Tuesday, 6 March 2018

the way of the dragon

The frontier road was part of the so-called ‘closed area’ until 2013, but it quickly became our regular choice for cycling once it had been opened up. There wasn’t much to explore though. Between the turn-off into the village of Liu Pok at the eastern end and Ha Wan Tsuen at the western end, there was only one road junction—with Ma Tso Lung Road—which merely offered an alternative route back to where we had started. However, there are a number of roads and tracks leading off to the right (west) of this road, although I did think that I’d checked them all out. In fact, I’m certain that I checked them all out, and I drew a blank each time.

So why did I take another look last week? I don’t really know, but because Ma Tso Lung Road—accessed via Liu Pok Hill rather than directly—is now a regular part of our route, and I was on my own, I acted on a sudden impulse to turn right onto this road:

And I could confirm that I’d been this way before, because I knew where to look (almost hidden in the trees straight ahead in the photo) for this sign:

In case you can’t read it:
All the other relevant signs in the area have been removed, but this one appears to have been forgotten.

The road continues for quite some distance, but the smooth concrete of its beginnings soon degenerates into a rough track:

…and I became aware that I was losing height, prompting me to hope that I wouldn’t have to come back this way:

But I could see a concrete path with painted railings at the bottom of the hill:

There was indeed a path to follow. It actually starts about 25 metres to the right of the next photo, but I thought that it was easier to join it here:

The straight-ahead option leads only to the house in the middle distance, the left turn requires serious handling skills and isn’t really a path, but a right turn here has obvious promise:

…and is straightforward to begin with:

…although I did a double take when I first saw the path up to the left:

The slope isn’t excessive and would be easy if there were no steps, but the path alongside the steps is too narrow to be sure that you can hold the line. In any case, it probably just leads to someone’s house, and the path curving round to the right is the obvious way to go:

A group of houses is coming up, and it’s often the case that this is as far as a path like this goes:

However, I had to check, and although it is quite steep for a short distance, the path does continue beyond the houses:

…with another long horizontal section:

The storm drains with cast iron covers are a clue that this is a ‘serious’ path that really is going somewhere. But where?

The previous straight is followed by another short steep section:

…but it’s downhill from here:

…with the path bending to the left after passing the lamp-post in the previous photo:

There is an indistinct path to the right here, which appears to peter out in the trees and is unlikely to lead anywhere that can’t be reached by taking the main path.

The path continues downhill to another group of houses:

…and the first real choice. Which way to go?

At this point, I heard a woman’s voice:

Sin sang! Sin sang!” [Mister! Mister!]

I ignored her to start with, because I assumed that she merely wanted to tell me that I shouldn’t be there in the first place. I turned left, because it looked like a good path, but it quickly became, if not impassable, then very difficult to negotiate. So I turned back.

The turn to the right didn’t look promising:

…but that is the way the woman told me I should go:

She followed me to this point to make sure that I got it right, but on this first visit, I went down to the left, which meant that I had to get off and lift my bike over a water pipe a short distance further on. When I showed this path to Paula a few days later, she noticed immediately that it was possible to remain on the bike if you took the right-hand option:

The rest of the path is a bit ‘rough and ready’. The plastic panels, normally used to cover temporary holes and other works in urban areas, are an indication that this part of the path probably becomes very muddy during the rainy season and are a bit clunky to ride over:

…but after another makeshift bridge over a small stream, I knew where I was:

The frontier road is dead ahead (Shenzhen in the background):

The following satellite photograph shows the terrain negotiated by this path, which starts at the red circle and emerges onto the frontier road at the blue circle. The large built-up area in the top right-hand corner of the photo is the village of Ma Tso Lung, through which it is necessary to cycle (steeply uphill] to get back to where you started.

I had decided to call this adventure ‘the dragon path’ (lung is Cantonese for ‘dragon’), but then I noticed that the character for ‘Lung’ in Ma Tso Lung is the character for ‘dragon’ with an added ‘earth’ radical. No problem, said Paula, it’s the dragon above the earth. And my wife agrees that this path is well worth the effort, so it really must be the way of the dragon.


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