When we are short of time but still want to have a brief getaway from the city of Hong Kong, we often hop on a bus to Siu Sai Wan (小西灣), a relatively new residential district at the eastern end of Hong Kong Island for a short hike over Pottinger Peak to the cozy surfing beach of Big Wave Bay (大浪灣) and Shek O (石澳). The hike takes a little over an hour, and is relatively simple, involving two sections of stepped path, one going up the Pottinger Peak and one descending down to the beach. No matter how many times we have walked this route, it was always a pleasant surprise to reach the top of the Pottinger Peak and have the first glimpse of the turquoise water south of Hong Kong Island.
The trail begins in Siu Sai Wan (小西灣), a residential neighborhood at the eastern tip of Hong Kong Island.
Looking north during the ascend to the Pottinger Peak, the Victoria Harbour outside of Junk Bay (將軍澳) is busy with cruise ships and boats of all sorts.
Looking down from the uphill trail, the residential area of Siu Sai Wan looks quite densely populated.
Watching beautiful butterflies hopping between flowers is a pure delight.
Looking south from Pottinger Peak, the peninsula of Shek O and Tai Tau Chau (大頭洲) lie right ahead.
A ruined shelter on Pottinger Peak has been used as a temporary shrine.
It seems that the temporary shrine is dedicated to Guan Yin, the goddess of mercy.
Walking ahead, one can clearly see that much of the seaside land between the Big Wave Bay and Big Wave Bay.
On the downhill route, there are several Camellia trees (茶花) by the trail.
The stepped path continues to the hill adjacent to the Big Wave Bay. The noise of the crowds and public announcement from speakers can be heard long before we reach the beach.
Big Wave Bay (大浪灣) is a decent little beach at the southeast of Hong Kong Island.
The natural rock formations around the area of Big Wave Bay are quite interesting.
Though the beach can get a little crowded during summer weekends. For the rest of year, it’s popular for surfers.
Some prefer to stay away from the crowds on a rocky slope near a BBQ site.
For families, small streams out to the sea can be an interesting playground with small fish and seaside creatures.
About half an hour of walk south of Big Wave Bay, there is a Tai Tau Chau (大頭洲), a tied island linked to the mainland of Shek O Village by a tombolo. On the tombolo, a narrow blue bridge is built for pedestrians who wish to visit Tai Tau Chau. The area is popular for couples taking wedding photos.
At one side of the tombolo, a peaceful tidal pool acts like a perfect mirror. The colours of the rocks around the pool reveal the varying water level from time to time.
The coastal granite of Tai Tau Chau (大頭洲) are quite interesting after so many years of natural erosion and carving by the waves.
Despite the occasionally scary waves at this part of Hong Kong, many still brave the danger and climb onto the uneven coastal rocks for wedding photos.
The waves at Tai Tau Chau are beautiful but also terrifying sometimes.
Like the Geoparks in Sai Kung and Northeast New Territories, the coastal rocks at Tai Tau Chau are quite unique.
Just a stone throw from Tai Tau Chau lies the bigger beach of Shek O, a really popular outdoor destination for city dwellers of Hong Kong.
Ma Shi Chau (馬屎洲), which literally means “horse excrement island”, is a tidal island off a traditional fishing village Sam Mun Tsai (三門仔) at the northeastern New Territories near Tai Po (大埔). Facing the Tolo Channel opposite from the dam of Plover Cove Reservoir (船灣淡水湖), Ma Shi Chau belongs to the UNESCO Geopark network in Hong Kong. The remote tidal island is famous for its unique rock formation and outcropped strata dated back to the Permian Period (280 million years ago).
Ma Shi Chau is accessible via Ma Shi Chau Sand Bar (馬屎洲橫水渡). A short hike on known as Ma Shi Chau Nature Trail will bring visitors to walk along the southeast coast of the island. Along the coastal areas, unique and colourful rock formations are visible everywhere. Millions of years ago, Ma Shi Chau was a basin in which surrounding waters continuously to deposit sediments such as sand and gravel. Over the years as water level changed and so as the kinds of sediments accumulated. Sedimentary rocks were formed after the process of lithification. Vaults and folds are also visible on Ma Shi Chau as tectonic movements caused by volcanic activities transformed the rock surface. Like many parts of Hong Kong, granite is also present at Ma Shi Chau as a result of magma intrusion during the Jurassic Period. Other than rocks, views of the Pa Sin Leng Mountain (八仙嶺) to the north, and the new town of Ma On Shan to the southeast across the Tolo Harbour (吐露港) are equally impressive.
