Saturday, 3 October 2009

Hiking Stage 4 and 5 of the Maclehose Trail

I love hiking. I get the equivalent to 'joggers high' when I'm out on my rambles. It's difficult to explain just how happy it makes me. It must surely be bad for you, as it has the same effect on me as drugs or alcohol. It's addictive and if I don't get my regular hiking fix, I have severe withdrawal symptoms including bouts of crankiness and flatulence.

I am not, however, the most organised or prepared hiker. I don't have maps or books or a compass to guide me, as I prefer to just stumble on places and explore. If I go astray as I often do, I depend on my trusty iPhone which has Google Maps and if need be GPS to bring me back on track.
This can lead to some problems as it did on Friday when it took me nearly 3 hours just to arrive at and find the start of ANY hiking trail in Sai Kung. I did Google some info which turned out to be completely wrong and had me going in circles but finally I arrived at a trail.
The majority of my hiking to date has been confined to Hong Kong Island but more recently I've started to explore Kowloon and the New Territories.
Most of the hiking trails are broken into stages e.g. I found and eventually started 'Stage 4 of the Maclehose Trail' which had a notice board with a map of the route and a description as follows:

"Starting Point: Kei Ling Ha
Finishing Point: Tate's Cairn
Length: 12.7 kilometres
Time: 5.0 hours
Difficulty: Very Difficult"

Being the disorganised git that I am, I hadn't had breakfast and had no provisions other than 1.5 Litres of water (which was a fortunate last minute afterthought). It was a beautiful sunny day, but very hot and humid.

About an hour into the hike I realised it was THE most spectacularly scenic hike I'd done since I arrived in Hong Kong. My iPhone video and photos below don't do it justice but it is gob smackingly beautiful. It's unusual to have access to a hiking paradise like this so close to such a densely populated congested city.
My 'Hikers High' kept me going despite my empty stomach but it was a pretty strenuous hike. I was out of water well before I approached the end of the hike and my high spirits were now somewhat deflated and I was dehydrated, but all I had to do now was find public transport to get me back home...or so I thought!

A little bit more research would have told me that in fact, there is no public transport at the end of 'Stage 4'. Actually it's completely isolated and remote and I would now need to complete 'Stage 5' just to get anywhere near civilisation.

"Wooop-deee-FUCKING Doooo!" I muttered to myself as I read the following trail description.

"Starting Point: Tate's Cairn
Finishing Point: Tai Po Road
Length: 10.6 kilometres
Time: 3.0 hours
Difficulty: Fairy Difficult"

Completely exhausted, dehydrated, hungry as HELL, I had to dig deep just to get to the end of this stage of the trail. I was not a happy camper. I eventually ended up at a little kiosk where I think I might have been a contender for the Guinness Book of World Records for finishing a can of Sprite in 0.25 seconds. I then had to contend with rush hour commuters on my way back home - It's amazing how much space you get on the subway when you've worked up a good 8 hours of foul body odour. I didn't get a seat however so no sweaty arse imprint this time!

In retrospect, not researching the route or eating before hand or bringing enough water was pretty dumb-ass but it still ranks as the BEST hike I've done in Hong Kong by far. No pain, No gain! - Enjoy the pics & vid.

Tags: ..Stage 4 and Stage 5 of the Maclehose Trail Hong Kong..

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nick October 04, 2009 5:37 am  

Well, sometimes just striking off somewhere on impulse can lead to the most amazing experiences, like the one in your pics. Sticking to the well-trodden routes can limit your horizons. But you're on your own, and I've had that same sinking feeling of the long trek back to civilisation quite a few times.

Thriftcriminal October 04, 2009 5:57 am  

Nice! I only vaguely remember Sai Kung, I was MAJORLY hung over when I was there. Sorry to have missed out on that hike, it looks great.

Baino October 04, 2009 4:03 pm  

Too far for me frankly . . great views though and you're very naughty for not being prepared for a 22km hike! We get silly foreigners getting lost in the blue mountains all the time because they're not 'prepared'.

Quickroute October 04, 2009 11:45 pm  

@ Nick: I like doing hikes on impulse and gut instinct but to Baino's point tis' a little fool hardy

@ Thrifty: I take it you were on a Junk boat booze fest?

@ Baino: I hear ya - lesson learnt the hard way

Thriftcriminal October 05, 2009 3:10 am  

No, BBQ the night before at a friend's place, then we went to one of the beaches on an island off Sai Kung. I was very ill.

Quickroute October 05, 2009 4:00 am  

Ha! boats trips and hangovers don't mix well - i've yet to do a beach trip off Sai Kung but they look great from afar

Maya October 05, 2009 10:49 pm  

Looks like it was a fabulous hike. I love getting out on the less traveled track, but I am one of those people that is always prepared.

Quickroute October 06, 2009 4:14 am  

@ Maya: it was great - I need to take a leaf from yer book

AndyEWilliams October 06, 2009 5:12 am  

Very impressive hike! I love hiking as well but with my short attention span for scenery and love of regular meals I rarely hike so far. At least it gave you a great story to share though.

Anonymous,  October 09, 2009 5:36 am  

You've surely learned your lesson - stunning pictures - next time take a better camera along with provisions :-)

Quickroute October 09, 2009 9:51 am  

@ Conortje: I know - what doesn't kill ya makes ya stronger and wiser

Anonymous,  July 11, 2010 12:43 pm  

This is a little late, but I've just got back from this hike.. I don't like preparation either, and I think HK is far too safety conscious.. grabbed a sandwich and 1.5 litres of water, which wasn't enough on a hot july day, but I knew I could rely on stream water if it came to it. Having already done the first (and by far the hardest) section from sai sha road to the top of ma on shan last summer, when i went at night and slept on the mountain, coming down a different way, I was pretty complacent about the whole thing, starting off at 3pm for what is meant to be a 5hr trail (read 3 or 4 unless you're really slow) and it does get dark after 7pm.. It was going fine after climbing up to the ridge in 1.5hrs, amazing views on a perfect sunny day, and it looked like a stroll from then on.. and mostly it was except a couple of unwelcome climbs at the end when my water supply was running low and a clean stream was not in sight. I still thought I would easily make it to the end of the stage before darkness descended, until it started to become apparent that the trail was leading me into a wilderness where it didn't really look like a town or a road would be found. Having already run out of water, and not really having the energy to do the next stage in the dark (with no torch but an iphone.. I have been there before but it's not much fun and a little scary with random wild animals lurking), nor fancying scurryng down the valley DIY (been there before) it was a relief to discover on google maps that there is a road at the end of the stage, can't be too far from town then, and a campsite which must have some basic facilities like water. When i got there, completely exhausted and with a big read gash on my knee after running away from.. i still don't know what it is but i've heard it a few times around here, basically it's some sort of animal which only comes out after dusk and makes a quite intimidating growling noise if you pass near it, but never shows its face, kind of scary at night.. i got to the campsite office which was completely barren, with no water and noone to ask for directions. I knew it would be a long way home and I couldn't take any more. I walked up the road and tried to dial a taxi but taxis don't go up there. Fortunately there were a few cars passing by, I stopped one of them and they helped me call a cab.. quite a relief :)

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