Report: Lantau

28 May 2009

Day one of our wedding present directs us to Lantau, a large island to the west of the Kowloon peninsula where we're staying. A hotel has been booked for us at Silvermine Beach, at Mui Wo.

There's a direct, high-speed ferry from the port only a mile south of our hostel. It costs a pittance, runs every 40 minutes, and will drop us next to the hotel.

But it involves a boat. Screw that. We're Done With Boats.

It's a slow start, because Lyn still has the cold she smuggled through customs at Hong Kong airport. We're lucky their temperature checks didn't pick her up, because she feels terrible.

With our packs on out the front of Mirador "Mansions", we agree that neither of us can face Chinese rice porridge - 'juk' - that morning. Western breakfast is hard to find in Hong Kong, so we spread the map out in a McCafe. I confirm the details on my phone. Thought so: it won't be easy but it should be possible.

Fuelled by a real sandwich and the first proper long black I've had since Adelaide, we cross the road to Tsim Sha Tsui MTR - the Hong Kong tube. Nine stops north to Lai King, change to the Tung Chung line, three more stops above ground. We're on the island.

But we're on the wrong side of the island. The direct route is only 8km, but it's a walking trail. With packs, that's at least two hours, the way we're feeling, so we find the bus terminal, hop the 3M bus and wind our way around 17km of steep single-track road to the ferry terminal. Done, in 90 minutes, and there weren't any boats.

Our room in the Silvermine Beach Hotel features the National Geographic Channel, otherwise known as the "big buildings, plane crashes and huge explosions channel". We nearly don't leave, but we have a job to do, so we're soon out with a daypack under overcast skies and light rain. The desk staff don't seem to have a hiking map, but with full 3G coverage, how lost can we get?

We start "hiking"; it's described as a hike, but it's a concrete path. Still, there's nearly no one around; apart from the 'snap' of mahjong tiles, it's nearly silent. The Silvermine waterfall is interesting but not spectacular; the cave has now been concreted off because it was "dangerous". But further up there are small settlements; unlike the Thai ones, it's hard to work out what they do there. A local burns a handful of 'money' in offering at a small shrine just before the rain sets in again. Dogs threaten us; puppies threaten me, or try to.

We run out of ideas and follow a sign towards a village. A few minutes later, a couple of joggers pass us, and I interrupt them:

"How far to the village?" "What village?"

The rain is getting heavier, so a few minutes later we turn back, then off on to a side trail.

It's late afternoon, but there aren't any mosquitoes. I'm starting to relax; Hong Kong's "jungle" is much more hospitable than Thailand's. Then I come to an abrupt halt, turning 180 degrees and screaming behind closed lips. As usual, Lyn's walked straight past the damn thing.

And this time, she's missed it by mere inches. The orb-weaver's web has a diagonal line running to a bamboo shoot sticking out from the side of the trail. I don't know how she didn't see it. Its web is full of tiny leaves that make it highly visible. And it's moving.

Wait. They're not leaves. They're wings. The thing is unbelievably creepy.

But I won't be beaten again. Lyn throws me a metre-section of bamboo, and I use it to probe for more lines I can't see. Then, with a kamikaze yell, I run under and past the nightmare. I'm shaking, but we're through.

A hundred metres later, the trail terminates at an empty house. God damn it, we've got to go back.


hkd 80 breakfast

hkd 70 MTR and bus

hkd 80 lunch

hkd 80 drinks, chocolate, and beer

hkd 30 internet

= hkd 340, from hkd 1800 allocated for Lantau.