Sam Mun Tsai (三門仔) is a small fishing village inhabited mainly by former boat people (fishermen families who lived on their boats in typhoon shelter).
From Sam Mun Tsai, a short walk brought me up to a hill dotted with graves. On the high point, fish farming nets in the waters of Plover Cove.
The trail continued to wind through the ridge of a hill dotted with graves.
The trail then went downhill to the Ma Shi Chau Sand Bar (馬屎洲橫水渡), a natural sand bar that originally would be submerged in water during during high tide. Over the years, villagers put boulders and sediments on the sand bar, so that it would be exposed above water even during high tide.
Today, the Ma Shi Chau Sand Bar is a convenient venue for a leisure stroll and water activities such as sea kayaking.
The Ma Shi Chau Sand Bar is also the gateway to the Ma Shi Chau Special Area, part of the Hong Kong Geopark.
On Ma Shi Chau Island, there is a short trail called Ma Shi Chau Nature Trail (馬屎洲自然教育徑) bringing visitors to a number of coastal woods and rock beaches. Giant Golden Orb Weaver, one of the largest kinds of spiders in the world, are quite common in the woods. Some of these are about the size of a human palm.
Visitors are usually fascinated by the rock formations when arriving at the first open coastal area.
Vaults and folds are visible at Ma Shi Chau due to prehistoric tectonic movements caused by volcanic activities.
Many of the outcropped strata and rock formations are colourful and eye catching.
Details of interesting rock formation on Ma Shi Chau.
Details of interesting rock formation on Ma Shi Chau.
Details of interesting rock formation on Ma Shi Chau.
To the northeast of Ma Shi Chau across the Plover Cove (船灣海), the 2km dam of Plover Cove Reservoir (船灣淡水湖) is only a few hundred metres away.
To the southeast across Tolo Harbour (吐露港), the new residential developments below Ma On Shan (馬鞍山) look like a bunch of toy blocks.
Construction of the new town of Ma On Shan began in 1980s, including private residential developments and public housing estates.
Fishermen may still test their luck in the Tolo Harbour.
In late afternoon, Pa Sin Leng Mountain (八仙嶺) north of Ma Shi Chau looks gorgeous.
Under the shadow of Pa Sin Leng Mountain (八仙嶺), the tiny island of Yeung Chau and the fish farms in the Plover Cove (船灣海) look like a peaceful picture.
Just twenty minutes walk from High Island Reservoir East Dam (萬宜水庫東壩), Long Ke Wan is one of the favorite beaches in Hong Kong for many. Facing east to Mirs Bay (大鵬灣) along with the four beaches of Big Wave Bay (大浪灣), Long Ke Wan’s (浪茄灣) hexagonal stone columns, white and powdery sand and unpolluted sea water make it a popular destination for beachgoers who make the effort to the eastern edge of Sai Kung Peninsula. It is possible to reach Long Ke Wan from two different directions, both involve some degree of hiking. The easiest is to hop on a taxi from Sai Kung town centre to the East Dam of High Island Reservoir, from there it is only a 20 minutes walk to the beach. The other option is to take a village bus from Sai Kung town centre to Sai Wan Pavilion (西灣亭). From the pavilion, it is a two-hour scenic hike to Long Ke Wan. This walk covers part of the Section 2 of MacLehose Trail (麥理浩徑), from Sai Wan Shan (西灣山) to Long Ke Wan. Atop Sai Wan Shan, the picturesque beaches of Big Wave Bay (大浪灣) down below with the mighty Sharp Peak (蚺蛇尖) as backdrop is truly one of the most iconic panoramas of Hong Kong’s natural beauty.
Much of coastal area from Long Ke Wan and High Island Reservoir East Dam all the way to the outlying islands south of the Sai Kung Peninsula are covered with polygonal stone columns.
