Back in Hong Kong at the end of November we took our bikes over to Lantau Island and got a nasty shock due to some steep climbs on the road to the Big Buddha.
Although we had recently completed the Taiwan KOM I can honestly say that a couple of the climbs on Lantau were as painful, albeit for a much shorter time period… or perhaps it just the fact that your “hardest climb ever” is often the one that you’re climbing.
Cars need a special license to drive on the south side of Lantau which means most of the traffic there consists of buses (mainly going up to the Buddha) and taxis. With one or two exceptions they passed us with sufficient space. We also started riding at 7.30am which helped to avoid the traffic and the worst heat of the day.
The road to the Buddha (which is at Ngong Ping) starts in Tung Chung which is next to Hong Kong International Airport.
You can take bikes to Tung Chung on the MTR (the local metro/underground). Of course first we had to get to the MTR (in Mongkok) which involved an early morning ride down a (reasonably) quiet Argyle Street. Mongkok is one of the busiest and most frenetic bits of Kowloon later in the day.
Once in the station we took the front wheels off our bikes as advised on various blogs. As a musician had been recently prevented from getting on the MTR for carrying a cello we were a little worried that the same thing might happen to us. However, all was well.
The climb out of Tung Chung is to Pak Kong Au although on Strava it is named ‘The Beast’. With an average gradient of 14% for almost 2km it is easy to see why especially as we were making full on efforts.
The road over The Beast is new and has a good road surface. When we got to the bottom of the descent (towards the south side of Lantau Island), we were on older roads which appeared to be made of concrete slabs. These were generally not too bumpy but had a lot of gaps that were exactly the width of a bike tyre. You certainly had to concentrate on the road ahead to avoid getting caught in one of these.
Lantau has some beautiful beaches along its south side, and the road to the Buddha runs parallel to these for several kilometres before the climb to the Buddha starts after crossing a dam. You have a great view of the Buddha and Lantau Peak, the highest mountain on the island, from the road around the reservoir and across the dam.
We went up this climb at full gas too and got a unexpected surprise from on the final section of the climb which reared up to 14% for 700m. What is it with all this 14%? (The number four is unlucky in Chinese as it sounds like the word for death.)
We made it to the Po Lin Monastery where the Buddha is situated before the cable car from Tung Chung started to disgorge hordes of tourists, so we took some nice photos before heading back down.
This next photo is taken in the same spot where Lillian had one taken of her as a young child.
We continued riding to Tai O, which was a picturesque fishing village with houses on stilts 20 years ago when we were both last here. Unfortunately it now seems to be in an ugly state on its way to becoming another Tung Chung; that’s progress I guess. The picture below cuts out most of the newer developments and shows a few of the old houses.
The road ends in Tai O but the climb back is worth doing (8% for 3km). It was then downhill back down the bottom half of the Buddha climb.
The last place we visited on this ride was Mui Wo (Silvermine Bay). I like Silvermine Bay having gone there many times on various walks and runs. For example, the Lantau Trail (recommended) starts and ends there. It has a very relaxed feel for a Hong Kong town with no high-rise buildings and a nice beach.
The climb back out of Silvermine Bay has special significance for us as I did it with Lillian on one of our early dates many years ago. Lillian had never ridden a bike with gears and we were both on heavy mountain bikes that I had borrowed from a friend. I was able to verify with my Garmin that the angle was over 10% for long stretches so I think her dislike of the ride was well justified!
We cycled back to Tung Chung via a final climb back over The Beast. This side is not as hard as the climb from Tung Chung but was still tiring in the heat of the day. Doing laps over The Beast would certainly be good training for the Taiwan KOM!
We had ridden all the major roads on the south side of Lantau and in total it was 70km with 1,900m of ascent. I would recommend it as a ride. The Buddha is one of Hong Kong’s main tourist attractions and the views on the rest of the ride are beautiful on a clear day and show a completely different side to Hong Kong than the more commonly seen tower blocks.
Moving from cycling to running, I had a couple of hours of free time on our final day in Hong Kong so I went for a run starting from the Kowloon Reservoir.
After saying hello to my monkey friends, I initially followed the Maclehose Trail (Stage 6) and then picked up the Wilson Trail (second half of Stage 6) to go along Smugglers’ Ridge and arrive at the dam on the Shing Mun Reservoir.
I finished with by running up Needle Hill.This is a great looking peak, and as its name suggests is quite pointy with the summit being 300m above the dam.
It’s a hard run with two false summits on the way up. I gave a big push when I saw these with the result that my legs were like jelly when I reached the top 20 minutes later.
After descending about a third of the peak on the path I joined a forest road.
I would have liked to have continued along the Maclehose Trail but as time was running out I followed the road (no cars) around Shing Mun Reservoir and finished the run about 90 minutes after I started (12.5km, 700m of ascent). The run was actually the reverse of what I did with Lillian in Outdoor Hong Kong (Part 1), with the addition of Needle Hill. It is a good run if you want to trash your legs quickly!
The chronicles of our next visit to Hong Kong are here: Outdoor Hong Kong (Part 3).