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Hiking Above the Clouds: Lantau Trail, Hong Kong

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Tomb Sweeping Day has arrived, and with the holiday comes a 3-day day weekend, which means, hello mini vacation!  This time we were off across the water to Hong Kong for a hiking trip along the Lantau trail.  Believe it or not, Hong Kong is not all skyscrapers and bustling city.  The territory is actually a chain of islands some of which, such as Lantau Island are preserved entirely for outdoor activities such as hiking and biking.  In total the Lantau Trail spans 70km, first climbing over several mountain peaks before descending to the beach and following the coast back to the ferry port.  As we only had just under 2 full days of hiking time our plan was to take to the mountains, enjoy the scenery and the outdoors, and see how far we made it.

We started our hike just after lunch on Saturday by following the signs pointing to the Lantau Trail, which first of all, holy crap, trail markers, I didn’t even realize those were a thing anymore after living in the land of “the least amount of signs the better” for so long.  I forgot how easy it is to get around when there’s actually some sort of marker telling you where in the heck you are (ok, rant over now).

After turning off the road it was straight up through the fog and clouds to Sunset Peak.  The top of this mountain was only about 870 meters high, but for some reason we were hiking above the tree line at about 300 meters.  Literally only in this region of the world have we found this to be true, (maybe the tropical climate has to do with it? Tropical trees only grow and super low elevation?  Who knows) any theories as to why and we would love to hear them.  Sunset Peak is aptly named for the amazing sunsets to be viewed from the top, and if you look for a picture of this mountain you might find something that looks a little bit like this:

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www.discoverhongkong.com

Right.  Our hike looked a little more like this:

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Disappearing into the clouds

I can now say that I have hiked inside of a cloud so dense that I couldn’t see more than 15 feet in front of me, literally nothing, just absolute whiteness, it was wild.  Needless to say there was no need to spend much time at the top as any type of view was completely out of the question, so we quickly descended down to the road that runs halfway up the mountain.  After looking at a map we decided that, as we planned on eating out for our main meals to avoid having to carry cooking equipment, Sunset Peak was all we were going to accomplish today.

We headed down to the beach for dinner where we dined at a nice Mediterranean/South African restaurant and then headed back up the mountain to set up camp.  We ended up camping along the bike path, as it is almost completely flat with lots of nice grassy rest areas along the way some of which even have barbecue pits at them if you do choose to cook your own meals.  It didn’t seem like many people actually camped along the trail, but I would certainly highly recommend it.  There are tons of nice spots, easy access to fresh water, barbecue pits, and even port-a-potties if you are in the right spot, I mean seriously it’s pretty much glamping at this point ;-).  Or if you want to do what we did and walk all the way down to the beach, most have at least a handful of restaurants there for you to buy dinner at (I don’t know about you but getting to eat real food while camping is always a plus in my book).

The next morning after snacking on some moon pies for breakfast (yes, you can buy moon pies in China) we headed up into the clouds again, this time setting our sights on Lantau Peak.  Once again it was a very white, wet climb, yet miraculously, as we neared the top, the clouds started to break revealing the most beautiful blue sky.  As luck would have it, Lantau Peak at around 1000 meters was just high enough, and the weather was starting to break at just the right time, that we actually ended up above the clouds.  We stood at the peak basking in the most beautiful sunshine with the most amazing view of puffy white clouds interspersed with jutting mountain tops and ocean vistas.  Amazed by the incredible views we took a side path off to an adjacent mountain top for a slightly different viewpoint (turn right from the peak and you’ll see it).  The short path involved just a little bit of rock scrambling, but it’s really just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the actual peak, and lets be real, who’s gonna turn down more amazing views?!

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On top of the world!
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Enjoying the view

From the peak it was down the steps, and down, and down some more steps, until we reached the Buddhist temple where we joined thousands of other tourists taking pictures at the Buddha statue and eating lunch in the old town.  It is totally worth being a tourist though, I mean come on, it’s a Buddha for crying out loud!  Justin, on the other hand, did not share my Buddha enthusiasm (too many people).  At this point I think I have just come to accept the hoards of people that are a fact of life when touring around China (although, I have to admit, they do occasionally still drive me crazy so I haven’t been totally converted).

With our bellies full, and tourist snap shots in the camera, it was down the road, and back into the park we went.  Our formerly cloud covered weather had since turned to sunny and clear which made for more beautiful views of the stunning mountain range as we climbed over our final two peaks.  We then descended over far too many steps to count, all the way down to the campsite at the beach where I promptly parked my butt and refused to move for another hour giving my now extremely sore legs a break (walking downhill is actually the worst, except for steps, those are the worst).  In addition to all the awesome places to camp along the bike path, almost every beach on Lantau Island has a designated campsite, complete with potable water, bathroom, and barbeque pits.  Like I said before, it doesn’t seem like many people actually camp on Lantau, despite the fact that it is very well equipped, as we had the entire campsite to ourselves.

After another restful evening (well as restful as it gets for sleeping on the ground) we packed up for our final walk along the bike path back to the ferry port.  All in all hiking the Lantau Trail was an amazing way to spend our 3-day weekend, and definitely a must do on your next visit to Hong Kong!

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