Along the watchtowers

A few days ago I woke up, looked outside and saw something strange. The sky was blue. In fact, it was too blue. A kind of blue you never see in Hong Kong. Suspiciously blue. Clear, bright, clean blue. Punctuated with white fluffy clouds. I went on my balcony and breathed in; for once the air smelt clean, fresh, non toxic. Even the birds outside were singing and chirping louder and more enthusiastically than ever. Then I remembered it was Chinese New Year — a four day public holiday in China, when  all the factories that usually pump out brightly coloured Fisher Price toys, smartphone cases and Louis Vuitton bags were closed. The belching fumes that waft southwards toward Hong Kong were gone, leaving only a perfect, clean, delicious sky.

On such a rare occasion, there is only one thing to do: strap on the boots and go for a hike before the factories reopen and send more asthma your way.

Yesterday we attempted to get to the hard-to-reach ruins of a watchtower on Butterfly Hill, which is just a few minutes walk from our place.

There are actually three watchtowers in Mui Wo, built by the local villagers and used for defenses against pirates.

The first one is found along the River Silver, just past the Mui Wo Swimming Pool. It is apparently called the Chung Hau old mansion and is owned by the Yuen family. It is still private property, and the family still lives on the compound, so you can’t go and explore it, unfortunately.

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The second is in Luk Tei Tong village. This one is also locked up but you can peek through the windows and see that someone is storing some junk, like plastic chairs, inside.

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The third is the one on Butterfly Hill, and the trail was so overgrown that it was impossible to get to. But a few weeks ago, I  happened to ask a friendly and knowledgable British expat, who is a sort of local historian and long time resident of Mui Wo, whether he knew how to get there or not. He didn’t, but a few days later he reported that he and his wife decided to go, armed with some bush whackers, and hack their way through to try to open up the trail.  Since then a few more people have been going up, so I hope the trail will become more open as people go trekking through.

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No trespassing my ass
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Abandoned house in the bush
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End of the route — a family grave site with a beautiful view of Silvermine Bay… for once the water looked clean enough to actually swim in!

I’m sad to say we didn’t make it to the third watchtower yesterday, but we did come close. The route is circular but isn’t quite functional, so we only got to go around one side of the hill. Nonetheless, it was a good hike, and next time we’ll attempt to get to the tower from the back of the hill rather than the front, until the whole ring road has opened up.

 

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