Since we had enjoyed the Dragon Back hike so much, we decided to try a longer hike, the Lion Rock while staying in Hong Kong.
We had a map on our phone that showed different routes for the hike, a less steep route that would take 1.5 hours to the summit, or a steeper route that may only require 1 hour or less.
Since the Dragon Back hike was marked with clear signage, we somehow thought the Lion Rock hike would be similar. In any case, we have the route map on our phones to follow, and we are experienced hikers.
We decided to tackle the hike following the steeper route, which turned out to be a huge mistake.
First we took the MTR to the Wong Tai Sin station. We detoured to have a look around the Wong Tai Sin Temple. It was packed full of worshipers, with even a long queue to light incenses for ancestors and Buddhist gods.
A short walk from the Wong Tai Sin temple, we passed a large apartment complex that led to a series of long set of steps to the bottom of the mountain. We proceeded up the steps.
At the end of the steps, there appeared to be a trail that corresponded to our GPS map, so we continued on. All of a sudden, a wild boar crossed right in front of us. It went down another path, and we did not see any other boars around so we continued without concern.
Ten minutes up further on the steps, we came upon this clearing. There were evidence that people have used this clearing for bonfires.
After another 15 minutes of hiking, we were encouraged by the good view of the city even though it was a cloudy day.
However, the trail was increasing becoming steeper and sometimes vegetation and large boulders blocked the trail. Some sections had exposures to big drops or falls if one is not careful or lose a footing. And it is evident that this trail was not frequently used.
We arrived at another clearing where we could sit down for a rest. It had even a better view of the city. Sitting there, you feel like you are king of the city below you.
But we realized at this point that the trail we came up would be quite treacherous and steep if we tried to go back down the same way, so the only way is to continue and find a more gentle way to go down. We were not concerned at this point as our GPS map showed that by going up a bit further, we can cut across to the gentler path for going down.
We continued onward and upward, on narrow paths, passing some big boulders. We came upon an even bigger clearing for even a more expansive view of the city.
Now it was time to find a way to the gentler trail to take us back down the mountain.
As it turned out, this was going to test our patience, endurance, strength and navigation skills.
On the GPS map, it would looked like we can hike horizontally to reach the trail. But it would be impossible to do because of steep ravines between the paths down. Each time we thought we were closed to the trail, we could not reach it due to dangerous drop offs.
We kept going up, then coming down trying to find a way to the other trail. We would follow some trail markers, but it would lead to trails that were obscured by thick bushes and vines, or lead to steep drop offs.
Then we finally found what looked like a promising trail but it involved trusting ourselves to using anchored ropes to repel ourselves down a big slab of granite rock.
This descent was not for someone who is afraid of heights. I was holding for my dear life, as there was not many good footholds, or large tree branches to hold on to.
Some section required us to go down on our knees or butt.
Finally, we reached the bottom of the mountain. When we looked back, we realized we had under estimated the difficult topography of this mountain. On the first attempt up this mountain.mountain. We should have followed our map for the gentler trail route instead of attempting to hike the shorter, steeper trail.
By chance, we came upon this sign as we were hiking out of the mountain. We did not see this warning sign because we had started hiking up at a different point.
When we saw some signs of civilization, we were happy that we finally got “out of the woods”. We were not sure if these people live here permanently, but they were having a good time playing mah jong!
And as we emerged out of the trees and bushes, we had to go around a set of locked gates for these steps, with a sign that warned people not to feed wild boars in the area. We then crossed the road and walked through a huge complex of high rise apartments, those same high rise apartments that looked like lego blocks when we were on top of the mountain.
But upon walking through the walkways, courtyards, and alley ways of the complex, we realized that it is a huge community full of services, amenities, and community connections, including a McDonalds, and people still celebrating Chinese New Years with Lion Dance.
It was interesting to get a glimpse of the real Hong Kong life, away from the typical tourist areas.
We walked to the nearest MTR station for the returned trip back to our hotel. We had other plans for the day, but had to give it up since the hike took a lot longer than expected, especially coming down.
After cleaning up our muddy clothes and nursing our small cuts and bruises from the hike mis-adventure, we decided to check out the evening Symphony of Lights for our last evening in Hong Kong.
As luck would have it, besides the usual waterfront laser light and music show, there was a special exhibition of Festival of Lights with designs from artists from around the world. So we were able to enjoy the extra colorful and festive atmosphere on this warm winter evening.