First Hiking – Lion Rock

The title is a little bit misleading, because although I reached Lion Rock, I wasn’t planning on getting there in the beginning. But first things first.

As mentioned before, I haven’t done any hiking in a long while, and for almost two years haven’t done any sports at all (knee injury). So finally, when my bodyweight exceeded all norms, I decided to do something about it. Hiking was part of the plan.
Since Chinese New Year was approaching, I knew I will have a lot of spare time on my hands, therefore I planned a couple of excursions. For the first one, I chose to do some hiking – go to Sha Tin KCR station, from there walk to the feet of the hills of the Lion Rock Park, then climb up to the MacLehose Trail and follow the trail all the way to the Lower Shing Mun Reservoir. Later it turned out, that I had no idea what I was trying to do.

Don’t get me wrong, I can read maps, I knew that the whole trail was about 15-17km long, I knew that most of it will be up and down in the mountains and I knew that it will take me the whole day. But somehow, and don’t ask me how because I honestly don’t know, I didn’t know that sitting on your ass in the office for nearly three years, will turn you into Jabba
the Hutt – a fat creature that can’t really move, and when it does, it certainly can’t be uphill.

I arrived at the KCR at about 9:30 in the morning. Equipped with two 1.5l bottles of water and two lunch-boxes, I started my route at the bridge connecting Sha Tin Central Park with Tai Chung Kiu Road. It was early in the morning and the picture wasn’t so nice, so I came back two days later in the afternoon and took a better one. I crossed the bridge, went to the other side, and after about 20 minutes, I found myself at the bottom of the hills.
The path up wasn’t very steep in the beginning, but blame it on me being overweight, blame it on the fact that I just quit smoking (I was smoking ever since I came to China and shortly before quitting, even I called myself a chain smoker) or blame it on whatever in the world you want – I had enough having walked no more than 3.5km (45 minutes) from my starting point, and having climbed no more than 80m. I felt completely devastated by my own inability, but there was no turning back – I had to proceed.

After about 15 minutes rest, I started walking up higher. Asphalt turned into a concrete road, concrete road turned into a concrete path. I slowly climbed higher and higher, but after less than half an hour, I gave up again. I couldn’t walk. My thighs were painful, shaking from effort and wouldn’t move. I was out of breath and my heart would have gladly jumped out of my chest, if I let it. I sat down on the concrete path, next to one of the tombs that covered this side of the hill, and looked down. Sha Tin Looked great from the distance. I could almost see my house from over there… I stayed there for some fifteen minutes I think, seriously wondering, what to do next. A couple of meters up the hill, I could see the concrete path ending and turning into a common path. I was out of breath, tired and almost couldn’t move, and there was no reason to believe, that it will get easier later. I also realized that I only told two people roughly where I’m going, and if something happened to me (heart attack seemed the most probable thing) I’d be bird food for days; what I took for beginning of the trail, was actually just a path build for people visiting the graves.
Finally I decided not to give up and continue the walk. I just promised myself, that from now on I will only walk downhill, and won’t take any further risks. About an hour later, I broke that promise.

Walking down the hill was actually even more difficult. The other side of the hill turned out to be even steeper, and the trail haven’t been fixed for years I think. In fact, it was really dangerous, with all the holes in it and reinforcing bars sticking out 20cm from the ground. I couldn’t stop myself from imagining, that I somehow trip over, fall and one of those bastards goes right through my thigh… Horror. I was glad it wasn’t raining that day, otherwise I would have to turn back.

A little bit further down the hill, the path changed into a more regular one, and a pleasant surprise was awaiting me: a resting spot.

So far it seems to me, that Hong Kong has a lot of places like this one. Kept in Chinese style, with the characteristic rooftop, open, clean and always placed somewhere where there’s a nice view. It looked like a perfect place for me and I decided to have my first camping there. I stayed for about half an hour, had one of my lunch-boxes and almost finished the first bottle of water. I was wondering what will happen next. I checked my GPS: I walked total of 7.5km, and I was on the way for almost two hours.

