You're now walking on a contour path along the hillside. Below you, Mui Wo's bus depot and helipad are soon left behind, and you find yourself walking with a wide view of the Western Harbour. Hong Kong Island is clearly visible in the distance. The closer island occupying your view is Hei Ling Chau an off-limits island which used to be a leprosarium but is now run as a rehabilitation centre by the CSD. The big new typhoon shelter which has recently been completed offshore seems to already be in use by a number of large vessels. The path ducks in and out of a few valleys before you arrive at an area of recent tree-planting marked as a com- munity forest.
There is a four-way crossroads here; the signpost points you up the hill, but we take the path directly to its left, and then quickly take the second left again. This brings us downhill into a densely-vegetated valley of banana trees and bamboo. From this point on, the air is full of butterflies and cicadas. you pass a tumbledown shack and soon emerge into a tiny bay with a private beach and a few small cottages. As is often the case with old village houses, it's hard to tell whether they're inhabited or not, but the terraces in front are certainly fallow. As you climb out of the valley, you meet a newly-cemented path which leads you into Ngau Wu Wan. This valley is inhabited by at least one person and now boasts a new bridge over the stream.
Carry on along the coastal path. As you reach a wooden shelter you might notice Lamma Island across the water in the distance. The path leads you through the pleasant little hamlet of Wang Tong, and then you find yourself entering the enclosed bay of Chi Ma Wan. It's a strangely quiet place, although it possesses a village hall, an old school and a dragon boat or two laid on the shore. The wide, flat valley is occasionally home to the herd of wild water buffalo usually seen at Pui 0. If you cross the year-old bridge across the estuary and turn left as you meet the road, you come to the small village of Chung Hau (River Mouth) It's crumbling away and has seen better days, but it's worth a look and has a tiny temple on the water. Climbing the steps on its far side, you rejoin the road at house no.18.There is another village on the beach below but we carry on along the road, which sees little traffic apart from the occasional water- works vehicle.
Shortly a warning sign in Vietnamese gives an idea of what lies over the hill: the Chi Ma Wan detention centre was once a camp for boat people. Now it is a centre for the treatment of drug addictions, and is nowhere near as busy. Turn left as you enter the compound and take the steps downhill just beyond House C. This brings you down to the ferry pier, the point at which this hike may be joined from the inter-island ferry. Walking along the beach gives you the opportunity to see what is going on inside the camp; the inmates sing songs, play sports and tend gardens.
Turn left at the far end. The road on from here is painted yellow, and as you walk you can see the floating fish rafts of the next bay. A shod climb brings you to a Country Parks mapboard where you can get your bearings. Keep left and follow the path gradually uphill, past cultivated gardens and staff quarters, until the road ends. Above it there is nothing but a helipad and an old target practice range; we turn right onto a rough track and carry on under the trees.
Shortly you'll see the serene Chi Ma Wan reservoir below. It stretches far back into the valley. Our trail leads gently upwards until we arrive at the pass Mown as Lung Mei, or Dragon's Tail. Whether by coincidence or not, the Town Crier has twice been surprised by snakes emerging from the undergrowth at this point, one of them a boa constrictor at least six feet in length. We advise you to keep your eyes open!
Turn left and then right. The path quickly descends into another lush, flat-bottomed valley, and brings you to the village of Tai Long. A small amount of cultivation goes on here as there is a kaido service to Cheung Chau in the early mornings. The first building you pass on the right is the old village school, and a look through the windows reveals broken wooden desks and scattered schoolbooks...used to be home to the "Frog and Toad" and its annual Olympics, but the pub is closed for the time being.
We asked directions from two old women, and saw that the board they were using to shield their stove from the wind was painted with RAF insignia! Make your way down to the beach. It's a beautiful stretch of sand but could do with a clean-up. The island opposite is Shek Kwu Chau"Stone Drum Island" another closed rehabilitation centre. Turn right and head for the far end of the beach; a path leads over the dunes just before the end. A good variety of flowering cacti grow on this south-facing spot. The coastal trail leads you uphill for a short while, and before long you are overlooking the bay of Yi Long.
A narrow path leads down to the beach, which is occupied by a private resort called the Sea Ranch. There's not much to see; the ancient lime kilns on the beach are buried in sand and the resort is almost always empty. A ferry service runs from here to Cheung Chau and Central but it appears to be reserved for Sea Ranch residents. If you do descend to take a look, you have to come back up the same way.
Back on the trail, you slowly attain higher ground until you are able to enjoy a wide-ranging view of the seas to the south. Behind you, the evening sun will probably be shining on Cheung Chau. The landscape of this coastline, short underbrush and open sea, is very Mediterranean. Eventually the path leads down into the village of Mong Tung Wan. There are a number of mined houses to negotiate on the way.
The bay is lined by a set of buildings which form a Christian youth centre, and further along there is a YHA youth hostel. You're now on the home stretch, and as you walk this last easy section, you can see the twin mountains of Lantau Peak and Sunset Peak across the water. Turn left past the temple when you meet the road; any path across the valley will bring you to the main road at Pui 0. Cross over and take any bus back to Silvermine Bay. If you're like us, you didn't take enough food with you today and now you're ravenous, we recommend you pay a visit to the Hippo Pub to try their home cooking before taking the ferry back home!
Excepting ferry journeys, this hike should take around seven hours to complete. There are no opportunities en route to buy drinks or food, so take adequate water and a picnic lunch. Sun cream and a sunhat ore also recommended. For maps, take either the Countryside Series-Lantau Island sheet or the Lantau Coastal Guide published by Friends of the Earth.