Ferry Day 8 – I can’t make my mind up about the character of this pier, which is divided into two. On the left, for Peng Chau, it’s bustling and friendly with a good coffee shop. On the right, where I’ve just boarded to go to Silvermine Bay, it’s quite characterless and functional. The ‘Ordinary’ ferry is large but rusted and well-used, the open freight deck has rows of tired-looking padded plastic seats, and for now, at least until we start moving, it’s horrendously hot in here. I could go on deck but it’s in full sun, so the shade is the lesser evil. It may be that since Mui Wo is a more wealthy area, not many would bother with this humble slower ferry when there’s a smart new high speed catamaran available. If the theory about piers and their islands holds, we may be in for a very different sort of day today.
- Today’s distance (bike+ferry): 33.7 miles
- Time in saddle (+ pushing bike): 3h 43
- Time on ferries: 2h 20
- Max temp (in sun): 41
- Climb (feet): 647
- Calories used: 1554
- Beaches: 2
- Beach/cafe time: 3h 42
I walked with Susie to the MTR station this morning. We’ve been saying that it feels as though the time we have together on this trip is pretty fleeting. She has such long days, an endless succession of candidates for their Grade exams, all needing as much care and attention as each other, however exhausted the examiner may feel. When she gets back in the evening we chat about our days over a cold glass of juice and pieces of fruit, then head out to explore the restaurants that surround us. Last night we stopped at the hotel’s New York Bar on the way out to use up our free drinks coupons. Enjoying a gin and tonic beside a fake roaring fire in a bar like that can be a rather disconcerting feeling, but within minutes we’d settled in and forgotten where we were. Some days we’re adventurous in our eating choices and climb mysterious sets of stairs to first floor establishments, on others we settle in to Pizza Express for a salad and a pizza. Almost the next thing we know the alarm is going and Susie’s off to work again. We look forward to her Sunday/Monday breaks more and more.
Mui Wo is just around a headland to the south of Discovery Bay, but with a very steep hill in between. The whole island is truly mountainous compared with anywhere else I’ve been here. The bare upper slopes remind me of Scotland, but the clouds of midges have been replaced by clouds of countless hovering dragonflies, and the overcast sky with occasional drizzle has just for today been replaced by an overcast sky with occasional drizzle, but in the mid-30s centigrade. The skies have remained cloudless for most of the time we’ve been here, which is a surprise. I expected more thunderstorms, like my brother gets most afternoons in Florida.
The first impression as we sailed into Mui Wo harbour was that this was another more highly developed spot, with lots of shops and restaurants around the pier, and then a long expanse of beach to the right with several lifeguard stations and a large hotel taking the prime spot. I turned right off the ferry, past the largest bike park I’ve seen on any of the islands:A proper bike lane took me to the promenade behind Silvermine Bay and continued in front of the Silvermine Beach Resort, which was offering Afternoon Tea for HK$170. At the end of the beach the path sloped steeply upwards in a style that’s become very familiar, leaving the bay behind and plunging you into the lush forest. I cycled for some time, on a particularly rolling switch-back of a Family Walk, but got caught out when the nice smooth path ahead of me turned out to be a kind of illusion, and actually became steps. It gave me quite a shock but I managed to slow down and hop off to the side before doing too much damage. When we were kids growing up in North London, cycling down steps was a bit of an adventure and a challenge, and that feeling came back to me today for a very brief moment, but without the invulnerability of youth to inspire me to carry on to the bottom; I was too worried in that grownup way that I might damage my bike, or myself. If you look closely you’ll see where the steps started. Of course the wheel I’d adjusted yesterday was now out of whack again, so I tried to fix it there in the forest but quickly found I was attracting any mosquitoes in the area, so cycled back to the beach, with my wheel sounding like I had a copy of The South China Morning Post stuck in my spokes. All fixed, I followed the river inland and explored the Old Village Path to Nam Shan, which wove a route across bridges and around apartment buildings at first, then crossed fields before starting to climb, bringing me out at a collection of temple buildings, or possibly a small monastery:As often happens on these islands trips, I found I couldn’t complete a circuit because the paths, particularly the inland ones, become suitable only for people on foot. There was nothing for it but to retrace my ride all the way back to the ferry pier. The last stretch of exploring was southwest along a very non-descript, wide, empty concrete road that took me past the bus repair and washing garage, a man apparently living in a yellow shipping container with no aircon (the mind just boggles at what it must have been like inside), a general dumping area for anything you can’t decide what to do with, and ending, this being a crazy place on any old day of the week, with a small herd of water buffalo. At least, I think that’s what they are. Does anyone recognise them? (And don’t say, “Yes, that’s Trevor on the left”)The first one I passed was so motionless and concrete-grey coloured that I thought it was a statue. This being a crazy old place, as mentioned, I’d thought no more of it until I heard these three beauties, munching and huffing in the scrub to my right. I chatted to them for a while, and they seemed tolerant of the company at least. I think that they must roll in the mud to get that stone-like patina.
Lunch was not a highlight today. I’d not brought quite enough cash and was relying on paying by Octopus card. The only place that took it? McDonald’s. The midday heat when I left the restaurant was particularly oppressive, like a wall pushing you back into the aircon. Time for a swim. With an hour before the next sailing back to the city I jumped in at Silvermine Bay wearing almost all my gear, then showered in the open public washroom.
Having said that earlier about the weather, I sailed home in a growing storm with fork lightning over Kowloon, where Susie was examining as usual, and crackling thunder that sounded so loud it seemed to be in the boat with us. By the time we arrived back at Victoria Harbour it had cleared completely, but the sea had much more of a swell and the ferry took some time to dock.
I have just worked out that this is the eighteenth ferry I’ve taken since arriving here thirteen days ago – UPDATE!! Rubbish! Forgot to count the star ferry every morning and evening, so it’s the thirty-fourth! – and we’ve covered the Central Ferry Piers No.s 1-6. We’re about halfway through the trip, so there will now be a short break until the next instalment of this Hong Kong Ferry Challenge, as tomorrow I’m meeting up with my cousin Robert again to take a trip north by train and tram into the New Territories, almost as far as Shenzhen in China, to visit a Wetlands Park my younger brother Seb was involved with when he lived here working on wetlands projects many years ago, living in the nearby Mai Po Village. Then it’s the ABRSM weekend! Stay tuned…