Saturday, April 30, 2016

Just Walking the Dog . . . in Hong Kong!

In Hong Kong there are a few places I can walk our dog Rigby.  The most frequent route is a 25-30 minute walk around Red Hill, a one-mile road that is one big circle.  The sidewalks shift from narrow to wide and the view shifts from sloped and maintained mountain, to beautiful distant mountains with inlet ocean water dotted with bobbing yachts, to 20 story blond brick apartments with a view of the mountains and water where some colleagues live, to 5 story pastel condos that cost $10,000 per month to rent, minimum.  On this route we meet many other dogs being walked on leash by their owner's helpers, mostly Philippina women who are likely to greet us "Hello, Mom."  The dogs range in size from golden retriever to jack russell and are either guided to the opposite side or take a moment to sniff each other in choice areas.  The women pick up droppings with newspaper and put it in the bins along the road designated specifically for dog poo.  Rigby, a milk-chocolate chow mongrel rescued from Hong Kong Dog Rescue, walks with a spring in his 6 year-old step and sniffs as often as I will let him.  He likes to back up against the slope on grassy areas to do his business.  Depending on the time of year we may come home wet from the humidity even though the route is leisurely.

Another, and even more breath-taking route I like to take, but less often, goes down to Tai Tam village.  First Rigby and I take the elevator from 7th to the 5th floor exit of our building, then down a series of four flights of stairs past the middle school campus, the track, the landscaped flowers, and the guard off of the grounds.  From there we wind down a paved country-road until we reach the water's edge.  This is a bay off of the ocean.  It is dotted with yachts to fishing boats floating equidistance from one another on the dark blue, quiet water.  We go left on the road with the sea inlet on our right and jungle underbrush and trees and a bit of trash on our left.  After a few more minutes we will hit the edge of Tai Tam village.  When I am alone I like to walk through the village and look at the gardens, the banana trees, the stone homes stacked up into the hillside with cemented in windows on the street level and signs of interesting water sports gear like kayaks and paddle boards.  But when I'm with Rigby we turn back here because there are a few street dogs that are quite territorial and Rigby is afraid of them.  They bark too loud and tend to growl or follow you, making you uncomfortable.

A third route is to take Country Road Park. This is the most beautiful of all.  This one begins just a few minutes past the middle school guarded gate where the guard always smiles and says hello.  We walk up an incline past drivers in Mercedes and Cadillac vans waiting for school kids when the day is done.  They are parked all along and on the sidewalk so that we are forced to walk on the road instead.  After crossing busy Tai Tam Road we reach the entrance of the Park.  Here there is a waterfall on the left, (really it's the run-off from rain and mountain water cascading down a cement stair from the catchment above).  On the right there is an amazing view of a 100 year old one-and-a-half lane bridge straddling a freshwater reservoir which begins where we are and ends below a dam just on the other side of Tai Tam village.  The reservoir reminds me of a Wisconsin lake, except because it is a reservoir the capacity ebbs and flows with seasonal rain and runoff and there are humans allows on or in the water.  Recently, with all the rain, the reservoir is filling again, so there is maybe only one meter of exposed red clay sloped beneath the jungle trees which line the water and seem to go on forever, turning into misty mountains stacked on top one another.    On a very ambitious day, Rigby and I could walk all the way over the mountain and into the city of Hong Kong.  The entire route would be paved black and wide and we would see dozens of people along the way making the long trek up or down the mountain.  But usually we just walk one hour; this takes us past three different BBQ picnic areas, over several bridges with the view of the pristine reservoir, and through the tree-lined, spider infested jungle.  Here large dogs are usually off leash, well-behaved as they greet each other and Rigby.  Singles, couples, families, expats, Cantonese, Chinese all come here to enjoy the walk, the hike, the picnic spots, or the view.  We might run into a bride and groom on a wedding shoot.  If we are ambitious there are many off-shoot trails we could take, some paved, some not.

Finally, there is the catchment trail.  This is a trail that takes about 5 minutes to reach.  It's entrance lies across Tai Tam Road just past our public bus stop.  One must climb up like a child (and on the return, jump down) to get to the long narrow stairs which take you to the catchment.  Turn left and you will eventually arrive at Stanley, our nearest town.  Turn right, and you will reach a stair leading down to Country Road Park and next to that waterfall I spoke of.  The catchment is a concrete ditch designed to catch the water run-off from the mountain.  Along one side is the sloped mountain rising twice to three times as high as the Southwestern hills of Wisconsin.  On the other side the concrete continues as a narrow sidewalk meant for repair workers to easily reach the catchment.  We use it to walk.  The views are beautiful up there.  At points the view overlooks the ocean and our nearby local Turtle Cove beach.  At points it overlooks the school and nearby Red Hill Plaza.  At points all you see is bushes, trees, flowers, butterflies, and huge spiders pressing in on you.  Much of the time there are metal railings, sometimes there are not.  Such a trail is perfect for letting your dog off leash to sniff and walk or trot as he pleases.  Here we spend about 30 minutes walking and enjoying the smells and the view, but NOT the spiderwebs that invisibly crisscross the trail and which cling to my arms and legs as I pass by.

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