Training Diaries 2014: Tai To Yan and Tai Mo Shan Waterfalls

Training Diaries 2014: Tai To Yan and Tai Mo Shan Waterfalls

Tai To Yan: It means “Knife’s edge” in Chinese but I don’t think it is quite as ominous as it sounds. Something like Sharp Peak is probably more deserving of that title. What Tai To Yan does deserve, however, is a entry into the Top 4 Spectacular ridges in Hong Kong. Speaking of which, my personal favorites in that category would be:

1. Plover Cove ridge: this ridge is a sure cure for depression. Life sucks, boss is an idiot, etc, etc – – just run Plover Cove and experience a positive change in the state of your mind (FYI: I am one of the owners of this)
2. Tai To Yan ridge: this ridge will make you realize that what makes Hong Kong truly special is its countryside and not its cliché skyscrapers
3. Pat Sin Leng ridge: Another spectacular ridge which will certainly cement the thought that Hong Kong should be better known for its countryside than its skyscrapers. The views are different from Tai To Yan but equally stunning. This ridge makes you feel as if you are in the mountains of China
4. Ma On Shan ridge: a Read more

Tai To Yan (Knife’s edge ridge), Tai Mo Shan Waterfalls and Kadoorie Farm

Tai To Yan (Knife’s edge ridge), Tai Mo Shan Waterfalls and Kadoorie Farm

We set out to do what we called the “Nature’s Call” hike. Not only because we wanted to answer nature’s call in the wild (i.e. go for a pee in the peace and tranquil of nature), but also because we wanted to feel the touch of nature in one of the most pristine areas of rural Hong Kong. Actually, Hong Kong has been generously bestowed with many such tranquil spots. For today, we thought of two such spots which were especially worthy of an encore visit. The Tai To Yan ridge (called Knife’s edge ridge in Cantonese) and Tai Mo Shan waterfalls (one of the highest waterfalls in Hong Kong). Oh, and we decided to throw in Kadoorie Farm as well, which was more of a picnic than anything else. I last visited the farm back in 1994 and I’ve been meaning to go back! Yes, talk about procrastination! In fact, Hong Kong’s first ever wild crocodile found temporary housing in Kadoorie farm after a highly paid Australian crocodile hunter rescued the croc from the swampy waters of Yuen Long. Since then, the croc Pui Pui has been moved Read more

Walkin’ on Knife’s Edge.. Tai To Yan and Tai Mo Shan Waterfalls

Full set of pictures here.

I thought I had hiked and/or run pretty much all the trails that Hong Kong has to offer but I had no idea that I was missing the thrill of running along the ridge of a Knife’s Edge. And by that I mean, Tai To Yan which is supposed to mean “Knife’s Edge ridge” in Cantonese. Hannes Niggli, who specializes in bringing fast runners together on “classic” hikes, organized a run from Fanling MTR station to Route Twisk via Tai To Yan and Tai Mo Shan Waterfalls.

20 runners showed up at Fanling MTR ready to walk on Knife’s Edge and equally ready to dunk in another one of Hong Kong’s abundant natural pools. We started at Fanling MTR station and climbed a trail which was initially a stair climb on concrete but soon blended into perfect trail running terrain in the woods. Soon, we started to gain elevation and found ourselves running along the first ridge for the day. Then we had our first glimpse of some spectacular views. Lam Tsuen valley appeared beautifully to our left while Vic’s very own beloved Yuen Long and its low-raise houses appeared to the right.

A fit and formidable bunch – but no so fit and formidable camera lens

Continue reading about the Knife Edge experience

Shui Lo Chu Pools – Lantau

A thunderstorm two days back and sunshine today could only mean one thing – it was time for a stream trek! And, speaking of stream treks in Hong Kong, there’s one particular waterfalls which is like the Cindy Crawford of all the waterfalls in HK. Now, by that I don’t mean old, I mean most beautiful! Or perhaps, I should have picked a better super model example, but you get the picture! Actually, speaking of picture, that’s probably what I need to do – show you a picture so you can see and judge for yourself and come up with the appropriate super model metaphor on your own!

The “Cindy Crawford” of waterfalls?

And so, after a very long time, I joined the Hong Kong Trampers on a stream trek lead by popular-leader Liza. We met in Tung Chung MTR station and took that horrible white Tai O-bound bus all the way upto Sham Wat road. Upon disembarking from that bus, as usual, I had no idea where I was, so I asked Liza, who was kind enough to draw a map for me in the air. I then had my “aha” moment after observing both her explanation and a large sign indicating that we were on Lantau Stage 4. Lantau Stage 4 is famous/infamous for its climbs. There’s a 450m climb to a hill called Man Cheung Po which makes for some good trail running practice. The thought of trail running practice immediately resonated with me. So, I quickly exchanged pleasantries with old friends and instinctively showed off my trail running skills. My running inspired Caroline, a Japanese girl (forgot her name) and an Italian dude (sorry, forgot his name as well) who decided to hone their running skills by following me.

