Hong Kong: Sai Kung East Country Park

Now this is the starting part of 100km MacLehose trail. I did not intend to finish all of it this time and I did not take too much notes on the day of the trek itself. In short, total distance covered is around 25-30km over two weekends in searing heat and full of uphill and downhill. Bonus would be the hidden beaches, at least in the morning until the yachts from Hong Kong drop their anchor and noisy daytrippers hang around for a bit of sunburning. Recommended, but bring more water. I love it… Here goes…

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Hong Kong Trail Part 5, Hong Kong: Shek O Road to Big Wave Bay

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View of Shek O from the ridge

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Highlight of this trip: Dragon’s Back ridge, which is what you think it is: trail on a ridge

And what a way to end the Hong Kong Trail. On this last stage, officially named Stage 8, but for me this would be the fifth section, the sun would be out in full force. I’ve been doing this long enough, my backpack and shoulder bag is rather standard by now, including dinner packed to enjoy when I get to Shek O later in the evening. Except this is the second time I’m out with a new GPS, and this is Garmin’s Colorado 300. Hardly new, but as a replacement to my old eTrex Vista, it is years more modern. The way to get to the start of today’s walk is still very fresh in my mind. Take a metro to Shau Kei Wan, and at the Bus Terminus, jumped into a No. 9. The fare is around 6.90 HKD and all this bus does is to go up Chai Wan/Tai Tam Rd and then on to Shek O Rd all the way to the town that bears its name. The only tricky part here is I need to get off at the right bus stop. On the map, the coordinate of the stop is somewhere near (22.227375, 114.239611). I didn’t have my GPS out at this time because everything is packed shut in my backpack and I wanted only to take them out when I get to the stop. I remembered what the stop looks like, but with the speed buses go in these out-of-the-way roads, it is difficult to anticipate.

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GPS plots of Section 5, from Tai Tam Bay to Shek O via Dragon Back ridge

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Tai Tam reservoir in the background, on the way up to Dragon’s Back

At the stop, amidst tourists an local hikers and families I start to put everything into hiking configuration – camel bak piping, gps latched on bag, etc. I must say that this is the day when it seems everyone attempts Dragon’s Back trail. I see families with kids barely able to walk, and mainland chinese tourists overdressed in their faux-Burberry shopping attire. And these for a trail that’s rated as strenuous? I think I have to be up against an easy day today. Its noon by the time I start, and the first kilometer up to the top of the Dragon’s Back are steps and relatively tree-cover free. If you remember the last post in Section 4, this part of the Shek O Country Park has a lot less tree cover than the part closer to Chai Wan. There are some shade, but a nice had is in order for sure. Around the coordinate (22.229759, 114.24293) the trail branches into two and there is where the first rest stop lies, the right path leading up the hill to the top of the ridge, while the left goes in parallel but at the same altitude as the branch.

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Two pictures of Shek O from the start of the ridge

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Travels: South of North Island, New Zealand

Wellington (Ricoh GR Digital)
I am in Wellington for a week long business trip, and a deadline for Sunday 17 August has been moved to later in the week, so suddenly I have almost the whole weekend with no plans. As Wellington is a small city, I will quickly run out of things to see. Who could argue that New Zealand has some of the best sceneries around, and who cares that most of it are farms and sheeps. Good enough excuse for a drive if you ask me. So on Friday night its time to have a look at Google Maps and write out the itinerary on a piece of paper. I’ve found that the most effective way to do it would be to write all the names of the important towns in graphical form and the name fo the highway. The closest writing material I found was a little post-it note, so it’ll do. Helps that the Post-It will stick to the dashboard when I’m driving. So it is possible to drive and know where to go at the same time.

Fine weather into New Zealand (Nikon D2H + 40mm f2 ULTRON)

Wellington Skyline (Ricoh GR Digital)

Construction Site (Ricoh GR Digital)

The original plan calls for a drive up to Taranaki and a loop around Mount Taranaki and New Plymouth. Mount Taranaki was visible on the flight to Wellington from Auckland, and it looks like another perfectly conical volcano like Mount Fuji in Japan, so it could be a nice place to go to. But after a check with a Kiwi, I realised it might take a lot longer than a day to do that trip. Probably up to 6 hours up to New Plymouth, and another 6 to get back. That means a whole day of straight driving. An alternative route that makes more sense would be a counter clockwise loop to Martinborough and up to Woodville, and cutting across Manawatu Gorge over to North Palmeston and back down to Wellington along the coast. Looks like a comfortable day long drive with plenty of opportunity for stops. So this shall be the route for today.

Wellington waterfront (Ricoh GR Digital)

Wellington Harbour

As usual, I bring quite a lot of gear with me when I’m on business trip. This trip I have my GPS with me (finally) although the battery seems to be rather flat since I have not recharged it since, who knows when. I have my Nikon D2H with 40mm and 105mm prime lenses and Ricoh GR with me as well. Just in case the rental car has it, I brought my iPod Touch, dreaming of a nice spanking new car with iPod connector built in. The difficulty here will be to type this blog while on the trip. Will be difficult to manage the Nokia E61 and drive at the same time, and I dont expect too long a stopover for rests. Ah well, then I will have to type in the skeleton on the phone, and expand it later on the PC.

Probably pigeons at the Harbour (Nikon D2H + 40mm f2 ULTRON)

The plan this time is to do a loop of the North Island through the Hutts, Martinborough, and up to North Palmeston and improvising along the way according to the scenery. It looks like, compared to the original crazier plan to loop Mt Taranaki, this one may be possible to do in a day without being knackered.

Private Property (Nikon D2H + 40mm f2 ULTRON)

Only real issue is it seems to be raining quite a bit this winter in New Zealand. There were some spells of bright sunshine when its supposed to be raining. But on the Sunday of the trip, it was supposed to be cloudy with a little peep of sunshine. At least for Wellington. Looks like up North the weather is not that promising according to the Metrological Department here. Plus the road here does seem to be narrower, so it would be difficult to drive fast and cover plenty of ground.

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