These surreal stone formations are evidences from an active volcanic era 140 million years ago. The 20-minute walk from High Island Reservoir East Dam to Long Ke Wan offers great opportunity to see the coastal rock formations.
Flanked both sides by lush green slopes and back against Tuk Ngu Shan (獨孤山), Long Ke Wan (浪茄灣) is a protected bay opened southeastwards to the South China Sea.
The beach of Long Ke Wan is decent in size, with fine sand and crystal clear water.
Adjacent to Long Ke Wan, the coastal scenery of rock formations and sea caves are equally impressive.
Many visitors come to the area by yachts or hired boats.
At the remote Long Ke Wan, there is no cafe or changing rooms. All there is are natural scenery of a beautiful beach.
Many visitors set up tents on the sand. There is also a popular camp site at the back of the beach.
Unlike the beaches of Big Wave Bay where the waves can become quite strong, Long Ke is usually calmer.
During the summer months, the beach is very popular among young people.
Tidal pools can be found at the rocky areas at the side of beach.
A visitor comes to test his luck at the tidal pool.
Walking north from Long Ke Wan to Sai Wan Shan (西灣山) along the MacLehose Trail (麥理浩徑), hikers can have another magnificent overview of Long Ke Wan from above.
On Sai Wan Shan (西灣山), the view of High Island Reservoir and the outlying islands south of Sai Kung Peninsula makes one forget this is Hong Kong, one of the most densely populated city in the world.
Looking north from the top of Sai Wan Shan (西灣山), the scenery of Big Wave Bay beaches (大浪灣) and Sharp Peak (蚺蛇尖) is the icon of Hong Kong’s wilderness.
The trail then goes downhill from Sai Wan Shan to Chui Tung Au (吹筒坳), then winds along the north edge of High Island Reservoir towards Sai Wan Pavilion (西灣亭).
From the trail, visitors can see the West Dam of High Island Reservoir from distance.
The turquoise and green colours of High Island Reservoir always look refreshing.
From Sai Wan Pavilion (西灣亭), there is infrequent village buses return to the pier of Sai Kung town.
Completed in 1978, High Island Reservoir (萬宜水庫) is the largest reservoir in Hong Kong in terms of volume. Situated at the southeastern end of Sai Kung Peninsula, High Island Reservoir is surrounded by some of the city’s most scenic country parks and pristine beaches. Designated as an UNESCO geopark, the coastal areas near the East Dam (東壩) of the High Island Reservoir is filled with hexagonal volcanic columns unseen anywhere else in Hong Kong. 140 million years ago, catastrophic volcanic eruption covered much of the area in layers of tuff. The tuff cooled throughout time and gradually solidified to form rock. The hexagonal columns were formed from contraction during the cooling. Today, remnants from the highly active volcanic era become one of the most spectacular natural sights in the city. Equally impressive at the East Dam are the concrete dolosse blocks at one side of the Dam along the coast. Each dolos block weights up to 20 tons. They are used as wave breakers to protect the dam against the rough sea. To complete the beautiful picture, there are also sea caves and stack islands dotted around the coast, and the azure sky and boundless South China Sea.
From Sai Kung Town, the taxi ride to the East Dam, the furthest point of High Island Reservoir (萬宜水庫), takes about 45 minutes.
The spectacular High Island Reservoir East Dam separates the buffer lake of the reservoir and the boundless South China Sea. Known as Po Pin Chau (破邊洲), the magnificent stack island outside of the East Dam is famous for its tall volcanic columns on one side of its cliff.
The concrete East Dam structure that separates the two sides of blue water is really photogenic.
The dolosse blocks pile up on the seaward side of the East Dam, creating a chaotic yet beautiful barrier. Walking on the dam, we could hear the waves but weren’t be able to find an open view of the sea unless we climbed on the dolosse blocks.
Once we climbed on the dolosse blocks, we were immediately overwhelmed by the sight of the powerful waves hitting against the coastal volcanic hexagonal columns.
We climbed down the dam, sat on one of the step and had a quick picnic lunch.
Looking inland, we could see the inner East Dam that separating the buffer pool with the main reservoir above. The massive dam structure looked to us as if merged with the adjacent natural landscape.
