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Hong Kong Trail Part 3, Hong Kong: Happy Valley to Tai Tam Reservoir

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From the top of Quarry Bay on the way up to Mt Butler

Part 3 for me would be equivalent to section 5 and 6 of the Hong Kong trail, but with a twist. I will start at sea level in Happy Valley, walk up the hill along Stubbs Road and Wong Nai Chung Gap Road, and join up the Hong Kong Trail where I left off the last time, walking up Jardine’s Lookout and to Mount Butler, before coming downhill all the way to Tai Tam Reservoir water system and ending at Tai Tam Road where I will take a bus back to civilization. A little bit like Man vs Wild, but less drastic.

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GPS plots of the path looking from Causeway Bay. Waypoints in capitalized scripts are my own GPS waypoint.

Packed lunch I made myself, and a 1.5L Camel bak and my usual grab bag filled with a tripod, and landscape filters, though I don’t think I will make use of them today. Brought a D3s with 24mm f3.5 PC-E as the primary lens, and a macro and another spare lens just in case. And for audio recording, I needed the Sony PCM-D50 PCM recorder. I also packed in a rolled up waterproof jacket and all sorts of rain covers just in case. The weather today was not that great. Some weather forecasting service predicted rain, and some sunshine, but I think looking out my window all I could see was just heavy fog coming from the ocean.

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Recreation boats stacked up on Wong Nai Chung Reservoir (22.257078, 114.19507)

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Like all reservoirs I’ve seen throughout this trail, they all have lower than usual water level. This is Wong Nai Chung Reservoir.

Sure enough, the walk up from Happy Valley along Blue Pool road is a long slug up the mountain, and looking up I was able to see the mountain and quite likely most of Mount Butler will be up in the clouds. There are no sun today in the dense fog coming in from the sea. Before long I reached Wong Nai Chung reservoir up along Wong Nai Chung Gap. This reservoir is surrounded by apartments, and like most of the reservoirs I have seen so far in Hong Kong, the water level is way below the highest water line. Doesn’t seem as though there’s a drought here. At this reservoir there are boats tourists could rent to paddle around the small lake formed by the dam. I had to rest a little bit as the walk up was quite tiring, sweating in a sub 20C weather.

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Here’s a substation just after passing the reservoir, before hitting Parkview apartments

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Guess I shouldn’t get too close...

A little bit up hill, just when reaching Hong Kong Parkview apartments is the left turn branch off up to Jardine’s lookout. It started off with dense forest and a sign indicating Osborn’s Memorial. A Plaque stands there erected by the Canadian army telling a story which I read, and something about this guy that saved his comrades. Was a good break from the uphill climb. There are plenty of places to look out to the city, but today the peak where I was is just up above the clouds so all I could see was white. Everything was white. Nothing but white. I could see that the clouds are coming from the sea as it flows up along the mountain and crests at the top. The trail goes along the spine up to Jardine’s lookout, the first peak. It is marked with a geological marker and this is where I stopped for lunch as it is already 1pm by now. Started my walk around noon. I marked my GPS so that I can get back here in the future for the HK view when the weather is better.

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In the heavy fog, you can’t really see too much where you’re going. But the GPS (and path) puts me on the right track...

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Who says you need bright sunlight to find something interesting? I pack my 105mm micro for occasion like these...

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The 105mm also doubles as a short tele lens. I like this one so much, a landscape version is one of my random wallpaper now. Fog is good.

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Geographical marker at the top of Jardine’s Lookout.

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Next destination...

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Right after Jardine’s lookout is downhill, all the way to a disused quarry that looks like it’s currently used to blow up other things other than rocks. I see charred carcasses of cars and what looked like an armored personnel carrier. The trail continues along the top of the quarry, still going along the spine of the mountain, and then it starts to climb again. Steps are the worse thing you can have when you’re already tired of climbing. Checking the map, it looked like it was possible to take one of the left turns before Mount Butler and end up in Taikoo Station or Quarry Bay. But I have a mission today, and soon I ‘m up on the top of Mount Butler. Was hoping to get a nice rest here but a group of Filipinos with blaring small radio and loud talking came a few minutes later and took the mayorship of Mount Butler (thinking of foursquare here). Figuring I was not going to get any peace here at the top of the mountain, I started going down.

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I guess is the Quarry that made Quarry Bay what what it is. It looks deceiving, but this is high up in the mountains!

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Downhill from Mount Butler, towards Tai Tam Reservoir

The way down was short in terms of distance, but is rather steep. Guessing it is not more than 300m in distance, but from the faces of the trekkers I’ve seen going up this flight of stairs, it was not an easy distance to cover! I did not tell them there’s no view by the time they get to the top thanks to the fog. At the bottom is a picnic area, and Mount Parker Road passes right though it and as you might have guessed, for the first time today I see normal families with their dogs and young kids staring at all these sweaty people coming down the mountain. There’s a map here and I check it to make sure I’m on the right path.

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Mount Parker Road, towards Tai Tam Reservoir

Then its time to turn right down to Quarry Gap road. This is what it says it is. Now I start to walk on a proper road under the cover of trees. Wasn’t hot at all, and by now I am below the fog lines but looked heavily cloudy from here. The road is single lane here, and there are no cars as at the top I could see a barrier preventing them using it. The road goes downhill with many series of switchbacks and around zero photo opportunity. On a clear day there might be an opportunity or two, but here fresh air is all that you will get. And no noisy tourists. The road leads right down to Tai Tam Reservoir. Along the way you’d come across a junction and you should go towards the Tai Tam Reservoir (right turn) and not the left which is a quicker way to the major Tai Tam road.

Before long, I’m at the upper Tai Tam Reservoir. The maps here get a little confusing as they are no longer about the Hong Kong trail but specializing in the Tai Tam waterworks heritage trail. I was confused for a while and figured out that the logical thing to do is to go downhill from here. And the trick worked. But the trail does go through the whole complex that is the Tai Tam Reservoir, I remember a spillway, and there’s a Lower Reservoir as well. After a while I see another map and this time the Hong Kong Trail starts to appear on it again. The choices now is to either continue down the road, or branch off uphill on a dirt path around Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir towards my end point which is the main road for my “extraction”.

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Tai Tam Reservoir dam

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Again, low water levels

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Interesting architecture here at the Tai Tam Dam

Naturally I go on the path. This one cuts through a forest where you can hear sounds of waterfalls for most part of the trip. Look out for trail runners, there seem to be everywhere on this stretch. As its a wet foggy day, the path is wet and slightly muddy in some parts, but still nothing to worry about as it doesn’t get too crazy. Somewhere along the path, I come across a nice stream and took the time to relax here and get some recording of running water with the audio recorder. Luckily there are no passerby to pollute the recording and I was able to get about 10minutes of solid recording. I checked my watch and it is half past 5pm already by now and the skies are starting to get dark. I shouldn’t be far from the road now. After another 10 minutes of trail walking I come across Tai Tam Road.

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Last stream in the last few minutes of light for the day...

I marked the end point of my third part completed just in the nick of time before it got dark today, so that I can restart here again for the final part. Down the road I could see a big dam forming the Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir and just before it, a bus stop. The bus for me today is Bus 14 that will take me to Shau Kei Wan to switch to the tram back home. Tired but happy to have completed Part 3 today. I’d say that with the climb today, it was quite a hectic hike, but I feel good. Signing off..

Moving Time: 3hrs 3mins Stopping Time: 2hrs 30mins Odometer: 11.12km Moving Average Speed: 3.6km Total Ascent: 609m Max Elevation: 435m

Continue to Part 4...