Unparalleled vibrancy in Mui Tsz Lam Village
Mui Fa Ancient Trail (1)
Mui Fa Ancient Trail (2)
Red margin bamboo
Six cherry-red legged insect
Black swallowtail butterfly
Farm land and urban districts blend together
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A happy turn gave us a great start to a long weekend

A wrong turn can sometimes result in great adventures. In our case, the search for one ancient trail found us stumbling upon a completely different, though nonetheless enchanting hiking path. While we had originally intended to make our way along Mau Ping Ancient Trail (which would lead us to Sai Kung), our unexpected turn onto Mui Fa Ancient Trail was a calming morning hike and a great start to a long weekend.

Mui Fa Ancient Trail is one of several man-made paths in the area. Cutting through Ma On Shan Country Park, the pathway is a cool, narrow path that spans roughly 2.5 kilometres of stone steps working in harmony with the surrounding environment. It sits between the villages of Mui Tsz Lam and Fa Sam Hang, with Nui Po Au sitting in the middle. With little to no flat sections in the trail, hiking Mui Fa is a reasonable substitute for leg day at the gym. Towering foliage provides shade at every turn, which, though we began our hike in the early hours of the morning, was nonetheless appreciated. Our relief towards the natural UV protection stemmed from the shock it took to reach the starting point. To our surprise, half of our walking time was spent making our way to the beginning of the trail.

At approximately seven in the morning, we alighted at the Tai Shui Hang MTR station and made our way to Mui Tsz Lam Road, which would eventually connect to our desired hiking path. Broad and open to sun exposure, we fatigued easily and took frequent rests for stretching and hydrating.

The deceptively steep road became visibly tougher when we reached Mui Tsz Lam Village. Comprising several gardening plots, a slim, rocky path was our only way up. As the sun crept higher into the sky, we admired the beauty surrounding us. There were broad-leaf palm trees, netted crops and trellises straining under the weight of their gardeners’ efforts. Rolling verdant mountains ran parallel to low-lying houses, both modern and traditional in style, that were no taller than three stories high.

Turning right, a neatly curated stone path clearly demarcated the start of the trail. The short stone walls to the left reminded me of classic trails in the British and Irish countryside, a style that is retained in more than half of the pathway. While the precision that the walkway began with was not maintained throughout, there were usually a series of broad, smooth-topped rocks to help pedestrians track the correct route to follow. Near the start of the walk, a shallow stream cut through the steppingstones. Patches of moss grew on rocks touched by the gently flowing water. The abundance of low-lying foliage surrounding the waters spoke of the rich nutrients in the soil. Gigantic monstera leaves dotted the area. Ferns were aplenty, rooting in between rocks and framing other greenery. As we left the tiny creek, an official post with the Chinese characters for “Ma On Shan Country Park” assured us that we were not lost.

In the stretches of time where we were the only people on the trail, we easily passed the time soaking up our surroundings. A colossal boulder, at least six feet in height, was split from top to the ground. More alarmingly, a tree branch appeared to grow into and through the halved rock. I shuddered to think about the natural forces that would have conspired to make such things possible. An eight-spotted forrester moth hungrily nipped at a young leaf. A common evening brown butterfly showed far more energy than me as it flitted between branches and through bamboo shoots, ever evasive and uncaptured by my camera.

From here the path narrowed considerably, forcing us to trek upwards in single file. This section of the trail showed signs of dilapidation. Tree roots broke through some of the stone steps. The earth under patches of the manmade path had long since eroded — these sections we passed with the utmost care. We received a respite from this uncertainty as the route transformed into a clear dirt path, flanked by trees and bamboo shoots on either side to provide shade and slow the storm in times of flood. See-sawing between stone and dirt, this uncertainty was diminished when we reached a sign announcing Fa Sam Hang Village’s close proximity (at this point, we had half a kilometre do go before reaching the farming area). From there, concrete steps paved the way downwards, and we took our time descending them to avoid rushing through and toppling over from our own momentum.

Lively greens gave way to bursts of colour, flowers growing in larger bunches here than in the country park. White gordonias were in full bloom, their lemon-yellow pollen at the ready for hungry creatures. Lantana camara shone in the light, their shades of oranges, reds and yellows reflecting against the midmorning sun. Bougainvillea and bauhinias, common and admired sights in Hong Kong, happily greeted all passers-by. A blue and black forest queen butterfly couldn’t decide which flower to suckle from. To top off our unexpectedly wonderful hike, my friend and I spent far too long being equal parts terrified of and intrigued by a bug that, approximating the width of a thumbnail, had a black body and six cherry-red legs.

As we “returned to civilization” we marvelled at the people braving the start of their own hikes. It was not even midday yet, but we could feel the pressure of the sun’s full force on this bright and cloudless day. While Hong Kong is a treasure trove of hiking trails, summer is not a time to hike when the sun has fully awakened.

Text & photos Victoria Mae Martyn