Slap bang in the middle of Hong Kong stands the territory’s highest peak: Tai Mo Shan. ‘Big Hat Mountain’ is the literal translation from Cantonese, although it looks absolutely nothing like any kind of headwear to me… On a clear day, standing astride the summit, you can have a 360 degree view of Hong Kong: north to south, east to west – you got it.
It’s a dormant volcano (aren’t all mountains, really) and evidence of it’s temperamental past can be seen in all the massive rocks and boulders dotted around the hillside in odd clusters and weird angles. The landscape of the mountain is different to the rest of Hong Kong’s country parks in that, after half an hour of pushing through the usual sub-tropical forest full of dripping water and chirruping beasties, you emerge onto clear, windswept grassy plains, where cows graze and it’s all very European. You’ll know the top by the white weather-station dome perched on it.
If I were you, I’d do Stage 8 in reverse, starting at the end on Route Twisk. It’s the easiest to get to by public transport – take the 51 bus from Tsuen Wan MTR station. Otherwise you need an additional hike just to reach the official ‘start’ of the trail, at Leadmine Pass. If you are me, this ‘hike’ will involve wandering in circles through Tai Po Kau nature reserve thinking ‘this looked easy on the map’, adding an hour of trekking and sweating to your day. It’s a fairly medium level hike, with a slight but persistent and twisting incline up to the top. It took me about three and a half hours to complete the stage.
Once you’re up and over the mountain, and have arrived at Leadmine Pass, you can either turn north along the Wilson trail to Tai Po, where an abundance of transport options are at your fingertips (bus, train, taxi – whatever your sweaty post-hike self feels most comfortable in), or if you’re feeling particularly sprightly you can continue along the Maclehose trail to Needle Hill, Lion Rock, or south along the Wilson to Shing Mun reservoir – Hong Kong’s your oyster. See elsewhere in this blog for more details on these picturesque routes.