Sunday, December 04, 2011

"Hiking" in Tung Chung, Chai Wan

Today I was meant to go running, but I struggled with that, and instead we took the MTR all the way to the end of the Tung Chung line, to Tung Chung. I do like visiting eponymous destinations, after all.

We weren't going to Tung Chung; nice as it is, with its factory outlet mall for over-priced handbags, and its food court, and the escalators filled with mainland tourists, apparently so amazed by escalators that they celebrate by yelling and wildly gesticulating at one another as they go past, and then. Walking. Very. Slowly when they get to the top of the escalator.

We weren't going to visit the Ngong Ping 360, for the chance to dangle hundreds of metres above the ground when the winch for the cablecars breaks down.
No, we were intending on going for a walk, or as everyone in Hong Kong insists on calling it, a hike.

It wasn't a hike. Hikes involve (or at least risk) hypothermia, being gored by angry sheep, fleece jackets, angry farmers with shotguns, and walking in circles, weeping. Just tooling down a concrete path in the sunshine for three hours isn't really a hike. I suppose you could take some of those Nordic walking poles with you, if you wanted to look like a right berk, but deep down you'd know the truth - if a geriatric man with a hat and a shortwave radio, and a woman in high heels and plush velvet jeans are capable of traversing the same path as you, then it's a walk, not a hike.

It was not, however, without its challenges. The Hong Kong Guide To Serious Hiking (a guffaw inducing title if ever there was one) doesn't believe in maps, but in endless verbiage of vague directions, like my mother pretending to teach me to bake a cake. So the start of the journey is to go to the bus station at Yat Long, then "double-back on yourself until you see a roundabout with some silver balls on it, bear right under a pedestrian overpass until you see a bronze bull, then follow the signs to the temple".

You might as well offer directions via Starbucks and Seven-Elevens, for all that it picks out specific parts of the architecture. Yat Long is blessed, not just with overhead walkways, but with roundabouts with silver balls on them, but if you follow the signs to the temple (making the rest of that direction fairly superfluous) you'll get where you're going.

We saw lots of other travellers on our walk. Knackered runners, racing the trail under the Ngong Ping 360. Old women from the village, dragging trolleys and giving us the death-stare. Three teenage gweilo youths, throwing rocks and trying to break the pavement. And a continous series of planes taking off from the airport, which the hiking trail goes right past. If I'd brought a huge lens and a tripod, I might have got some quite nice photographs of planes.
I'll bring a huge lens and a tripod next time.

Having walked for two miles, and having seen a very big moth, some attractively derelict old village houses, and a man hanging fish from a fence to dry in the sun, we turned and walked back, rather than plodding on to Tai O. It was a nice day for a hike. Sorry, for a walk. Not hot, but sunny, so you could bask in the warmth.

When we returned to Central, it was to the tragic news that the Triple O's by the IFC has been shut, which meant no burger for lunch for me. It was already 3 o'clock, so we walked to the bus stop and waited for a bus to Chai Wan. In defiance of usual climatology, Hong Kong Island was much colder than Lantau. I shivered and wibbled in the wind and wondered why life was so hard, until the bus arrived and drove us to Chai Wan.

I've never before wished I had the Serious Guide To Hiking on hand, but blundering around Chai Wan (Hong Kong's answer to Golgotha, a desert of petrol stations, car servicing companies and post-industrial gloom) we really could have done with some help. Why were we out here? We were in search of the A0 Photography shop, which we located after a large and circular circumnavigation of Chai Wan.

And it was shut. Of course it was shut. The leaflet we had advertising it said it was shut on Sundays. Why had we gone there? Well, we'd lost the leaflet somewhere along the way to Chai Wan, which also meant we'd lost the handy map that would have preserved us from shambling through most of Chai Wan in search of a shop that we couldn't go into.

Deep down, I know it was just a delaying tactic, my subconscious mind not fancying those 12 flights back up to the flat. Hadn't we done enough walking around Tung Chung already today?


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