Jeff Warner PHOTOGRAPHIC, Golden, Colorado, USA

Thursday, November 3, 2011

11/3/11: Hong Kong: Dragon’s Back Hike

As the MV Explorer approached Hong Kong, a spire of light pierced the rather thick, marine cloud layer above. It was hazy beneath the cloud layer, and row upon row of high-density residential structures lined the shore, for miles. We berthed at Harbor City Mall on the Kowloon Peninsula, the asiatic Cape Town equivalent SAS port location, with a prime spot overlooking the Hong Kong skyline. Just inside the door was a full-on American style mall, with 2x American prices. We had a few hours before our hike up the Dragon’s Back, and ended up eating at a little fast-food style burger-joint; $35 U.S. for the four of us (at $1 USD to 7.76 HKD). The burger and fries were good, a comforting respite. But, $eriously, ouch!

Although re-unification with China occurred back in 1997, it’s hard to envision this city resembling the China we westerners imagine from another hemisphere. We walked a bit, and saw the MTR station (mass transit railway) from which buses went outward in all directions. Seemingly all of a sudden there were newsstands with quite the variety of male-oriented magazines, all displayed front and center. Weird. And, weird to think how weird that seems, after 3 months in countries where such literature practically doesn’t exist, at least in public. Despite the picture that this paints, the city was very clean, modern, and bustling with activity, as you’ve probably seen or heard.

Our hike up the Dragon’s Back started with a drive on very narrow roads into the hills of Hong Kong Island, and took us past a vast area of cemeteries. These cemeteries were cut directly into very steep hillsides, and on either side of a cemetery was a stairwell leading to each level of plots, perhaps 3 or 4 high, and at least a hundred across, with dozens of levels. Picture the seating at Red Rocks and apply the description above, and you have a picture of what it looked like, which unfortunately I do not, as the narrowness of the roads prevented stopping. There were 5 or 6 of these cemeteries, after which we saw no more, and arrived at the trailhead on the other side of the ridgeline.

Deemed the ‘Best Urban Hike in Asia’, the Dragon’s Back trail is on Hong Kong island, and is called the Hong Kong Trail. One might expect there to be views of the Hong Kong Skyline, but it’s actually on the easternmost part of the island, overlooking the South China Sea. Although the terrain resembled the Coast Ranges of California, the rather hot and humid climate gives rise to a more tropical environment, with many ferns, vines, and bamboo forest, interrupted by the occasional small, rocky stream. As we climbed higher, we broke out above the forest to the ridgeline, where several paragliders were doing their thing, above the town of Shek O, far below.

As we stopped for a break, one of the pilots landed just 10 meters in front of us, and immediately engaged me, apparently due to the long lens on the 7D. His name was Alec, and he was clearly from New Zealand, as was one of his flying partners, who dragged himself through the bushes to a stop in front of us, more bark than bite, a big smile on his face and no scrapes to show for it. The flying conditions were clearly amazing for paragliding, and they were able to skim ridgelines with ample lift, low speed, able to land in many spots along the trail, as Alec demonstrated. He’d seen me taking pictures with ‘a good lens’, and stopped to ask if I’d send him some images, as he has few pictures of his wing. Although he hadn’t flown in the States, one of his buddies had, and it was on his radar to come someday. Once I’d agreed to send him some images, we exchanged contact info, and he then soared off the ridgeline nearly effortlessly, flying circles in front of us while we continued our hike back down toward the roadway. 

Later in the evening we met up with the Bakers, and proceeded to find a reasonably-priced restaurant that had been suggested to us, the Jade Garden (or something like that). After a rather expensive meal that was not so memorable, it left us wondering if we found the right ‘Jade’ restaurant. Perhaps it was cheap for Hong Kong, and perhaps it was good by someone else’s standards, but we weren’t left with that impression.
We returned to the ship to watch the nightly skyline laser show, after which I prepared to leave in the morning on my four-day SAS trip without the family, my one true ‘photo trip’ of the voyage. The MV Explorer would spend two days in Hong Kong, then two days at sea during the transit to Shanghai. Heidi, Reade and Tate joined the ~150 people out of the 600 passengers onboard making the transit, while my trip would later meet them in Shanghai.

1 comment:

  1. Seeing people paragliding must have made you a bit homesick. The morning shot of the sun on the water is really beautiful.


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