Hiking the MacLehose Trail No. 2
Hiking in Hong Kong is an absolute must!
On the very first day of our very short trip to Hong Kong, we went to the High Island Reservoir East Dam – an adventure to get there.
After trying, and failing to efficiently communicate with the taxi driver at the nearby taxi stop (I’d never have expected their English is so poor..) we resigned to taking the help of the hotel concierge for the explaining, and headed to the start of MacLehose Trail 1, some 40 km away from the city.
First Stop: The High Island Reservoir East Dam
Hiking the MacLehose Trail No. 2 : Getting There
Skyscrapers slowly got replaced by hilly residential neighborhoods, then by narrow and dangerously winding one-way roads – and then, we were met with a flurry of activity: our driver had to stop at corners every minute or so, to safely navigate between the 400 something PLA soldiers who were sent there to clean-up the park, after Typhoon Mangkhut.
They were all out that Sunday, clearing up the roads and trails from literally tens of thousands of trees reported fallen along the MacLehose Trail; their aim – to make the trail usable ahead of the 100km race it was soon to be hosting.
Community service done right! (it may have just been China’s way of showing off influence – but if you ask me, the outcome is still laudable)
Taxi will undoubtedly be your best, no-fuss option to reach the destination. Take the red one to get there, and either the red/green one to go back to the city.
Here’s a useful side note : taxis in Hong Kong are cheap, metered, plentiful and clean. They are also really old, and may seem borderline unsafe. To pay, you’ll also need cash, 99% of the time. They count the first 2 KM in the starting fee, then count 1.7HK$ for every 200 meters, and.. well it’s complicated. But they’re cheap and they’re metered, so you need not worry. One last thing : make sure you wear your seat-belt – or the driver has the right to fine your ass and then kick you out.
By Public Transport
The other option is to take bus no. 94 departing from Sai Kung town centre (or bus no. 96R departing from Diamond Hill MTR Station on weekends only) and get off after Pak Tam Chung.
You’ll have to walk along Tai Mong Tsai Road to the junction ahead, then turn right on Sai Kung Man Yee Road and walk about 9 km.
More like not worth it, if you ask me.
The newest alternative to Hiking the MacLehose Trail No. 2, though still on a trial basis for now, is to take the Green Minibus 9A, which has a limited run from 3 p.m. – 6 p.m on Sundays only. That will only get you as far as the Reservoir, and you will have to be a very experienced hiker to continue to MacLehose 2, so I’d recommend you stick to visiting the Hexagonal columns, if you choose this option.
After what seemed like forever – but more like an hour and ten minutes – we finally got there:
Starting Point: the Hexagonal Columns
It may not look like much of a wall from this one UpsideDown picture, but the Hexagonal Columns at the Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark stand as tall as 30 meters, and dominate the landscape!
It’s where the easier MacLehose 1 meets the more stubborn MacLehose 2, also known as the hike with Best Views in Hong Kong.
The first part of Hiking the MacLehose Trail No. 2, which is technically still MacLehose 1, was indeed easier.
It involved a lot of flat terrain on paved walkways, or mostly pleasant descents, on easy stairways.
The views on both sides are spectacular, as are the different shades of blue and green that the ocean reflects its daily moods in, depending on the size of the clouds or the strength of the sun.
Winding roads went left and right, then down up until that gorgeous beach at the Long Ke Wan Campsite, where a bunch of other hikers (probably with more time on their hands, than us) had camped out straight on the sand – enjoying the views, the water and the perfect weather.
As I made a quick stop to grab a handful of sand (a now solid tradition in my travels, and part of my growing collection of sand bottles), hubby emptied his shoes of the same sand five times the size of my sample, and we crossed the beautiful strip of beach in search of the real challenge.
It turns out, we were just starting: after a bit of a walk ‘in the dark’ to find the way joining MacLehose 1 to MacLehose 2, which was only signaled with some poorly made up paper signs stuck on the pine trees on that beach (gah!), we figured out where to go,and the ascent began.
Hiking the MacLehose Trail No. 2 – Considerations
Not all that challenging, I thought – although you’d think differently with zero exercise and recovering from back problems, like hubby here
We went up the steepest bit just off the beach.
Consideration No. 1: Hiking the MacLehose Trail No. 2 means you’ll be met with rather steep 2 km ascent (0 to 300 meters in level) to Sai Wan Shan, where there’s a small pavilion for you to rest, have a snack and enjoy some shade and shelter from the sun.
We were rather lucky to have some clouds scattered across the sky that day, but when the sun occasionally did show up, you could feel it!
Consideration No. 2: Mind the sun, don’t ignore the sun!
Carry sun blocker even if you think it’s going to be cloudy, wear a hat, and bring plenty of water – because there’s no place to replenish your drinks once on the hike.
From this point, it’s another 3 km (or 4 km, depending on the route you take) to the Sai Wan Pavilion, where we took a taxi back into the city.
If dragons were real, there would definitely be a dragon underneath this gorgeous hilly area!
If you have the time and energy to keep going, then you’ll want to head right at the crossroads where you have the Sai Wan Pavilion indicated.
The MacLehose trail 2 continues for 6 more Km to a string of more fabulous beaches: the Ham Tin Beach , the Tai Wan beach, and the Tung Wan beach. You can see all three of them below, like a precious string of pearls they are.
Consideration no.3: If you want to go all the way, you will have to count the time (and effort) to then trace back your steps the 6km to the Sai Wan Pavilion.
Here are some things I’d do differently, now that I know better:
Consideration No. 4: Start early.
And by early, I mean somewhere around 7 to 7.30 to leave the city center.
Take into account that it will take a taxi anywhere between 40 minutes to over 1 hour to reach the Reservoir, so it’s not worth losing precious hiking time on that great, fresh morning weather.
We started off at around 11AM, which put us right under the mercy of the sun for most of the hike. If we hadn’t been lucky to have some clouds, things would have gotten a bit uglier than some bad tan lines.. Heatstroke is a real concern, and the consequences can be dire.
Consideration No.5: Water. You’d think 2 liters are enough: well, they aren’t.
And water will be your best friend on this hike. You won’t even need to pee for the 4 hours you hike – true story.
Now, my little article here is not meant to be an all-knowing guide on Hiking the MacLehose Trail No. 2 – but I do hope you’ll find my first-hand tips useful.
Have you hiked in Hong Kong? Tell us what your experience was! Drop a note below 😉
Until next time – Travel.Differently.