This weekend’s SCDC dive got moved from Sunday to Saturday, and since I had a prior engagement, I yet again found myself not diving. I got an SMS from Mike describing it as “awful conditions and very low vis, only a couple of us did the 2nd dive“, so maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing. Anyway after nearly a month Rita and I returned the Wilson Trail. The plan was to walk stages 5, 6 and 7, plus a bit of 8 from Shatin Pass to Tai Wo. Things started to go wrong when we watched the Liverpool game at 1:30am and finally struggled into bed around 3:30. The knock-on effect was that we didn’t get up very early and didn’t leave the flat until 11:30am. We finally started walking at 12:45pm and knew we’d have to walk very quickly to get most of the way in daylight.
Things started well with a really nice trail from Shatin Pass, north towards Shatin. There are a few boarded up tunnels, presumably of WWII vintage. There were some good views through the trees. Eventually the path started to drop down towards a catchwater, above Shatin and Tai Wai. The catchwater gave us chance to speed up considerably and we fairly raced along it towards the Tai Po Road and the end of stage 5. It was along here we came across our first evidence of the monkeys which plague this part of the New Territories. No actual monkeys, but a cage with a label on it to say that it is part of the monkey contraception programme. Coincidentally we’d seen something about this on the news earlier in the week. I had been expecting a fairly traditional approach, of lining up all the males and treating them humanely with the help of 2 large bricks, but apparently this changes their behaviour (and makes them sing in a high voice). So instead they are treating the females with a contraceptive vaccine. It’s early days and could take a long while, as we came across hundreds of them in at least 3 large groups, one on Smuggler’s Ridge (halfway through section 6), one around the barbecue areas near the dam (at the end of section 6), and one near Lead Mine Pass (mid-way through section 7). There were also a number of smaller groups throughout the walk.
After Tai Po Road we climbed Smuggler’s Ridge, which was probably the toughest part of the hike, before dropping down to Shing Mun reservoir. Section 7 starts just over the dam and goes around the reservoir for about 5km, before turning right to the long slog up the road to Lead Mine Pass. From there we headed down towards Yuen Tun Ha, through an area that had obviously had quite a serious and recent fire. Given how dry it is at the moment, it must be a busy time for the fire brigades. Shortly afterwards we hit the road down towards Tai Po.
Normally the start and ends of sections are fairly well marked (unlike the rest of the trail!), but we went sailing past the end of section 7 without noticing it at all. So I’m not actually sure where Yuen Tun Ha is. At around 5:30pm we hit Sheung Wan Yiu and, despite the approaching darkness, we made the decision to press on for 2-3km (we guessed 2, it turned out to be 3km) along section 8 to try and get to Tai Wo. This is near the KCR station, which would make it a lot easier to pick up the trail for the remaining sections in future.
This part of the trail goes up past some ancient kilns, which the authorities have fenced off to make sure no-one sees anything interesting. There is a nice ancient path leading up to the hills, where it becomes a more modern concrete path. this joins a road. Along here we started to see smoke, and could see that some of the hillside had been on fire. This was a cause for concern as we weren’t sure quite how close to it the path went. Since there hadn’t been much smoke and there was hardly any wind, we decided to press on cautiously and before long we bumped into a police van coming the other way. Since they didn’t attempt to stop us we continued a little more confidently. Past the area where we’d seen the smoke and we bumped into another police van and a fire engine. The occupants were busy watching the lights of a large helicopter on the opposite hillside. It was difficult to judge the distances in the dusk, but he was a lot closer to a set of power lines than I would want to have been. There didn’t seem to be any fire where he was, so I’m not quite sure what was going on, and we were getting far too hungry and thirsty to stand about watching. We carried on down a very steep road, where a pack of dogs had tried to chase me several years ago. I remember hearing them all running and barking behind me and automatically turned round to see what was going on. By a fortunate coincidence the fact that I was now facing them seemed to make the dogs think twice, and they all came to a halt in an interesting noise of skidding claws – it was like something from a Tom and Jerry cartoon. I’m not quite sure what I’d have done if they hadn’t stopped, as there were about 20 0f them in different shapes and sizes, but it was the teeth that got my attention. Finally we made it into Tai Wo and took a taxi to Shalimar in Tai Po Market for some well-deserved beer and curry.
- Section 5: 7 km from marker post 47 to 61, took 1 hour 30 minutes.
- Section 6: 4.5 km from marker post 61 – 70 took us 1 hour 10 minutes
- Section 7: Since I missed the end of this, I’ll measure it from marker post 70 to post 90 in Sheung Wan Yiu, which was about 10km and took us 2 hours 20 minutes.
- Section 8: We walked from post 90 to 97, 3.5 km in 40 minutes.
So a grand total of 25 km in 5 hours 40 minutes, but we were pushing it – by our rather sad standards anyway!
Temperature: 14-15C. Humidity: 50%.