Monday, 29 November 2021

cycling action

Towards the end of our sojourn in Hong Kong last winter, as part of my exploration of the area south of Yuen Long, we discovered an ‘interesting’ path that at the time I didn’t think was a viable cycling option. We’d just finished shooting a video of what I’d named simply ‘Yuen Long (south) path #1’, and when we reached a road where the route I’d already established turned left, I decided, on the spur of the moment, to turn right, merely to see whether the road led anywhere:
And it did! After about 200 metres, the road came to an end, but there was a path that continued in the same direction. Straightforward at first, but then it plunged steeply down towards a cultivated area. And while the initial path had been concrete, we now had to contend with a rough dirt path. That wasn’t a problem at first, but once it started to climb, we had to get off and push.

That might have been it, but during the summer, I figured out that if we tackled the path in the opposite direction, it ought to be possible to ride through. And so it has proved, although I did have some initial problems finding the start of the path in this direction, even though I did remember where, having reached a dirt road, it reconnected with the original route:
The original route turns left here, but the obvious turn to the right is the way to go now.

Having reached the path, after going the wrong way at one point, I have to admit that I did have to put my foot down the first time, because there was a point where a series of oblong blocks had been placed on the path, presumably because the path gets extremely wet during the rainy season, to allow people to keep their feet dry. However, once I knew that this hazard was coming up, I could miss the blocks entirely. And after riding the path three times, I decided that it was time to shoot a video.

Unfortunately, for reasons that I’m unable to explain, instead of a video, we got a series of photos taken at roughly one-second intervals. And because it was a bright, sunny day, the photos of the initial part of the path, which is shaded by many trees, are much too dark to show anything. The main hazard on the first part of the path is the encroaching vegetation on both sides, which makes it difficult to see the edge of the path. And there’s a significant drop on the left, so if you go off the path inadvertently, then you aren’t going to be able to stay on your bike!

Anyway, the following photos, of the second part of the path, provide a good indication of why I consider it a good test of my bike-handling skills:
You can see the exit ramp in the next photo:
Approaching the climax of this extremely tricky path:
And this sequence shows the exit ramp:
It’s as steep as it looks! I don’t think it would even be possible if it continued to be a dirt path instead of concrete. You would get too much wheel spin.

Of course, I still want to shoot a video here. Watch this space.

Sunday, 21 November 2021

red legs

I don’t consider myself to be a birdwatcher, but I do like to know the identity of birds that I see around my home and when I’m out cycling. Mind you, Paula and I have our own names for many of the birds we see or hear regularly, based on either their calls or their appearance. For example, the large hawk cuckoo is the ‘telephone ringer’—it doesn’t actually sound like a telephone ringing, but the cadence is the same. Black-collared starlings are ‘noisy buggers’—Paula’s coinage, although if you hear a pair ‘arguing’ you will understand. And red-whiskered bulbuls are ‘pointy heads’, an allusion to their prominent crests.

This is also the case with ‘red legs’, more formally known as black-winged stilts. You may guess from the formal name that they have extremely long legs, and from our name that these legs are bright red, although you can’t tell this from any of the photos below. I’ve seen the odd individual bird in my local river (Ng Tung River), and also on the upper reaches of the Sheung Yue River, which is part of the same catchment. However, to see these birds in large numbers, the Kam Tin River, in the western New Territories, is the place. Yesterday, I took the following photo at the point where we first reach the river:
I’ve seen cormorants, spoonbills and avocets here, which are all seasonal visitors, in addition to the local herons and egrets, although avian activity is limited when the tide is high. You can just make out a group of red legs to the left of the solitary mangrove tree. The high-rise buildings in the distance are in Shenzhen.

From this point, our route continues upstream to Hung Mo Bridge, which we cross. We then follow a Drainage Services access road along the west bank of the river to a point where the river divides into two. A short distance upstream from the confluence, there is a dam across the more westerly tributary, and there was a large group of red legs spread out across it:
This is a closer view:
We’ve often seen red legs here, but I don’t think we’ve seen quite this many at one time.

There were so many that there was a spillover group a few metres behind the dam, which we’d never seen before:
You can see the MTR’s West Rail Line in the background, and also what I believe is a water treatment plant.

And this is a closer view of the second group of red legs:
…while this photo provides a general view of the two groups:
A few individuals were foraging for food in the water behind the dam:
The last photo that I took here is a view looking downstream, also showing the two groups of red legs:
The mouth of the eastern tributary can be seen between the right-hand and central reflections of the support pillars of the rail line.

Finally, on the previous Saturday, the water level was high when we arrived at the river, and there seemed to be no activity to record. Suddenly, however, there were a couple of loud croaks, I think from egrets further up the unnamed tributary that joins the main river here, and this spooked a large group of red legs that had been assembled at a point on the opposite bank. They flew off in tight formation—an incredibly impressive sight that prompted a frantic scrabble to get our phones out. Unfortunately, I was too late, and Paula just managed to record the last 10 seconds as they returned to where they’d started, by which time the formation had become somewhat ragged:
I cycle this way at least once a week at this time of year, and now is the time for seasonal visitors, so look out for more reports on bird life on the Kam Tin River.

