09 May, 2011

A hike through the Twin Peaks - Wilson Trail

The HongKong most people know and recognize is the HongKong which is a concrete jungle. Tall buildings rising out of the earth like leviathans, buildings which are built so close to each other than their walls are stuck to each other. HongKong runs essentially like a well oiled machine. The public transport mechanism ranks amongst the best in the world, the efficiency and speed with which work gets done, business gets conducted is unparalleled.

But wait. Is that all HongKong has to offer ? Quite simply put – the answer is No.

A major portion of HK – almost three quarters of HK is countryside. Rising landscapes, beaches, grasslands, mountains, valleys – you can find them all here – in HongKong.

After having pulled off 4-5 other hikes earlier (I haven’t blogged about them yet, but will do so in due course), it was Pecan who steadfastedly held on to the idea and the wish of hiking and trekking The Twin Peaks. This, we knew, was a very difficult hike – a hike that many an adult has given up on, a hike that many people have forfeited and have turned back. Simply put, we knew this one would be challenging, to put it mildly.

This trek/hike covers two mountains and that’s how it derives its name “The Twins”. But to get to the first of the twins, one needs to hike over another mountain “the Violet Hill”. The hiking trail onto Violet Hill starts at Wong Nai Chung Gap and once Violet Hill has been negotiated, the first of the Twin peaks begins.

Yesterday was a perfect day for hiking. Clear skies, humid enough to bring down the danger of hillfires, yet not too humid as to totally sap ones energy outright. Force four winds were forecast, which meant that there would be some breeze on the way, some respite from the sweat and the heat.

We started hiking the Violet Hill from the Wong Nai Chung Gap. The incline was a bit steep and the heat hit. Violet Hill, being smaller than the Twin peaks that followed, did not have much of a breeze. We did not have any trouble hiking the Violet Hill and about 45 minutes later, we were at the base of the Violet Hill and started our hike on the first of the Twin Peaks.

The first peak was, yet again, not too difficult. The peak itself, is spread out, in that the gradient is not too steep. The path too is pretty much laid out – there are steps in some places of the peak while most of it is just a rough hewn path to follow. Yet, not too taxing or difficult. Many places along the way to the summit, the views of HK from atop the peak are simply breathtaking. It is like looking at a HK we’d never seen before. Lush greenery stretches out for miles together, only to be broken by splashes of pink, red and white. Blue waters beckon with lazy abandon near the reservoir. As we reached the summit of the first peak, Macadamia remarked “Is it just me or is this place suddenly foggy”. It was not fog, though. They were clouds.

Through all this, we started out descent down the first of the twin peaks and were greeted by cool cool breeze. One cannot help but marvel at nature. The breeze that blows through the valley as one treks down feels simply marvelous. It is natural airconditioning at its best. It refreshes and it rejuvenates. All the energy that’s been sapped while climbing and hiking seems to simply flow back into you. The climb down was refreshing, in terms of the views and the breeze that was trapped in the valley between the two mountains.

Once we were at the base of the first hill, we came to the junction where we took a break for a few minutes. There are three paths from this junction. First to the left, the path towards the Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir. Second, upwards onto the second of the Twin peaks. Third, to the right, a path that leads to one of the roads.

There was a map there which clearly marked Section 1 of the Wilson Trail, which we were aiming to complete. Macadamia looked at the map and said “the second peak is actually smaller than the first one that we just did, going by the distance markers on this map”. Though this sounded good, some niggling instinct told me the opposite. Somehow, I was sure that the tough one was just beginning. The party was just beginning, we were just about to enjoy our picnic.

The climb started off and after a few minutes, it hit us. The trail for the second peak seemed smaller on the map simply because the steps were a lot lot steeper and the gradient was really really steep. For most of the climb on the second peak, we had to bend our upper body forward just to maintain balance. And each and every step was an effort. This climb began to take its toll and the sweat started pouring down in rivulets. There was no breeze, no respite from the heat and from where we stood, all we could see was a very steep incline with seemingly no end and just flights and flights of steep steps to negotiate. We knew then why many people had forfeited this trail and turned back. Simply put, the second peak is grueling. The first peak eases you into the trail and the second one punishes. The first peak is rather gentle while the second peak exacts its due with harshness and severity.

