Weekend

TIME FOR BED… THE PEAK’S FASTEST ROUTE DOWN

View of Harlech Road from below, coming up the stream bed to approach the waterfall - the arch bridge is made of stone and the sky is blue

Coming back up the stream bed to Lugard Falls on Harlech Road

A rocky dried stream bed plunging down the side of Victoria Peak

It’s a perfectly good path down the mountain

Cabin fever and a queue-free Peak Tram are driving hordes up to Victoria Peak for some fresh air… but if you find Candylicious and Gordon Ramsay aren’t your idea of the “great outdoors”, a quick drop over the Harlech Road railings can land you in dense unexplored jungle, with only a dried arroyo bed as your guide down to the Hong Kong Trail a few hundred vertical metres below.

There’s a dozen or so obvious perennial stream beds visible from the circular “path well trodden” around Victoria Peak. Now, I’m not an adventure travel snob – I believe, like Evelyn Waugh, it’s perfectly possible to find yourself or indeed write an engaging travel memoir on any well labelled path. But these plunging creeks fascinated me, all the more so because I’d walk past them two or three times a week with my two small children and could only spin them tales of what lay beyond…

Brick tunnel under Harlech Road, the easiest way onto the stream

Over the railings and then under Harlech Road (just west of Lamppost 24250) is the safest way onto the creek bed

I identified two watercourses to try: going down from Lamppost 24250* and ending up down on the Hong Kong Trail… and then returning up another tributary of the same outlet, to emerge at Lugard Falls (Lamppost 24244) back on Harlech Road. I did a little recce a few weeks earlier to identify where the stream came out along the Trail (right before the trail hooks 180 degrees along the opposite valley wall) just to check it wasn’t a 50 metre drop or swampland – it looked benign enough, flat and peaceful, with barely any water in the stream. Its flatness was a little cause for concern, revealing a probable steeply-concave profile… 50 metre contour lines on the most detailed government maps didn’t help determine a profile and of course, visibility into the hillside jungle is only about 15 metres from either end, so what lay in between was anybody’s guess.

But there was only one way to find out!

The way down the first tributary was creepy – under Harlech Road through a small brick tunnel full of trolls; the going dark, mossy, slippery, with low hanging creepers and “log pile houses”… if you have young kids and have ever read them The Gruffalo, you’ll know about log pile houses. Because that’s where snakes live. And I’ve seen plenty of snakes lower down the mountain, including a black Cobra once and tonnes of Bamboo Vipers. So, the going was quite slow, mostly due to my fear of putting a foot into a snake’s nest. I tried swinging, tentatively, on a few of the hanging creepers Tarzan style. One broke. The other had sharp claws. Tarzan was a badass.

It’s eerie to be quite alone like that and yet, for the whole descent, still able to hear yakking tourists above and below. I found a rusty hiking pole and a football, a few plastic bottles, so I clearly wasn’t the first and will probably not enjoy naming rights to either tributary.

Route from Strava showing the path down and up from Harlech Road to Hong Kong Trail and back

Off the beaten track!

Coming down wasn’t really the most pleasant hack through the countryside…Β  but going up was a different story. It’s obviously easier going up a stream bed than down, and the larger tributary (which comes out at Lugard Falls) was wider, rockier and involved a lot more clambering: fun! Plus, the view approaching the waterfall and the bridge was quite surreal. It looks a long way up – I wasn’t actually sure I’d be able to rejoin the path too easily, but there’s a nook at the eastern side of the waterfall which is only a metre below the railings, easy enough to hitch up. A quick leap over the railings at the Lugard Falls and wild man exploration was over, I was back in the land of brightly coloured jelly beans and celebrity chefs.

The ease of the whole trip was almost an anticlimax – I’d packed a knife, for heaven’s sake. I’m not quite sure what I was planning to do with it, but I didn’t want to get stuck 128 Hours style and not be able to hack my way out, plus there’s wild boar and snakes… not that I would kill either with a knife or otherwise… well it seemed ridiculous later, but it seemed better to have it and not need it.

For trail runners, these beds could add an extra little “adventure loop” to a Hong Kong Trail or Peak run… just get it done soon because once the rains come, it’ll be a different story! Happy trails!

(* Lamppost numbers can be found on, well, all Hong Kong lampposts, and the HK government GeoInfo map at https://www.map.gov.hk/gm/map/)

Peaceful stream scene, where a Victoria Peak stream joins the Hong KOng trail, trees and rocks and a sign warning of flash floods

Where the two tributaries emerge on Hong Kong Trail… sign says “Beware Flash Floods”, probably not advisable in or after heavy rain!

 

 

 

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