From then on, the trail eased down. It actually turned back into a concrete path, easy and fast to walk. I was walking towards the sun all the time, and being that I never look back (a life policy :-P) I didn’t really take any interesting pictures. And then I came across a bifurcation. I could either walk further along the way as promised to myself, or I could take a left turn and see the Lion Rock. I didn’t hesitate for long, especially since it said on the signpost that it’s just 90 minutes away. I started climbing again.
Although this time it was a little bit easier, I still needed to take a couple of small breaks. After about 40 minutes or something, I reacher another fork: left to the Lion Rock, very hard track and still about half an hour to go, or right towards my original destination,  the Lower Shing Mun Reservoir. For a couple of minutes I was looking at the Kowloon side of the hills (with the Kai Tak airport barely visible through the haze) wondering where to go next.
At this point I realized, that chances of me getting to the reservoir are slim. The map on my GPS was showing another couple of hills before I reach the place, and the route towards the Lion Rock (and further down the hill) seemed all in all easier. I decided to climb the hill.

It turned out not to be as difficult as I though it will be, but maybe that’s because I kinda got used to the effort already. Sure, I was slow, there was plenty of people passing me by on their way up (most of them older than me, some even looked like they were 40 years older or more), but I reached the top without any big problems. Yes! Finally, I was there. Finally I did something I could call an achievement. Finally I could just get the hell out of those hills, without feeling like a total loser. I reached my first peak in Hong Kong – 495m above sea level counts as almost half of the highest peak there is.
I decided to make another camp and stay there a little longer. I had my second lunch-box, drank some more water and slowly began going down.

The way down looked much more like what I was used to back home. Trail was much broader, there were some barriers to help you walk, the path was well kept and there was quite a number of tourists with little kids, even 3-4 years old. I was wondering if they want to take them all the way up…

Step by step I went downwards, feeling better and better with every step I took. Not less tired, of course, but better. I had the feeling of achievement, I had finally “done something with myself”. I moved from the couch, I went hiking, I climbed a peak and although not everything went as planned, I was going back home satisfied with what I did. 

Total time on the road: 5 hours 39 minutes.
Total walking time: 2 hours 56 minutes.
Total distance covered: 17.17km
Maximum elevation: 495m

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Hiking in HK

It’s been more that six years since the last time I went hiking, so getting back on the trail was a very exciting experience for me. I’ve been focusing on work for the better part of my late 20s and early 30s, and haven’t been on a “proper” holiday for years. This year was supposed to be my third Chinese New Year (CNY) in China, and this year I wanted to do something special and hiking seemed like a good idea.
This year I had five days off for Chinese New Year and I planned three routes: mountain rout for CNY Day 1, an island rout for Day 4, and a flatland march for Day 5. Days 2 and 3 were planned as a break after Day 1 – I had been a couch potato for the past six years or so, I knew I will need a lot of rest.
One of the reasons I love Honk Kong, is that it is very well organized and hiking is no different. The trails are very well marked and mostly well taken care of. The routes are interesting, with beautiful sights, good information signs and they are very well categorized (if it says on the sign, that it’s gonna be a difficult trail – it WILL be). Most of the people I met were kind, helpful and quiet – just as it was back home.

My First Peak in HK

I will write in more detail about those three routes I took in following posts. I will also keep hiking (I told myself to do at least one 15-20km trail each month – for many reasons, I can only afford to go hiking one Saturday in a month) and keep posting about what I went through and what I saw.

Trivia.
1. I am by no means a pro trying to get back into the game, nor am I aspiring to become one. Back in the day I walked some miles (maybe I will write about it one day, too), but that was in an other life. Right now I am an overweight, lazy-ass couch potato, trying like hell to lose some kilograms.

My Hiking Companion

2. I found so far, that my best companion on every trail (my girlfriend is the best companion only on some trails :-P) is my phone. Currently I’m using Google’s Nexus 1 and it is really great: all the hiking pics were taken with it, all the GPS coordinates were marked with it, all the routes were measured (time, distance,  altitude) with it – using different apps of course.

3. I had a knee surgery exactly a year prior to when I started hiking in HK (ACL reconstruction). My biggest problem was the fear of my injury returning. So far I cannot combat this fear, though trying.

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