Monday, 28 December 2015


Blog posts are supposed to be self-contained, but occasionally something happens to negate what I’ve written, or there is a development that I hadn’t foreseen when I first covered a particular subject. I have recently updated the following four posts to take account of such developments. Skullduggery, in particular, remains a ‘live’ story, and I expect further developments. Hyperlinks to these posts are provided in case you haven’t read them previously.

The Hong Kong Observatory declared an El Niño event more than a year ago, which should mean that things are getting back to normal now. But they aren’t. Last month was the warmest November since records began in 1884, with an average 2.5 degrees Celsius above the long-term average. This may not seem much, but we are comparing averages, so 2.5 degrees represents a considerable deviation from the norm. And the mean temperature for the month was 24 degrees, which would be a hot afternoon in a normal November.

El Niño usually lasts only one year, so I was surprised to learn, a couple of months ago, that droughts in some parts of Africa, and floods in others, were being linked to this phenomenon. However, this has already been one of the strongest El Niños on record, so I shouldn’t be surprised if it lasts well into a second year. Here in Hong Kong, the situation has developed from strange to bizarre. Several tree species have been flowering in recent weeks, including the acacia in front of my house, which would normally be flowering in April:

The flowers in this picture represent much less than 5 percent of the normal flower load, but any flowers at this time of year are not to be expected.

A similar situation exists with respect to flame trees, which usually flower in June. The following photo was taken in early November, and once again it represents only a tiny fraction of the normal flower load:

The next photo was taken around the same time and shows a cluster of paper-bark trees in flower. Trees of this species can flower at any time between late spring and the start of autumn, but these trees are significantly late.

Perhaps the most bizarre event of all happened on 8th December. Magpie robins are around all year, but they usually sing only in spring, and all you will usually hear at this time of year are threat calls. However, on this day I heard a full-on, this-is-my-territory song from an obviously confident individual, and a few hours later I spotted three males chasing each other through the branches of the acacia, pausing occasionally for short bursts of song. This turned out not to be a one-off event, because on 27th December I returned from shopping to be greeted by another virtuoso performance, almost certainly not by the same individual.

Shortly after I posted this account, the gate blocking the road was torn down, almost certainly not by the person who had erected it. The road remained open until last Saturday, when we were surprised to find it blocked by a locked gate again—with the ride-around no longer accessible. Just as we arrived at the gate, a man appeared through the gap on the side to inform us that this was private property. I insisted that it wasn’t, which probably wasn’t a smart move, because he accused me of being rude. However, after a few minutes negotiating, he relented and allowed us through. He did mention that someone had called the police after finding the road blocked, but the man boasted that all the local coppers knew him and therefore took no notice of the complaint.

I took the following photos six days after this encounter, and it looks as if somebody is in the process of constructing some kind of bypass. The first photo was taken as we arrived at the locked gate (compare this photo with the one illustrating the original post; the bypass had not been started when we encountered the ‘owner’), while the second shows what is happening on the other side. I remain convinced that there are some dodgy goings-on around these parts.

Journey to the West: Part 4
When we did the journey to the west for the first time after I returned to Hong Kong in October, we included the ‘snake path’ as usual, and one of the farmers said “Long time, no see” to Paula. He’d always been quite friendly. However, he also said that other cyclists had been coming through on Sundays, and judging by the measures being taken to block parts of the path, I suspect that these cyclists have been making a nuisance of themselves, possibly by turning up in large numbers.

Although I did the journey to the west eleven times in November, I was slow to realize that the path shown in the sixth photo in the sequence on the snake path was being blocked deliberately, mainly by barrows but also with enamel basins filled with sawdust, which were set alight and allowed to smoulder. I somewhat naively thought that he was trying to create some fertilizer for his crops, but in retrospect it was clearly an attempt to discourage people from passing through.

Anyway, we’ve decided to omit the snake path in future, even though such an omission will diminish the overall quality of the ride. And even though the first dodgy bridge has been replaced, so the exit is now considerably harder than it had been (I failed on my first attempt, just made it on my second, and worked out how to do it only on my third) and thus more interesting. In fact, the snake path is the most tense section of the entire route, with the likelihood that you will hurt yourself if you misjudge any of the turns.

The following photo is of that new first dodgy bridge. The route comes in from the bottom left before turning onto the bridge. There is a 10–12cm drop off the far end of the bridge, ameliorated by a concrete ramp, and the secret is to start the turn before exiting the bridge. Note that it is no longer possible to disappear over the side of the bridge and into the stream below.

Another change to the snake path, which I mentioned in Outrageous, has been the construction of a large bridge across the stream to link two quasi-industrial sites. This completely blocks the second dodgy bridge, but up and down ramps have been provided. There is just one small problem: the down ramp debouches directly onto the ‘ridge of death’. The bridge across the stream can be seen in the following photo:

The Cat Man’s Hut
The hut was demolished some time ago, probably by agents of Uncle Four, although the door on which the cat was painted is still on display nearby. However, further paintings of a dog and a cat have appeared recently on the concrete footpath that runs beside where the hut used to stand. It will probably be a long time before the cat man is forgotten.


  1. Correct about early flowering of Acacia (April) and Flame Tree (June) but Paper Bark is normally November/December


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