Monday, April 25, 2011

A walk, spoiled

As it was sunny today and we needed some exercise after the weekend, we went to Lantau for a hike.

Or rather, we took a taxi to pier 6, arrived a minute after the fast ferry had departed, and then waited an hour for the slow ferry. And once on the ferry, we discovered a friend was going to be at Cheung Sha beach, far out of our one-hour hiking range, so we got on a bus and headed over to the other side of the island.

Cheung Sha beach used to have one restaurant on it, the Stoep. The Stoep is great for South African food. Now, I've never visited sub-Saharan Africa, but as I understand it from watching television in the 1980s, there's lots of cattle, and lots of flies. And true to form, the Stoep has lots of flies, and lots of meat that I can't eat. Oh, and sand being blown across the tables by the wind, which is a bit like God deciding to kick sand in your face.

Luckily, the staff distract you from this by apparently being enraged at all their customers; I haven't encountered such surliness since ... well, since we went out in Singapore on Friday night and encountered The World's Angriest Bar Staff. ("Yo! Are you drinking?!" Being the nicest greeting he could think of.)

We didn't go to the Stoep, as there are now other restaurants on the beach, all recruiting from the same pool of customer-hating people. And yet the restaurants are all full, like perhaps people enjoy the service they're getting. We had the privilege of the manager coming over and asking us where we'd put the reservation sign on the table we'd been directed to a couple of minutes earlier. It's a sign of class when the top man at the establishment comes over to tell you off for something you haven't done.

We weren't going to be distracted by his grumpiness: we were too busy watching a fat bloke digging a hole in the sand to put a plastic garden chair into, so he could sit on it. I don't know: if you want a chair to sit in, I feel you have to accept you'll be above ground level. If you want to be on the floor, that's what your beach towel is for. But this man, a possible pioneer in chair usage, dug for twenty minutes, occasionally whirling round to drag one of his children out of the chair that they'd had the temerity to sit in. He'd sit in the chair, get up, dig some more, sit down, look dissatisfied, get up again, dig some more ... But as sand is not a stable construction medium, he seemed engaged in a Sisyphean labour, never approaching completion, his chair always at an incorrect angle. I suppose we must imagine him happy.1

Settling in on the beach

He didn't look happy, but mostly we only saw the back of his head, so who can say?

Eventually our friend arrived at the beach, baby in tow. Baby looked unimpressed by the beach. Sand and bright lights fail to lift the spirits of infants. Even being sat at a table outside a crowded restaurant with aggravated and overworked staff didn't excite him. Or perhaps he wanted a bloke to dig him a hole to put a chair in.

As we'd been sat for ages, we thought it was high time to go for a hike, but the trouble with sitting on the beach for an hour before you go walking is that you're listless, sluggish, baffled. We made it three hundred yards down the road then got a bus back to Mui Wo.

They say golf is a good walk, spoiled. I don't suppose this was even really a good walk, as we spent most of it walking down a tarmac road with buses blasting diesel fumes at us as they cannoned past. Still, we did get outdoors...

1 Yes, students of post-war French philosophy, that is a reference to Camus. The same one I always make. I'm feeling jolly clever now.


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