking I come across Tai Tam Road.

DSC3744.jpg

Last stream in the last few minutes of light for the day...

I marked the end point of my third part completed just in the nick of time before it got dark today, so that I can restart here again for the final part. Down the road I could see a big dam forming the Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir and just before it, a bus stop. The bus for me today is Bus 14 that will take me to Shau Kei Wan to switch to the tram back home. Tired but happy to have completed Part 3 today. I’d say that with the climb today, it was quite a hectic hike, but I feel good. Signing off..

Moving Time: 3hrs 3mins Stopping Time: 2hrs 30mins Odometer: 11.12km Moving Average Speed: 3.6km Total Ascent: 609m Max Elevation: 435m

Continue to Part 4...

Hong Kong Trail Part 2, Hong Kong: Aberdeen to Happy Valley

DSC0306.jpg

Boarding the water taxi at Aberdeen

The second part of my trek on the Hong Kong trail will be quite interesting. I start off at the town of Aberdeen on the other side of Hong Kong island, go through Aberdeen reservoir, up the mountain, and end up hopefully in Happy Valley. Looks straightforward enough, but I have lost my Nokia E71 since the last trip, so I will not have the luxury of blogging live and viewing googlemaps when I get lost. However, I stick to my theory it’s not easy to get lost in a small little island.

DSC0312.jpg

The only thing you will see are tug boats like this one and water taxis here in Aberdeen.

Overview.jpg

GPS plots of the path from Aberdeen to Happy Valley

Just for the record, I will be attempting Section 3 & 4 today on the official Hong Kong trail maps. The start is easy enough, I’d catch bus 76 from Causeway Bay to Aberdeen at the foot of Yue Kwong road. But made a earlier stop at Wong Chuk Hang Road to have a look at the boats between Aberdeen and Ap Lei Chau Island. It’s good I still remember where to go to get to Aberdeen Reservoir Country Park. Walk along Aberdeen Reservoir Road up hill, in fact the road up to the main gate is steep enough for anyone to stop for breather more than once. The gate to the reservoir is at (22.253006, 114.15855). And I’m back at the Aberdeen Lower Reservoir visitor centre, a familiar sight from the last trip.

DSC0320.jpg

The walk up to the reservoir and country park entrance. The slope is not a visual trick. It IS steep!

The walk from Aberdeen lower reservoir to the upper reservoir is relatively easy with a little bit of slope. There are barbecue pits all over the path, so I guess this the very young to the very old that I saw on the way up here would be coming here for a barbecue. The pits near to the entrance are the most busy, and if you would like to have a little peace while browning those chicken wings, the barbecue area close to the Upper Reservoir was empty when I was there. This, compared to the full house at the pits closer to entrance. The two reservoirs look like they are a little short of water on the way I was there, yellow soil was visible, indicating drop in the water level. Various lines indicate the different water levels it was holding over the months, similar to tree rings. In fact, I don’t think I remember the last time it rained in Hong Kong.

DSC0325.jpg

No kidding! I still believe all these fire warning are not updated regularly. I’ve seen more flammable forests in my life than this one.

DSC0327.jpg

Upper Aberdeen Reservoir

DSC0339.jpg

Water levels here has seen better days

Anyway, there’s not too much to see at the lower reservoir, while the upper reservoir looks better from far than close up. Exposed orange soil just don’t look that interesting. And the upper reservoir is littered with picnic sites. I’d continue up Aberdeen Reservoir Rd, and just before hitting a steep climb on the way up to the posh houses on Cameron Road, there is a little path filled with dried leaves that leads to the right, this is where I should be going. The bad news is that it goes on like this and generally gaining altitude all the way. The tree cover means that it should not get too hot on this trail, but on a cold day, it could get rather cold.

DSC0344.jpg

The path just after Aberdeen Reservoir Rd

Profile1.jpg

Another view of the GPS plots showing (hopefully) the elevation gain in this section

There are a couple of signboards that you will see regularly. Of course at intersections there will be signs, sometimes useful, sometimes you wish it was not there. At major points there will be maps that you can check if you’re going in the right direction. Then there will be all these slope registration sign, which I think should be meant for those who really care about it at the government department that checks on erosion and all that. And since we are walking along a slope, with many streams, you do find flash flood warning too. Why am I going on and on about signboards? If you guessed this sounds like space filler, it is exactly that. Out of the 5 parts I will attempt on this trail, Part 2 has to be the most boring one of them all, in a monotonous way. Except for the odd world war 2 battery or two. They are not too well marked but you do bump into them at least once.

