28th June, 1997
Stage 4 of MaclehoseTrail (backwards)
Well done to those who made it along to last Saturday's walk along stage four of the Maclehose trail. We completed the section in the reverse direction from normal as this is a little easier and put us in a better position to find our way to Pepperonni's for another great dinner.
After a lengthy wait at the MTR station due to a slight mixup with the attendence list, the 10 remaining hikers climbed aboard two stock standard red cabs decked out with the new Hong Kong flags on the aerials and proceeded to the fabulous views offered at Fei Ngo Shan road. We took the cabs slightly past our starting point, the standing excuse (and I'm sticking with it) being that the extra walk provided some of the best views of the hike over Kai Tak airport and the harbour all the way across to Hong Kong Island.
We were soon back on track though and walking by just after 1pm. A heavy shower shortly before our arrival made the trail fresh and slippery, and after around 15 minutes or so we found ourselves strung out over a few hundred metres. Fortunately for us, it did not rain the whole time we were hiking.
It should be pointed out at this stage that everyone was carrying their own water supply except for Grant and Karl, who opted for the "one pack - two porters" approach. Karl was the first pack-bearer and this allowed Grant to slip out in front, seemingly with the "if he can't catch me I don't get the pack" strategy. Somehow he forgot the "I don't get the water either" part of that scenario and at the top of the first decent ascent (a long slow walk up a set of rocky stairs), thirst became a factor. It was also a good time to make sure everyone was still accounted for and at this stage the decision was made by two of our party to adopt a more leisurely pace and meet up with us later at Sai Kung.
The remaining eight ploughed on towards Ma On Shan, thankfully the cloud cover kept the temperature down and hid the fact that there was still a couple of good climbs to go. Moral was high though and after a further couple of hours and a few mobile phone calls to check directions most were well on their way to the saddle near the top of Ma On Shan. Three of us who arrived a little early used the spare half hour or so to climb up to the summit of the mountain and take a break looking over Sai Kung and (when the cloud parted) all the way back to HK Island.
When we'd all regrouped at the top of the saddle and EXPLICIT directions had been given as to the remainder of our route, we headed down the steep and treacherous slope of the eastern side of Ma On Shan. If there was a spill to be taken, this was the most likely occassion and I think most of us took at least one tumble down that incline.
The intrepid adventures were soon strung out again along the trail with the rearguard position adopted by Karl (who for some unknown reason was once again - or was it STILL - packbearer). After emerging from the bamboo forest and taking in the first stretch of concrete road there is a little apex covered information board. On the left side of that information board is a small log fence. Attached to that fence is a big, conspicuous, clear, and easily read sign which says "Maclehose Trail" with an equally obvious arrow pointing LEFT.
Now for all but one this was enough of an indicator of direction however be it because of fatigue, the weight of a pack that perhaps should have not been his to bear, or otherwise, one lone soul saw it fit to forge off to the RIGHT, past the open house party with the two cute girls out front and down the road to Sai Kung. For more than half an hour the remaining seven waited at the real end of the trail, and with dark approaching and fears of broken limbs and wild animals it was time to send out a search party. The first search went back as far as the hill where the weather station is, and the second almost as far. Finally a phone call back to Pepperonni's found Karl safe, warm and already drinking, wondering how he'd managed to get ahead of everyone else...
The party of people who were still waiting at the end of trail for Karl tried flagging a cab, but instead managed a free ride into town in a large truck. The driver just stopped for them - Hong Kong, wonders will never cease! Yours truly managed a ride back to the restarant in the crack of space found behind the two seats of a small sports car. As Bill puts it, "I can't even fit my golf clubs there!".
Quote of the weekend: Rodrigues, you piss people off.
(Mind you the name Rodrigues was replaced in this quote by many others over the weekend including, I believe, mine - though why I'll guess I'll never know...)