Hong Kong Trail Part 3, Hong Kong: Happy Valley to Tai Tam Reservoir

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From the top of Quarry Bay on the way up to Mt Butler

Part 3 for me would be equivalent to section 5 and 6 of the Hong Kong trail, but with a twist. I will start at sea level in Happy Valley, walk up the hill along Stubbs Road and Wong Nai Chung Gap Road, and join up the Hong Kong Trail where I left off the last time, walking up Jardine’s Lookout and to Mount Butler, before coming downhill all the way to Tai Tam Reservoir water system and ending at Tai Tam Road where I will take a bus back to civilization. A little bit like Man vs Wild, but less drastic.

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GPS plots of the path looking from Causeway Bay. Waypoints in capitalized scripts are my own GPS waypoint.

Packed lunch I made myself, and a 1.5L Camel bak and my usual grab bag filled with a tripod, and landscape filters, though I don’t think I will make use of them today. Brought a D3s with 24mm f3.5 PC-E as the primary lens, and a macro and another spare lens just in case. And for audio recording, I needed the Sony PCM-D50 PCM recorder. I also packed in a rolled up waterproof jacket and all sorts of rain covers just in case. The weather today was not that great. Some weather forecasting service predicted rain, and some sunshine, but I think looking out my window all I could see was just heavy fog coming from the ocean.

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Recreation boats stacked up on Wong Nai Chung Reservoir (22.257078, 114.19507)

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Like all reservoirs I’ve seen throughout this trail, they all have lower than usual water level. This is Wong Nai Chung Reservoir.

Sure enough, the walk up from Happy Valley along Blue Pool road is a long slug up the mountain, and looking up I was able to see the mountain and quite likely most of Mount Butler will be up in the clouds. There are no sun today in the dense fog coming in from the sea. Before long I reached Wong Nai Chung reservoir up along Wong Nai Chung Gap. This reservoir is surrounded by apartments, and like most of the reservoirs I have seen so far in Hong Kong, the water level is way below the highest water line. Doesn’t seem as though there’s a drought here. At this reservoir there are boats tourists could rent to paddle around the small lake formed by the dam. I had to rest a little bit as the walk up was quite tiring, sweating in a sub 20C weather.

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Here’s a substation just after passing the reservoir, before hitting Parkview apartments

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Guess I shouldn’t get too close…

A little bit up hill, just when reaching Hong Kong Parkview apartments is the left turn branch off up to Jardine’s lookout. It started off with dense forest and a sign indicating Osborn’s Memorial. A Plaque stands there erected by the Canadian army telling a story which I read, and something about this guy that saved his comrades. Was a good break from the uphill climb. There are plenty of places to look out to the city, but today the peak where I was is just up above the clouds so all I could see was white. Everything was white. Nothing but white. I could see that the clouds are coming from the sea as it flows up along the mountain and crests at the top. The trail goes along the spine up to Jardine’s lookout, the first peak. It is marked with a geological marker and this is where I stopped for lunch as it is already 1pm by now. Started my walk around noon. I marked my GPS so that I can get back here in the future for the HK view when the weather is better.

Continue reading “Hong Kong Trail Part 3, Hong Kong: Happy Valley to Tai Tam Reservoir”

Hong Kong Trail Part 2, Hong Kong: Aberdeen to Happy Valley

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Boarding the water taxi at Aberdeen

The second part of my trek on the Hong Kong trail will be quite interesting. I start off at the town of Aberdeen on the other side of Hong Kong island, go through Aberdeen reservoir, up the mountain, and end up hopefully in Happy Valley. Looks straightforward enough, but I have lost my Nokia E71 since the last trip, so I will not have the luxury of blogging live and viewing googlemaps when I get lost. However, I stick to my theory it’s not easy to get lost in a small little island.

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The only thing you will see are tug boats like this one and water taxis here in Aberdeen.