DSC0345.jpg

Signs to make sure you are not lost...

DSC0351.jpg

... and signs to make sure you don’t swim just in case...

DSC0353.jpg

Here’s one battery. Strange I did not log the GPS coordinate of this one. Now I don’t remember where it is...

DSC0356.jpg

Most of the path here follows the concrete catchwater, meaning the altitude is more or less constant. They’re boring, as you can see...

DSC0366.jpg

... makes me feel like trying something interesting like jumping onto this staircase and see what is on top of it...

At a point in the trek, look out for the sign to Black’s link. This will initially lead uphill and then a junction at (22.258641, 114.181917) before hitting the little one lane road of that name. The altitude here is high enough, there’s a view of Ocean Park and the eastern side of Aberdeen. Not quite Deep Water Bay yet, but I think it is visible from here. But you know what, I think it is good that I have hit a road at this time of the day, when the sun is starting to set. It means that I should be able to get all the way back to Happy Valley on paved road. Not exactly adventure, but somehow I prefer open air trekking than in the forest where I have not too much idea where I am heading. My 10 year old Garmin eTrex Vista GPS does not really acquire satellite signals very well under tree cover.

Profile2.jpg

Another angle look at the GPS plots, this time including the approach to Happy Valley

DSC0358.jpg

On the right, Wong Chuk Hang (Ocean World) and Aberdeen Country Park occupying most of the image

DSC0392.jpg

Nothing better than a path with a view...

DSC0391.jpg

This is a view of Wong Chuk Hang hill on the left farther on and closer to Black’s Link and Aberdeen on the right

DSC0409.jpg

Aberdeen Country Park

Before long, Black’s link gets you to a set of apartments up in the mountains. Follow it downhill and soon it will meet with Wong Nai Chung Gap Road. Tennis centre on the right, walking downhill, hitting Blue Pool Road (I’m close to Happy Valley now!) then Sing Woo Road and before very long, I hit the Race Course, by now there is not too much sunlight left and time for a little dinner before going home. This concludes Part 2 of the Hong Kong Trail, a whole day of trekking, from sea level up to the middle of the mountain, never really reaching the peak, then hitting civilization on the other side of the Island. Good just for the experience...

DSC0416.jpg

Blue Pool Road, on the way down to Happy Valley race course

DSC0389.jpg

Continue to Part 3....

Hong Kong Trail Part 1, Hong Kong: Peak to Aberdeen

DSC1071.jpg

Two IFC Tower from the Peak

DSC1172.jpg

This section of the trail is going through mainly Pok Fu Lam reservoir system

I have always thought that the Hong Kong trail was at least 100km long, but I was brought to realize that it is only half of that. It is Maclehose Trail that is of that distance. Then again, the closest one to where I live should always be the one to try out first. So, the rough plan is this (there is never a real plan when it comes to a good hike) I will break it down to either 4 or 5 sections that I can do in a day each (finally it ended up that I will need 5 days to cover it all), and time it so that I start off around noon, and end up before sundown someplace where I can extract myself back to civilization, which for me means a public transport of some sort. That should put the daily distance between 12-15km. My GPS and a camera will come along to document the trip. The Hong Kong trail is an interesting one, and what a way to present a long hike but like this: start off in the picturesque vista up on the Peak mingling with the tourists and ending the hike couple of days later at Shek O beach right on the eastern end of Hong Kong island.

Part1-1.jpg

Google Earth view of the first half of the trek

However, let me start by saying that I suck at writing, and especially checking for typing errors - but it has to be done. I start the hike by taking bus 15 from the bus terminus at Central, next to the Hong Kong Airport Express station. This bus is filled to the brim with tourists, but guess tourists would be the first group you'd expect to be taking that bus up to the Peak. The bus winds its way up till it reaches Peak Galeria (22.270343, 114.14996). This is one last chance to top up that big bottle of water, and some ice cream and coffee before I dive into nature.

DSC1096.jpg

Private apartment buildings in Central

DSC1053.jpg

View of Hong Kong Central from Lugard Road

DSC1104.jpg

And Kowloon... converted to black and white thanks to the bad weather on the day I was there...

