Hong Kong Island from Tai Tam
Panorama of Hong Kong Island & Kowloon
Harbour view from Tai Tam
Tsim Sha Tsui East to the Kai Tak Runway park
Brick and cement outdoor stoves from the 1940s
Wild Boar in Tai Tam
World War II relic vs Banyan Tree
Summit and sunshine
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Relics, natural splendour, and the search for Sir Cecil

Sprawling an impressive 1,315 hectares, Tai Tam Country Park is rich with flora, fauna and modern history. As the weather warms up and people pack away their winter coats and spend weekends enjoying the fresh air and sunshine, hiking becomes a natural choice for leisure and exercise. Of the many trails available to the public in Hong Kong, we chose to venture towards a particular route within the park – Sir Cecil’s Ride. Named after a former Governor of Hong Kong (1925 – 1930), the route is well-shaded and accessible to hikers of all skill levels. My two trips to the trail were never short of interesting sights and sounds, be they from our surroundings or fellow visitors.

You may wonder, why did I take two trips to Sir Cecil’s? Let me be the first to say that I am as effective a guide as a magnetised compass. Thank goodness for my friends’ easy-going attitudes, as they had no qualms with “taking the scenic route” (a more polite way of saying, “having to double-back and re-check the map a few times”). But our efforts were not spent in vain. Coming across surviving World War Two relics, unique flowers, friendly animals, and sprawling views, both journeys in search of Sir Cecil’s Ride were well worth the effort.

Our first hike comprised of conquering part of the Wilson Trail, Siu Ma Shan, and an unexpected trip up to Mount Butler Peak before descending to Sir Cecil’s Ride. The route abounds in ruggedly beautiful tree life. China fir, with its straight trunks representative of justness and eternity, dotted the early sections of the hike, tiny pinecones growing far above our heads. This evergreen tree is a fast-growing species that can shoot up thirty to forty metres in height; we passed by many firs in our search for the governor’s route. Other memorable trees included the grey-barked Chinese hackberry, the many-hued red machilus, the misnamed strawberry tree (nary a strawberry was to be found, but instead red, white and purple-black berries grow on its branches), the Australian native Brisbane fox, and the poisonous naked anther ternstroemia.

One-third of the way into the Wilson Trail, we came across a flattened area lined with outdoor stoves. Made of brick and cement, the stoves were separated into rectangular groups of eight, with two large stoves bookending two smaller stoves on either side. As one of ten communal kitchens that were built along the streams of the Taikoo reservoir, these stoves were envisioned as a response to the surging food demand that followed the fall of Canton.

At some point, I accidentally led my friends down a wrong turn, but we were pleased for the mistake. If it were not for our extended route, we would not have had the pleasure of fawning over three boars. Our hearts went out to the runt of the litter, who was butted out of the way by one of its larger siblings and forced onto the paved road. One hiker, bearing a distinct lack of common sense, decided that poking one of the boars was an excellent idea. Though we did not see this encounter, we heard the hiker’s surprised yelp and lengthy complaints as the boar butted him in retaliation. Nature is vengeful.