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GPS plots of the path from Aberdeen to Happy Valley

Just for the record, I will be attempting Section 3 & 4 today on the official Hong Kong trail maps. The start is easy enough, I’d catch bus 76 from Causeway Bay to Aberdeen at the foot of Yue Kwong road. But made a earlier stop at Wong Chuk Hang Road to have a look at the boats between Aberdeen and Ap Lei Chau Island. It’s good I still remember where to go to get to Aberdeen Reservoir Country Park. Walk along Aberdeen Reservoir Road up hill, in fact the road up to the main gate is steep enough for anyone to stop for breather more than once. The gate to the reservoir is at (22.253006, 114.15855). And I’m back at the Aberdeen Lower Reservoir visitor centre, a familiar sight from the last trip.

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The walk up to the reservoir and country park entrance. The slope is not a visual trick. It IS steep!

The walk from Aberdeen lower reservoir to the upper reservoir is relatively easy with a little bit of slope. There are barbecue pits all over the path, so I guess this the very young to the very old that I saw on the way up here would be coming here for a barbecue. The pits near to the entrance are the most busy, and if you would like to have a little peace while browning those chicken wings, the barbecue area close to the Upper Reservoir was empty when I was there. This, compared to the full house at the pits closer to entrance. The two reservoirs look like they are a little short of water on the way I was there, yellow soil was visible, indicating drop in the water level. Various lines indicate the different water levels it was holding over the months, similar to tree rings. In fact, I don’t think I remember the last time it rained in Hong Kong.

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No kidding! I still believe all these fire warning are not updated regularly. I’ve seen more flammable forests in my life than this one.

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Upper Aberdeen Reservoir

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Water levels here has seen better days

Continue reading “Hong Kong Trail Part 2, Hong Kong: Aberdeen to Happy Valley”

Turkey: Cappadocia Day 3

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Cappadocia

6 September 2009:
The plan today will be to cover the south-western part of Cappadocia, visiting some underground cities which the Christians lived while escaping the invading Seljuks. Right after will be the Ihlara valley, dotted with rock cut churches. Quite obviously the church will be just the same as the others I have seen in Cappadocia so far so the interest is more in the scenery. I plan to rush through it and not walk the whole valley.

After a heavy breakfast made of olives, goat cheese (like the french chevre) and bread, it’s time to start the day before 10am. Will drive past Uchisar and its hill top castle hewn out of a rocky hill and pass Pigeon Valley lookout point. You know the view here is good when you see tour buses. Valley on the right, and the ancient city of Uchisar in the background. And true to its name, there are pigeons around.

Pigeon Valley, with Uchisar Castle in the background

I don’t plan to stop too long at all the interesting spots. Soon I’d go southwards, passing highway 330, Kavak and on the way to Kaymakli through Cardak. The views are of rolling plains, a pleasant drive in the morning. The road is not too wide, enough for 2 lanes to and fro. With the windows wound down, the smell of garlic permeates the air. There are sacks of garlic fresh off the field on the roadside. No, it didn’t come across my mind to nick one. But this is a nice drive, about 40km to go.

Eventually I hit the main north-south road connecting Nevsehir and Kaymakli. It is still farming area here but soon I’d hit Kaymakli. Signs abound pointing to the underground city there, but right at the same spot I branch off to the right towards the satellite town Ozluce, with a lot less tour buses. As quickly as Kaymakli started, once I turned right I was in the open fields again and it is possible to see Ozluce in the distance.

1107hrs: Typing this out at Ozluce Underground City next to the village of the same name, minus the ‘underground’ part obviously. The place is right inside the village, follow the signs and you will not get lost. This one definitely looks out of the way for the tour groups that prefer the other 2 more popular underground cities, Derinkuyu and Kaymakli.

