Hong Kong Island Skyline at Night

Trouble on the Hong Kong Trail

If there are no pictures shared online, did it really happen?

The question tends to be asked jokingly, making fun of both the philosophical pondering about the sound of a falling tree in a forest when no one’s around to hear it and of the contemporary oversharing on social media, but it recently got more relevant in my own exploratory lifestyle.

We went to Hong Kong on the way to visit my wife’s family in China. As the runner I have been working to become, living exploratorily and making myself at home where I get, measured in steps, I was attracted to the Hong Kong Trail.

Said Hong Kong Trail is a 50 km hiking path running between The Peak and Big Wave Bay, through the country parks on Hong Kong Island, which is rather better known for its densely settled low-lying areas. Central, the Bank of China building, the whole skyline lit up every night in the “Symphony of Light” – it is all here, and the visitor’s views are usually pulled to the urban side of the island so strongly, one hardly even notices that this is a pretty craggy island of peaks, and not just The Peak with its famous tram, all built up, but also forested ones of rather wild nature.

Hong Kong Island Skyline at Night
Hong Kong Island Skyline at Night

I got my chance at running (on) the trail – and somewhere between the Tai Tam Reservoir and trail marker 60, after some 20 fantastic kilometers of the most fascinating trail, without me noticing, my camera dropped off the hip belt I had attached it to. I went over that trail section twice more, but it was nowhere to be found. And with it, the photos taken during the flight, many photos of Hong Kong, and of course all those taken on and of the trail, went missing.

No photo impressions of that to share with you, I fear… and hence, the question posed at the beginning, if it happened if there are no pictures to share, took on an unfortunate reality.

It’s too bad as that trail is one of the most remarkable I’ve found so far. As much as I enjoy running in places that are close by, even as I argue for getting to know the places we’re supposedly living in but often ignore all the more, having gotten used to the paths we are used to taking there, the (normally, last) sections of the trail I covered were one of the most fantastic studies in contrasts I’ve ever experienced.

The way I went started at the end, taking bus #9 from Sheung Wan to Big Wave Bay (where it only stops at certain times, normally going to Shek O). That ride alone was fascinating, starting out between the rather tall buildings typical of Hong Kong, but very quickly getting out of that urban setting, on a tight and winding road, into the mountains of Hong Kong Island – and all that, on a double-decker bus. The stop where to get off was easy enough to notice, too, given Hong Kong’s multilingual info, and markers towards the trail started right at the parking lot / bus stop.

Movescount screenshot of my track
Screenshot of my track, see details at Movescount

Through Big Wave Bay village, one immediately starts going up, over paths and trails, inside the typically lush and muggy landscape of Hong Kong. Or actually, the typically lush and muggy landscape of Southern China that one would probably not think of when thinking of Hong Kong, but can find here more easily than in most of the South of mainland China.

On and on the path went, winding along, very nearly doubling back on itself repeatedly. The Hong Kong trail is famous, after a fashion, for running over 50 km, for a distance from one end to the other that’s just about 11 km along line-of-sight…

The low sections are sometimes paved, sometimes mud path, running along bays partly close by the sea, with butterflies fluttering around that I’ve only seen in Vienna’s butterfly house before, with crabs crossing the trail… and running through some spider webs. One of which I should later find spanning a wider path, with the spider sitting squat in the middle of it. A spider the size of my hand, with a body thick as a middle finger.

Every once in a while, especially on the higher sections, views open up, and one looks out from peaks, over lush green hills of trees and ferns and rocks, onto the dense urban areas that are the more typical impression of this city. And sometimes, less dense ones: the path over Shek O peak, the “Dragon’s Back,” looks back down on Big Wave Bay again, on small fisherman’s homes, luxury villas and condos, and a golf course, down by the sea.

After the second pass besides Tai Tam Reservoir, looking for and frustrated about the loss of my camera, I detoured down into the nearest apartment area, got caught in a downpour, waited some of it out on the forest walking path above the houses, before suddenly being back in Hong Kong as it’s known and most-visited, eventually giving up on waiting out the next downpour and just making my way to the next subway station, drenched wet by then, and going back to the hostel.

Not quite the story I was wanting to tell – and show! – but at least it all went without anything worse, the memories (both good and bad) will be with me, this trail still beckons should I return (which is rather likely), and my wife and I would also get to her parents’ without any further problems…

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