Stream Strolling: A Hike Along Gan Bai
Winter has arrived in Hong Kong but our tutors are always down for an adventure. Chatteris’ own Luke Athow talks us through his favourite hike.
Living in the ‘concrete jungle’ you often get sucked into the hustle and bustle of city life, with the ‘jungle’ on your doorstep being an afterthought. The faint view of boundless green that you often glimpse when walking the streets of Kowloon tends to seem pretty elusive when you’re surrounded by towering skyscrapers and your nostrils are filled with the familiar smell of Nathan Road. In truth, around 40% of the territory in Hong Kong is in fact undeveloped or designated as country parks and nature reserves. All you need to do is put on your snuggest hiking gear, grab some H2O, and hop on the MTR and you can be knee-deep in greenery in no time.
As someone who enjoys SCUBA Diving, fishing, and underwater Archaeology, I find myself most at home when I am in or around water. Naturally, upon arriving in Hong Kong I swiftly took to hiking through streams and clambering up waterfalls. There couldn’t be a better place to do this than the Gan Bai Stream in the western New Territories.
Start of the journey
Admittedly, this is not most accessible of hikes; it does take a bit more than a short MTR ride to get to the mouth of the Gan Bai Stream. The first step of your expedition begins at Yuen Long MTR station where you’ll need to holler down a taxi to Ha Pak Lai. Remember to give clear instructions or you’ll accidentally end up in mainland China– which very nearly happened on my first endeavour, woops…
Once at Ha Pak Lai it’s just a jump (or slide) off the country road into the gravel-filled stream. This is where the stream hike truly begins.
For the first stretch of the Gan Bai, you will be flanked by banana trees, with a banana plantation appearing on the right-hand side of your trek up the stream. Be careful not to be tempted by the hanging bananas as there are some overly keen guard dogs on the plantation!
Silver Water Double Falls
Once past the banana plantation, you’ll be on your way to the first of three waterfalls, the Silver Water Double Falls. On your journey there you’ll be walking by the grenade-throwing training ground for the Chinese army, as well as coming across old, rundown infrastructure which was erected for the once-bustling villages at the bottom of the stream. The Chinese army training ground isn’t the only evidence of military action along the Gan Bai, with the region once being used for munitions testing and training purposes for the British Army. You may come across shiny metal objects along the stream, try not to disturb these as they’ll likely be an unexploded shell…
Once you reach the Silver Water Double Falls you’ll be greeted with, you guessed it, two beautiful cascades of water folding down into rock pools at the base of the waterfall. Here you can take a minute, or twenty, to chill out and enjoy the rock pools, one of which is known as the “hot tub”. To overcome this first waterfall, you will need to scale the left side, which has conveniently formed a natural staircase.
Cascade on Short Stage
After a short while, you’ll come across the second waterfall, appropriately named Cascade on Short Stage due to a stone ‘table’ below the waterfall which creates a small cascade. From here you’ll have to scale the waterfall. Thanks to the gentle cascade this shouldn’t prove to be too much of a challenge.
Past the Cascade on Short Stage, you will make your way to the most treacherous point on the hike: the Water Corridor. You’ll be greeted with what seems to be a vertical, jumbled mess of stone and water all confined into a meter-wide space. First, you’ll be plunged into a turquoise pool of water which you will have to wade through till you reach the start of your slippery climb. At the perilous rocks you’ll have to cling onto, and jam your foot into any space you can find to make sure you don’t meet an unfortunate end. At the other side of the Water Corridor you’ll witness the first of many magnificent views of Shenzhen and the surrounding areas.
Slanting Slit Waterfall
The next challenge, and the final waterfall, is the Slanting Slit Waterfall. Despite being the smallest of the three waterfalls it still proves to be a challenge as during the climb up you are burdened by Slanting Slit’s descending water, after which you are confronted with pushing yourself out of a chamber at the top of the waterfall. The name of the hole you have to push yourself through is aptly named “the birth canal”, as you are required to force yourself through an extremely small hole whilst being bombarded by a continuous stream of water.
Pineapple Hill/Leung Tin Au
After conquering the Slanting Slit Waterfall the stream will start to flatten out, indicating the end of the stream hike. Here you can make a quick exit to the bare, sun-beaten, back of Leung Tin Au. On the way up Leung Tin Au you are treated to even more awe-inspiring views of the valley, with the views getting even better at the peak.
Once at the peak it’s just a quick trek down into Tuen Mun where you can either head home or get a taxi into the Gold Coast to enjoy a few beverages and some good food!
[Disclaimer: Hong Kong’s social distancing restrictions now limit public gatherings to two people, the images in this post were taken prior to these guidelines being introduced.]
Want to explore Hong Kong’s hidden trails like Luke? Apply now to be a Chatteris Tutor.