We ploughed on, stopping every 10 steps for a 5 second break. There were an assortment of butterflies, caterpillars and centipedes around, not to mention spiders of different sizes and colours. Plants on both sides of the trail were sporting fresh leaves. The strain was beginning to tell and we kept talking to each other just to make the going seem easier. We had exhausted our water supplies and while on the incline of the second peak, started on our energy drink bottles. We were sweating so profusely that we were losing body salts and exhaustion was threatening to creep in. A few sips of the energy drink and we continued uphill. The motto then was “when the going gets uphill, think of the view from the top.”

We met other hikers along the way, some going the same way as we were and some others working the trail the other way around. That’s another thing I’ve noticed about hiking and trekking. People whom you come across on hikes and treks are total strangers yet there is an indescribable bond that forms, albeit for a few minutes. Smiles, cheers of “good luck with the climb”, a simple “thumbs up”, a simple “you’re doing great, you’re almost there” goes a long way in shoring energy and gives you that renewed vigour that small burst of energy that takes you those few steps further.

We were about halfway up the second peak and the climb seemed neverending. The summit was nowhere in sight. There had been two more people hiking the same path and at the small landing about half way up the second hill, they decided they could not go any further and they decided to retrace their route and abandon the second peak. We trudged along, realizing that this climb was going to be truly testing. It was “mind over matter”. We had decided this at home but just kept reminding each other during the climb on the second peak that no matter how long it took us, we would not give up. We would go on to complete the trail.

After what seemed like a long long time, we could see the trail opening up and the gap getting wider – a sureshot sign that the summit was near. And sure enough, about five minutes later there we were, on the summit of the second Twin – or so we thought !!!!

Once at the top, we realized that nature indeed has a sense of humour. Four exhausted people realized that nature had thrown yet another curved ball at them. This peak has a hump. It is pretty much like a camel’s hump. Meaning, to get to the actual summit of the peak, we had to negotiate yet another descent and more importantly, yet another ascent. We could see the summit from where we stood.

On went the caravan and this is where the going got rather treacherous and tricky. There is no laid path at all – during the descent and for the most part of the ascent the path is full of rocks and rough hewn stones and gravel – and the gradient is steep. We lost count of time, we stopped looking at our watches, we just kept focusing on the next five steps ahead – five steps at a time.

“When the going gets uphill, think of the view from the top.”

The view from the top was indeed spectacular. Tai Tam on the left, Stanley right below, views of Repulse Bay and Deep Water Bay as we’ve never seen them before - beeeeyooootiful !!!

It was so serene up there – the clouds floating around like powder puffs, masking the top of the peak, enveloping it like a fuzzy blanket. The breeze had once again started, with a vengeance, as though hellbent on reinfusing energy into the tired folks who trudge their way up. HK, from up there, looked enchanting. It was a delightful feeling – filled with a sense of achievement and with such fabulous views to captivate and enthrall ones senses.

We spent some time on the summit, recharged ourselves with an Oreo (just one) each and more of the energy drinks before we started our descent from the second of the Twin peaks. We were there, almost. The climb down was almost boring, to be honest. Concrete steps all the way made the going quite monotonous. We came across a huge group of youngsters who had decided to take on the Twins and had started their trek from the Stanley Gap Road part of the Tai Tam Country park. We met some fellow hikers who were also on their last stretch of this hike – having started out from Tai Tam or Wong Nai Chung and were heading towards the Stanley Gap Road.

That feeling of achievement, of completeness that accompanies the end of every hike and trek, is unrivalled. At the end of the trail, we were thoroughly exhausted but it did not show. That feeling of exhaustion was overshadowed by a sense of accomplishment.

The Twins done and over with, Pecan is now contemplating climbing other peaks. He has his sights set on Tai Mo Shan – which is said to be the highest peak in HK. It will be a while before that happens but I guess sometime in the future, we will have our tryst with Tai Mo Shan as well.

5 voice(s) said so:

Neera said...

Oh boy ..I was sitting on the edge reading this ..hoping u made it and Yay! U did! Congrats to u all :) Great write up!

buzzzzzzzzz... said...

now I know there's more to Hong Kong than shopping!!

Jacaranda Alkera said...

I will be hitting stage 1 this march good luck to us.. This blog is very helpful ..

Jacaranda Alkera said...

I will be hitting stage 1 of Wilson Trail in few days ..haha Good luck for me. Am done with Maclehose trail stage 3. But these Stage 1 of Wilson sounds interesting..

Corazon Tabilos said...

It make kind of scared reading it but the more I scare myself the more I wanto go .I will be hitting this stage by Nov. 8 ;2015. Good luck for my group.