DIVE IN AT THE SHARP END

A Hong Kong hike is a rev­e­la­tion, writes Ali­son God­frey.

Herald on Sunday - - HONG KONG -

I’m stand­ing at the edge of the ocean in my un­der­pants, wa­ter lap­ping around my an­kles, and pre­par­ing to dive into the cool wa­ter. This is the last thing I ex­pected to be do­ing in Hong Kong.

It’s a city known for bustling streets, high­rise build­ings, high rents and high pop­u­la­tion num­bers. On Hong Kong Is­land that’s cer­tainly true. But take an Uber ride away from the city and you’ll find lush coun­try­side, un­crowded beaches and ge­o­log­i­cal trea­sures.

I’ve come to Sai Kung in the New Ter­ri­to­ries to hike through Sharp Is­land. It’s hu­mid. Sweat sticks un­der the col­lar of my shirt and I’m han­ker­ing for a cool dip in the ocean. But since I for­got my togs, I’m in my undies.

Also known as Kiu Tsui Chau, Sharp Is­land is the largest is­land in the Kiu Tsui Coun­try Park and is part of the Unesco Global Geop­ark. The lush green is­land is cov­ered in rocks formed from vol­canic frag­ments and magma. Lo­cals call them pineap­ple rocks be­cause their cracked sur­face re­sem­bles the fruit’s bumpy skin.

The hike from Kiu Tsui Beach to Hap Mun Bay takes a lit­tle more than an hour. It’s ad­vis­able to do it in the win­ter months of Novem­ber to March as the sum­mer heat would make it tough. Guides for the walk can be hired at the Vol­cano Dis­cover Cen­tre in Sui Kung.

The trail be­gins at the beach where Sharp Is­land con­nects to nearby Kiu Tau (is­land) by a nat­u­ral stone bridge, called a tombolo. A tombolo is formed when the mo­tion of sea cur­rents pushes coastal sand or gravel to­wards the shore. Sharp Is­land’s tombolo is ex­posed at low tide, so it’s pos­si­ble to walk from one is­land to the other.

But in­stead, we’re head­ing up the hill, up a steep stairs away from the ocean. But­ter­flies flut­ter con­stantly across the trail, grab­bing on to leaves and rest­ing their wings. Above us, dozens of kites cir­cle like a cy­clone, com­mu­ni­cat­ing with each other as they ride the wind.

As I fol­low the ridge­line I en­joy stun­ning views of se­cluded beaches, out­ly­ing is­lands and the tow­er­ing moun­tains of the coun­try park.

Af­ter a 1.4km hike along a trail lit­tered with gar­de­nia flow­ers, we’re re­warded with a view of Hup Mun Bay. It takes its name from the bro­ken English form of “half moon” and fol­lows the shape of the beach. Af­ter a sweaty hike, it’s a re­ward­ing sight.

Fling­ing off oursneak­ers, we de­light in the feel of sand be­tween our toes. But it’s not enough; the wa­ter is beck­on­ing.

Diving into the wa­ter is an in­stant re­lief from the hu­mid­ity and I wash the sweat and grime off my skin. The wa­ter is pleas­antly cool, the kind of tem­per­a­ture that makes you want to stay in the ocean for­ever.

Hup Mun Bay is en­closed by a shark net and there are two float­ing pon­toons a short swim away from the sand where you can rest and lap up the sun­shine be­fore diving back into the ocean.

When you’ve fin­ished swim­ming, you can ei­ther walk back along the trail or have the boat pick you up at Hap Mun. What­ever you do, just make sure you pack your togs.

Sharp Is­land’s pineap­ple rocks. Pic­ture / AAP

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