Tara Smyth escapes Christmas fever by heading to the hills
It’s December! The festive season is upon us. The shops are bulging with Christmas shoppers and the restaurants are busy throwing Christmas parties. Not to mention, the kids are off school and grandma is on her way.
Time to escape the city, and hit some trails? This walk is perfect for small children, the dog and moderately fit septuagenarians. I would even go so far as to say that, if you have a hunk of a hubby, he could probably manage the baby buggy on this trail, provided it has all-terrain wheels.
This hike starts at Sai Kung waterfront. Here, sampan and kaito companies vie for your business, offering trips to the many outlying islands. We used “Kitty’s” service to Sharp Island, but there are others. Prices are roughly $30-$40 per person for a round trip. Kaitos and sampans run regularly from 9am to 6pm—I imagine the frequency depends upon high season versus low season and weekdays versus weekends.
Once aboard, the journey takes about 10-15 minutes. You will first arrive at Kiu Tsui Beach pier where you should disembark. If you are lucky enough to catch the low tide you will be able to see the ‘tombolo’ which connects Sharp Island to the nearby Kiu Tau islet. A tombolo is a naturally-formed sand and pebble “bridge” that links two land masses, due to the waves coming and going over time.
It’s absolutely worth walking across the tombolo (even if the tide is starting to come in and you have to get your feet a little wet, like we did!) as the rock formations are fascinating. Pebbles of rich varying colours catch the eye as the clear waters wash over them. You will also see the aptly nick-named “pineapple bun” boulders that are in fact a result of volcanic activity some 140 million years ago.
Once across the other side you can follow the short path to the hilltop lookout and look back over Sharp Island. We did not do this, however, as the tide was coming in and we did not wish to become stranded. Do be careful!
After exploring the tombolo (and the islet of Kiu Tau if the tide allows), return to the beach from which you came and head right. Here you will see a concrete path leading to some steps heading up into the jungle. The steps go on for a while, but are not too bad. Take snacks to help the little ones along and hopefully hunky hubby with the all-terrain buggy won’t lose the will to live too quickly.
Eventually, the steps will give way to a dirt path with interesting flora on either side. Look over the top of the ferns and grasses and you’ll start to see the sweeping views of Sai Kung to your right and the golf course on Kau Sai Chau to your left. Continue along for a further 750 metres before reaching the high point. There is a small pagoda here where you can rest, take in the views and look down on the crystal clear waters of Hap Mun Bay, before commencing the final descent to sea level.
As you approach Hap Mun Bay you will see a plethora of BBQ pits set in a grassy area. It’s almost characteristic of a campsite in the South of France, and you may wish to stop here and tuck into your picnic. There are toilets just up to the left of these BBQ pits, but note there is no running water in the vicinity. Instead, head to the beach on your right and you will be rewarded with clean facilities both for relieving oneself and washing one’s hands.
Now it’s time to enjoy the pristine beach that is Hap Mun Bay. Kick off your shoes—even in December—and enjoy the fine white sand between your toes. Clamber amongst the volcanic rocks and if December treats us kindly this year, maybe even take a dip.
Should you choose to visit in the summer, lifeguards will be on duty and a refreshment kiosk will be open. During the winter the beach is quiet and no lifeguards are present, but there were some cheerful lap sap ladies on hand keeping the beach and BBQ pits pristine.
Once you are done with the beach you have two choices. Either retrace your steps all the way back to Kiu Tsui or head to the pier on Hap Mun Bay itself and await a sampan or kaito to pick you up and take you back to Sai Kung.
This is a perfect day out for the festive season and once back in the Kung, hunky hubby can reward himself with an ice cold beer, the kids can run amok in Sai Kung Square and mummy and grandma can deliberate over whether to go for the Chardonnay or the Sauvignon Blanc!
Tara Smyth runs photography company Nitty Gritty images. For details, visit facebook.com/NittyGrittyImages