Climbing Hong Kong’s Victoria Peak

Hong Kong is more than the city you see on TV.

Taken from Hong Kong Island looking across the bay to Kowloon

More than 200 islands make up the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong however due to the steep hills and mountainous terrain the majority of development is limited to Hong Kong Island, the cityscape famous in every photo, Kowloon (the peninsula which looks out onto Hong Kong Island from which many of those photos are taken) and the New Territories, the land joining mainland China.

Having spent the last few days walking around the steep climbs of the populated area I dread to think how steep the unpopulated parts are, my legs are already numb!

The iconic skyline of Hong Kong is the ‘Central’ business district and it sits at the base of one of the tallest peaks in the region, Victoria Peak – also known as Mount Austin.

Victoria Peak behind the Central district

Before heading out to the more extreme hikes I set out to climb The Peak.

Hong Kong is experiencing a period of high temperatures, hitting over 30c daily, so I set out early to avoid climbing in the midday sun.

Stopping off at the local 7-11 (which are everywhere I’ve been from the USA, South Korea, Japan to here, pretty sure they’ve not made it across the pond to us yet though?) I grabbed two massive bottles of water, couple of sandwiches (one breakfast, one lunch) and some snack bars. A whopping HK$100 (~£11) later I followed Google Maps to a bus stop and waited.

After a couple of minutes a delicious dilapidated minibus with the right destination sign nearly shot past before I stuck out my arm and hoped he’d stop before he hit me.

Hong Kong buses

The minibus shuddered to a stop, impressing me the passengers already on board remained in their seats, and the middle for clattered open with the force of a saloon bar door being shoved.

I climbed aboard expecting to be asked for the fare but the driver ignored me, no passengers seemed aware I’d even boarded and I couldn’t see any sign of what to do.

I took a seat as the door slammed shut, although they flapped open and closed a few more times before the next bus stop, and waited to be challenged on not paying.

About 5 minutes later the bus driver seemed to realise I was there and demanded payment, I tried to explain I had no idea how or how much to pay and he gestured to a machine on a pole by the door. The door that was enjoying flying back and forth exposing a gap back into the street whilst we drove along faster than any other bus I’ve been on before.

Deciding I’d rather take my chances with the road than an angry bus driver I grabbed a pole for support and stood in the doorway quickly shoving coins into a slot to conver the flat fare for one way travel, an extortionate £0.60.

The driver now seemingly calmed I wasn’t trying to stow away he turned his attention back to driving and resumed his apparent response pursuit level of driving.

Every now and then a passenger would indicate they wanted off or on and the bus would come to a screeching halt, no matter the traffic around, the middle door would smash open, if it wasn’t already, and so long as you had one foot through the door the bus would start moving reminding you to get a move on! Nevermind he’d let you out on a dual carriageway with fences blocking the pavement and oncoming traffic heading right for you.

After leaping from the bus and running for a gap in a barrier I ended up on the pavement and began my hike.

If you picture the Central area on the north side of the island I’d taken a bus anti clockwise to the south side, a place called Pok Fu Lam putting The Peak between us. The plan was to climb up the more forested south side and enjoy the views before walking down the north side straight to my hotel.

You can, of course, get a taxi or tram up the mountain but I’m a backpacker on a budget, and what’s the fun in that anyway.

The Peak Tram, a much more civilised way up the mountain

The hike starts entering Pok Fu Lam country park and reservoir area. A beautiful forest walk with many waterfalls, singing birds and so many butterflies.

It is an amazing contrast to the bustling city I’d come from and it made the 550 metre climb slightly more bearable!

Pok Fu Lam Country Park

As it was I’d already left it too late and the sun was beating down, I ended up going through about 3 litres of water before reaching the top.

But after a little under an hour I made it! Except, there were no city views. Despite being at the peak due to the layout you can’t actually see the business district. I had a lovely view of the South China Sea though.

View from The Peak

A quick look on G Maps and I found a lookout point lower down the mountain. So I set off on another 3km walk down and across to finally get those views.

View of Central from Victoria Peak

Thankfully the forecast rain didn’t come and although a few grey clouds threatened I was able to sit and enjoy a breathtaking sight of Hong Kong. Watching massive cargo ships and helicopters criss-crossing the bay. It was absolutely worth it.

Once I’d relaxed enough it was time to head back down. It turns out this was harder than the climb up. It was so steep walking down that it took all my effort not to end up running out of control and falling down. Eventually I settled on a zig zag manoeuvre that I’m sure doubled the distance I ended up walking!

The route back down took me back through the Zoological & Botanical gardens so I had lunch watching the monkeys and birds in the FREE public park.

By the time I got back to the hotel it was over 35c and, apologies for this, my entire clothing was soaked through. A lovely cold shower and change of clothes and then back out to see the city again.

The worrying thing though is this was the easy, practice hill. I have two more hikes planned which are higher and further than this, wish me luck!

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