No long run on the weekend and a public holiday on Tuesday? ... Sounds like the perfect opportunity for a long run to me! As my mates wanted to meet late afternoon and hike the final 8.5km section of the Hong Kong Trail down to the beach (for burgers and beers, no less), I thought it'd be able to kill two bushes with a bird in the hand (or something like that) by running a few previous sections of the HK Trail before meeting those guys and hiking with them.
So starting out at Wan Chai Gap (which I think I've been incorrectly calling "Middle Gap"), I cruised down the hill to the start of Hong Kong Trail Section 4 and set sail east.
The trail started as this relatively flat, leaf-covered, wonderful trail
Occasionally becoming semi-paved and rolling past waterfalls
I was already a little behind schedule at this stage, thanks to the bus trip taking longer than expected, so took advantage of the flat trail to increase my average speed above the normal 6-7km/hr I make on trails.
Cool old stonework
More little streams and water-courses
The first notable uphill section, up this road towards... good views!
Back to flat cruising
Good vistas towards Ocean Park, Hong Kong's non-chain theme park
I asked some random hiker to take a photo for me, seems much easier than repeated tries with the self-timer!!
The above is a good shot of the front of the Ultimate Direction Wasp (and also, unfortunately, my paunch), my current hydration running pack/vest. It rides very high on your back and the vest portion on the front minimises bouncing and side-to-side sway. It has four big pockets in the front in which I carry; top right: camera, bottom right: sunnies, bottom left: Phone (GPS), top left: gels. I've ran almost 450km with the pack, so suppose I should write up a proper review, but that'll have to wait. Here's my one sentence review: fits my larger frame much better than the Nathan vest, carries everything I could need it to, bladder is a little small, overall awesome.
Hitting the first of the stair sections before the climb up to Jardine's Lookout
Lots of sandy stairs
More sandy stairs coming before finally making it to Mount Butler (in the background)
What goes up, must come down
Despite my effort, this photo doesn't really do justice to the steepness and narrowness of the stairs coming off Mt Butler
And after a long cruise down a road, I make it to the reservoir at the bottom
R e s e r v o i r
Happy to be back on trails after the downhill road section... That sun's getting a little low in the sky, better hurry up!
More cool stream crossings
HK teenagers collecting tadpoles (I guess) in a catchwater
Rusty pipes and an oily outlet
I thought I'd be relieved when I hit the very flat catchment section of the run, but I found the 7.5km section to be a real grind despite the occasional beautiful vista
Tai Tam Bay
I swear this one looks like one I photographed earlier, but on closer inspection, I didn't just add the same photo twice, they're actually two different little streams ~20km apart!
Quite a narrow section over a watercourse
Tai Tam Bay. I had two photos of this, this one: dark and brooding with beautiful detail in the sky, and a second one more brightly exposed, but with all the sky detail lost. I thought the clouds were worth it
I wasn't too happy when, after the long flat catchwater grind, the trail dipped down towards the water, only to instantly climb a gruelling set of stairs back up to the road
Shek O. My friends had started hiking 45mins earlier than I expected them to, so got a bit of a headstart up the hill. This extended my run by 1.5km, but meant that I could honestly include photos like this as "part of the run"!
Up along the Dragon's Back, working on catching up to my friends. I didn't count on running this rather hard section, but was feeling better than expected by this stage, so didn't care too much
Bamboo rustling in the strong winds along the ridgeline
Another view down to Shek O, just before I caught my friends
The hike continued for another 6km north along the ridgeline, before descending into Big Wave Bay. The steep climbs for Jardine's Lookout (the first significant high point) and up onto the Dragon's Back (right at the end - you can see that damn dip too!) are quite obvious on the elevation profile.
I wouldn't say that this route is fantastic. Sure, it's very good, but the long, flat, concrete, boring section towards the end really wore me down. Completing sections 4 to 7 in just under 3 hours felt like a great achievement, and I'd be really interested to see how I'd go at the full 50km trail, but I can't see it being a summer challenge.
Finally reaching Big Wave Bay, I had a very cold beach shower, a welcome beer and an okay burger. My legs were fine for hike, but stiffened up pretty quick after sitting down for a while. For the next couple of days however, sore shoulders, from a heavv-ish bag (change of clothes, shower gear), were much worse than tired legs!!
Overall a great day out. Awesome run, great social hike and a beer and burger at the finish line. Top shelf.
See you out on the trails!