Within a very short distance of the endless apartment and offices which pepper the Hong Kong skyline like a topographical pin cushion, you find a profligacy of green and pleasant land, as yet and by governmental decree unsullied by man’s concrete-laden touch. There are many other islands that surround the bay and beyond other than ‘the island’ which lies across the harbour from Kowloon. They are rich in wildlife, vegetation and spectacular pannos (nb Holling). You can escape one jungle for another via an array of country parks. Take a stroll, a hike, or just a sit, depending on your enthusiasm, fitness, or most likely, how hungover you are. I see a litany of these ‘country parks,’ dotted around the outskirts of my google maps and immediately my mind conjures up images of (**CLICHE ALERT**) linen neckties, bonnets and wicker picnic baskets. How very colonial of me. This embellishment is at odds with reality. We already know it’s mega hilly. The climate ensures that stiff collars are replaced with skin-tight ‘technical garments’ and tea cups are banished in favour of a supersized bottle of Pocari Sweat. (more on this later!)
This hike showed me the little known beauty of Hong Kong, although I’m unsure if you can define a hike as something which starts and ends at an underground station. Originally planning to hit Sai Kung, far west of the SAR, we ended up atop the Lion rock. Getting to Sai Kung involves logistical planning, punctuality, a knowledge of the local transport timetables and the ability to get up very early. Inevitably, this initial plan was thrown to the Lions very early in the day, well, not very early, that’s the point. Oh, you know what I mean. Anyway, apparently everyone just gets a taxi.
We took the MTR which always lulls you into a false sense of security. You feel the fresh blast of chilled air smack you in the face as you board the carriage, but your brain then assumes the climate really is gently cooling and refreshing. When you do encounter daylight again you are hit in reverse, an unpleasant clamminess immediately blasts your face like that feeling when you open the oven which contains your lucky pants that you forgot to wash and need to wear tonight for that date with Mariella off Tinder. Smooth.
There is a wonderful website Hike Hong Kong which gives you an idiot’s guide to completing it most of the hikes in Hong Kong, but if all else fails, just walk in the direction of up and green. I observed numerous slopes, all fully registered and accounted for. Galling as it was, we encountered a fair few red island cabs delivering the more savvy urban hikers to the actual trail start, never to see them again. At this point there was a little quaver in my voice as I proclaimed that half a litre of water between us was ample. I believe the sweat that saturated the seat of my own ‘technicals’ probably amounted to the same already. Fortunately, once we had passed the customary clifftop buddhist temple, (they always get the best real estate here, I wonder why. . . . .) we encountered a veritable army of lycra clad warriors, milling around a ramshackled lean-to. Here we feasted ourselves on the breakfast of champions which we foolishly rebuffed back in tinsel town. The juxtaposition (JACK!) of this wizen old dude carving out bowls of bean curd for the assembled MAMIL’s and their female counterparts amused me greatly. We also stocked up on water. It seems you can never have enough of the stuff if you aren’t carrying it yourself. As you can see, Hong Kong is supplied with an array of extreme sports attire, all created from the Mr. Motivator school of design. As the saying goes, it is not indicative of competency.
The walk itself was fairly uneventful, it went up, down, through some bushes and back out again. I will expand upon terrain and foliage another time as I can feel your energy decaying through the black mirror. There was an idiosyncratic Hong Kong moment halfway up the trail, where we encountered a full sized electricity pylon, straddling the steep and narrow ridge. Conscientious safety out the window, power for all! All 1.21 gigawatts of it! 🙂
To reach the ‘lion rock’ we had to exit the main trail and mount a vertiginous stairway which must have been the inspiration for Led Zeppelin. It was the one taxing part of the hike, but in truth it was far more challenging to descend that continue, so by default we reached the top. Lion Rock, (which looks nothing like a lion) perches between the New Territories to the north and Kowloon and the rest to the south. Subsequently the views are absolutely spectacular, even on a typically hazy day. The urban sprawl stretched far before us, in all its glory. I wonder what William Blake would have thought.
That would be a poetic end to this post, but, there are a couple of incidents I just can’t omit to reinforce the peculiarities of Hong Kong, from the sublime to the ridiculous. We trotted off downhill, looking forward to a gentle bowl back to neon, back to concrete and back to Homeland season 3. Before we could find out just how long an international manhunt for a ginger could possible take, we were entwined in the hitherto lost CS Lewis classic The boy band, The rescue helicopter and The rhesus monkey. But actually, maybe that’s a story for another time.
. . . . . . . . just don’t look at them.