Dragon’s Back and lessons on what NOT to do when hiking in Hong Kong
I am convinced that I have incurred the wrath of weather gods in HK with the opening lines of my post on the Lamma Island family trail.
Flashback to two weeks ago – the Chinese New Year weekend brought with it 25 degree (Celsius) days, which prompted us yet again, to pay tribute to the great outdoors and cross a Hong Kong must-do off our list: the famed Dragon’s Back hike.
Fast-forward to today, and it is colder in HK than in Sochi (!) and I have been forced to switch into hibernation mode; with my blankets, radiator, laptop and hot tea for company.
So we start with lesson numero uno.
Whatever you do, do NOT talk in jest about benign weather conditions in Hong Kong. The weather gods may just decide to show you exactly Who’s The Boss, and send clouds, rain, cold, wind and general misery your way.
Anyways, coming back to our hike – I’d done some googling in advance and based on advice here, decided to do the reverse route – starting from Cape Collision Cemetery and ending at Shek O Road, which apparently involved climbing hundreds of steps right at the start of the hike and a relatively easier hike thereafter.
Which brings me to lesson number 2.
Do not simply skim perfunctorily through blogs/ articles you’ve “researched” on the internet, and set off with confidence thinking that you now know all that there is to know about that hike.
To start with, there were MULTIPLE sets of stairs in the cemetery, and we would have gotten lost right there (no really, it is possible. We heard later from a couple of friends that they had meandered around that cemetery for 45 minutes in search of the trail) had we not seen a serious-looking hiker trudge purposefully up one set. Sagely, we decided to follow her.
After climbing more than 300 steps, we were rewarded with a nice view and an easy walk on a flat, well-paved path (for about 30 mins).
Next, we came across a signpost pointing to the Dragon’s Back trail, the first part of which was a walk through an unpaved woody area (about 45-60 minutes) – quite pleasant, but no views.
We then reached a set of steps leading towards Shek O Peak and set off on those. It brought us to this wonderful vista of Big Wave Bay.
Another bit of tiring climb, got us to this.
Stunning peace, right in the middle of the bustling and crazy Hong Kong island!
Totally worth all the effort, all four of us agreed, and now began anticipating our arrival at Shek O beach for some much-needed Thai grub. A distance-marker lead us to believe that it would be within reach after another 30 minutes of walking.
And now for lesson number 3.
Do not let the distance-markers lull you into a false sense of comfort, dreaming of how you would soon be able to rest your backside in a bus/ minibus/ tram/ taxi/ ferry, en route to a well-earned beer.
Trails in HK tend to be inconsistently marked and don’t always show the distance to a point from which you could access public transportation. Therefore, there may come a moment for many a first-timer, when you will realize that that the check-point that the signposts have been leading you to, is another 1.5 km and 45 minutes of (uphill) walking from the next point. And even then there is no guarantee that you will be near civilization at the end of it.
Falling back on an age-old fool-proof method, we accosted a group of hikers for directions to Shek O.
Which leads us to lesson number 4.
Do not ask other hikers for directions and then rashly act on their advice, convinced that it will finally lead you to your intended destination in the shortest possible time.
Our group of saviors pointed us back in the direction that we had come from… saying that it would be about an hour’s walk to get to Shek O beach.
Not willing to believe that the scenery had distracted us enough to completely miss any signposts or forks in the road, we asked some other groups. They all pointed us in the same direction – BACK.
By this time Hubby had developed a severe pain in his knee from the downhill walking, and the thought of climbing back up Shek O peak did not seem enticing. We were willing to give up on our dream of lunch and just get to some place where we could get a bus or hail a taxi, and so, continued on our path.
And finally lesson number 5.
Do not let getting lost (which you inevitably will) test your patience and strain your marital relations.
As the “organizer”, I was increasingly feeling guilty and worried that an explosion of tempers might soon occur, from a particular individual in extreme pain, who had been kept away from his beer for way longer than anticipated. Thankfully, the company of friends prevented said explosion from occurring (which certainly would not have been the case had the roles been reversed).
The perseverance paid off, because after a few more minutes of walking, we did in fact reach where we wanted to – Shek O Road.
From there it was a short taxi ride to Shek O beach. Where a delicious Thai meal was had. And beer of course.
And so, it turned out well after all 🙂
P.S. But do pay heed to lesson number 1 – Do not take gorgeous weather in HK for granted and let it go waste. Get out of bed, put on those boots, grab your backpacks and go hit those nature trails!