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Into the wild: Lantau Trail from Ngong Ping to Tai O

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Hiking sections 4, 5 and 6 of the Lantau Trail from Ngong Ping to Tai O, Claire Severn battles medium-sized mountains, the Tunnel of Doom and some seriously massive spiders.

Day two of our Lantau Trail hike. More than three months have passed since my buddy and I completed the first part of our challenge, and our leg muscles have just about forgotten the trauma of climbing Hong Kong’s second and third highest peaks in one day. Relieved to arrive safely at our starting point of Ngong Ping after a rather hair-raising blue taxi ride, we set off for what we hoped would be a more relaxing rest of the day.

At Ngong Ping

Section 4: Ngong Ping

Section 4 of the Lantau Trail is basically a big loop, affording great views across the valley and over to the north of the island. It starts at Wisdom Path, around a 5-minute walk from the Big Buddha. Here, you see two signs for the Lantau Trail. Section 4 follows the path heading through the trees, away from Lantau Peak.

Happily, it’s a rather gentle route, and fairly well signposted. There are a few steps to climb along the way, but the path soon starts to head downhill again as you circle back towards your starting point.

Arriving back at Ngong Ping, we lost the trail for a while – the signs at this point are somewhat confusing – but eventually we figured out that we just needed to head straight through the village to join the main road.

From there, the trail heads downhill to the junction of Sham Wat Road and Keng Shan Road, where the archway marking the start of section 5 looms ahead. Again, the signs here could be clearer, but we took a punt and decided to follow the yellow sign uphill towards Man Cheung Po. We made the right choice.

Wisdom Path 

Section 5: Kung Shan and Ling Wai Shan

This was where the hike got tougher – the incline at the start of section 5 is somewhat steep, but at least the route is shaded in parts, and Tai O soon comes into view in the distance.

We took time to pause at distance post L037, where the views open up all round – a welcome moment or two to catch our breath. After this point, the path rises and falls as it snakes its way across the hills until it reaches the summit of Kung Shan, at 459 metres above sea level, and Ling Wai Shan, which peaks at 490 metres.

The thing that struck us most about this section of the trail was how remote it seemed. We were literally in the middle of nowhere. Apart from the distant sound of aeroplanes, there was no noise, nothing. It was an odd feeling – a tad disconcerting but also incredibly freeing at the same time.

Beginning our descent downhill, we followed the signs to Man Cheung Po. After a while, the path became shaded and we found ourselves tracking alongside a large stream. We loved this section of the walk. The sound of flowing water and birds chirping in the trees was in stark contrast to the barren hills we’d trekked across just a few minutes before.

By a stream in Man Cheung Po

Section 6: Man Cheung Po to Tai O

One of the highlights of the walk was finally discovering the famed Lung Tsai Ng Yuen, the ‘garden of enlightenment,’ founded in 1962
by textiles baron Wu Kungsheng. Having fallen into disrepair after Wu’s death, the gardens and buildings have now been restored by Wu’s family, however they remain closed to the general public.

Although we couldn’t see much of the gardens (the barking dogs were enough to prevent us getting too close), the view across the lotus pond was stunning. I would say it made the whole hike worthwhile, however at that point I didn’t know the trauma of what was to come.

You see, we did the hike in summer. And what do you get in Hong Kong in the summer? Spiders, and lots of them. For an arachnophobe like me, this section of the hike was pretty much terrifying, as we had to duck under web after web, while avoiding all the spiders on the ground. Seeing how freaked out I was becoming my friend nicknamed this stretch of the trail the Tunnel of Doom. He thought better of his urge to make me jump over the spiders (wise man). But the local wildlife didn’t get the memo, and I let out an almighty scream when an atlas moth flew into the side of my neck at the exact point I passed underneath one of the glistening webs.

To make matters worse, the path down to Tai O was one of the steepest inclines I’ve ever encountered, and my wails about spiders were interspersed with cries about how much my toes were hurting. It was quite honestly brutal and I couldn’t have been happier to reach the bottom of the hill.

We’d made it to Tai O. Time for a celebratory drink at café Solo before making our way home, where a few months later my toenail showed me just how vicious that incline had been by falling off.

Six sections of the Lantau Trail complete. Only the other six sections (42.5 kilometres) left to go…

Arachnophobes might avoid section 6 of the trail in summer

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