Monday, 10 March 2014

the long and winding road

In Journey to the West: Part 3, I posted the photograph on the right with the promise that I would write about my exploration of the right-hand option ‘in due course’. The map below shows an extensive network of ‘roads’ to the west of the Sheung Yue River, which clearly merited a closer look, something I’ve been doing over the past couple of months. However, as I discovered, and in keeping with Google’s usual practice, almost all these ‘roads’ aren’t roads at all.

In fact, there are only two metalled roads on the map apart from that followed on the ‘journey to the west’ and the 100 metres or so southeast from A. They are the ones that cross the river (the river ‘crossing’ at X doesn’t exist!), and the rest are either dirt tracks or concrete footpaths less than a metre wide—the inevitable consequence of producing a map merely by inspecting satellite photos.

My first foray down the right-hand road didn’t get me very far. In fact, this road became a rough dirt track within 100 metres, and it came to a dead end after another 100 metres or so. Or so I thought, at first. However, I failed to notice a not very obvious path to the left of the shack on the left-hand side of the track in the following photograph (marked B on the map):

The first section of this path (B–B) was easy to follow but not nearly so easy to ride; the following sequence of photos gives a flavour of this part of the route:

The reason for the yellow railing is obvious, although there are plenty of places later on the route where there is an obvious drop off the side of the path and no protective rail.

Small streams such as the one crossed by this bridge become impassable torrents during heavy rain, so a reliable bridge is a necessity.

Approaching the river.

Once the first road has been reached, the route turns right to a small village at D on the map. The first 400 metres of D–D is a dirt track, and the next photo was taken on this section. E, the start of another dirt track, coincides with the prominent tree in this picture.

The dirt road comes to an end, to be replaced by a winding path through an extensively cultivated area. There are no serious difficulties, but a lapse of concentration could have unpleasant consequences. The next seven photos were taken along this section.

The right-hand branch is a dead end, although this doesn’t become evident until you’re almost at the junction.

As tin shacks go, this is a big one.

The bread trays on the right of the path are used as makeshift bridges by those working here to cross the irrigation ditch that runs alongside the path.

Although there is a significant drop off the inside of this bend, it’s the drop off the outside of a bend that you really need to worry about.

The slope here means that you need to be in the right gear to avoid wobbling over the edge of the path.

Nearing the end of the D–D section.

Having reached the second road at the end of the D–D section, the route then follows the road to E, where another twisting path heads towards a small temple almost literally in the middle of nowhere (there is a small village, but the only access for motor vehicles is an extremely rough and bumpy dirt track that this route follows from the hairpin bend 200 metres east of the temple).

The start of the E–E section.

The path starts by winding through a large grove of palms, and the next two photos give a good indication of the trickiness of riding along this kind of path: too slow and you risk wobbling off the path; too fast and you risk failing to make the bends. This short section is probably the most nerve-racking on the entire route.

Approaching the palm grove from the opposite direction.

The final three photos show sections of the path beyond the palm grove. The drop off the edge is big enough in some places to result in serious injury if you’re not paying proper attention.

The route that I’ve described here was the original ‘long and winding road’, but as usual I set about trying to improve it. The first thing to note is that all country paths present different challenges, depending on the direction of travel, so I set about finding a third route between the two metalled roads so that it would be straightforward to follow each path in both directions. I came up with C–C, which crosses the river at a footbridge, the location of which I’ve marked on the map, rather than at the nonexistent crossing point X. It thus became possible to follow the original route, then C–C, then a return via D–D, followed by outwards along E–E and finally a return via C–C.

This makes for quite a long and winding route that is more a test of bike-handling skills than of stamina, although our usual practice is to combine this route with the ‘frontier road’, which offers the option of taking in Liu Pok Hill, probably the longest category 1 climb in the area. In fact, we’ve taken to adding this to the ‘journey to the west’ in a kind of ‘grand tour’, which gives a route of around 100km, with Liu Pok Hill near the end. Not easy.

see also
Room for Improvement


  1. I always love to see the lush greenery in your photos Dennis but I wouldn't take my chances on those winding 1 meter roads, one mistake and you're down the local hospital. I just love that big old tree with a big chunk missing out of it. It must be a good fair old age too. You're always having such great adventures exploring all the side roads. Do you normal have a time limit when you explore or do you just bike for as long as you can?

    1. I love that old tree too Rum. I often see old ladies sitting under its shade. I don’t usually set any kind of time limit. I just go out to do a route, no matter how long it takes, although I do watch the time if I plan to go for afternoon tea at our local restaurant. And racing against the clock is not a good idea on these twisting paths: there’s a good chance of making a catastrophic error of judgement, although the paths are not as difficult as you seem to think. Total concentration is a must though.

  2. Wow, looks awesome. Terrifying but awesome.

  3. I see what you mean about the dropoff. Come off along there and there's a few place where it's really going to hurt.

    1. It does add to the excitement though Big D. The golden rule: don’t touch the brakes!

  4. Pretty! This was an extremely wonderful post. Thank you for providing this information.


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