Thursday, 4 May 2017

reservoir dodges

When I posted an account of the challenge posed by Lau Shui Heung Road in November 2015, I gave it the title Meeting Myself Coming Back because, having made it up the hill and down the other side, it is then necessary to go back the way you’ve come—or so I’d thought at the time. Lau Shui Heung Road terminates at the top of the hill, and from the summit the road is then known as Hok Tau Road, after the village of the same name at the bottom of the hill.

Anyway, I hadn’t done Lau Shui Heung Road this winter, and the second public holiday in three days seemed like the ideal opportunity to rectify this deficiency, even though Paula and I had done a fairly tough hill only two days earlier. This one doesn’t get any easier. In fact, in my original account, in describing the approach to the top, I’d written that ‘I’m more than happy that I still have a couple of gears in reserve’, but this time I’d had to engage bottom gear from the hairpin, which is well below the top.

After an exciting, fast descent, the road continues beyond the village, but within a few hundred metres there is a metal barrier across the road and a sign by the Water Supplies Department that unauthorized entry is not allowed. I didn’t photograph the barrier, but this is what the road beyond looks like:

…and although the barrier effectively blocks all motor traffic, there is a convenient ride-around for bikes.

“Let’s continue,” said Paula, who hadn’t been this way before.

I was aware that the road led to a reservoir, and I had planned to check it out at some stage, but I wasn’t sure we wouldn’t be hassled by country park wardens, given that it was a public holiday.

“Sod it! Why not?” I concluded.

We were early, after all. It wasn’t yet nine o’clock. So we set off.

Here is a map of the road ahead. The red X marks the approximate location of the barrier.

The climb is nothing like as stiff as the one we’d just done, but it is rather long, and at one point we came to two bright yellow signs painted on the road: no bikes! Alongside was a sign saying that we would need a mountain bike permit to continue, and that offenders would be prosecuted.

No problem! I do have a mountain bike permit, although I suspected that it may have been out of date. It was! When I checked after we’d returned to the barrier, I discovered that its validity had expired in March 2015. In any case, I thought, we’ve already come so far, and we ain’t gonna back off now. I didn’t photograph these warnings or where they appeared, but the following sequence of photos shows the climb:

And this is the top:

Although the climb to this point hadn’t been unduly arduous, I was dismayed when, a short distance further on, there was what looked like a fairly steep downhill section:

However, we’d come this far, so we really didn’t have an acceptable alternative. So we continued. And we soon reached the dam:

The reservoir itself is quite picturesque:

Needless to say, the continuation of the road, given that it follows the far shore of the reservoir, is now completely horizontal. However, once we’d reached the end, I took a few photos on the way back to show the spectacular flowering trees on the surrounding hillsides:

I have a book, Hong Kong Trees, published by the Hong Kong government, but it’s in the UK, so I can’t identify the species at the moment, but it does stand out from the rest of the hillside at this time of year.

By the way, the earlier downhill section that had filled me with dismay looks like this in the opposite direction:

As I pointed out earlier, the ‘problem’ with this bike ride is that it’s ‘out and back’, which is ultimately unsatisfying. However, I’d spotted a path off to the left as we’d ridden along Hok Tau Road earlier that I wanted to check out. And if you’re a regular reader, you will know that I cannot resist the impulse to find out where such paths lead, even though in most cases the answer is a dead end. However, this particular path went on and on, and all the while I was thinking that it would eventually reach a dead end. But it never did!

This is where it reached a road:

So this bike ride is now a circuit! However, it does still need considerable refinement, but I’m off to the UK in a couple of weeks, and it’s getting too hot to be doing serious hills, so further investigation will have to wait until the autumn. Nevertheless, I can see this becoming one of my regular bike rides instead of a once-a-year excursion. What on Earth have I let myself in for?

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