Rock and Roll with Nature

Su had asked Mark to take us again to his favourite eatery at Kap Tong near Mui Tsz Lam (in North District) which we first visited about three weeks ago. Mark picked yesterday which promised more suitable weather – Tuesday would be too hot and sunny, while today too overcast – and offered to pick us up at Fo Tan train station at 7am, so that we could start walking before 8am and finish well in time for a reception in the evening in Wong Chuk Hang that I had agreed to attend. Everything had been figured out and to ensure that she would be up early and have some food before the trip, Su set the alarm clock to buzz before 5am, but when it did, we didn’t know how to react, for it was a long time since we used the alarm clock for wake up calls. I thought it was the oven or somebody at the door.

We began just before 8am alright and walked leisurely to Kau Tam Tso, where the trail to Sam A Tsuen began, but instead of taking the low trail to Green Villa, we turned left at the fork trail up to Tiu Tang Lung – literally Hanging Lanterns – which was a vast and wide hill range and rather steep and precipitous in places. We put on our gardening gloves and began the ascent. The trail was well marked with ribbons of different colours and one couldn’t go wrong as long as one kept moving upwards. The climb got tougher after we passed the power cable pylons and soon we were clambering between rocks and stones as vegetation thinned out. I asked Mark to take the lead, not only because he knew the way but also because I needed more time for ascents, while Su insisted to be the rearguard to keep her most important asset in sight.  In any case, we needed to keep some distance between hikers to avoid falling rocks and stones loosened up by hikers in front. The lush green forests and mountain ranges behind us were simply gorgeous and magnificent. Some late morning fogs and mist were developing and the air was filled with negative ions with occasional fresh and welcoming gust of wind. Further up, there was a small clearing where we can marvel at Pat Sin Leng as we regained our strength. Continuing upwards with more clambering, we finally reached the top, marked at 416 metres by the Authorities, and on the head of which pole Su had her signature pose taken, gaining more likes even as I typed out this blog. On a clear day, we would have had in sight the picturesque Yan Chau Tong, and the rocky shores and coastline franked by the vast mangroves. But it was a foggy day, so that we had only the dense outgrowths and forests in sight. It was just before 9:30am and we took more pictures before we descended for our very-much-looking-forward-to brunch.

Mark said there were a few routes down, but suggested taking the one most conventional or patronized most by hikers as would be signified by ribbons, adding that he had used it before. I volunteered to be the lead hiker, clearing away cobwebs as I walked and yelling back for responses every few minutes, looking for the characteristic red ribbons at every turn. It wasn’t as easy as I had expected, for I used to bounce like a rabbit down the regular trails on the MacLehose Trail. In about 20 minutes, we reached a sort of dried up brook where we needed to decide whether to cross over or follow its flow. We decided to cross over after which the ribbons re-appeared, and Mark was somewhat confident that they had been put out by Uncle Fat himself, Uncle Fat being the owner of Fat Kee to which we were heading. It looked like we were walking through a forest if not a jungle – there were insects and cobwebs everywhere and things were falling on us from the trees, leaves, small flowers and seeds – giving us an eerie sort of feeling, but we sojourned on. Our progress was slowed down somewhat as we tried to decipher printed instructions, often in pairs, on whether to go left or right at junctions, which Mark suggested were put up again by Uncle Fat himself, in the course of cutting through the dense vegetation to create a track that would lead up to his place direct. And so we followed the ribbons and the track until we came to a wide opening with plenty of bougainvillea in full blossom with a welcome plague from Fat Kee. It was about 10:45am, meaning that we had spent more than an hour to cover about 3km downhill through dense vegetation. On a map, Kap Tong, Sam A Village, Sam A Chung, Sheung Miu Tin, Kam Tam Tso and A Ma Wat were all only a short distance surrounding Tiu Tang Lung. It’s a question of whether one knew one’s way to cut through all the unmarked routes, which is why it would be safer and quicker to negotiate the routes marked out by the Country Parks Authority, but that would be another story.

Fat Kee was not yet open when we arrived. Auntie Fat was out shopping and her daughter could only offer us some cold drinks and beer. She returned in half an hour or 45 minutes and we ordered food. We were the first customers. Shortly afterwards, we were joined by three other groups. We all ordered something similar and more than we could consume. Dogs and cats were milling around and some hikers from one of the groups were interested in the cats and began feeding them. We learnt from Auntie Fat that these were pedigree British shorthair cats which were very much sought after and very expensive. Auntie Fat brought out two one-month olds in a little cloth bag which had just weaned off milk. They were cute indeed and were from a litter of eleven kittens which a rich and famous in Hong Kong had bought, at HK$3,000 each. One wonders why the Fan’s would bother to work at all.

We left Fat Kee with a full stomach around 1:40pm and walked to Sam A Tsuen for coffee at Green Villa. It was a pleasant and easy walk and it didn’t take one and three quarter hours as the guide posts suggested, possibly because it was all downhill and on well paved tracks. Indeed, we sat ourselves down just before 2:30pm. Su ordered some local dessert; but Mark and I fell asleep even before we managed to finish coffee. I felt great after the power nap.

We started making the return trip to Wu Kau Tang around 3:30pm, taking the easier albeit slightly longer route, and were back at the starting point around 5pm. We had only walked about 12 to 13km, and the phone recorded that I had done 25,667 steps the entire day. Mark took us back to Fo Tan for transport back to Mei Foo – he had another dinner appointment and couldn’t take us back – so that we were back in the flat just before 7pm, which was too late to make my appointment if I had to clean up and so on. It does take time to rock and roll with Nature.

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