No sooner had I established the ‘journey to the west’ back in March than it was destined to become our regular Saturday morning bike ride. I also did it by myself midweek while Paula was at work. However, I was always on the lookout for improvements to the route, because in its original form the second half of the trip was merely backtracking the first half. But first, a couple of photos.
This is the ramp where I encountered the elderly Chinese gentleman who called me his friend in Part 1. It isn’t as steep as ‘the hill’, but you do need to be in the right gear, and there is an abrupt and awkward left turn at the top.
And this is Paula nearing the top of Saddle Pass on the return leg. This is the longest and toughest hill on the entire route, and the steepest section is near the top. Note the gouts of concrete along the left-hand side of the road, which are dribblings from the occasional concrete trucks that pass this way. They make for some awkward moments on a bike if there is something coming the other way.
I didn’t give this pass a name in my original account, because I didn’t know it had one. However, I found the name ‘Saddle Pass’ in an old Hong Kong A–Z that I have back in the UK. Not much use there, you might conclude, but it is 30+ years out of date, after all. Anyway, Paula is always complaining that I go too fast for her, especially on the hills—this is how I have time to take photographs like this one—but she also knows that I’m not about to show any mercy to a former Olympic athlete, so she has to keep up.
At the bottom of the first hill after crossing Saddle Pass, there is a road junction, shown in the following photo:
The outward part of the journey comes down the hill on the left, so it made sense to see whether it was possible to find an alternative way back, at least as far as the expressway. After 200 metres or so, there is another choice to make:
I’ve only recently explored the right-hand option, which will be the subject of another post in due course, but the left-hand route does go in the right direction:
Unfortunately, this road does finally come to an end:
However, there is a footpath. The yellow tubular-steel railings may be an eyesore, but you can be sure that were they not there, it would not be long before some incompetent cyclist had gone over the edge. The drop is 7–8 metres in most places:
The path continues for some distance before reaching a footbridge:
Male cyclists are advised to stand on the pedals as they hit the end of the footbridge. Those male cyclists who have ignored this admonition can testify to the soundness of this advice. The route turns sharp left at the top of the short ramp before returning to the river for a short section:
The other modification to the route involves a replacement for the ‘link path’ described in Part 1. It isn’t half as exciting as the original link path, which we still follow on the outward journey, but it does offer the clear benefit of avoiding a category 2 hill on the return. That’s right! I’ve started grading the hills for difficulty, and the climb over Saddle Pass from the west is the toughest of only three category 1 hills in the area.
I had been wondering why, on a Saturday morning, Paula and I never encountered any cyclists on the original link path, but it seems that this easier option is the reason. The following sequence of photos shows how straightforward this section is:
The final photograph looks back as the path emerges onto the banks of a constructed drainage channel. The horizontal line leading left from the base of the lamp-post in the fourth photo is a telltale sign that the background was once a paddy field. Paula found this alternative link during the summer, and the odd thing is that the turns from the main (metalled) road that lead to the two link paths are no more than 10–12 metres apart:
How did I miss the second one on my original explorations of the route?