Thursday, 13 November 2014

journey to the west: part 5

When I originally worked out the ‘journey to the west’, it involved returning along the same route as that taken on the outward journey. However, in Part 3, I described two alternative return sections, and in Part 4, I provided details of yet another alternative, the notorious ‘snake path’. This post provides details of the only other locations where such an alternative route home is possible.

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For many months, I believed that the tunnel under the railway described in Across the Tracks and The Hill was the only point where it was possible to cross the main line north of Sheung Shui station, which is the last stop before the border with the rest of China. However, one day I arrived at the tunnel only to find that access had been blocked by the railway company, which was engaged in repairs to the track’s overhead power lines. I had no option but to seek an alternative, believing at first that no such alternative existed.

Nevertheless, it turns out that there is a second crossing point, following a dedicated cycle track that runs alongside a major road, Po Shek Wu Road. This cycle track is reached by turning right just before Beas River flows into the Shum Chun River and following the latter upstream until it is possible to cross the river at a footbridge. The road reached by this route has a cycle track running along the far side that leads into the local network.

This network is the principal means of access to the roads around the Shum Chun River catchment for recreational cyclists from the city, who take the train to Sheung Shui. However, my destination is not Sheung Shui station, so it is necessary to abandon the cycle track network at some point. This involves yet another twisting path, one that has some extremely tricky sections.

I’m being deliberately vague about the location of this path, because quite a lot of people live here, and a large cycling group following it would be a serious nuisance to them, and to the other locals who use it, especially if some members lacked the close control that is essential on such paths. I probably wouldn’t use it myself, except that, living only a mile or so upriver, I regard myself as a local. I took the following photographs, which have been arranged in sequence, yesterday after walking from my house.

The start of the path.

A closer look at the bend seen in the previous photo, which is extremely tricky to negotiate.

Having successfully negotiated the bend seen in the previous photo, the task now is to maintain a straight line and thus avoid the sharp drop on each side of the path.

Further along, this brown dog can usually be seen asleep on the path. It used to move when I first came this way, but it appears to recognize me now and thus pays no attention.

This is one of the few places where it’s possible to overtake a slow cyclist.

It isn’t obvious from this photo, but this is the apex of a 180-degree bend, with the ubiquitous drop-off on each side of the path. From this and the next photo, it is obvious that the path has been widened here, presumably because people found the bend impossible to negotiate safely.

No sooner has the path straightened out from the previous bend than it sweeps away in the opposite direction.

Nearing the end of the path.

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The ‘posh street’ mentioned in Part 2 backs onto the same tributary that we follow later in the journey to reach the Kam Tin River, but there is a Drainage Services Department (DSD) access road on the other side that carries almost no traffic. We’ve been following this access road on the return journey for several months now, crossing the river at a footbridge opposite the bottom entrance to Tam Mei Camp, the second of the PLA bases described in Part 2, to rejoin the original route.

However, the access road continues up the valley and thence out of sight, and according to Google Maps it should be possible to add an additional 3km loop to the route. I’ve just checked this out in the last couple of weeks, armed with a printout of the following map:

The line of red dots marks the route I planned to follow, if possible, in an anticlockwise direction, although previous experience suggested that some at least of the roads might turn out to be mere footpaths and thus difficult or even impossible to ride along. I was delighted to discover that apart from a short section following the initial turn off Chun Shin Road (the access road), which is an untypically flat-surfaced dirt road (see the first photo below), the rest of the loop is along quiet lanes with very little traffic, making this a worthwhile addition to the overall route.

If you look closely at the first photo, you might just be able to make out two large tower cranes camouflaged against the forested hillside. Hong Kong’s connection to China’s high-speed rail network will eventually pass through this mountain. The remaining photos give a flavour of the riding conditions along the loop, which turned out to be something of a switchback ride.


  1. It looks like it could be dangerous if you don't have your wits about you. Still, I would love to explore those paths.

    1. It is dangerous Pat, but that only adds to the fun. You do need to know what you’re doing though, and I wouldn’t recommend this route for beginners.


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