Sea caves are common features near the East Dam.
At the East Dam, natural volcanic hexagonal columns appear side by side with the manmade dolosse blocks.
To explore a bit of the surrounding coastal landscape, we decided to walk further into the trail heading to Fa Shan (花山) and Pak Lap (白臘). The trail was not very well defined, but we managed to find our way in the hill of shrubs reaching waist height.
Our goal was to at least to have a closer look at the cliff of volcanic columns of the stack island of Po Pin Chau (破邊洲).
The coastal landscape in the area was truly spectacular. Some like to explore the area by sea kayaking.
Passing by the stone beach of Kim Chu Bay (撿豬灣) or Rolling Stone Beach (滾石灘), we saw a few hikers watching the powerful waves.
Some visitors didn’t mind to get wet and chose to explore by boat.
Finally, we reached the closest lookout overlooking the magnificent Po Pin Chau (破邊洲).
The stone columns of Po Pin Chau (破邊洲) appeared like a gigantic church organ.
We then found our way down to the Kim Chu Bay (撿豬灣) or Rolling Stone Beach (滾石灘) to get a even closer look and even touch of the volcanic columns.
All cliff sides at Kim Chu Bay (撿豬灣) or Rolling Stone Beach (滾石灘) were covered with stone columns.
After the hike out to Po Pin Chau (破邊洲) and Kim Chu Bay (撿豬灣), it was already late afternoon by the time we returned to the East Dam.
Instead of calling a taxi, we decided to walk back out to the main road where we could take a public bus. The route led us to go along a little over half the perimeter of High Island Reservoir and took about two hours.
Beyond the haze we could see the Sharp Peak or Nam She Tsim (蚺蛇尖) in a distance, a popular challenge for hikers in Hong Kong.
Soon the full moon was up over the tranquil water of High Island Reservoir.
The scenery of High Island Reservoir was serene and calm.
We enjoyed a few minutes of perfect sunset when we reached the West Dam (西壩). Beyond the West Dam was Port Shelter Sea (牛尾海) and a series of islands. The closest island was Tai Tau Chau (大頭洲).
As the sun gradually set, we picked up our pace of walking. Known as the Maclehose Trail Section 1, the trail surrounding High Island Reservoir was long but relative flat and easy. By the time we reached the bus stop at Tai Mong Tsai Road it was almost dark.
We got up at around 7 in the morning. The air was cold and refreshing. We walked down to the courtyard to brush our teeth and then into the dining room for breakfast. After breakfast, our host suggested us to take a morning walk to the “beach”. He gave us simple instructions and we ventured off onto the rural paths of Taquile again. We walked to a part of the island where we had not been to before, following a winding path with a low stone wall along both sides of the path that stretched all the way to as far as we could see. The beach was at the far end of the island. We could get a glimpse of it from the village centre. Without signage for direction and a clear path leading to the beach, we could only trust our gut to find a way to descend to the beach at the foot of the hill.
The lake water was freezing cold. Two cows were wandering on the sandy beach while we chilled out in the cool breeze. We stayed on the beach for about 20 minutes until we decided to walk back to the village to check out the handcraft centre. We climbed back up the hill to the main path. The handcraft centre had a huge collection of exquisite textiles and wearable pieces handmade by the villagers, such as knitted belts and hats. The colourful pieces are often decorated with traditional patterns unique to Taquile. In 2005, the textile arts of Taquile was declared Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by the UNESCO. Taquile is often considered a successful example of community-based tourism. Many islanders participate on making handcrafts for sell at the handcraft centre, or take turns to become hosts for visiting tourists.
After we visited the handcraft centre, we walked by a teenage girl sitting by the road, quietly knitting wool bracelets. She lined up her colourful bracelets nicely on a piece of fabric for display. The colourful bracelets had several different patterns knitted on both sides, and they all looked lovely to us. While we were appreciating the works, a local islander waved at us from afar and he looked anxious. He tried to tell us something important but we had trouble understanding. After moments of confusion, we finally understood that he had been looking for us for quite sometime. A friend of our host, he wanted to let us know that the boat leaving for Puno had changed its departure time earlier than scheduled. Our host, on the other hand, had gone to the pier to urge the boat captain to wait for us. By the time we were informed, we had less than half an hour to rush to the pier. We followed the messenger’s lead to the exit archway of Taquile, where a long flight of stone steps led to the community pier by the lake. We hurried down the stone steps in a single breath and finally jumped onto community boat leaving for Puno. The community boat was much slower than the tourist boats, and the ride took over two hours.
