There was Optional Extra, which I posted only four days later, but this was just a minor diversion, albeit one that I now consider a mandatory part of the route.
However, I was keen to reduce my exposure to fast-moving traffic on Ping Che Road in particular, so I continued to search for ways to avoid the section of this road between its junctions with Ping Yuen Road and Kong Nga Po Road. At the time of posting The Final Frontier, the route followed the road that enters the bottom of this map, turning right at the obvious junction then right again through Yuen Ha Tsuen:
By the way, Z marks the location of the mural that I described in Zoological Garden.
After it had crossed Ping Che Road, the route proceeded via Ping Yuen Road and ghost alley, followed by a series of tracks and narrow paths around the village of Ping Yeung, before coming back to the Ping Che Road/Ping Yuen Road junction. At this point, I had originally described the route as following Ping Che Road, but it was obvious that part of this road can be avoided by backtracking through Yuen Ha Tsuen.
Although I didn’t have the above map available at the time, it nevertheless made sense to investigate whether the road through Tai Po Tin led anywhere useful. And it did! The route X–X on the map is where the route goes now, and it is illustrated by the following sequence of photographs:
This is a closer view of the footbridge seen in the previous photo (note that the banks of this drainage channel are constructed from rip-rap):
According to the map, continuing straight ahead leads to a road, but this is not the case. All options here, including others not shown, are dead ends. However, crossing the bridge and continuing along the far side of the drainage channel does lead somewhere:
This path continues onto the road shown on the map, and only about 150 metres of Ping Che Road needs to be followed. And, on a Sunday, you won’t encounter too much traffic.
This was the first ‘proper’ upgrade to the route I described in The Final Frontier, but I’d noticed a couple of places that required further investigation. The first was the point marked B on the map, the start of a very obvious narrow path. This one goes a long way, with some very tricky sections, but when I followed it, I was left in a location where I had to follow Ping Che Road for quite some distance to get back on track, so I wrote it off as pointless.
However, I had noticed an alleyway in Yuen Ha Tsuen as I rode past, and it had to be worth taking a closer look to see where it might lead:
This is the point marked A on the map. The alleyway leads to an open area on the edge of the village, from where the route continues just left of the two wheelie bins:
The next photo shows the start of a path that skirts around the right-hand side of the plastic greenhouse:
…and is followed rather gingerly around quite a tight left-hand bend with a bit of a drop off the edge of the path:
The right-hand path is followed from the junction shown in the next photo:
Everything is straightforward at first:
…but there is a tricky kerb (about 15cm) to bump up at the entrance to this bridge:
Notice that it is possible to turn either left or right off the bridge. This is the right-hand option:
This path is no more than 45cm wide, and there is a horrendous drop on the right-hand side of 3–4 metres. I don’t think I’d be coming this way were it not for the railings!
So what about the left-hand option?
It does appear to be a more reasonable choice. After all, the path is a bit wider. But take a closer look:
There is a drop of about 3 metres off both sides of the path on this bend. And there are no railings! When you consider that you have been forced to slow down almost to a standstill to bump the kerb onto the bridge, you will realize that you don’t have enough forward momentum to avoid a certain amount of wobbling on the bend.
And the long drop off the right-hand side of the path continues for quite some distance:
The second photo shows a path doubling back to the right. It eventually reaches here (the right-hand option off the bridge leads here too):
Naturally, I have tried the left-hand option off the bridge, and I can confirm that it is exceptionally nerve-racking, especially as I had to duck to avoid branches on the inside of the bend, which exacerbated the tendency to wobble. Once is enough!
Meanwhile, the path is now much wider, and as a result much easier:
The second photo illustrates an interesting point about negotiating this kind of path. Notice that the path cuts sharply across to the right. A few days ago, when I was showing Paula this new addition to the route, I spotted a man pushing a small Hong Kong barrow from right to left. I shouted back to Paula that we’d probably have to stop somewhere, but I continued because where we were wasn’t really a suitable place to stop.
When I reached the point on the photo where the path cuts to the right, I found that the man had pulled off the path at a junction with another path, presumably because he’d heard me shouting to Paula, and the following exchange took place:
Me: M’goi sai [thank you very much].I frequently find myself in this kind of situation. I always say “thank you”, and more than nine times out of ten I receive this response. It could just be the natural politeness of Chinese people, or it could be that the other person is thinking: “This gweilo must be a loony cycling on these narrow paths. I’d better humour him.” Only kidding. I find that these friendly exchanges contribute to my enjoyment when I’m out on my bike.
Man: M’sai m’goi [thank you not necessary].
Incidentally, the blue truck in the last photo is on the road a short distance southwest of B on the map, which is where this circuitous route from A eventually ends up:
Finally, I’ve included the following photograph, which I took recently on a short narrow path (about 100 metres in length) connecting a Drainage Services access road with Lin Ma Hang Road north of the village of Tsung Yuen Ha. I’d noticed this path before, both where it left Lin Ma Hang Road and where it crossed a constructed drainage channel via a footbridge, but it was choked with vegetation and obviously impassable. However, there was a fire a couple of months ago, and it looked like there was now a way through.
I checked this path out immediately after the fire and discovered that the stalks of the many clumps of elephant grass had been charred but not incinerated, so I returned with a pair of clippers to remove as many as I could (notice that there are many more charred stalks on the left of the clump in this photo), and I even pruned a couple of shrubs.
As I’ve pointed out, this path is very short, but by following it I don’t have to dice with death on Lin Ma Hang Road, which doesn’t carry much traffic, but the minibuses here are driven by lunatics. Unfortunately, as you can see, vegetation regrows quickly after a fire (the photo was taken not much more than a month after the fire), and it’s almost certain that this path will once again be impenetrable by the time I come back to Hong Kong next autumn.