I drive the only car parked at the small shaded area. A guy comes up and ushers me into a small little stone house numbered 18. Inside is a small room with nice carpet strewn sofa and old farming tools and an old pair of leather shoe hanging on the wall. Naturally a good place to let go a barrage of B&W film on. I asked the guy how long to do the whole place and he says 10 something in part sign language. Can’t be hours so I guess must be minutes. Hope it is not 10 storeys of caves to explore. Stairs go down about a floor underground and first thing you come across is a medium sized chamber with a wheel as a door to block the entrance. There is a well as air ventilation shaft and potteries all over the place. The tunnel is lit with 60W incandescent bulbs requiring ISO1600 to shoot properly. At 400 I was able to do half second with my Ricoh. A few passages leads away from the main chamber and I follow it until it winds a little too much. I am the only one here and GPS don’t work so I thing better to play safe and not get too far. The air is cool here, easily 20C or slightly below when it is scorching hot outside. Nice. I will rest here for a while. The caves here look like they are dug out of clay, none of the rocky or crumbly caves which most churches I have seen in the last 2 days were made of.

On the way into Ozluce

Ozluce: Small farming village

I wonder where it is....

Continue reading “Turkey: Cappadocia Day 3”

Turkey: Cappadocia Day 1 & 2

View of Cappadocia from Uchisar Castle
Soganli

Every tourist here in Istanbul seem to have Cappadocia on their itinerary. I overheard many talking about their plans. I’m no different, but instead of a package tour, I plan to go with a rental car. Price of petrol seems quite steep here, but the plan is set and the wheels are in motion. Hoping to be able to get out to the countyside early in the morning before the sun rises and before sunset, so a car will be useful. I will be flying into Nevsehir, not too many flights per week, and then transfer to Urgup to pick up my car and drive to Goreme for the night. Goreme will be my base for this trip.

Cappadocia is, of course, famous for 2 things I am aware of. First are the cappadocian horses, which I don’t expect to see this trip, and second the rock cut churches where the first christian cultists practised their religion in the early years, away from the eyes of their Roman masters.

4 September 2009:
0728hrs: Airport pickup at my hotel in Istanbul. This is one of those shuttle that picks up a bunch of people in different hotels. Cost 10TL so it is cheap. This morning is not a good day for the driver as all the passengers are late out of their hotel except for me. The driver and I exchanged complaints about late passengers while we waited. You could guess what kind of passengers. Follow your stereotypical instincts.

1143hrs: Arrived in Nevsehir after a standard flight. Nothing special to report about. The landscape on the way didn’t look too spectacular and the place looks dotted with many small villages. I can imagine driving to those places looking for high ground for a better view.

View from up high...

Nevsehir airport is quite far away from the city. Nothing much here, just an airport in the middle of nowhere. On arrival, I get picked up by a shuttle I booked online and next destination Urgup. The minivan zips through some desert and a town or two. Towns here look like typical eastern european mid sized cities, with a small town center and everything else is made up of standard issue apartment buildings made to be utilitarian rather to look good. Realised I was talking about Nevsehir! Nothing to see here, so we go past it on the way to Urgup.

Not too many flights to Nevsehir airport. Today there are less than 5.

Nothing special about Urgup either, but the city center looks more tourist friendly than the previous one. This is where I pick up my rental car. This time I get a sedan Renault Clio 1.4 but before it sounds like a car of the year, the one I got is a wreck, or half way to becoming so. There are knocks all over, and I swear it looks like this car is made of fiberglass. The knocks looks like it is. The cigarette lighter is not working, not a showstopped but I will have issues with my GPS power if this is the case. And even for a rental car company as big as National, this one gets delivered with no fuel in the tank! All I get is a tip on the nearest petrol kiosk on the way out to Goreme.

Continue reading “Turkey: Cappadocia Day 1 & 2”

Travels: Sichuan Province Part 4, Jiuzhaigou National Park, China

Cotton-like plants are found all over Jiuzhaigou Park, with one of the colourful lakes forming the perfect backdrop
Jiuzhaigou is one of those places in china where it is said you can never miss and you have not been to a certain place if you have never seen it. It has definitely appeared many many times in pictures. First time I heard of it was a few years back when it was said it was very difficult to get to. I don’t know when they went or heard about it, but I see there are airports near the park, and there are official tourist buses going from Chengdu to Jiuzhaigou with daily bus (yes, singular) and in the parks are roads going to all sights and mini buses plying the route. Surely not in accessible, but nevertheless, still a place not to be missed. We shall see if this is a boast or truth.

