Visit a new place, and everything seems new and exciting, and therefore, at least there is engagement with where you now are.
Just as the only-too-well-known where we feel we are at home is not really seen anymore because of its familiarity (even as there would be a lot more to discover), however, so the novel is not truly seen because it’s the eye-catching and must-see that gains too much attention.
In Hong Kong, and with Hong Kong Island in particular, the view of the skylines across the harbor and the crush of people among the canyons constructed by all the high-rise buildings are just too attention-grabbing. One could almost miss that there are peaks above these towers, some of them with yet more apartments rising along their flanks, but some also green.
Take a detour to the Hong Kong Trail, which is measuring out the length and topography of Hong Kong Island on its South side, exactly opposite from the glitz and glimmer that otherwise seems to define it, however, and it’s a different world – with forests and shrub lands, flood channels and mountain trails, creeks and boulders, and with great views ‘back to civilization.’
It was only the day after my arrival in Hong Kong, en route to the upcoming work sojourn in Beijing, that I immediately set out. Potential jet lag be damned, it was August 8, 8-8, after all (a date that seems auspicious in the Chinese context); and it was almost exactly one year after I went out onto this trail only to promptly lose my camera…
The path is typically described as starting on The Peak and ending in Big Wave Bay / Shek O, but I again took the opposite direction. So, first, it’s out to Shek O with bus #9 from Shau Kei Wan (station of the Island Line Metro, out at exit A3, the main exit among the A exits, then left to the big bus lot and pretty far back on that).
The bus at this time did not stop at Big Wave Bay, so it was a little walk back, first of all, to the parking spot for that place and the beginning of the trail.
I remain fascinated by the drive there alone, with a double-decker bus over meandering hillside roads, to a place that has all the looks of a (somewhat touristy) rural Chinese village – and a golf course. Onto the HK Trail, though, the path goes up immediately and into quite the subtropical forest – and still further up.
There were no crabs out on the trail this time around, but even more of the spiders which love to build their webs right across the trail – or over the floodwater channels at its side. Meter-long webs, spiders the size of a large hand…
Butterflies flap about, flowers bloom, and this time, just after the Dragon’s Back walk, I also discovered a lizard lounging on a dead tree branch by the side. Li’l dragon.
Maybe it was the jetlag, maybe I was just dumb, but for some odd reason, I’d only brought one half-liter bottle of water and another half-liter of a sports drink. No food.
How shall I say…?
One, the water coming down in creeks, often enough with a plastic pipe funneling some of it to a place where it’s easier to get to, is apparently quite drinkable. I re-filled the bottles at them quite a few times and only got in trouble with my stomach once or twice – and that may have been just the heat and the humidity. Of which there was quite enough.
Two, I have no idea what exactly I was burning for calories on this tour. It could not have been carbs/glucose…
It all did end up getting rather too much; some of the later climbs I had to rest repeatedly and found it hard enough just to slowly walk on – especially as they tended to also be pretty exposed to the sun (the forecast had been for “mainly cloudy” weather with rain showers and thunderstorms, but those never materialized).
Go on I did, though, except for a bit at the end… which may well have been a 10 km / one-fifth of the trail bit… where I did not find some turn off Peak Road and decided to just follow that up and be done with.
In the end, I was done alright, in spite of not having finished the whole thing. The path ended up, the way I was doing it, on trails that had become rather repetitive, one just too much like the others before it, still meandering back and forth almost to the point of turning back on itself yet again. And with them being in forested parkland, there weren’t any views anymore for only too long a time when I was rather struggling and could have used the distraction and motivation.
The views, when they are to be had, though!
On the Dragon’s Back, close by the Big Wave Bay beginning/end of the HK Trail, doing very nearly a closed loop just to also have gone there and that distance, one can see back to small villages, on to posh country clubs, across the waters to other islands, and on to high-rises.
Other places, such as around Mount Parker, too, one finds oneself on a mountain top, the vegetation changed from the one just a bit below, different rock formations cropping out, green all around, and yet the shimmering monolithic skyline off in the distance, as well. In that case, even the one including the Bank of China building on the north shore of Hong Kong Island, in the area of Central…
It was, and is, an amazing experience. All a bit more adventure-y yet with the peculiar challenges I created for myself, exhausting as hell, boring in parts – and another side of Hong Kong sure to remain memorable. It is about as far from the usual impressions as one can get, but just the other side of the island.