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Into the mystic: the Wong Lung Hang Country Trail

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Moving from a mighty mountain pass into a verdant, waterfall-draped valley, this hike from Mui Wo to Tung Chung is a little out of the ordinary. Beverly Au tries it out

The cooler weather has kicked in, the sky is crystal clear, and I’ve decided to hike, with a couple of friends, right across the centre of Lantau from Mui Wo to Tung Chung. It’s a Sunday and we plan to have a leisurely brunch overlooking Silvermine Bay, before picking up our supplies and walking over to the ‘new town.’

Looking at the map, we shortlist a number of different hiking trails that will get us where we want to go. But, which to choose? What’s our aim for the day? That’s easy. We want to stretch our legs and breathe some clean air into our lungs, and we want to soak up some beautiful scenery, somewhere remote.

The route that meanders up the lower slopes of Sunset Peak and then down through lush Wong Lung Hang Valley jumps out at us. Without being a madly athletic challenge, it looks to be a decent hike punctuated by some steep climbs up and down. More importantly, we are promised incredible views of Lantau’s coastline and multipeaked mountain range, with a walk through a green and verdant valley thrown in. And there’s the possibility of a dip in a rockpool once we get close to Tung Chung.

The mighty mountain pass

Setting out from Mui Wo, we take a bus to Nam Shan picnic site rather than trek the 3 kilometres or so up South Lantau Road. There’s nothing really exciting about this stretch of road, so we decide to save ourselves for the good stuff that’s coming.

Alighting at Nam Sham, a big, wooden arch marks the start of the Lantau Trail, and we begin our hike by following the yellow waymarkers that point towards Sunset Peak. The path starts off gently, with a pleasant stroll through indigenous trees planted by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. We take the time to read the display information and learn something about the project and the homegrown trees lining our way.

From here, the trail starts to wind steeply up and the going gets fairly tough. We are grateful for the thick jungle foliage over our heads, which provides some much-needed shade. We realise how quickly we have made it into the wilds when a herd of goats crosses our path, in search of grass on the slopes above.

After 30 minutes or so, we break through the jungle canopy and hit the open slopes. This section of the Lantau Trail slices through a magnificently barren and craggy landscape that stretches as far as the eye can see. We spot 869-metre Sunset Peak ahead and just behind it to its left, 934-metre Lantau Peak. The views along the South Lantau coast, back to Mui Wo and down to Pui O, are simply stunning.

As the path continues its ascent, it’s traversed by a series of clear mountain streams. Cascading down from the upper slopes, these streams feed Shek Pik Reservoir via the large catchment near the bottom of the mountain.

On reaching a gulley between Sunset Peak and Lin Fa Shan, we follow the signs for Sunset Peak and, within 10 minutes, we see a small, wooden pavilion. Here, you can opt to keep straight to reach the summit, or take a right, following the sign to Wong Lung Hang Road. At this point, we know we are about to enter Wong Lung Hang Valley, which tumbles all the way down to Tung Chung.

The enchanted valley

The path descends steeply at first through groves of giant bamboo and acacia, and the going is hard on the legs. As we navigate the trail’s many twists and turns, we are rewarded by glimpses of glittering waterfalls cascading to the valley floor below. We’d hoped to come across barking deer on this stretch of the walk, trotting down to the rockpools for some fresh mountain water, but the notoriously shy little critters allude us.

The path is well-designated as we continue our descent. About halfway down, we are rewarded by a breath-taking view across the valley, towards Lin Fa Shan. On a clear day like today, you can truly appreciate the scale and breadth of the valley.

Here the descent becomes even steeper and eventually we come to concrete steps, connecting with Wong Lung Hang Road. We turn left towards Tung Chung. This isn’t a high point of the hike in terms of natural wonders, but at least there’s no traffic. Wong Lung Hang Road is a closed Water Supplies Department access road for a sealed reservoir higher up the valley.

After about 10 minutes, we keep our eyes peeled for a mountain stream on our right that speeds down the valley before making its way to the sea. It’s easy to miss, so listen out for the sound of running water. People living in nearby Yat Tung Estate like to come here to collect fresh water.

Next, we look out for a layby on the right, beyond which is a small path that cuts through to a large, inviting rockpool. Clean and cold, the pool shimmers under the dappled sunlight, and it’s an amazing place to have a swim.

The old fort

After this refreshing break, we head back to Wong Lung Hang Road and turn right towards Tung Chung. After five minutes or so, we turn left on to Tung Chung Road, right by Yat Tung Estate, and decide to make a detour to visit Tung Chung Fort. It’s well signposted and lies just a little further ahead on the left.

At the end of a path between some village houses, we see the entrance to Tung Chung Fort, a seldom visited relic of Hong Kong’s seafaring past. Built in the 12th century Southern Song Dynasty, it has gone through many incarnations since then, with the current structure dating to 1843, when it was resurrected as a defence against pirates.

Despite being a unique piece of local history and home to the Tung Chung Rural Committee, the fort is pretty dilapidated, so don’t expect too much. What is interesting, however, is that the six remaining cannons point directly at Yat Tung Estate. I wonder what a feng shui master would make of that.

As we make our way towards Tung Chung Citygate for a well-earned bite to eat, I realise we’ve spent the day almost totally alone. We bumped into a group of hikers on the Lantau Trail, who were making their way down from Sunset Peak, but apart from that we haven’t seen a soul, not in the valley, not at the rockpool and certainly not at the fort. What a great way to start the week!

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