When I lived in Britain, a bicycle was my go-to form of transport. It's fast, cheap, environmentally friendly, and I loved weaving my way through traffic and avoiding parking fees. As a newcomer to Hong Kong, I jumped at the chance for a leisurely ride around Mui Wo. A day out of the office, away from the pollution, and a chance to check out a greener side of HK? Bring it on!
Compared to the light and sleek road bikes I'd been used to, the mountain bike was a hulking beast of aggressive suspension and thick tyres. For any kind of cycling you need to wear a helmet and fitted trousers that won't get caught in the gears and send you flying. It's also a good idea to wear padded gloves to prevent blisters, and to carry a bike pump, first aid kit and at least a litre of water.
After we checked the seat height and tyre pressure, we clicked a Go Pro cam into place, and fixed another to the handlebars to capture every grimace, skid and triumph.
Before we set off, Dragonfly guide Dan warned how using the left brake - connected to the front wheel - while going downhill could spell a head-over-heels tumble. Then he led the way out of the town.
The previous evening's rain had swept melon-sized boulders down onto the trail, which meant there were sections where we had to dismount and heave the bikes over the jagged rocks. While my legs are accustomed to tackling tough hills, my weedy arms struggled with the carrying and steering.
The downpour also churned up a lot of mud and made the challenging route even more treacherous. Daredevils may have flung themselves down the bumpy descents, but we were careful to take it slow and keep an eye out for hazards.
(Speaking of which: no one had warned me about the spiders. Countless golden orbs had set up their vast webs at the perfect level for catching flies - which also happened to be the same height as my head.)
Thanks to the mist, the view from the highest parts of the trail was so-so, but on a clear day you'd be able to see the Central skyline on the horizon. Not that it's a good idea to take your focus off the path.
Rather than being able to relax into the swoops and slopes of the trail, I had to keep one eye out for signs of impending arachnids, and the other on making sure I didn't veer over the sheer drop.
I wondered if I should fake a fall to create drama to write about, but it turned out I didn't need to. One particularly sharp bend caught me off-guard, and I flew sideways off the bike with a scream. If I hadn't grabbed a tree trunk at the last second, the day would have ended with me being airlifted from the bottom of a cliff.
Halfway through the 11km trail, we stopped to refuel at Chi Ma Wan ferry pier, looking inland at the eerily quiet former prison, before setting off back to Mui Wo pier.
We barely saw another soul during the whole journey, yet the telltale signs of human existence were there - an abandoned stable, an isolated mansion surrounded by "stay away" signs, and saddening stacks of plastic waste washed up on the beaches.
Away from the concrete jungle of the city, the hills were filled with wildlife - from roaming buffalo, to glimmering shoals of fish, fizzing cicadas, thistly caterpillars, and tiny, scurrying crabs.
A slower pace on the ride back made us easy targets for mosquitoes. My wheels spun in decaying fruit, my limbs shook in exhaustion as we pushed on, and relief took over as the pier swung into view once more.
The flat, open roads of the town felt like luxury, and we rewarded ourselves with an iced tea and falafel from one of Mui Wo's excellent and cheap restaurants. So what's next? I'm ready for my next Young Post challenge.
Don't forget to check out the other stories from our Going Wild series!
- John takes a walk on the wild side in Sai Kung
- Young learns survival skills to avoid a Cast Away situation