Not all DB trails lead to Mui Wo but two of the most interesting do. George Pitsakis takes us walkabout.
To say that the hikes I’m about to introduce you to never get old is understatement. I first hiked to Mui Wo via the Trappist Monastery in 2000 with my family when I was four years old, and I still love it. As for the hike to Mui Wo via Tiger’s Head, I did it almost every weekend in my late teens; I must have done it 70 times or more. Again, I still love the challenge – and the views.
I hope you get as much out of these hikes as I do.
Via The Trappist Monastery
No sweat. 7.5 kilometres
Starting at Nim Shue Wan, you follow the path that hugs the coast for the whole of the first section of this hike. As you walk through the village up a steep hill, you’re immediately surrounded by banana trees and garden plots – it’s funny how quickly you ‘leave’ DB and get out into the countryside. Dogs hang around the village but keep walking and they won’t harm you, they’re used to hikers passing through.
After a stretch, you find yourself walking on bolted-down wooden planks – this section of the paved path was destroyed by Typhoon Mangkhut back in September last year. Skirt a rocky little bay (where my brother and I used to catch crabs) and head up a quick flight of stairs. Continue walking and you come across one of my favourite things about this hike – a 1950s jeep now totally overgrown and laced with tree roots. I’ve no idea why it’s there or how it got there. It looks like it’s been there forever.
After a sharp descent, you enter a clearing and see a wide road leading up to the Roman Catholic Our Lady of Joy Abbey, better known as the Trappist Monastery. This section of the hike is steep so take your time. You pass 14 Stations of the Cross on the way to the monastery, a series of 14 markers portraying events in the Passion of Christ, from his condemnation by Pontius Pilate to his entombment.
At the monastery, there’s a beautiful Shrine to Mary, a well-kept garden and a pretty stream that runs beneath a humpback bridge, all of which justify the monastery’s original name – Trappist Haven. Cross the bridge, climb some stairs and you reach the medieval-style stone chapel. It’s a plain place of worship nestled in the hills, quiet and remote. If you’re lucky enough to arrive during a Divine Office, you can listen to the handful of monks in residence chanting.
Back on the trail, you’re looking at a fairly long climb up to a pagoda at around 300 metres above sea level. It’s all uphill for a while, so mind your pace. While there is a trail that skirts the pagoda, it’s worth taking the stairs up to it (on your left) for the great views.
On your way down, you see the Discovery Bay Golf Club on your left, Peng Chau ahead, and Hong Kong Island and a sliver of Hei Ling Chau to your right. The pagoda used to be painted white with traditional green-glaze tiles, now it’s freshly done up in black and grey – it’s interesting.
You’re now on the homestretch – a casual 1,000-stair descent to Mui Wo. It’s best to take the steps sideways-on at the end because they’re pretty narrow. Here you look down on Mui Wo in the shadow of 869-metre Tai Tung Shan (Sunset Peak) and, as often as not, you find yourself surrounded by butterflies.
At the bottom of the stairs, follow the path to the right until you wind down to Silvermine Bay. Here you can hang out at Silvermine Beach Resort, China Bear, or the Mui Wo Cooked Food Market before ferry-, bus- or taxi-ing it back to DB.
Via Tiger’s Head
Challenging. 11.7 kilometres
This hike really kicks into gear at the Discovery Bay Lookout (already 200 metres above sea level). From the lookout, you can see the skyscrapers of Central just a few kilometres across Victoria Harbour. Peng Chau and Hei Ling Chau sit in the foreground, with Lamma and Cheung Chau forming the backdrop.
Take the paved road out from behind the lookout, and you see Lo Fu Tau (Tiger’s Head) towering above you. Follow the path as it turns left, and you come across a switch back on your right. This dirt path inclines steeply all the way up to Tiger’s Head, 465 metres above sea level.
Be warned, there’s no shade the whole way up – if you’re hiking in summer, make it early in the morning, and carry plenty of water even in winter. The trail is eroded in places too, so watch out for loose rocks and dirt. Take your time and enjoy the incredible views.
The path snaking up Tiger’s Head looks a lot shorter than it actually is, but it flattens out for 10 metres every now and then, providing you with a good place to take a break. Just before you reach the summit, there’s a harsh 40o incline – you might need to do this bit on all fours. Bear in mind that you’re on the final stretch. Tell yourself that once you’re at the summit, it will be beautiful. It is.
From here you turn right to continue on the trail but, before you do, take a left – a short climb takes you right up to the proverbial tiger’s head, a giant stone on the top of the hill shaped like the head of a tiger. The views are incredible here; you can see the whole of DB and appreciate just how far you’ve climbed.
The shape of the tiger is best seen as you continue on a brief incline and look back towards Discovery Bay. Two protrusions on either side of the main rock buttress resemble ears, and you can imagine you’re looking down the nape of a tiger, as he surveys the scene below
Here, you’re rewarded with a 360° panorama. To appreciate it all, clamber on top of the trigonometrical point. These fixed surveying stations are found on many hills in Hong Kong, ask a friend to help you get up this one! From here you see the airport, along with the beginnings of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, as well as Castle Peak in the New Territories.
Back on the trail as it heads to the left, you are now officially on the Lo Fu Tau Country Trail. You get your first glimpse of what can only be described as a landscape that is totally alien to Hong Kong.
This stretch of the walk is sublime, a relatively gentle descent through a craggy, treeless ‘moonscape,’ surrounded by hills. The valley opens up behind in splendid and cavernous style; skirt around a hill and you see Sunset Peak towering up a few kilometres away. As you meander down you encounter several interesting rock formations that seem too well-balanced to have been haphazardly thrown together by nature.
After you take some stairs leading down, you find yourself back below the tree line. The path continues on its downward journey, clipping the edge of Discovery Bay Golf Club, and you can spot golfers on the putting green. It’s a nice easy descent to a wooden pagoda, which marks one end of the Lo Fu Tau Country Trail.
Here you turn left to join the Olympic Trail. The winding path of stairs, slopes and straights makes up for the fact that you’re back on concrete. From the clearings, you start to glimpse the Mui Wo villages and Silvermine Bay.
A couple of the stairs at this point are pretty steep. Round a bend and you come across a pretty little pool of water overhung by trees. In the summer, these trees are full of massive Golden Silk Orb Weaver Spiders. The spiders are not in your way but don’t get too close – they do bite.
Cross a recently built bridge and follow the path left past an old house; then turn right to Silvermine Cave, which is actually the mouth of an old British-built silver mine. Just below it is Silvermine Waterfall – to see it at full pelt, time your hike for just after it’s rained. There are benches by the waterfall where you can grab a snack and hang out.
Back on the path, you end up in the back end of Mui Wo. Follow the main road and head away from the hills toward Silvermine Bay.
Sign up for the Green Sense Charity Hike on March 24 and you have the chance to walk from DB to Silvermine Waterfall with other hikers. All donations will be used for environmental education, promotion and investigation. To register before March 15, visit greensense.org.hk/charityhike.
Photos by Alexander Grasic and Andrew SpiresTags: hiking, Tiger's Head, sport, trails, mountain, trappist monastery