By Jason Eng Hun Lee
Allow me to steal a line from Bilbo Baggins, that intrepid explorer of The Hobbit. “It’s a dangerous business, hiking. You step onto the path, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” Well, he was certainly right there. If a tropical storm hits you, you can be sure that you’ll be swept off to places you never knew existed. But seriously, those indomitable words tell us all we need to know about the wonders of traveling – for without travel, there can be no encounters, and without encounters, there can be no stories to tell. And without stories, we literary types would have nothing to write about. So, hooray for the hiker and their itchy feet. And hooray for the trails that pave their adventures.
You’ll be surprised where you might find these trails. Take a wrong turn from the subway and you might find yourself on one of them. Luckily, the most demanding trails are further afield, near the rugged coastline of Sai Kung, or across Lantau even. In the New Territories, the daunting MacLehose trail cuts through the highest peaks of Hong Kong, and traversing it all the way from East to West will set you back 40 hours. That’s roughly the same amount of time it takes to get across Middle-Earth and back again, especially if you’re a slow reader like me. For the more reluctant hobbit amongst us, there’s even a trail from the back of the University that snakes its way up to the Peak, making it a perfect excuse for those in need of nature’s comforts, or those who need to escape from their studies for an hour, or perhaps five.
Hiking need not be an arduous exercise. Although those steps might seem insurmountable, think of what you might find on the other side – white shores, and beyond, a far green country, under a swift sunrise. OK, those were Gandalf’s words, not mine, but as you can see from the photos, there are some spectacular views that make it a worthwhile experience, so be sure to bring your camera. Who knows, you might get the chance to spot a bit of wildlife there, or marvel at the sunlit bays that remain out of reach to all but the most stalwart traveler. Plus, there’s always room for a song or bit of poetry (just mind what you do to the trees, you know what happened to Isengard), and if that doesn’t work, there’s always the comfort of knowing that you have worked up an appetite and can indulge in the local gourmet cuisine, served from restaurants that are literally tucked away into the far-flung corners of the territory. So what are you waiting for? Grab your boots and walking sticks, and don’t forget your raincoats. We can’t promise you dragons or orcs, but we can promise that, like yours truly, you’ll end up being spirited away into another world.
Pictures are courtesy of Zachary Goh and Cathy Zhang Ruihan .
“Are you sure this is the road to Mordor?”
“Only a few kilometres to go”
“If in doubt Meriadoc, always follow your nose”
“We’ve got these in the Shire too”
“Someone’s been here before”
“Phew, for a moment I thought they were oliphants”
“White shores, and beyond… China”
“Did anyone bring their swimsuits?”
“Mmm, better than lemnas bread”