Monday, June 22 - It was raining yesterday, it's raining even harder now; there were even thunderstorms in the morning, and the typhoon signal No 1 just went up. What a great day to tackle the 6.7km-long Tai Tan Country Trail for the first time!
But really, by the time I get there (noon-ish), the weather is great for hiking. It's sunny, with lots of white, fluffy clouds, and the rain earlier has actually helped cool the summer heat, though it has made the rocks a bit slippery. But I have Kuttss, the Sai Kung coast manager from outdoor education provider Dragonfly, to guide me through the popular hiking trail.
We start off from Hoi Ha, and the hike is "fairly easy", according to Kuttss. And it is, for about 10 minutes. It begins with a concrete trail, which is like walking on pavement. This continues until after we pass the trail's only emergency phone, which connects you to the police, before it starts getting steeper on the dirt trails beyond Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park.
The ascent isn't easy, and I have to really watch where my feet are and what I'm stepping on. The middle part of the trail has a lot of uneven rocks, so make sure you have sturdy hiking boots. Some of the rocks also have algae, which make things even more slippery, so be extra careful.
There are also gooseberries along the trail, which are edible, though it's not easy to tell if they're ripe. Light green or yellowish when unripe, they don't change colour when they're ready to eat. The colour just gets more even, according to Kuttss, and they taste like grapes. I didn't try one.
Speaking of edible, there are also animals at the trail, like wild boars, cows, monkeys and snakes. Out of those, the most dangerous animal is the monkey. "A monkey may attack you if you have food in your hands," says Kuttss. "So if that happens, just throw the food to the monkey."
Kuttss strongly recommends not trying to fight a monkey, as they might carry diseases, like rabies, and they can really hurt you. Snakes, on the other hand, may attack if they feel threatened. Just stamp your foot to scare off an aggressive snake. And you don't have to worry about wild boars unless you're hiking at night.We see none of the animals along the trail, but we do spot foraging marks made by boars and cows - exposed roots and crumbling soil.
After hiking for 20 minutes, we get to a huge barbecue site: a good place to rest and use the bathroom.
Setting off again, the ascent would have been much harder if it wasn't for the shade, which covers us completely from the rain.
I've hiked a few places, especially on Lantau Island, and this is a pretty standard trail. The Tai Tan scenery is great, especially the view of the Long Harbour, but it's more or less the same throughout the three-hour trek. The most memorable feature is a unique limestone-making pit.
Here are some hiking tips and etiquette from Kuttss:
- Spray insect repellent on your hat instead of your face because it's poisonous.
- Record reference points, in case you get lost and have to find your location.
- 3-4 litres of water is recommended for the trail.
- Carry a physical map and compass. Don't be dependent on your smartphone and its apps because there is no connection there, and it might run out of battery or overheat.
- If you're hiking at night to avoid the heat, bring a flashlight, and maybe even an emergency tent.
- Stick to the trail. Walking elsewhere can destroy fragile plants and increase erosion.
- Don't feed human food to animals. They can get addicted to it and even die from eating plastic. In fact, just don't feed them at all.
Don't forget to check out the other stories from our Going Wild series!
- Lauren rides through the wilds of Mui Wo
- Young learns survival skills to avoid a Cast Away situation
- Melanie paddles on a board