The International Writers Magazine: Asia Travel
Mountains and Sea
The Adventure Side of Hong Kong
trekking up a steep knife-edged ridge, covered in late season
grass, the slope gently dropped off on either side. To my right,
the green rolling hills were expansive, filling the horizon with
a never-ending panorama of undisturbed nature.
To my left, an easy
bluff eventually gave way to a sharp drop of approximately sixty meters,
ending on a sandy beach. Lazy blue waves broke mildly against the dark
jagged forms of age-old rocks. Further out, fishing boat and sampans
sailed along the point where sky and earth meet, silently going about
their business, as they had since time immemorial. A warm wind blew
across the soft peak, and with the exception of my mates, I was alone,
in a peaceful world, recovering from the stresses of modern society.
Just a few kilometers away lay the hyper-modern center of Hong Kong,
with its busy financial district and high-rise bank buildings. Most
visitors to Hong Kong know the SAR as a shopping paradise, famous for
fine dining, luxury accommodations, and spending money. But Hong Kong
is also a tropical island, covered in green peaks and surrounded by
a stunning ocean.
Sailing, ocean kayaking, indoor and outdoor rock climbing, trekking
and hiking, paddling, running, cycling, orienteering, paintball, horseback
riding, martial arts, and some of the most developed gyms in the world,
are just a few of the active vacations available. The island offers
an excellent alternative for those seeking adventure, without sacrificing
comfort. Imagine waking up in a plush hotel, driving forty minutes to
a day of rock climbing, and then spending an evening at the theater,
followed by a gourmet dinner, and topped off by dancing in a first class
night club. You could spend the next day orienteering in the billowy
foothills, and your evening sailing in Hong Kong bay.
If you are on a tight budget, you would be surprised at the number of
sport activities that are available to Hong Kong tourists for little
or no money.
For this particular trekking adventure, I hooked up with The Hong
Kong Trampers, a club with no administration, no applications and
no membership forms. Best of all, the Trampers is a club with no fees.
As they say on their website, We are a group of friends who enjoy
exploring Hong Kongs countryside on sundays. Each week they
go on a new trip. Interested parties can go to their site at http://www.hktrampers.com
to find out the time and place. The trampers will meet up in a given
MTR station, and then head out to the hills.
For Hong Kongers, a trip to the hills is a good way to get some relief
from the constant hustle of life in the economic tiger. With a population
of 6,898,686 people crammed into an area of only 1,042 sq km, Hong Kong
has one of the highest population densities in the world. The population
is nearly 30% of Taiwan, but with only 3% of the landmass. To truly
appreciate how developed the SAR is, you need only to climb to the top
of Tai Mo Shan, at 958 m, Hong Kongs tallest peak. With a gentle
mountain breeze cooling your skin, you will feel free as a bird.
Apart from the breathtaking scenery, trekking in Hong Kong can be a
great fitness activity, as well as a way of making friends. The day
that I met with the Trampers, we were hiking Yung Shue O to Hoi Ha,
near Sai Kung Town.
The group was made up of fifteen people, ranging in age from eight to
forty-four. Our eight year-old was a star hiker, who loved going on
treks with his father. On this particular weekend, the regulars were
discussing which of their members had just completed the Oxfam Trail
Walker, a 100 KM walking race, through the attractive island countryside.
Other members were training for the Hong Kong marathon, while others
had no experience at all.
A group of nice young ladies employed in a Kowloon bank told me that
this was their first time doing anything physical in their life. And,
while they needed a bit of patience and assistance to complete the 12
KM course, they all made it.
The trails in Hong Kong are well mapped and marked, with degree of difficulty
readily available. So, it is easy for you to find a rout and a distance,
which fits your level of physical fitness. Our trek began with a forty-minute
climb up the Jacobs ladder to Au Mun. This was a paved staircase,
built into the side of the mountain. It was extremely difficult, but
hikers were free to stop, drink water, or rest where needed. Not wanting
to lose my macho façade, I tried to keep up with the leaders.
When I got to the top, I was completely out of breath, and very concerned
about altitude sickness.
Is it possible to get oedema up here, like those people who climb
mount Everest? I panted, while I emptied an entire water bottle
down my parched throat.
Francis, the leader, was probably both the oldest and fittest of the
men in the group and had already run to the top and back down several
times, to check on the stragglers. He assured me that although I felt
we had just climbed to the sun and would melt, like Inheres, in actuality,
we had only ascended five hundred meters.
Maybe I am a little out of shape. I said, diving into the
kilo of chocolate cookies I had planned to eat for lunch.
The group was worried about the bank ladies, who had fallen way behind.
Do they have GPS? I asked.
As long as they stay on the stairs they cant get lost.
Said Steven, an American student studying Chinese at the university.
Maybe I should still leave some cookie crumbs for them to follow.
Francis asked for a volunteer to hang back and help the bank ladies.
Of course, I jumped at the chance. Not only did this mean that I could
go as slowly as I wanted to, without looking like a weakling, but I
got to spend the day with some very beautiful girls.
Sham, a Singaporean computer technician on holiday also volunteered
to help. So, I loaded him down with the girls backpacks, leaving
me free to fraternize.
Once the stairs were behind us, the way became much easier. At times
the trail took us along a ridge, with a beautiful view of valleys below.
At other times, we walked through the forest, under a canopy of green.
We crossed streams, and skipped from stone to stone. There were grassy
peaks where we waded through waist-high grass. By the time we made our
final descent, we had gotten some much needed exercise, made some new
friends, exchanged phone numbers, and most importantly, we had seen
a side of Hong Kong most visitors would never know.
Trekking with the trampers was just the first in a long series of adventures
I had planned in Hong Kong.
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