Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sai Kung - McLehose Trail Stage 2

Stage 1 of the McLehose Trail ends at the hill overlooking Long Ke. It's a rather strange place as you would either need to retrace your steps back to Pak Tam Chung, or continue on to Stage 2, which is what we did. Stage 2 is a 5-hour, 13.5 km hike - a trail for serious and prepared hikers. It involves many climbs - some on steep steps, some on rocky trails.

On the plus side, the views are simply breathtaking as we stopped to take a breath! Who would have imagined that Hong Kong is so beautiful? We almost forgot about our aching feet...

What kept us going as we concentrated on putting one feet in front of the other as we trekked through endless kilometres was the promise of lunch at Sai Wan village. One of our friends, a seasoned hiker promised us a delicious fried beef kuey teow at a small cafe in Sai Wan village.

For those who don't have energy to continue on Stage 2, there is an exit route at the crossroads at Chui Tung Au (Blowpipe Pass). Turn left and you will end up Sai Wan Road where you can call a taxi to pick you up. We turn right, descending the cement stairs and pressed on towards Sai Wan village.A couple of stray dogs greeted us as we entered the village.

Time seemed to have stood still here.

We were so happy to have finally arrived at the restaurant. At this stage, it was 3 pm and we were so hungry we could eat a cow!

Unfortunately, the restaurant ran out of fried beef kuey teow, but did have other noodles. Food always taste good when you are starving!

As we filled our stomachs, we also enjoyed the view of Sai Wan beach from our table.

Rested and fed, our spirits were high as we continued our journey at 4 pm, cutting across the beach and headed to the next set of hills where more steps await us.

At the next village, we come across this old rickety bridge. Thankfully, it was across a small body of water so even if it gave way, no major harm would be done. We all made it across safely.

We met another family here who had begun their journey from the other end of the McLehose Trail. They were desparate to get home and wanted to know if they should backtrack or move towards Sai Wan village. As I mentioned earlier, you really do need to be prepared before embarking on this trail!

At the start of our hike, we were motivated by the promise of lunch. At this stage, we were motivated to finish Stage 2 before dark fall! As a precaution, our friend, the seasoned hiker who brought along a torch, purchased another torch, just in case... That prompted us to move a little faster.... or as fast as our aching feet would allow us. We passed more villages, some abandoned.

We climbed up and down more hills. The steps were endless and just when we thought the climb had ended, there was more steps around the bend. Thankfully, it was a fun group and we managed to still be in good spirits despite our weary bodies. At around 6 pm, we reached Pak Tam Au, the end of the Stage 2 trail - finally!

We were tired, but exhilirated at having completed Stage 1 and 2 of the McLehose trail. After some photos by the trail sign to remember this trip by, we caught bus no 94 and headed back to Pak Tam Chung. After that, we had another 45 minute drive back to Hong Kong Island for dinner and a good night's rest. It was an incredible day, one that I will remember for a long long time.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sai Kung - McLehose Trail Stage 1

It is now our seventh month in Hong Kong. We've pretty much settled down, established routines and found regular shopping and dining spots. We've experienced the change in seasons from summer to autumn to winter. With the cooler weather, we've had to get a new set of winter wardrobe as our existing winter travel wear was not necessarily approporiate or sufficient for daily use. I love that I get to wear knee high boots and trendy long jackets.

But a new wardrobe aside, the best part of the autumn/winter season in Hong Kong is the hiking! J and I have been exploring some of the trails on Hong Kong Island. I am continually amazed at how green Hong Kong is. Whilst most people associate Hong Kong with narrow tall buildings, large masses of people and pollution, there is a large part of Hong Kong (whether it is on Hong Kong Island, the surrounding islands of Lantau or Lamma, or the mainland of the New Territories) that is pristine and gorgeously rural! Last weekend, our friends organized a hike to the Sai Kung Peninsula, covering Stages 1 (10.6km) and 2 (13.5km) of the McLehose Trail. Benefitting from their experience last year, we taxied from Pak Tam Chung to the East Dam (about 20 minutes at a cost of HKD60+), saving us close to 2 hours hike on tarred road for Stage 1 of the trail.

Our hike started from the giant blue dolos monument, built to remember the construction workers who perished during the building of the dam. (Note: A dolos (plural dolosse) is a concrete block in a complex geometric shape weighing up to 20 tons, used in great numbers to protect harbour walls from the erosive force of ocean waves)

We made our way down to the dam, which is listed as part of the Hong Kong Global Geopark of China.

On the trail down to the dam, there are hexagonal rock columns, which resemble "petrified waterfall". These rock columns are formed by the cooling and contracting mixture of lava, rock debris and volcanic ash.

The start of many climbs to come began as we hiked up the rugged stone trail to the north towards Long Ke. This was the view that we saw at the end of the Stage 1 of the McLehose trail - the breathtaking Long Ke Wan (Long Ke Bay).

1 hour down, 6 more hours to go. Can't wait to begin Stage 2...