Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Hiking Lantau Stage 3

Hong Kong has been having a bit of a cold spell recently, unfortunately.  Every day has been in the high forties, low fifties, overcast and cloudy and threatening imminent rain, and our apartment has been coooooold.  Brrrr.  This weekend dawned cold and gray in a similar fashion -- so me and my friends thought, why not go for a hike?? Ha, ha.

We chose to do the Stage 3 portion on Lantau island, and it so happened that it was the same day that a lot of crazy people were doing a 100km race called the Translantau.  I am not certain that I understand how or why or what motivates a person to do a trail run for 62 miles, however, I assure you that there are plenty of people who actually do this, presumably for fun…

Stage 3 is one of the toughest parts of the Lantau trail, with the peak elevation at 934 meters and very steep ascents and descents with no cover.  It is an exposed hike in that not only are there no trees overhead to provide shade, but there are minimal bush and brush or stones to provide any coverage on the side, from rain or wind.  ...And oh, we felt it.

To start the hike, we took the MTR to Tung Chung station, then a bus M3 (there are a few buses that go there) to the trailhead.  There, we went to the porta-potty, figuring (rightly so) that there would be no rest area or place to relieve ourselves once we started the hike.  We saw our first 100km runner, who came bounding down the steps and energetically zigzagged across the road.  A few minutes, we saw two other people.  We couldn't be certain if these people were very far ahead or very far behind, but it seems that they were at the front of the pack.

The hike started out nicely enough.  The air was cool and crisp and brisk.  The foggy atmosphere lent a very romantic, melancholy air to the entire scene.

 It was only as we began to ascend that the weather started to get worse and I seriously began to question our sanity in doing this hike.  However, retracing our path back down to the starting point would have felt like major defeat, and we would have to deal with the rain and wind in any event.  Keeping that grim thought in mind, I slogged on.  It was probably the bit before the peak that was the most challenging and worrying, because it started to rain, the steps were slippery, and the wind was howling.

 Once at the top, things seemed much better (even though we were still wet and cold and had the rest of the descent ahead of us).  Temporary refuge, indeed!  Never thought I'd be so grateful for a lean-to.
 There were parts of the trail that were well marked and had reassuring chain link fences, like thus:
But then the fence posts would drop away without any apparent rationale… which, in this mist, was a little bit worrying.
Visibility was poor, as you can see here, from my friend's silhouette and not much else!  This was at 11:30 in the morning, mind you.
It looks like Mars!
 We were headed to Ngong Ping.  This sign says 30 minutes but in my opinion it takes way longer than that.
 Surveying the terrain and taking a breather before continuing on...
 As we descended the trail became much more lush and calm.

 Finally recovered sufficiently to take a selfie - do you like my hair?

Here, a slightly odd exhibit - carved wooden poles set in the shape of an infinity symbol, which looked pretty cool emerging from the mist.

We passed some buildings that seemed to require a bit of repair...
 We also saw a few of the trail runners during this part.
 We ended at the Big Buddha, which you can just see in the misty distance.

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