The trail starts off on the left of the Peak Tower and all that is necessary is to follow Lugard Road. Say good bye to all the tourists while I go anti clockwise around Victoria Peak. After a few hundred metres, is where you get the scenic part of the trail where most of the pictures of the city’s skyscrapers I have seen was taken. You get to see the major landmarks in Kowloon and Hong Kong island from here. This part of the trail is easy, with some adventurous tourists going on the bitumen covered trail, probably even wide enough for a small service golf cart. So far there is no elevation changes yet. Before long, I come across the junction of Harlech Road. Now this section is confusing, there is a right-right that goes along Hatton Road. Skipped that. Then there’s a right-left that goes along Harlech road, and looks like it is leading downhill with a slope on the left - This is the one I took. The other two roads, one leads to High West, wherever that is, and the one on the left leads back to the Peak Galeria.

DSC3499.jpg

Lugard Road path in heavy fog

DSC1118.jpg

I head downhill along Harlech Road, till I reach a picnic area (site number 2, if I remember the sign well enough) which is an area with some shelter, remains of a war battery and a nice view of Cyberport and what looks like Lantau Island and Lamma Island in the distance. This is an ideal place to have a break. The next step is to continue down a staircase into the bush, and this is the first part where the elevation drops significantly. In effect I’m walking down stairs here, and going towards Pok Fu Lam reservoir. There are some sections here with plenty of trees, and some section with low undergrowth, so a cap and sunscreen would be appropriate on a hot day. Not too much photo opportunity here unfortunately, the view being pretty average.

DSC1121.jpg

Part1-2.jpg

Satellite map of the second half of the trek

When close to Pok Fu Lam reservoir, this is where I realized I took a shortcut to the real Hong Kong Trail. I took the steps down to the reservoir and took a relaxing calm walk along the western edge of the lake along a service road. There is an option to bail out here toward Pok Fu Lam village where there should be buses leading to most destinations, but this is still early in the day, and I’m not done yet. Reaching the north-eastern part of the lake, the path starts to lead uphill again, but still remaining on the road. At this point the road goes along a valley with a stream to my left. Before long I find another camping site on the rock next to the stream and a small waterfall. I later learnt that this road is Pok Fu Lam Reservoir Road. Pictures taken at the site follows:

DSC3527.jpg

DSC1144.jpg

DSC1141.jpg

DSC1168.jpg

DSC3524.jpg

DSC3538.jpg

Now we start the uphill part of the trek, but on service roads, so a good pair of shoe is required, and this is not really that hardcore, considering it is on paved road. I took the right turn towards Aberdeen once I get to the first junction. Soon the trail passes a covered reservoir and this also marks the end of the paved trail. After this, it is uphill again on walking trails with some tree cover. This will be the start of a long boring walk. iPods recommended for this stretch. You will go along a combination of jungle trail and concrete catchwater paths for at least 1.5km. I don’t know what to say about this section, its long, and when I walked it around 5pm,  I was wondering if there is a way down hill without navigating the steep slopes. It’s possible to see the apartment buildings to the right at this stage while walking along the catchwater.

DSC1124.jpg

The hill is Mount Davis, with Kennedy Town on the right and off the picture on the left would be Pok Fu Lam town...

DSC1211.jpg

Electrical pylons cut across Hong Kong island through the hills

Soon the catch water trail merges with a road leading up from the Aberdeen Country Park entrance. It is quite easy to tell when near. First, there will be plenty of sound from visitors here, talking loudly is the norm here. Second, it will be possible to smell barbecued meat. There has to be a big barbecue park somewhere close-by. Since it is close to 6pm at this time, I thought it would be a perfect time to end Part 1 of this trail. Turning right, I go past all the weekenders grilling their stereotypical barbecue food: sausages and chicken wings (no marshmallows in this part of the world). There are quite a number or barbecue pits here, but this is the least of my interest, I need to get to a bus and as a bonus, a convenience store to grab a bar of Snickers or something sweet to replenish energy after 5 hours of walking.

The route down to Aberdeen from the park entrance is this really steep and long road downhill. When you go along down the road, the only thought on your mind, after walking that long is whether you will have to climb back up again if it does not lead to a town with a bus stop! At the bottom, I get back to civilization and after grabbing a bottle of tea, took bus 76 back to Causeway Bay, marking the end of Section 1.

DSC1215.jpg

This is one of the first building that greets you when you walk out of the steep downhill Aberdeen reservoir park entrance

DSC1220.jpg

I have collected the tracks on my GPS but did not note the odometer, but I’m sure the route I took today is around 12km.

Continue to Part 2...

Hong Kong MTR

Started off my new project weekend, to photograph the station names of every single MTR station in Hong Kong. I don't know how long it will take to do them all, but 3 or 4 weekends may be just enough. The idea is simple, take a camera, one lens and stop at every single station and then move on to the next.

