Tuesday, December 16, 2008

MacLehose Trail (continued)

Section 5: Where Monkeys Roam

When we got to the end of section four, we were glad we had chosen to do section five as well. The end of that section, well, there's nothing there. Aside from a very small road that comes in, it's mostly distinguished by a few signs. One announced that there were a lot of military ruins along the trail; there was a map, which we took a lot of photos of in case things got misleading again; and then there was one amusing sign that we took a picture of while chuckling to ourselves (see left).

At the start of section five, things were pretty mellow. The views were still spectacular, but things were somewhat flatter and we were able to run more at the start. The first major thing that happened was that we got to a detour. That we weren't counting on. One section was closed off due to a landslide, so we had to go around. This was discouraging at the time, but turned out to be kind of interesting. We were running on little village roads and trails, which made me wonder just how much of that there is in the New Territories. The biggest issue was that we weren't really sure if we were going the right way or not. The first big clue was when we saw a GU package littered on the trail; sad normally, but it showed us we were going the right way. Then luckily a runner coming the other way confirmed that we were heading the right way, and we returned the favor. We were all figuring it out.

The nicest thing, though, was that the detour got us into the Lion's Rock Country Park, which not only had some vending machines, but also had a little store/café. We bought a bottle of water, and then gladly abandoned the 'bread-and-water' idea in favor of some of the tastiest iced tea we've ever had – a home-brewed mixture in plain plastic bottles that might have been the best drink we had during the whole time in Hong Kong.

We headed out from the café and then soon got to the Kowloon pass. This was a kind of neat spot – the lowest spot in the ridge, although that was still pretty high. From there, we realized we had the option of going down the hill and into Kowloon, and getting some other form of public transportation from there. We decided against this, opting to complete the route we'd chosen from the start. It was at around this point that we saw our first monkeys – two monkeys up in a tree. That was pretty cute. We wanted to take pictures, but didn't, because of the sign earlier saying not to stare at them.

At this point, we thought things were good – there'd been a “beware of monkeys” sign, we saw the monkeys, and that was that. Right?

Un-unh. We only had a few miles left to run, but the main thing we remember from those miles is Lots. More. Monkeys. Those two in the tree? No big deal. But soon after that we were going through a really big pack of monkeys. There were two big ones; the rest were little, but we had no idea how many of them there were. And the thing with monkeys – you don't know what they know. They might be really really smart, they might not be. But you don't know. So we crept our way through, and luckily no monkeys attacked us. We were calm, they were calm.

There was a decent stretch after that, when we were able to keep a good pace going. But it turned out we weren't done with the monkeys yet. Within a half mile or so of the end of the trail, we came to another section of them! This time, things were much less calm. We were walking along on the trail, and then one of them started walking on the trail towards us. So we just turned around and started heading back. Then one of the little ones starts running towards us! It didn't come all the way – it veered off to the side before getting to us – and we got out of there. But then what? We were almost at the end of the trail. There was a road behind us that we could go back to, but didn't really want to. We figured we'd wait a few minutes and see if the monkeys were still there. Then a group of people came by. Helen told them about the monkeys and they just shrugged. So we tucked in behind them and went through. Some of the most heart-stopping minutes of our lives! Noah forgot about not staring, and one of them hissed at him!

We made it safely, though. And then kind of sauntered to the end of the trail, with our figurative tails between our legs.

What to make of the MacLehose trail? We're pretty set on *not* doing the monkey sections again, but definitely want to check out more of the trail. It does seem like a hiking trail, though, as opposed to a trail-running trail.
It's great to have that sort of thing in an urban area. Sleep at home, go off into the mountains, then eat wherever you want. Point-to-point runs become easier, because of how much public transportation there is. But our main thought, when we think about the trail, and about trail running in Hong Kong in general, is that we've only barely scratched the surface.

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