An island of peace away from the busy city

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 January, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 January, 1996, 12:00am

THE end of the day's walk was the most memorable part, not the serene blue water of Tai Tam reservoir, cosy in its surrounding blanket of thick green undergrowth, and flanked by a sentry of precipitous hills.

Impressive indeed, but after crossing Hong Kong Island from Stanley, it was the little old ladies of Quarry Bay, under the shadow of high-rises, a stone's throw from the dirt and dust of King's Road, and within ear-shot of its traffic, who captured my heart.

Village life for them had long since ceased to exist, but they had tried to re-create it in a pocket of relative calm here on Mount Parker Road.

They could no longer sit outside their homes and gossip as they had in the old days, so they had dragged their unsteady wooden chairs a short distance up the steep hill, where it was quiet, and chained them to the railings.

One chair had been knotted there with a piece of string, as if this would be enough to deter any young rascal who planned to disrupt their tete a tetes by making off with it.

Within a few metres of some of Quarry Bay's last remaining low-rise blocks, which are covered in grime, bedecked with washing and topped with illegal structures on space rented out to the poorest members of our society, they lived in their own little world.

They would force their stiff legs up this hill in the early morning, do a few minutes' tai chi, gather for a rest and chat by the railings, and then make their way back down Mount Parker Road, past the stalls bursting with figures of the Buddha and various gods of Chinese legend, to the dim sum restaurants.

I had passed Mount Parker Road many times, walking along busy King's Road, without realising that it trickled away behind, passing a tranquil park before wending its way high into the mountains.

These two sections of the Wilson Trail - the very start - from Stanley to Quarry Bay, had been a tough walk of around six hours, but had been very rewarding.

You can take a bus from Central that stops within metres of the start, which could hardly be more strenuous.

The steep stone steps which have been built with funds donated by the Jockey Club, Stanley Ho Foundation and other charity organisations, seem endless, but when I eventually reached the top, an old soldier of about 70 was pointing out the view to his grandson. Later I would meet a young teacher who was doing this section of the walk with his baby strapped to his back.

The next part was much tougher, even though it was downhill, as there were few steps, and the steep slope was strewn with loose stones. I chuckled as a walker ahead landed roughly on his bottom, but I would be punished for this, for I was not be spared this ignominy either. There would be virtually no flat stretches on these 10.7 kilometres across Hong Kong Island.

Up steeply to The Twins, down towards Tai Tam Reservoir, up to Violet Hill, down to Wong Nei Chung Gap, and then up, up, up all the way to Jardine's Lookout, before turning off before the summit of Mount Butler, and down, down, down to Quarry Bay.

There is still a surprising amount of beautiful countryside on Hong Kong Island, and the splendid views over Lamma and Po Toi, of Central and Wan Chai from a totally different viewpoint from that of the souvenir shop postcards, complement this walk.

Then there is the wonderful view across to the airport, Kowloon, and the shock of the jungle of carbon-copy tower blocks at Taikoo Shing.

Even the luxury blocks of Parkview at Wong Nei Chung Gap, a blot on the landscape at first sight, later offered a memorable, dramatic image.

As the late afternoon sun started to sink, erasing the contours of the hill-sides, and leaving the terrain in silhouette, Parkview took on the appearance of a huge medieval fortress. One could imagine the drawbridge being raised as darkness fell.



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