Saturday, 4 February 2017

surprise view

When we moved to Fanling in 2008, we continued to cycle south every Saturday, an exercise described in Saturday Morning Adventure. At that time, once we’d reached Taipo, we used to cycle along the footpath that ran alongside the Lam Tsuen River, which is the main watercourse running through the town. After 2012, when I started to explore the cycling possibilities to the west (Across the Tracks), we rarely rode south, and by the time Paula started working at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2015, which allowed her to cycle to work, we’d begun to follow dedicated cycle tracks through the town because we’d heard that the police had started to issue tickets to cyclists who were following the aforementioned footpath.

The problem is that while it may be unacceptable for cyclists to ride on footpaths, there isn’t a similar level of enforcement against pedestrians who walk on cycle tracks—and Taipo is a nightmare of pedestrians who simply don’t look where they’re going. As a result, I became obsessed with the idea of finding a way through the town that involved the minimum possible interaction with these moving hazards. I still haven’t succeeded in this endeavour, but this is the account of one failure that turned out to be worth the time spent.

Approaching Taipo from the south, the route we had become accustomed to following takes a right turn next to a modern temple, but last month, on my way north, I decided to continue straight on instead. I soon found myself back on my customary route, but before reaching that point, I’d noticed a subway on the left that carries a cycle track, so I turned back to investigate where it might lead.

It led a long way, but it eventually came to an end at a fairly quiet road. By this time, however, I was out in the ‘suburbs’, far from the high-rise estates of central Taipo, so I thought “since I’m here, I might as well see where the road goes.” Within a fairly short distance, I came to the point shown in the following photograph:

The hill looked innocuous, but if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll have spotted immediately the alleyway on the left. And you will know that I can’t resist finding out where such alleyways lead:

The posters on the railings are about elections to the local district council—a year ago!

At this point, I need to jump ahead in the narrative to explain various photographs. The two previous photos were taken when I came this way with Paula last week, and I had intended to take some more in the alleyways ahead as we progressed. Unfortunately, I would have been shooting directly into the sun, so the next three photos were taken a couple of weeks earlier as I rode in the opposite direction and are therefore looking back the way I’d just come:

As you can see from the last photo, the route follows the banks of a massive storm drain, and the next photo, also looking downstream, shows the bridge in the middle distance that the route eventually crosses:

Although I know almost nothing about hydraulic engineering, even though I once edited a book on the subject, I imagine that the elaborate concrete structures that you can see in the stream in the two previous photos are there to ameliorate the effects of heavy flow during a tropical rainstorm, which Hong Kong gets plenty of.

The next photo was taken from almost the same position as the last one but is looking upstream:

From the parked cars, a short and reasonably gentle hill leads to a point on the road in the first photo where the minibuses terminate. That should have been a warning: on my first visit here, I decided to return along this road, but not before I’d clocked the continuation of the road. And, inevitably, I would want to know to where it might lead:

As I discovered when I returned, it led here:

The photo was taken from the top of this hill. There is an S-bend at the bottom, so you can’t see what’s coming up, but I can say that I was already in bottom gear before I was halfway round the first part of the S. The photo was taken on my first visit. There is a small car park at the top of the hill, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I stopped there for a rest. And there is a signpost to Lead Mine Pass, which encouraged me to believe that I might find a way over the top of the mountain and down the other side.

The road is now quite level for some distance, but it isn’t long before another brute of a hill presents itself. The first photograph looks up towards a bend in the middle, while the second looks down from the top:

Another all too short level section precedes the next hill. The next photo shows the top section of the hill, from a bend halfway up. Before reaching this point, a signpost shows the way to Lead Mine Pass—up a long flight of steps! Goodbye to that option then. The second photo shows Paula struggling up the top section of the hill. Well, at least I was far enough ahead to take the photo! Finally, I’ve included a view from the top of this third hill, the start of which can be seen on the left.

And where does the road go? To the village of Ta Tit Yan:

Having reached this point, it would have been easy to say ‘job done’ and go no further, but I had to know whether there was anything beyond the village, even though finding out would mean more uphill work. But I was right: there was a way forward:

Beyond a well-constructed bridge across a small stream, the way ahead seemed easy enough:

However, the path soon became much steeper, and I found it necessary to stand on the pedals—something I do very rarely—in order to keep going. The next photo was taken on the way back down this section:

I don’t know whether this is the steepest part of the entire climb, or whether my legs were simply knackered by this time, but when the path levelled out again and I heard dogs barking ahead, I decided to dismount and walk ahead to see whether there was any point in continuing. After a short ramp, I came to a typical rural cottage:

I wondered whether this was as far as I could go, but I walked past the cottage anyway, to see if the path continued beyond. It did:

The streetlight was an encouraging sign, so I returned to my bike and set about tackling this next incline. If you’re still following me at this point, you may be wondering about the title of this post. All I can say is that what I discovered at the top of this final climb was completely unexpected:

As the inscription above the door proclaims, this is a temple dedicated to the goddess Gunyam. It has no special architectural features, but there is a plaque recording that the temple was renovated in 2009. I was immediately reminded of something I read many years ago: in ancient times, the steps leading to a temple were made deliberately steep to ensure that supplicants were in a suitably reverential frame of mind before they entered the temple. I understand.


  1. Hi Dennis,
    Very interesting and entertaining. Great to find out that it was worth the effort of riding uphill all that way. Loved the ending.

    1. It was certainly worth the effort Pat, but I don’t think I’ll be going all the way again. I might go as far as the minibus terminus from time to time.

  2. certainly worth to give it a go!!!!!


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