After a ride on the subway, we take a double-decker bus from Shau Kei Wan MTR station, which is packed. Just when we start wondering if all those on the bus will go hiking with us, many get off. It is a special day: the Chinese go and pay respect to their forefathers, and there is a cemetery close to the bus stop. We now have a chance to sit on the upper deck, which gives us good views over Tai Tam Bay, Red Hill, and Stanley. There is a surprising amount of traffic, fortunately heading the other way. The road is so narrow, at times our bus driver cautiously drives at snail's pace to steer clear of oncoming traffic and the low wall on our left. There is a bus stop right at the trail head, where a dragon on a wooden panel shows us the way. We are hiking up the Dragon's Back Trail, named the best urban hike of Asia, and the last section of the Hong Kong Trail which runs west to east over Hong Kong Island. Judging from the wide, well-trodden path, many hikers have come before us on this path leading through a dense bamboo forest. Soon enough, the vegetation changes, and the landscape opens up. With the sun shining on our backs and heads, we are sweating our way up the western side of the ridge.
We regularly stop to enjoy the views towards the sea and the hill ahead of us - the dragon whose back we are about to hike. When we reach the ridge, we get a glimpse of the eastern side of the peninsula. Below us: Shek O, a village with a small peninsula jutting out into the sea, and a wide beach just south of it. Further east, the South China Sea stretches out to the horizon, with several small islands scattered in its blue immenseness. To the south, we see D'Aguilar Peak, and to the north, Big Wave Bay, our destination. We follow the trail on the undulating back of the dragon. Ahead of us, the trail is clearly visible among the low scrubs. We are definitely not alone: the trail is full of people, among them many Philippine girls who have a day off, as their employers are going to the cemetery today. It is a perfect day for the hike: not too hot, not too humid, and a clear sky offering unobstructed views over the bays and islands on both sides of this southeastern peninsula of Hong Kong Island. When we reach the highest point, Shek O Peak at 284 metres, we decide it is time for a break. As we sit and eat, we see birds of prey circling above our heads, and when we look north, we see the skyscrapers of Hong Kong sticking out of the green landscape, at a gap in the hills. A reminder of how close we are to the big city, and a strange sensation: we are immersed in nature, yet a big metropole seems so close we can almost touch it.
The trail continues on the ridge, and butterflies fly along with us on our hike. It then veers left, and we enter the forest again. Somehow, the steady stream of people has evaporated, and the path is wide enough to walk side by side. Roots stick out of the ground, and we regularly pass rocky beds of what would be waterfalls and cascades in a wetter season. The best we see is a trickle of water. On this part of the trail, there are no views: we are walking in a forest. We reach a paved road without traffic, make a right, and continue on an easy, almost flat stretch of the hike, until we hit a trail again, leading us next to a water channel to a turn-off from which it is only downhill to Big Wave Beach. As we leave the forest behind and the panorama ahead of us unfolds, we realize this is probably the best stretch of the hike. The warm late afternoon sunlight on the islands in the quiet sea, the pleasant smell of trees around us, the ridge of the emerald hill we have just climbed on our right hand side all work together to make us happy. After seeing the ancient rock carvings just above sea-level, we sit on the rocks to watch the sun sink behind the hill on which the Dragon's Back Trail runs. Surfers are playing in the waves, and when we hit the sand, we get an end-of-the-summer-day feel. A perfect end of our afternoon hike.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Dragon's Back Trail (Hong Kong). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Dragon's Back Trail. Read more about this site.