Wednesday, 7 February 2018

serendipity #1

When the Hong Kong government opened up the frontier road in 2013, there wasn’t a lot of ancillary terrain to explore. There was the turn into the village of Liu Pok at the start of the descent into the frontier area, and Ma Tso Lung Road, which starts halfway along the frontier road and leads, eventually, to Ho Sheung Heung Road. The first time I tried to follow this road, I encountered more and more heavy industrial traffic, and I decided that if I wanted to use this road on future bike rides, I would need to find a link between the two roads that meant I didn’t need to pass through the junction between them.

I had no trouble finding that link, although like so many segments of my bike rides, I discovered the link while exploring in the opposite direction to the way I now follow it. However, I no longer follow Ma Tso Lung Road from the beginning, because I prefer to continue along the frontier road to the Liu Pok turn-off. This means taking on Liu Pok Hill, which I described in Fortissimo #2 and which connects to Ma Tso Lung Road just after the crest of the hill.

This is the exit from the frontier road that I always follow nowadays, but a couple of weeks ago, when I arrived at the usual cross-link to Ho Sheung Heung Road, I found the way blocked by a huge flat-bed truck that appeared to be unloading a lot of stuff. I didn’t take a photo at the time, but this is the start of that link:

I could have waited until the unloading was finished, but my first thought was to wonder whether I could find an alternative link to Ho Sheung Heung Road, so I continued along Ma Tso Lung Road. This is the first possibility I spotted:

The streetlight visible in the second photo was an encouraging sign, so I took a closer look:

Naturally, I continued straight on, but after 200–300 metres, the road came to a dead end, so I was obliged to retreat. I might have ignored the right turn in the above photo (indicated by the sign with the red arrow), except that when I reached this point during my retreat, a truck was pulling out of this side road. I’d better take a look, I thought. At the time, I didn’t notice the other sign, which read “Private Road, Phoenix Garden”, or I might not have continued. I noticed a couple of quasi-industrial premises on my right, but eventually I came to the end of the road. However, there was an obvious alleyway:

I didn’t know what to expect here, but when the path started going downhill after a short distance, I knew that I must be onto something:

Not only does the path debouch onto Ho Sheung Heung Road, it does so almost exactly opposite the exit from the heart of darkness! Consequently, instead of riding along what is quite a busy road for about 200 metres to reach the start of long tall sally—and having to accept that drivers of big trucks will disregard your presence and pull out of the quasi-industrial premises on either side and force you to brake—the new route takes this path in reverse. The start of long tall sally is directly opposite the end of Ma Tso Lung Road.

This is what the route looks like in the direction I now take it:

You will have to wait for my photographic highlights post in May to see the remainder of the mural that’s visible in the last photo.

Straight on is the obvious choice, but the route actually turns right as it passes the gnarly tree in the distance:

There is an obvious left turn (see below) at the end of the industrial panels in this photo:

…although the following sequence records the rest of the original route:

The day after I found this connection, I cycled here with Paula to show her what I’d discovered, and on the ‘private road to Phoenix Garden’, we found ourselves behind an artic (US: ‘semi-trailer’), which was confronted by another artic coming in the opposite direction at the junction illustrated above. The two vehicles managed to sort themselves out, but where this side road joined Ma Tso Lung Road, there was an almighty traffic jam. I would love to know who was blocking whom, but I wasn’t about to hang around to find out when we could find a gap to sneak through.

I’ve now checked out the left turn referred to above, and this photo shows why I had to know where it leads to (a path this long and straight can't possibly be a dead end, can it?):

Serendipity #3 is a detailed report on this option.

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