The fast Italian dude and the Japanese girl

I cleared up a bull fight along the way to make way for the Trampers

We had some new faces join us, or perhaps, I was the “new” face, as I hadn’t joined the Trampers in a long time since graduating to trail running. But, what didn’t and has never changed is the fundamental spirit of the Trampers which is to make fun of inexperienced Trampers. Allow me to explain. We had Dennis who had done several hikes with the Trampers in the past but had never really been to the Shui Lo Chu pools before. His expectations were set quite high. After all, he really was expecting the Cindy Crawford of all waterfalls! On our way to the pools, we went through some puddles of water and a little bridge which had some water passing underneath it. We told him that that was Shui Lo Chu pools and offered him the first dip. His face sunk and he murmured “not very impressed”.

Smile returns on Dennis’ face after we told him that the puddle of water wasn’t Shui Lo Chu pools

We then hopped over to the other side of this bridge, gained a little elevation and walked on a relatively flat stretch of trail for about ten minutes. That’s when we had our first glimpse of the waterfalls. She was indeed worthy of any super model metaphor you’d give her! The balmy afternoon breeze, the distant view of the sea, the greenery all around, the sound of water gushing downstream – they all begged the question “are we really only 45 minutes away from Central?” Yes! Well, more like 1 hour, but anyway, this is the beauty of Hong Kong! This is where nature and city life coincide!

The Shui Lo Chu area

The first glimpse of the waterfalls

We negotiated a steep trail which descended downhill to the main pools. Some clever and technical boulder hopping on this route gave us boys (read: Dennis) the opportunity to “rescue” the girls who needed their heroes to help them get across from one gigantic boulder to another in shark infested waters. Like a real hero, Dennis helped all the girls while putting his own life at risk. Upon reaching the pools however, this heroism faded away into clumsiness as he desperately tried to change into his swimming trunks in plain view of everybody. It reminded me of an episode of Mr. Bean trying to accomplish a similar feat. Here, take a look:

Mr. Bean changing into trunks

My own machismo from all the train running also sank with the water! My inability to swim meant that I had to find grips on rocks and hold onto anything stable to keep me from drowning. Not quite the trail running macho image I was trying to build.

Enjoying the natural pools

After soaking in the beauty of nature at her best, we reluctantly left the main pools at about 3pm and started making our way towards Tai O. The trail on the way down was steep and parts of it required us to use all 4 limbs effectively, pretty much like monkeys. As they say, sometimes even experienced monkeys fall from trees and this trail running monkey was no exception. During one such boulder hopping maneuver by the coast, I grabbed a branch of a tree to swing from one boulder to another. This swinging maneuver required plenty of simian-like finesse which I thought an advanced monkey like me could handle. But, unfortunately, this branch snapped halfway through my swing and my legs sank into a puddle of water. I had to continue the rest of the hike on drenched socks and wet feet.

After about 20 more minutes of boulder hopping and monkey-like action, we were firmly on terra firma and my machismo returned. And, once again, I ran to the finish in true trail running fashion, yet again inspiring Caroline and the Italian dude to run with me.

Upon reaching Tai O, it was time to take that horrible white bus back to Tung Chung. It was time to return to civilization, leaving the beauty of nature and returning to the beauty of man’s creation – the skyscrapers of Hong Kong.

Shui Lo Chu Waterfalls

As far as waterfalls in Hong Kong go, my top three favorites are (a) Wong Lung Hang (b) Shui Lo Chu (c) Nam Chung pools/Double Deer stream in Sai Kung.

We had some good rain yesterday, so it was time to do a leisurely waterfalls hike today. The route we chose was awesome:

(A) Tung Chung to Ngong Ping via the King of the Hills route: From the MTR, we had to go in the direction of the Donkey Trail. We went past the Donkey Trail to a village and eventually took a hard left. From there, there was a 500m climb to Ngong Ping

(B) From Ngong Ping, we took Lantau Stage 5 to Man Cheung Po. After crossing the first two hills, there was a fork in the road or should I say ‘fork in the trail’. We took the trail on the right, kept following the track all the way until we reached a small bridge. We jumped over this bridge, then took a narrow trail up a hill which led to the waterfalls

(C) After the first two pools, a trail on the right eventually led to Tai O where we finished

If the directions above make no sense, don’t worry! They are meant exclusively for me so I can sort of remember where I went for next time! But the Garmin record is below!

We saw a snake slithering away near Man Chung Po. Actually, Jinwah saw it first and screamed like a little girl. For a second, I thought she got bitten! The snake was brown in color and slithering away quite fast. Also, learnt from Jinwa that snakes that have forked tongues are poisonous, those that don’t aren’t.

The pools (as usual) were blissful!