In 1992, I met a Chinese woman in her 50s who was visiting a friend in Tai Po. She lived on Hong Kong Island, and apart from taking the train to Lo Wu (which passes through Tai Po), she’d never got off the train beyond Lion Rock in the New Territories. She’d never been to Sha Tin (just the other side of Lion Rock) which was one of the first new towns in the NT and now has a population of almost 1M people. She’d never been to Kam Tin valley while it still had historic villages and temples. She’d never been to the Pat Sin Leng mountain range with its waterfalls and paddy terraces. She’s lived pretty much her whole life on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon peninsula. She was actually quite nervous and excitable because she’d had to walk 300m from the train station to my friend’s apartment.
As a gratuitous scene setter, here are some of my favourite landscapes in the NT (photographed between 1995 and 2003).
Shenzen photographed from within the 'closed border area'. The Shenzen River was the natural boundary chosen to define the New Territories from China. The CBA could only be entered with a permit, apart from the indigenous villagers and the British Army and Hong Kong Police. When Shenzen was deliberately created out of rice fields at Deng Xiao Ping's insistence, the HK side remained an untouched natural haven - much like the no-man's land between the two Koreas.
The very steep clamber 500m up Pat Sin Leng from Ting Kok Road; looking back towards Tolo Harbour
View from the abandoned paddies of Kam Tin towards Kwun Yam Shan ('shan' meaning mountain) which is a foothill of Tai Mo Shan, at 957m the highest peak in HK or the NT
All over the world, waterfalls are called after brides. Hong Kong is no different: Bride's Pool near Plover Cove Reservoir
The relatively unspoilt Nam Chung valley looking north towards Sha Tau Kok (China)
Abandoned agricultural terraces in the neighbouring Luk Keng valley
Cascading waterfalls above Nam Chung valley
The walk around Plover Cove Reservoir takes around 8 hours. At the eastern end (looking west) it feels like you've entered the Lost World
The Ma On Shan Country Park from Tso Wo Hang on the edge of Sai Kung Country Park
It's a long climb to the 702m peak of Ma On Shan
...the views from the top (on a rare air-pollution free day) are superb
Ngau Ngak Shan - The Hunch Backs
The view across the Kei Ling Ha Hoi fish farms towards Yung Shu O
The reverse view from the Yung Shu O road
The towering presence of Ma On Shan means earlier sunsets for the residents of Yung Shu O
The view back towards Ma On Shan from the Ngong Ping trail
This plateau above Sai Kung has become the launching pad of choice for 'parascenders'
Long Ke Wan, one of the remote bays of Sai Kung Country Park
Tai Long Wan beach, a favourite camp site
Tai Long Wan, presumably the other 7 million people living in HK haven't heard about it
Tai Long Wan behind Tai Long Sai Wan
Tong Fuk (yes, really) beach on the south Lantau coast