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Animals of Lion Rock

I awoke one Saturday morning in December and decided that it was about time I checked out Lion Rock and the “best views of Hong Kong”.

I found a direct bus – 116 – that took me close to the area. Following my maps rather than any directions that I had gathered, I found myself on a series of steep steps rising away from a residential area. I climbed.

A dog was howling repeatedly in the distance. I got closer and closer to the sound, as though the dog was standing still and I was approached. The howls were not exactly aggressive or threatening, but I wanted some protection. I stopped and pulled out a bottle of water to drink. Two men were following me up the stairs. I put the bottle away just as they arrived so that I would have company with whom I could pass the animal.

Unfortunately the path forked. A gate in a chain-link fence opened and a signedboard directed to the Tsz Wan Shan Kwun temple to the left. I wanted to go right. Both men took the left. I proceeded by myself. I thought I saw someone up ahead. Was the dog with a person? There was an old Chinese woman in a blue jacket. No dog. I suddenly felt as though I were in an inverted fairy tale – where the dog was cursed with the form of an old woman. I walked past her. She was standing by herself, limbering up and exercising.

Blocked path

The path up ahead had a lot of fallen trees, presumably fallen during the typhoon a few months ago. What was unusual was that there seemed to be no effort to clear the trees here or at least move them from the main path. The path seemed to split in many directions, but most of them were blocked by fallen trees. I walked through another gate in a chain-link fence and was at a huge pylon. Up ahead were much bigger fences, reminiscent of something out of Jurassic Park to keep the tyrannosaurus rex out. This was a dead end. I turned back.

The dog’s howls had been continuing, but I had not come across a dog. It was definitely somewhere close to the old woman. Was it off the path, in the jungle? And then I saw her again. Just as I rounded a corner, I saw the blue jacket and heard the howl from that spot. It was a different howl and sounded a lot more human, now that I was in a direct line-of-sight. What I had heard previously included reverberations from the hill-side. I walked past this old woman with the werewolf fetish and actually thought to myself that I need not worry because it was daytime and the problem only really kicks in on full-moon nights. As I rounded another bend, the howling started again, this time the more dog-like ones, including the echoes, clearly indicating that it had picked up additional qualities as it traversed the hillside. 

I took the fork that the two men had taken and found myself going the way I wanted to.

The path I took later

I soon arrived at a smooth, tarred road with a little restaurant and public toilets. I came across a lot of people, with small children and dogs in this area. A map close by showed that I seemed to be going in the wrong direction for Lion Rock. This made sense, but I decided on the longer Wilson Trail, figuring that I could end the trek at Lion Rock instead of going there directly. The path was now very flat and smooth. On and off, I could see beyond the trees into the distance – with a view of the harbour and town of Sha Tin and the far off country parks of Hong Kong, close to the border with China. I came across a tiny snake, about 1 cm across and 20-30 cm long, peeking out from under some grasses. I took a break at a gazebo to snack and then continued along the Wilson trail.

After a while, I arrived at a path beside a canal. This path was very flat and I walked a kilometre or so along it. It was also quite isolated. A dog came toward me at some speed. I noticed that it had no collar, and no owner behind it, but it looked a bit too well-bred to be a stray.

By the canal

The canal-side path ended and I began ascending again. There were big stones placed on the ground to form steps. A pair of wild pigs walked across the steps in front of me and disappeared back into the forest. I was now making great speed. I was starting to get a little hungry and no longer wanted to spend time exercising. I outpaced a number of people heading to the peak and eventually made it. I sat down and finished off my peanuts while I caught my breath.

I was viewing Kowloon and Hong Kong Island from a single vantage point about 500 metres altitude.  I took time to realise because the smog dimmed the otherwise-easily recognisable landmarks of ICC and IFC. Turning to the other side, I could see a good bit of The New Territories as well. I was seated at the head of the lion of Lion’s Rock.

Views of Kowloon. ICC is visible in the smog, in the distance. Hong Kong Island is across the strait.

I walked across to check out the tail, then headed back down. This time I took the short route back. I was down quite quickly. Toward the end I spotted monkeys. I pulled out my phone to photograph the first and the second, but by the time I reached the bottom of the steps, there was a whole lot of them and no more interest to photograph.

Monkey

I walked into Lion Rock Park Community Garden in order to find some toilets. The place had more creatures. I mostly noticed the local pigeons and oriental magpies. I had gone for the scenery, but had also come across a surprising amount of animal life on this trip. But nothing as bizarre as the howling woman.

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