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TRAVEL: Walk in HK woods offers spring of hope

15 April 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao

The beautiful Tai Tam Reservoir and Country Park is a sanctuary to the weary

Nature seems to be a refuge for mankind during a crisis, no matter whether it is today’s novel coronavirus pandemic, a political conflict or a personal predicament.

Artists retreat into the woods to absorb new elements. Lovers go on long, solitary wilderness walks to harness their emotions and return with a trove of poems. Rebels get lost in the jungles and emerge with a cutting edge.

Although the idea of the woods as a refuge is universal, Confucianism has enshrined it as a basic principle, Ren.
Kongzi or Confucius (551-479 BC), the great philosopher of the Late Spring and Autumn period, considered that all things in nature were the material foundation on which humans lived, so, people should be friendly towards them.

This perhaps explains why Hong Kong has incorporated nature in every aspect of city life.

Vast nature gardens are found in the middle of business districts purposely to provide nearby space for relaxation to players in the city’s highly stressful financial boardrooms or share market.

Finely built nature retreats like Hong Kong Park, Tamar Park, Hong Kong Botanical Garden, Chater Garden and even tiny Cheung Kong Park are just a few steps away from the city’s giant financial houses and are open to everyone, from corporates to migrant domestic workers.

Yet, if one is looking for a real wilderness setting to commune with nature, a walk up Old Peak Road and around Lugard Road fills that need with plenty of green canopies and a magnificent city view to offer.

The jungle, in fact, is literally just in the backyard, no matter where in the city you live.
There's a real jungle beyond Hong Kong's concrete jungles

One of the most popular and accessible jungle treks on Hong Kong Island is the Mt Butler-Mt Parker-Tai Tam complex where a nature lover can design his own hiking route.

For a beginner, one can start at Quarry Bay MTR Exit A for the 8-kilometer Mr Parker-Tai Tam Reservoir walk, an easy concrete jungle road up to the ridge then winds downhill to the upper reservoir dam.

On weekdays, wild boars and their litter wander out of the brush to scavenge for food. But on Apr 10, when the Saturday crowd swelled on a bright day after weeks of bleak and wet weather, the boars that we used to watch on the steep slope below were nowhere in sight.     
The paved road splits left towards the peak of Mt Parker or downhill to Tai Tam reservoir and country park. Or one can climb about 600 steps uphill behind the pavilion to the summit of Tai Fung Au and follow the trail on Mt Butler and Jardine’s Lookout to Wong Nai Chung Gap.

From there, one can add another 5km to his hike up Violet Hill and the Sisters Twin Peaks for a breathtaking view of Stanley Peninsula and wait for the sunset on  a view deck near the peak.

Whichever route a hiker chooses, all trails cut through thick vegetation and sedimentary rock formations on lower reaches of the mountains. Be warned that sections on the upper slopes are covered only with rhododendron, cassia or camella shrubs and no canopies, making a summer hike really tough.

In mid-spring though, one is rewarded with a variety of colors of buds, blooms and sprouts and well as brilliant contrasts of old and new leaves. The varied hues offer hope in depressing times such as this.
Beautiful spring blooms offer hope amid the pandemic

One can get so much of nature from the easy walk with lots of picnic and barbecue grounds along the way. Whether one is an artist seeking new ideas, a lover deep in thought or a warrior contemplating strategy and tactics, the route has everything to offer.

But a basic Confucian tenet is: “show love and care for nature in all our dealings with it.”

As Confucius follower Xunzi (Sun Tzu) said: “Respond to it with peace and order, and good fortune will result. Respond to it with disorder, and disaster will follow.

“If the foundations of living are strengthened and are economically used, then Nature cannot bring impoverishment. But if the foundations of living are neglected and used extravagantly, then Nature cannot make the country rich.”
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