Friday, 19 November 2021

scrawl on the wall

Sha Tau Kok Road is the only road that runs east out of Fanling. It is a major highway, a dual carriageway starting next to Fanling station and leading, eventually, to Sha Tau Kok in the far northeast of the New Territories. In the urban area, it separates Fanling’s industrial zone to the south from the habitable part of town.

Because of the development that I’ve been recording recently, we’ve found it necessary to follow the cycle track network through town instead of simply following the Drainage Services access road that runs alongside our local river whenever we want to cycle out west, which is most of the time. And I couldn’t help but notice the graffiti on the walls of the industrial buildings as I passed.

This is a general view from the residential side of the road:
The next two photos are also general views, each of which shows several ‘tags’, which, as far as I understand the culture, is the name given to these works:
Each tag will have been drawn by a different person, and if they’ve been active on walls elsewhere, the same design will have been repeated. In other words, they function as a kind of signature (the nearest tag in the second photo appears to read ‘CRIS’).

Most of the graffiti here are too plain and unimaginative—or merely crude—to be worth further attention, but the next two photos are closer views of the two most distant tags in the first photo:
…while this is a close-up of the most distant tag in the second photo:
Not all the graffiti here are tags. This is my favourite among all the works here:
I assume that this is a dog, but I can’t read what it appears to be barking.

Next to the dog is this graffito, which is crude but amusing:
A short distance further east, the cycle track bends around the back of a Shell filling station, where I spotted this image:
I assume that the number refers to the Great Beast in that well-known work of fiction, the Revelation of St John the Divine, although this creature does not seem capable of bringing about the end of the world!

Much to my surprise, there is also one wall painting here, almost directly opposite the previous image:
I have a strange feeling that I recognize the person portrayed here, although from where I have no idea. And I can’t read the writing, although the last word is obviously ‘die’.The Chinese character right of the person is ‘Buddha’, while the character on the shoulder is ‘Guan’, which may be the person’s name.

In Hong Kong, graffiti are widely considered a form of vandalism, so I’ve only ever recorded one location in the territory with polychrome tags, since painted over, and what I’ve recorded here is of limited interest. However, I’m a huge fan of graffiti, and if you want to see graffiti that I have no hesitation in labelling as ‘art’, check out The Writing on the Fence, which I photographed in Manchester in 2018, or click the ‘graffiti’ label in the right-hand sidebar.

Monday, 8 November 2021

more abandoned houses

I’ve been taking a closer look at a couple of recently abandoned houses in the area now being developed in our neighbourhood. Their locations are shown in the following map, which I photographed hanging on a fence. Among other things, it indicates that a large area of paths will be closed on 15th November, which is next Monday. After that date, I won’t be able to gain access to any more abandoned houses in the area, although all that remains of most other houses is a pile of rubble anyway.
This is the first house, which I’ve probably walked past hundreds of times in the past 13 years:
The approximate location is indicated by the yellow circle on the map.

Notice the writing on the wall. It’s a poetic lament that was almost certainly written by the last occupants. They are lamenting the loss of what they clearly thought of as their home. I will never know for certain, but there’s a good chance that they lived here longer than I’ve lived in the neighbourhood. This is a closer look at the lament, which was written at the time of the last Mid-Autumn Festival, usually a time for celebration:
And this is what I saw when I stepped through the door and looked right:
I’ll wager that the fridge-freezer is still serviceable, and that the occupants weren’t given time to take anything with them that they couldn’t carry when they were told to leave.

And this was their kitchen:
…while this was the main living room:
There were two bedrooms downstairs:
As in other houses that I’ve visited recently, the stairs are extremely steep:
At least there’s a secure if apparently makeshift handrail, or I probably wouldn’t have attempted to venture upstairs, where there was just one bedroom:
This is a vertigo-inducing view of the stairs from above:
I estimate the angle at around 65 degrees!

The location of the other house that I’ve looked at recently is indicated by the blue circle on the map. I particularly wanted to check this house because when it was still occupied, it was policed by an extremely aggressive dog that always snarled at me whenever I walked past. Fortunately, for the dog, there was a wire fence between us. Here are two views from the outside:
I included the first picture because it shows that among the items abandoned here are two wheelchairs!

In fact, there wasn’t much to see in this single-storey house, but I was staggered to note that the main room has a marble floor!
This was, apparently, the only bedroom, complete with mosquito net over the bed:
I’m not sure of the purpose of this room, which may have been just a storage space for clothes:
Every other house in the area has already been demolished, so I don’t expect to write anything more on the subject for the time being, although that is likely to change as the ‘development’ continues.