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!
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.
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”.
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!
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.
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.