(5th November) I have never thought of completing an entire 50km walkathon with such tenacity, nor have my teammate, who is her first time ever in Hong Kong. At first, our application to this trailwalker was merely for our intimate embrace to the natural wonder of the city, after being exhausted by mounts of journals and paperwork, as well as a kaleidoscope of social activities that we could hardly breathe. Only by joining this event could we truly appreciate the tranquility of the country parks and breath-taking scenery from the hilltops.
The waves gently rolled up the beach when we arrived, just like golden swirling crystals under the dazzle of early morning sun in the Big Wave Bay. While we were listening to the tender rhythms of the waves crashing against the rocks, sturdy surfers were already having fun in their watersport or bathing in cool seawater under the breezy wind. With our overwhelming excitement, this relaxing beach marked the beginning of our annual trailwalker challenge – completing a 50km walkathon all the way to Pokfulam through the entire 8 sections of Hong Kong Trail before midnight.
With other 300 schoolmates, the first section to the Dragon’s Back was a somewhat up and down hill climb. The sky seemed to vanish completely with intermittent shades of towering trees, like scattered blue pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, rich with fragrance of leaves. Spider webs were stringed in refreshing drops of morning dew, with hums of insects and chirps of bluebirds startling in nearby trunks. All this awakened the sleepy down of Shek O with natural melodies echoing in the morning air.
We continued our meandering walk along the spine of the Dragon’s Back. Despite an ascent to the ridge, it only took about an hour to reach the top with easy slopes of twists and turns. This widely-acclaimed path never fails to entice me with its gorgeous view of endless ocean horizons and a wide array of silhouettes. We stayed at the open headland just to admire this subtropical beauty of nature, as well as the sandy beach and village of Shek O right in a distance.
When leaving the Dragon’s Back and moving on to the next section, we found the concrete path kept snaking around the farer side of the tree-shaded hill, which was so endlessly long that we could hardly see its end to the Tai Tam Reservoir. It was still a balmy morning, all we could see were the emerald leaves laying scattered in this flat footpath, and blossoming daises swaying in the gentle breeze. The occasional streak of sunlight was further filtered by the tree foliage on the trail, while the surrounding bushes and turfs kept standing as passive protectors of this serene place.
After a two-hour quick stroll, in the distance finally lies the translucent water tinkling down and green-tinged streams gurgling below, carrying brittle brown leaves and to meet the ever-flowing edges of the Tai Tam Reservoir or wound its merry way through the miniature holes of other dams. Just listen to the harmonic chorus of the wild nature sound, as well as the symphonies of birds’ tweeting and babbling waters, what an incredible delight for us to make use of this comfortable season and appreciate all these natural awe with the capacity of goodness.
After a rest and a simple lunch near the Reservoir, we soon carried on our long-distance journey, by heading up to the Mount Butler through a tree-shaded pathway of gravel. This section is also aligned with Wilson Trail, another popular hiking path in Hong Kong. Under the streak of glistening sunlight, chunks of woods and dense shrubbery just secluded us from the rest of the busy world, far from hustle and bustle of the city life. To our surprise, the route was much shorter and also more breath-taking than we imagined. Standing at the top of the Mount Butler with backdrop of a bright clear sky, it rewarded us the panoramic scenery of Hong Kong Island and East Kowloon in the opposite of the Victoria Harbour, with high-rise skyscrapers in both sides.
However beautiful the surrounding views seemed, the hike was becoming more formidable in the three-quarters of the trail to Aberdeen and Pokfulam Reservoirs. Dusk loomed sooner than we expected, the rustling bushes turned into a shade of grey, and slowly faded into complete darkness with only dark patches around. We kept switching on our headlight and flashing warm mellow glow for the direction in an almost invisible trail. Panting and puffing, we started our walk by following a gravel footpath through the woods, and sliding through the leaves with aching legs.
Worse still, I could barely move in the last 7 km when the sleepiness gradually occupied my mind. Having suffered from lingering muscle torments and sore knees with blisters, I had been pushing myself too much, and struggling to complete the trail more than my limits. Even though we had been slogging for some periods, the hike felt like hours that I almost decided I could no longer persevere due to overwhelming exhaustion. Yet thankfully, with heartwarming cheers by the volunteers, and cordial encouragement from other teams, all these invigorated me to continue trudging along the pavement at a sedate pace, with mind focusing on how joyful we would be when crossing the finish line.
After more than an hour of night tramp, here we were, finally spotting a familiar Baroque-style building that we desperately longed for – it was like a beacon of hope at the end of an arduous journey. As we plodded wearily nearly at midnight, chit-chat sounds of other participants and the aroma of night buffet appeared nearer and nearer. Triggering a flashback towards our all-day physical endurance, how memorable it was during the exact moment when we, the two slender girls, had never thought of completing the race before, and were there crossing the finish line, with sweat of toil and tears of pride. ♦