Sunday, February 10, 2013

Hearty Hong Kong Hikes to Heavenly Heights

Since coming to Hong Kong, I’ve had trouble finding a consistent way to exercise. A great deal of this has to do with my own laziness but it also has to do with lack of opportunity and/or convenience. I like team sports but don’t know enough people to play them with. I’ve never been a big fan of the gym atmosphere. There isn’t much room to bike in Hong Kong, and if you want to, it’s a rather expensive hobby. Jogging is just...sweaty. I love swimming but only have easy access to a pool in the summer months here at my apartment. Recently, however, I’ve found my favorite way to exercise thus far: hiking.

For each of the first four weekends of 2013, I embarked on a different hike in Hong Kong. One of the most attractive things about the territory is that beyond the skyscrapers of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, 40% of the land is reserved for twenty-three different country parks, all of which have well maintained hiking trails. Basically, that’s to say there are approximately 170 square miles of lush green hills, just waiting to be climbed by people like me. And a great deal of my hikes so far have ventured outside the country parks, into villages and farmland on the outskirts.

In June, I had my first proper Hong Kong hike, to the top of the famous Lion Rock. I did it alone, and though it was hardly a major accomplishment, the journey, the view and the serenity were deeply satisfying. Those countless writers and naturalists have been right when they describe the awesome power of nature (awesome in the profound sense, not the ‘cool, dude’ sense). And ever since I’ve been in Hong Kong, I’ve realized more than ever how important it is for me to experience the great outdoors on a regular basis. I do believe it’s related to my Pacific Northwest roots. Oh and maybe my deep love of the Beatles’ song, “Mother Nature’s Son.”

For Christmas, my head teacher Katie generously gave me this fantastic book: Historical Hong Kong Hikes.

I like it so much I took a photo of it against my teal couch. That's right. Anyway, it’s become my goal to do all fifteen of the hikes in the book before the year is through and so far I’m well on pace! The first one was with my close high school friend Evan, who stopped in Hong Kong for a week during his month-long Asian adventure. We trekked from ritzy Discovery Bay on Lantau Island, up through a Catholic Trappist Monastery, down to chilled out Mui Wo. Misty, quiet, lovely.

Next was a hike from HK’s highest peak, Tai Mo Shan, down through some lovely countryside to a few farming villages near Tai Po. Right off the bat, I will admit that the majority of the ascent was done in the back seat of taxi. Still, I was very briefly on the top of Hong Kong. I went with my college friend, and fellow HK expat and English teacher Lexi and we agreed that it felt about as far removed as possible from the crazy Hong Kong hustle without leaving the territory.

Then Lexi, Sharman and I hiked from the Hong Kong Parkview estate through Jardine’s Lookout and Tai Tam Country Park on the east side of Hong Kong Island. It didn’t have quite the variety of some of the other hikes, but it’s always fun to feel literally right above the city, looking down on the ships coming through the foggy harbor.

And last weekend was the ultimate Hong Kong hike. High school friend Henry, our other high school friend Cosmo and I recreated one of Henry’s favorite moments during his year in China by climbing two of Hong Kong’s highest peaks, both located on Lantau Island: Sunset Peak (869m) and Lantau Peak (934m). The trip from the previously mentioned Mui Wo (sea-level) to Ngong Ping took around seven hours to complete and was probably the most strenuous hike I’ve ever been on. Nonetheless, it brought the best views of all and gave me confidence to tackle even bigger hikes in coming years, whether in Hong Kong or elsewhere. The view of the sun peaking through the clouds on top of Lantau peak was rather magical.

To conclude this post, I’d like to give a big thank you to Henry for all the great adventures we had during his year living in Guangzhou. I saw him in Mainland China three times and he probably came to Hong Kong on nearly a dozen visits. I even mentioned him in six (!) different blog posts, not including this one. If you care, see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. Henry, I hope that you had as much fun with me as I did over the last year with you, whether it was biking through beautifully mystical Yangshuo, taking photos of monkeys from point blank range at Kam Shan Country Park, or wandering through the busy streets of Mong Kok to find model robots. Sharman, myself and South China will miss you. Best of luck back home in the US of A!  

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