Hong Kong Day 5 - Ambition over Sense

5 October 2009

Sunday 4th October

After all the walking we did yesterday, we woke up to a hot sunny morning that was the perfect weather for relaxing in the shade with some iced tea and a few beers.

Instead we went on an exhausting hike around Sai Kung East Country Park.

But first, a quick breakfast in Sai Kung itself, a rural town in the New Territories in the east of Hong Kong. We’d met up again with Will’s friends Sylvia and Winnie, who found a basic cafe. No tourist-friendly menus in English here, so I just had what they were having, which turned out to be a beef noodle soup that was pretty much exactly like SuperNoodles - I had no idea they were such an authentic oriental dish. They were served with a fried egg and a frankfurter on the side. Classy.

They give you free tea in establishments like this, which you can drink if you want, but the locals tend to use it for rinsing their cutlery. It simultaneously says a lot about the quality of the tea and the standard of washing-up.

We then took a bus to the middle of nowhere and began our hike. From what Will had told us, it would be a 3.5 hour circular route via a beach, and we had the option of an easier walk or a slightly harder but more scenic one, so we chose the latter.

It was certainly scenic - the hiking path rising and falling through forests and scrubland, over rushing streams and under impressive peaks.

But it was really too hot to be doing too much hiking - in the 31 degree heat we were sweating bucketloads. We were going through our water supply surprisingly quickly - we’d each brought 2-3 litres and it was gone within a few hours, so we were keen to reach the end of the hike.

We could see the beach - and it looked to be quite far in the distance. We weren’t expecting there to be much in the way of water supplies there either in such a remote location, so we were wondering whether we’d have to turn back.

We took a wrong turn at one point. We’d passed a few people on the hike, but we were having to fight our way through the undergrowth on this path. Fortunately we turned around before we had a chance to get ourselves totally lost and stranded without water. A ride in a rescue helicopter would have been exciting but ultimately embarrassing.

This was clearly not the 3.5 hour easyish circular walk we were expecting. But by some miracle, about 20 minutes after we’d rejoined the correct path, we heard a car. A road! Civilisation!

An information board showed us that the circular walk was about 8 hours in length, and rated “challenging”. But there was a road at this point with taxis plying their trade, and a half-hourly minibus.

A map showed us the village of Sai Wan was about an hour’s walk away, by the beach, and a minibus driver told us we could buy water there. So we didn’t have to abort the hike yet.

The walk to Sai Wan was easy, along a wide and well maintained path. Apart from by boat, it’s the only way to access the village. We seemed to reach it quite quickly, and the first thing in the village was a small cafe with a well-stocked fridge full of iced tea and water, which hit the spot beautifully.

We wandered down towards the beach and picked up ice lollies. By the beach was a ramshackle terrace restaurant, where Will, Sylvia and Winnie sat while me, Rachel and Nick went for a paddle. The sea was wonderfully warm and the beach was reasonably clean apart from a light dusting of polystyrene. We watched small white crabs darting across the sand, and failed to catch the tiny fish swimming in a stream that ran down to the sea.

We rejoined the others on the terrace. I ate a ramen which was rather similar to breakfast - a noodle soup with some kind of processed pork and a fried egg.

The walk back to the minibus stop was much easier now that it had cooled down a bit. We soon caught a bus and it took us back to Sai Kung, on roads past the occasional loose cow, one of whom was standing at a bus stop as if she was hoping to go shopping.

We went to a bar for a few well-deserved beers, then went to have some relatively expensive but excellent sushi. A public minibus took us back to Mong Kok, its large LED display keeping passengers constantly informed of its exact speed lest they complain about dangerous driving.

It was a relief to get back to our scabby hostel room for a good long sleep.