Walking on the Dragons Back

On a cheeky layover in Hong Kong, I managed to score a weekend on the tiny island and having been surrounded by people all week, longed for the quiet escape that every city has secretly tucked away. The enclave of the CDB is surrounded by lush beautiful forests, most easily accessed from the cable car up Mount Victoria. For the more adventurous, but train bound explorer the southeast offers some interesting areas to walk, namely the Dragons Back.

The Dragons Back arguably the most scenic section of the 50km Hong Kong Trail, stretches 8.5km through the Shek O Country Park. Aptly named as it undulates along the ridge, Shek O Peak at 284  provides commanding panoramic views  across  Shek O, Tai Long Wan, Stanley, Tai Tam, and the South China Sea.

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Takaosan, peaks, snow and ice

Japan is a fascinating country one of the most advances nations on earth, but also one of the most traditional. The juxtaposition of high rise multinational corporations, moving billions in trade and products, next door to temples that stood when the rest was all forest.

Tokyo is the seething heart of this island nation with over 20 million people passing through it’s arteries. Wedged in on Tokyo bay and hemmed by the mountains, the forerunners to the Japanese Alps, Tokyo offers the intrepid traveler and vacationer alike a unique experience.

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Chickens legs for lunch, it’s no KFC

In a previous post I wrote about my  once in a lifetime experience with the Great Wall of China, a childhood dreaming. At the conclusion of the walk we pushed further north within 300km of the Mongolian border to a little village for lunch, all part of the tour.

It was close to Chinese New Year and there were signs of the impending festivities everywhere making great photo opportunities of the celebration preparations. zig zagging our way through the cars, people and bikes it was becoming very apparent I was no longer in “touristville” and somehow had become the attraction. It didn’t help I was in a  private vehicle, sitting in the back like I was being chauffeured. I guess I was.

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Great Wall of China, a childhood dreaming

During the 70’s in the remote Northern Territory we had only the ABC, the government funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation to deliver us the news, soaps and educational viewing. As the 80’s dawned we started to receive commercial television courtesy of a set of videos flown in from Darwin and replayed locally. The news was a day or two late and so was the weather. Aside from these anomalies it opened up a whole new viewing experience and one of the programs that captured my imagination was The World Around Us.

It inspired a generation to explore our environment, with spectacular footage of the some of the most amazing places on earth. In one such episode the host adventurer was exploring the Great Wall of China. I was captivated by the history, the construction and most of all the environment, towering steep mountains and narrow ridge lines. I dreamt of walking it myself, stepping on its ancient stones and hearing the distinct music of China as I moved across the landscape.

It was just a pipe dream and I didn’t truly expect I would ever visit the far flung communist nation, but I could imagine. There were many documentaries throughout my teenage years that explored the Great Wall of China experience and I remained captivated by it.

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Mt Baw Baw, finding the one

You might recall an innocuous line in a previous post that went something like this, “With my temp gauge proudly hanging in a tree, it does little to comfort us that the day is indeed warming, stubbornly staying below the 5C mark.” if not you can read it here Mt Baw Baw snow, look don’t touch.

Well that one line set up a year’s expedition to recover a little piece of plastic that had far more sentimental value that it could ever have monetary value, let me explain.

At the conclusion of our first and very successful snow camp at Mt Baw Baw, I inadvertently forgot to collect my temp gauge out of the tree and didn’t realise this oversight until we were off the mountain and unpacking in the days following.

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Mt Baw Baw snow, look don’t touch

Egged on by the guys at church talking of their snow camps, I was enthused to try a very different hiking experience. Growing up in the Northern Territory snow was something that you only saw on TV and even then it was rare. I had become more acquainted with the white powdery or white wet stuff depending on your experience living in Connecticut, USA, near the ski fields of Vermont. However I’d never pitched a tent in it.

With safety our first concern and given our familiarity with the area we chose the Baw Baw Plateau as our destination and began the wait for some snow to fall. The ski season officially starts in June but it’s never guaranteed, most years August / September turn out to be best.

The logistical nightmare was getting time off work, where there was good snow prior to the weekend with reasonable conditions after. Following three failures to launch the perfect weather pattern that had been eluding us for weeks presented itself.

The plan was set in motion, we would drive to Erica, hire snow shoes at Erica Ski Hire, make our way to the Mt St Gwinear car park (it’s free to park there), walk over Mt St Gwinear, joining the Australian Alps Walking Track and then look to pitch up somewhere near Mt St Phillack.

Snow had been falling two days prior, one of the biggest dumps on record. Claire and I were musing over how much snow there would be. Hopefully a forest of white and enough to pitch the tent on. Careful what you wish for! Barely onto the dirt road and the snow made an appearance. Shy at first, just a dusting here and there, but as we climb the curtains pull back to reveal a thick coating, tree ferns weighed down by the unfamiliar site. I never thought we would need chains but sure enough we did and it was about to get worse and glorious all at the same time.

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Eastern Tyers Creek,where to sleep?

Rising early, rubbing my eyes as I peer out the window the morning looks like rubbish and I think our plans to walk from the Thomson River bridge to Eastern Tyers creek might be thwarted by the weather. Given our previous experiences with the cold up on the Baw Baw Plateau (Baw Baw, Too Cold for Comfort) I’m not keen to hike anywhere it’s going to be wet. I’m also really desperate to get out of civilisation and breathe in the forest air and get amongst the great outdoors and wide open spaces.

I convince myself the weather will be better at the trail head and if not we’ll still make a day of it, a reconnaissance trip or something. The route takes us out to Moe on the Princes Highway and then up through the hills to Rawson and onto the river. We discover a shortcut through Erica and over a bit of dirt road that the Astra handles well cutting 15 minutes off our  180 km journey from Melbourne.

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