After docking at Puno, we went into a local restaurant at town centre for a big glass of warm chicha morada. Chicha is a Peruvian drink made of purple maize with a variety of spices or fruits. Fermented or non-fermented, chicha drinks have been popular with people on the Andes for centuries. A glass of purple chicha morada (with spices of some sort) became the perfect conclusion for our visit to Lake Titicaca. The next morning, we would head northwest to the historical heartland of the Inca Empire, Cusco and the Sacred Valley.
The boy of the host family was shy but curious. He invited us to play football with him at the forecourt of his house.
Our host’s home had a big foreground surrounded by adobe houses on three sides and a wall at the front. The forecourt is a perfect place for the kids of the family to play football.
The rural scenery of Taquile in early morning.
A woman with her sheep for a morning walk.
The beach that our host recommended was down the hill from the main path.
The beach is right at the foot of the terraced farmlands.
We finally reached the beach. We were greeted by a cow and its calf there. The water was too cold for a comfortable swim but the sun was warm and the sand was fine.
At the Handcraft Centre, we found many finely made textile items and knitwears. Examples of Taquile’s famous knitting could easily be seen everything on the island, including the traditional headwears of the villagers.
We passed by a number new buildings under construction when we rushed to the pier. Many buildings were left unfinished until villagers saved up enough money to complete the second level.
After passing this arch, we would bid farewell to Taquile island.
Following the messenger, we hurried down the stone steps to catch the community boat. The stepped path was long with uneven stone risers.
We finally made it to the pier and were amazed by the speed at which we descended the uneven steps.
There were a few boats at the dock. The community boat left from a different pier than where we arrived a day ago.
At last, the farming terraces of Taquile Island was behind us.
As the boat moved out to the lake, Taquile Island appeared smaller and smaller until it disappeared completely.
Our boat passed by some fish nets in the lake.
During the boat ride, we passed by a number villages along the coast of the mainland.
Close up of a coastal village by the Lake Titicaca.
We were sitting out on the boat deck. After the gate marked by the light towers, we knew Puno would soon be in sight.
We arrived at Puno at late afternoon. We strolled around the market near the town centre and went into a small local restaurant for a warm chicha moranda.
* * *
Read other posts on Peru Trip 2010
1. Peru Trip 2010
2. Bumpy Arrival, Lima & Arequipa, Peru
AREQUIPA & COLCA CANYON
3. Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa, Peru
4. Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru
5. Volcanoes and Vicuna, Pampa Canahuas Natural Reserve, Patahuasi, and Patapampa, Peru
6. Yanque, Colca Canyon, Peru
7. Cruz del Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru
8. Farming Terraces, Colca Canyon, Peru
PUNO & TITICACA
9. Road to Titicaca, Colca Canyon to Puno, Peru
10. Afternoon on Taquile Island, Titicaca, Peru
11. Morning on Taquile, Titicaca, Peru
12. Inka Express, Puno to Cusco, Peru
CUSCO & SACRED VALLEY
13. Pisac & Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
14. Salinas de Maras, & Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
15. Lucuma Milkshake & Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
16. Saksaywaman, Cusco, Peru
17. KM 82 to Wayllabamba, Inca Trail, Peru
18. Wayllabamba to Pacamayo, Inca Trail, Peru
19. Pacasmayo to Winay Wayna, Inca Trail, Peru
20. Winay Wayna to Machu Picchu, Inca Trail, Peru
21. Machu Piccu, Inca Trail, Peru
22. Machu Picchu in Black and White, Inca Trail, Peru
23. Afterthought, Inca Trail, Peru
LAST DAY IN CUSCO & LIMA
24. Farewell to the Incas, Cusco, Peru
25. Last Day in Peru, Lima, Peru