This is a moon cake, and for the past week or two they have been passed pretty liberally around Hong Kong as people celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival. Said festival always falls on a full-moon (i.e. last Friday), hence ‘moon cake’. They’re interesting… Beyond being round, they don’t look much like the moon. Yet the real liberty is taken in using the word ‘cake’. In my book, cakes don’t consist of pastry-encased thick lotus paste, or have the salted yolk of a duck egg hiding in the middle. But these do. I was genuinely excited to try them for the first time last year – they do look pretty nice after all – yet my disappointment, like the aftertaste, still lingers. It sums up one of the most testing aspects of living in the Far East: namely their twisted ideas as to what exactly should be involved in a desert or a cake – whether it be egg, potato or the dreaded red bean. The worst of it is, though, like the dumb moth to the bright flame, I keep trying these treats in the hope that one day, somehow, one of them will be normal.
As my summer holidays wound down, I felt an urge to do something worthwhile and outdoorsy. So I got up early one Monday morning and made for Kam Shan country park. The first section of the walk I’d completed several times, (https://stmckay.wordpress.com/2012/12/10/walks-1-kowloon-hills/) and it’s easy peasy – graded a 1* star difficulty rating by the Department of Difficult Hikes, or a similar body.
After reaching Shing Mun reservoir (and walking bravely right through the middle of what appeared to be a migrating herd of monkeys) I started on Stage 7 of the trail. There were lovely views of Tai Mo Shan, Hong Kong’s highest peak, and the almost tropical waters of the former ‘largest fresh water reservoir in Asia’:
Then the fun began… Stage 7 is a 2** difficulty hike, but you climb up and up roughly cut steps for the best part of half an hour. This is Needle Hill, left hand side of the photo below, and I was hitting it right on midday. The sun throbbed. My t-shirt was wet through. This was 3*** surely! The views were beautiful, though: a panorama of Hong Kong Island, the harbour, Tsuen Wan to the west and Sha Tin to the east. Planes floating in to the airport felt close enough to touch. This is bang in the centre of Hong Kong, and as I slogged up it felt like I could look from one side of the territory to another:
By the time I clambered to the summit of Needle Hill I was in no state to take a picture. I took on lots of water, gasped, and descended down the other side. Thinking about it now, I don’t know what I expected from ‘Needle Hill’ – the name doesn’t instantly conjure up images of gentle, Sunday promenades. But I was surprised that the rest of the walk was shaded and flat with occasional glimpses of the valley on one side or Sha Tin town on the other. And very relaxing. When I reached Lead Mine Pass I took the Wilson Trail down to Tai Po (seen through the trees in the picture below):
And that was it. 3 parts bucolic stroll; 1 part Navy Seals training. And this being Hong Kong, as soon as I reached the first signs of civilization (some pretty plush village houses) a minibus turned up as if on cue and whisked me back to the MTR and home.
The Great Wall at Jinshanling