Summer is a good time of the year to stay in the shade or in the air conditioned comfort of the indoor mecca that is Hong Kong. It is also a good time to get sunburned on a hike and jump into freshwater streams or the ocean, then eat a delicious meal on the beach, burying your feed in the sand and watching the waves roll in.
We had heard about a specific stream near Tai O, the furthest west you can go in Hong Kong, which contained a “natural infinity pool.” Yesterday quickly turned into a moderate sunburn hike and swim day.
After the 2 hour journey from Hong Kong Island to Tai O (MTR to the end of the line, then a 45 minute bus ride on the 11; or MTR to central, 40 minute ferry, 45 min bus ride on the 1) we purchased some snacks, beer, and water at a local convenience store and set off along the shore line. My friend, whom I trusted wholeheartedly with the directions, proclaimed that we should walk along the shore until we would turn left to go up an unmarked path near trail marker “L60”. We thus proceeded.
We passed through a small waterside village and into an arachnid infested path. Spiders with spans the size of you hand stalked their prey in webs that stretched a meter in diameter or more. I grabbed a stick which I proceeded to hold in front of me as if it were a magic wand, waving it around to knock away any unwanted vermin. I remorselessly destroyed a couple of webs. I don’t want that on my face. We mostly ducked under them or veered to the left or right, depending on the angle of construction. There was one stretch of trail where 4 webs stretched across the path in quick succession, as if they were different layers of defense: if the first one failed, surely the second would stop the invasion, failing that, the third or the fourth. Four nets are better than one? Luckily, they were 6 feet above the ground (or almost 2 meters, apologies for the mixing of units today), and we were able to pass underneath, unmolested.
All the spiders were of the same variety–long black bodies with yellow stripes and arching black legs–and some had broods of children, or what I presumed to be young descendants, scattered about the net. It put us on edge. As we felt a blade of grass brush an ankle, we would jump for fear.
Fortunately we managed to avoid close encounters entirely. We bothered some of them, but none bothered us.
The other hiccup was the complete absence of a trail marker numbered 60. We found L59, and then we found L61. We took a gamble and went up the staircase that was least overgrown in between the two. It is certainly a good thing that we can count.
After this harrowing experience, we were overjoyed to hear the sounds of a babbling brook. We continued on past some outposts for the HK Water Works department, until we found the beautiful fresh water cascading down the mountain, complete with a sign warning that it was definitely prohibited to swim. Flooding is dangerous. It really is; if there was a flash flood, and you were in the pool, you would get thrown down the rocks until you landed in an nook or in the ocean.
But it is just so beautiful.
All that is nothing compared to the view. It is absolutely spectacular. We were looking across the South China Sea all the way into China. While there were many shipping boats in the ocean, there was also the open sky, an isolated stream and the surrounding forested mountains. All told, it only took an hour to arrive, and we stayed for at least 2. We lost track of time sitting in the waterfall, watching the ocean. I would say more about it, but the pictures should take care of that for me. When I go back, I might pack a full picnic, replete with champagne and fresh fruit, to allow myself to stay even longer.