There has not been any over eager security guard asking me to stop photographing so far, and to keep things interesting, I've got 2 months of backlogged podcasts to keep me company while continuing the task. The only thing I learnt is that there is a limit to the time you can spend in the metro, once you pass the gates. Its about 2.5 hours. And I spent a little more than that, and the Customer Service office let me out without a penalty. Otherwise it would cost a little more than 20HKD. I believe it was 21HKD that they mentioned.

Chai Wan MTR Station

There's no deadline to this project. It will be completed when its completed, and I will figure out then what to do with all the database of photos! Today I managed to shoot 512 NEF files!

Travels: Hong Kong Outlying Lamma Island, Hong Kong

Fujifilm GA645i I have been to Hong Kong many times but always to either side of the harbour and whenever the flight circles the islands I would be wondering what it will be like hiking on one of those barren hills. No more wondering. Going this weekend. However, instead of going all rambo this weekend, why not start with the largest and possibly most popular of them all, Lamma island. And thinking if I have time,a to do another one. Getting there seems to be easy enough. in short, MTR to Central, walk to the Central Piers next to Two IFC, and pier 4. I will start at Yung Shue Wan, where apparently everyone will go as well looking at people crowding at the entrance to the pier. One way ticket cost 14.5 HKD and octopus card works here. And it seems the crowd only starts going into the holding area 10 minutes from boarding time and the ferry only holds 370 souls.

Ferry ride takes somewhere between 20 to 30 minutes. I didn't time it. Feels like the same type of fast ferry that connects hong kong with macau. The boat lands right at Yung Shue Wan village, and although there are normal village shops, most of them are restaurants, shall I say, catering to tourists flooding the village.

Fujifilm GA645i

15 minutes hike out of town and the crowd starts to thin down, on the trail to Sok Kwu Wan. It starts in the forests with farmer's lodges everywhere and before long I start to get to the bald and barren hills with trails along the hill side. There are a couple of pavilions en route, doubling as a rain shelter. I'm now typing this out at one (N22.20922, E114.12299). Today started with heavy cloud cover, and surely as the forecast said it would, periods of sunlight could be seen. And I had to forget my sunblock lotion!

Sok Kyu Wan (N22.20628, E114.13161): The other town on Lamma Island. Took me a little more than 1 hour to get here. On the approach there are houses like the ones in the countryside but once you get into the town, its just seafood restaurants. Occasionally there are cheaper restaurants, not too difficult to spot as there are workers having lunch there. I'm not going to stop here as I have an island circumnavigation to do. Halfway there. Now at sea level. Sok Kyu Wan has what looks like a seafood farm right at the harbour.

Lamma Island

Just passed Yung Shue Ha (N22.19525, E114.13795), a nice quiet little town with not more than 5 buildings. There seems to be some connection to water sports here, looking are the number of dilapidated boats and wind surfing boards here. Only sign of life are old people lazing on easy chair. Sea here is rougher and at the nearby jetty all sorts of rubbish and plastic bags can be seen floating around the beach, probably the cause of lack of tourists here. I continue on my clockwise circuit around the island.

Lamma Island

This leg going towards Sok Kyu Wan is passing through high hills with large loose boulders. The path is paved, so no problem with the walk, and the scenery holds promise. Only problem today is that the weather is not that great and hazy so its only for the view, but not for the camera. My 645 stays in the bag and snaps were taken with point and shoot camera. The scenery is not something you would have expected in hong kong. Very very nice walk. There are a few path that leads to the top of the hill. But not today for me. By the way, had a quick check and there are no mobile signal this side of the island. So I can't check my mail here...

Lamma Island

I continue on, and the path starts to lead downhill and before long there are trees again, unlike the barren granites with undergrowth only. GPS indicates I'm about 200m more to Sok Kyu Wan. Before long, the path passes through a cemetery and soon back in the town. A quick check on the photo of the ferry schedule tells me there is one in 15 minutes but I won't rush for it. Its the weekend for taking it easy. So I walked into a simple shop and ordered a plate of oily beef horfun for lunch. The Garmin GPS indicates I have hiked 11 km this morning so a little bit more oil won't hurt at all. I think I will just sit here for the next hour or so waiting for the 4pm ferry back to Central. Listening to Giles Peterson's documentary on Bossa Nova on podcast. Been a nice walk. Will reward myself with a little indian food tonight for dinner! Over and out!

Inside a shop at night in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Harbour Ferry

View of Hong Kong island from TST at night

*end of post*