Continuing their 70-kilometre challenge,Claire Severn and her hiking buddy discover the incredible beauty of the South Lantau coast.
It had been over a month since our last hike and our traumatic descent towards Tai O through the spider-infested ‘Tunnel of Doom.’ It was time to get moving again. This time around, our arrival at Lantau’s famed fishing village was rather more serene (if you can describe a ride along South Lantau Road in a blue taxi as such), and we set off along the coast, ready for another day of adventure.
We were about to walk sections 7, 8 and 9 of the Lantau Trail, starting out in Tai O and making our way along the coast to Shui Hau Wan, a designated marine reserve with the biggest mudflat on Lantau.
Tai O to Kau Ling Chung
Section 7 of the Lantau Trail skirts the coastline from Tai O to Kau Ling Chung. It starts off as a gentle walk, passing by a number of village houses before heading into the shade of the trees.
Anyone wishing to walk this section should be aware that part of it is currently closed to the public due to farmland rehabilitation, and the government advises hikers to follow an alternative route from distance post L059.
In reality, that’s easier said than done. Despite keeping an eye out for the marker, we completely missed it, and a lack of mobile data coverage meant that assistance from good old Google was out of the question.
Luckily, the landowners didn’t seem too perturbed by our presence, and we navigated through their beautiful farmland without issue.
As we went on and quickly regained the coastal path, the hike became more challenging, with some steep climbs and descents along the way. But it was worth it. The beaches on this part of Lantau are literally stunning, with white, powdery sand stretching for miles. Tsin Yue Wan took my breath away, as did the beach at Yi O Kau Tsuen.
Fan Lau Fort and Shek Pik Reservoir
Another bonus of accidentally following the ‘old’ trail was that we got to take a detour to check out Fan Lau Fort, which is located on the south-western tip of Lantau. To get there, we turned right at a T-junction and followed the signs to the fort from the next beach (after a little directional assistance from a friendly villager and his dog).
Believed to have been built in the first half of the 18th century, it is said that the strategic stronghold, now a ruin, was once armed with eight cannons and manned by a lieutenant and 48 soldiers. From there, they defended the coast, helped to control the increasing trade with the West and kept a look out for roaming pirates.
While not much remains of the original structure except the outer wall, it provided us with a good place to stop for a snack before heading back downhill and through Fan Lau Tsuen to rejoin the Lantau Trail.
From here the path rises again, offering panoramic views back over Fan Lau Wan, and we headed off trail briefly to Fan Lau lighthouse. Here in the far south west, the waters from the South China Sea and the Pearl River famously meet and mingle.
Following the signs to Shek Pik Tsuen, we continued our climb up to the catchwater, where we joined section 8 of the trail. While this section isn’t necessarily the most interesting part of the Lantau Trail, it’s an easy walk offering some welcome respite for the legs.
On arriving in Shek Pik Tsuen, we crossed the glorious triangularshaped reservoir, lingering a while to soak up the impressive views. Built between 1957 and 1963, the reservoir has a storage capacity of 24-million cubic metres and is the third largest in Hong Kong after High Island and Plover Cove. While it is surrounded by hills, it seems to flow into the sea like an infinity pool. We took a moment to sit back in wonder.
More beautiful beaches and a snake encounter
Located in Lantau South Country Park, Shek Pik Reservoir marks the starting point of section 9 of the Lantau Trail. As we turned right after the prison, the hard work resumed, with the path soon turning into a sharp climb.
On we soldiered, eventually reaching a beautiful, secluded beach with a few tents pitched at the rear. We took a moment to take in the view before tackling our final challenge for the day – yes, you’ve guessed it – another steep coastal ascent.
As we headed downhill towards Shui Hau Wan – our end point for the day – we chatted excitedly about the highlight of our hike so far. We had finally seen a snake.
We’d been keeping our eyes peeled since we started out and nothing. But this time, we’d struck gold, in fact we’d nearly stepped on it, it was that well camouflaged. A quick post to the Hong Kong Snakes Facebook group confirmed that we had spotted a copperhead racer. We were delighted – it was wonderful to see one of Lantau’s slithery friends up close in the wild.
It had been a great day – the best so far. Quite simply, South Lantau’s coast is stunning, and spending a day admiring it was worth every ache and pain we’d gained along the way. As we rested up on Shui Hau Wan, we agreed that our destination was a highpoint in itself, and somewhere well worth revisiting with our families.
A 30-minute taxi ride from Ngong Ping, Shui Hau Wan is a clamdigger’s haven but its vast mudflat has more to offer than that. When the tide goes out, the waves leave ripple-like marks, creating a mesmerising vista, which villagers call a ‘mirror of the sky.’
Sitting back, admiring yet another glorious stretch of coastline, we knew we still had three more sections of the Lantau Trail to conquer, but we’d think about that another day. For now, it was time to take it easy.Tags: hiking, south lantau