16 November 2008: Taking the 8 am bus to Jiuzhaigou from Chengdu’s Xinnanmen station. The bus station looks like a special station for tourist areas, but on the inside other than the metal detectors and xray machines, it looks like any other station. The buses look newer and the windows are fixed, so naturally I was afraid of the species known as the smoking chinese. But looks like the locals going to tourist places are a special type. During the whole trip, the guy in front of me had a half burnt cigarette in his fingers for hours but kept the urge to light it. In fact, no one smoked on this trip in the bus. Amazing show of patience. The only two things that irritated me were some passengers playing their songs on their mobile phone speakers and a guy eating process meat that smelled like coffee flavored chicken and a hint of chloroform. Smells nauseous. Overall, the trip was a lot nicer than the 12hrs bus to Xiaojing in part 2. Bearable.

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Travels: Sichuan Province Part 3, Danba Town, China

Chillis left out to dry at Jiuju Village, Danba
More corn pictures, sorry...

Based on time killer recommendations from Joy from Sim’s Cozy over at Chengdu, I will make a one day stop over at Danba as the only way to get back to Chengdu from Rilong is to go through Xiaojing and Danba. It helps too that there are 2 daily buses (0630 and 0700) from Danba.

Ancient watch tower up close, Zhonglu village

Danba seems to be famous for two things. Everyone says the girls there are beautiful. Even best in china, but I have heard of that before in Suzhou. And as expected its because of the climate that gives them a nice complexion. And everyone here also says that the good looking ones are in Chengdu. Danba is also popular for the couple of tibetan villages around the town. Danba lies at the confluence of rivers, and in a deep valley. Some of the scenic villages are perched high on top of steep mountains. 14 November 2008, Rilong to Danba: It was a 0700 pickup by the same Mr Zhang that brought me to Rilong from Xiaojing. We arranged a trip to Danba for 300 RMB, about 150 km away and a day trip to 3 villages around Danba for an extra 100 RMB. Plus the 150 RMB I owed him from last sunday. While I know the driver normally runs a mien bao car (private hire vans that pick up anyone anywhere between set destinations), I allowed him to pick up 2 ladies to drop near Xiaojing. With the 17 RMB we made, he brought me to the best beef noodle place in Xiaojing. From what I can see, salt, soya sauce, plenty of hand pulled noodles, mountain cow beef, bamboo shoots, coriander and plenty of chilli and you have a serious bowl of best noodles I have tasted in china so far. I have seen many mountain cows in Siguniang and its the first time I have tasted it.

Mountain road on the way to one of the mountain top villages around Danba

After a heavy bowl of beef noodles in Xiaojing it’s time to continue to Danba. I will visit the villages first before buying bus ticket and finding a place to stay in Danba.

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Travels: Sichuan Province Part 2, Mount Siguniang, China

View of the tallest of 4 Siguniangs from Rilong's Changping Gou village
The plan for this trip is a week long trip, including a 3 day trek up to see Siguniang Shan and a day in one other valley in the area around the town of Rilong. Then on the way back to Chengdu, it’s a night over at Danba to see the old villages on the mountain side. Expecting to spend 6 days for this leg, and the backpack is full to the brim, including a full camelbak filled with day long supply of Nongfu spring water, which seems to be on sale everywhere in this country.

Siguniang shan is surrounded by 3 valleys. The most accessible one is Shuangqiao gou where there is a tourist bus herding tourists, the next would be Changping gou where most treks up the mountain start but Changping gou also has its own trek path on the valley floor that requires a bus ride to get to, and Haizi gou, where you will have to trek its slopes to reach base camp for those who are planning to go up Siguniang shan.

9 November 2008, Chengdu to Rilong: The first bus from Chengdu to Xiaojing leaves at 6:25 am. From there, I will have to take a taxi to Rilong. From what I have heard, the direct bus to Rilong does not run anymore from Chadianzi Station here in Chengdu because the route passes by Wenchuan which was the place worst hit by this year’s large earthquake in this region. So longer trip. On the map, Xiaojing looks not further than 300 km but today’s bus trip is expected to take 8 hours. Gasp!

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