Thursday, 19 January 2012

Hidden Dragon

I'm not a hiker. I don't rub my hands in glee at the thought of a six-hour uphill trek; clambouring over rocks, crossing creeks, swatting away mosquitoes and midges. I don't relish feeling my muscles screaming out in pain at yet another steep incline. I don't yearn for the muscle ache the following day that reminds me I've had a long arduous walk. And yet...

And yet, I own the gear. Living in Hong Kong has taught me that looking the part is half the battle. I have hiking boots, which I have to admit are the most comfortable footwear I own. I also have hiking trousers (can be unzipped into long shorts and short shorts). I have a fleece, a rain coat, a rucksack, flasks for hot drinks and cold. And now, courtesy of Nick's mum, we even have a compass!

From the top in Norway! 
And yet, we went to Norway on our honeymoon, where we went - yes, you guessed it - hiking! This was probably my first experience of 'proper' hiking. First we stayed in Bergen and then travelled onto Flåm. Flåm is a very small place famous for its beautiful fjords. One morning we decided to explore the area around Flåm and were told there was a fantastic waterfall and from the foot of the waterfall was a picturesque view out over the village. The path up was steep and it had been raining, so it was slippery too. Some people (older than us) had given up and were resting in preparation for the descent. I was determined to make it and I did! It was worth it. It was almost harder going down than up as I was so afraid of falling, but it was a good experience.

And yet, I've recently been hiking in Hong Kong. To experience all sides of this busy metropolis - the urban as well as the rural - one must hike. Nearly all the flat areas have long been claimed for the countless skyscrapers found here and therefore the rest of the ground is hilly. The downside to hiking here (and you must go at the right time of the year, otherwise at number one by far is the killer heat/humidity combination) is the fact that many of the paths have been paved, or steps have been laid. I find, due to the monotony of the movement, my muscles tire more quickly, so I actually prefer to hike on non-paved paths. That way you have to pay far more attention to where you are going and the whole experience is less tiring and more enjoyable.

Big Wave Bay
And yet, on 2nd January I hiked for the whole day and enjoyed it! We had friends from Holland visiting for Christmas and for two people from a very flat country, they certainly do like hiking! One of the things on their wishlist of things to do in Hong Kong was the famous Dragon's Back. Time Magazine declared this trail to be the Best Urban Hike in Asia (22 Nov. 2004 Asia Issue). Between the four of us we had various maps, books and printouts and never for one moment thought that we would have any trouble finding the beginning of the path. How wrong were we? First we went in the direction of a lighthouse, but that only lead to a dead end. I had been assured by Nick, who had done the trail a couple of years ago, that it was 'easy' and 'relatively flat'. After a steep incline and then a long set of steps we had a quick rest and took in the view. Signs for the Dragon's Back were still nowhere to be seen. Instead we ended up taking a coastal route in the direction of Big Wave Bay. 

Nick walking along the Dragon's Back trail.
That was rather beautiful and we picnicked on the beach. After refuelling on sandwiches and crisps, we headed back up and after approximately four hours we found the beginning of the Dragon's Back. By this time it was 3o'clock and the sign said it would take 90mins. We figured we still had enough daylight (and a little extra in case it took us longer than the sign suggested). Nick, very gallantly, gave me the opportunity to opt out, but I decided to press on. And boy was it worth it! We couldn't see much for the first 30mins as there was thick hedgerow blocking the views, but once we got up and out the views were spectacular.

Made it!! 

And yet, I did like the fact that my muscles ached the next day reminding me what a journey we'd made. And yes, I will be going hiking again!


  1. It is stunning scenery on that route - the various paths use to be how I spent many a Sunday morning! The South China Post use to have a really good guide file (loose leaf with plastic maps!) for all the walks in HK, not sure if they still do.

    Another great blog entry Mrs Belsey :)

  2. This is one tough walk. Well done. Don and I have done a small portion one new year's day and returned the same way promising to attempt more.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...