The Hong Kong Trail, ranked among the World's 10 Best City Hikes by Lonely Planet, stretches 50 kilometres across 5 country parks, and passes 7 reservoirs. Green Power Hikers can indulge themselves in a variety of beautiful landscapes and rich biodiversity in the highlands, valleys, streams and the lush woodlands. Upon looking more closely, you may find many fascinating and amazing animals and plants too!
As you walk on Lugard Road, you may occasionally hear the "do-sol" call of Black-throated Laughingthrush (Garrulax chinensis). The interesting thing about the bird is that it is good at mimicking the calls of other birds, and even the sound of the human whistle or car alarms!
When you come to the more open section of the trail, you may find Changeable Lizard (Calotes versicolor), a relative of the chameleon, sunbathing on the ground or on fences. The lizard changes colour relatively slowly, and can only opt for black, red, yellow, green or grey. However, it is very agile, and will swiftly flee to bushes if alarmed.
To charm the opposite sex, the male Changeable Lizard (Calotes versicolor) will perform some "press ups"! Its head will also become more brightly coloured during the breeding season. The little creature will try all tricks for successful mating!
This section abounds with greenery. The Aberdeen Reservoir comes within view. The 120-year old reservoir is divided into upper and lower parts. The upper reservoir features a European style main dam, while the lower reservoir is embraced by a meandering bank. Spare some time during your pre-trip to visit the scenic reservoir up close.
Blue-spotted Crow (Euploea midamus) is very common in winter, and has the habit of overwintering in groups in woodlands to resist the chilly winter. It has dark brown wings with purple blue scales on the forewings that shine elegantly under the sun! The caterpillars feed on the poisonous plant Goat Horns (Strophanthus divaricatus), and hence the adult contains toxins in its body-- the best weapon against its natural enemies.
Great Egg-fly (Hypolimnas bolina) is not poisonous itself, but it mimics the poisonous Blue-spotted Crow (Euploea midamus) to scare away potential predators. The two look so much alike in wing colour, pattern and even the way they fly!
The small but brightly coloured, orange and black Cotton Red Bug (Dysdercus cingulatus) can be spotted along Lady Clementi’s Ride, in the dense forest. The small creature will release an unpleasant odour if threatened. Leave this little creature in peace if you do not want to have a taste of its weapon!
Dwarf Mountain Pine (Baeckea frutescens), a native plant of Hong Kong, resembles the pine tree only in that it is a shrub. The volatile oils in its leaves can kill germs and are the ingredients of many medicinal oils. It is named Pak Fa Yeow Tree (white flower oil tree) for the smell released when the leaves are crushed. In addition, different parts of the tree are useful. For instance, Hakka villagers used to make brooms with its branches.
Passing Hong Kong Parkview, you will be attracted by the leopard print Geometer Moth (Obeida tigrata) as you cross Jardine’s Lookout and Mount Butler. You are cheated if you think it is a butterfly! Many people distinguish butterflies and moths by whether the wings are folded or spread out at rest. The most accurate way, however, is to check the antennae. The antennae of a moth are like a pair of combs, while those of butterfly have stick-like endings. Also, a moth flaps its wings more rapidly in flight.
Carnivorous plants are not uncommon in Hong Kong. Yet some species are easily overlooked owing to their minute size. For example, Sundew (Drosera burmannii) has leaves less than 2cm long, and grows close to the ground or on walls. It traps insects with the body fluid and curls around the prey to digest it. There is no way out for any bugs that bump into the adhesive plant!
There are a variety of strategies adopted by carnivorous plants. Unlike Sundew (Drosera burmannii) that uses a sticky trap, Pitcher Plant (Nepenthes mirabilis) has a pitfall trap. It secrets nectar from its nectary to attract insects, and the epicuticular wax in the deep cavity makes it difficult for prey to escape.
After passing Quarry Gap, you enter the most scenic and tranquil Tai Tam Valley. You will hear the loud calls of Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica) from time to time. In Chinese tradition, the bird signifies fortune and joy, hence it is a frequent subject in poems, couplets and paintings. This adaptive bird is capable of settling in the densely populated metropolis.
In Tai Tam Valley, a precious tree can be found -- Crapnell’s Camellia (Camellia crapnelliana). The tree is easily identified by its orange-red bark, which will even leave fine rusty powders on your hand when touched. The species was first discovered in Hong Kong in 1903, but the population has since dwindled due to habitat destruction. It is now listed as a Category II protected species in China.
Electric current flows from high to low potential. A person gets an electric shock if he or she touches a high-voltage cable. This is because as we stand on ground (or a pole connected to the ground) which has a zero potential, and touches the high-voltage cable, tens of thousands volts of current will pass from the cable to the ground through the human body. However, when a bird perches on an electrical wire, its body does not have any contact with the ground. There is no voltage difference between the bird and the cable. So it will not get an electric shock.
There are numerous streams along this section, so it is the best place to observe aquatic animals. Freshwater Shrimp (Macrobrachium sp.), a common species here, has a pair of strong, long arms that allow it to prey on the slow-moving animals frequenting the stream bed. It is easily observed in streams and the catchment channel.
The forearms of Large Green Mantid (Hierodula patellifera) are powerful, like a pair of sickles that are used to attack its prey. Its wide range of movement of the head, sensitive antennae and the large pairs of compound eyes allow it to track small insects. It will patiently wait for prey, and launch its attack when the target is within range!
Along this section, you will see Shiny-leaved Prickly Ash(Zanthoxylum nitidum), which has dark purple-red spikes on both sides of its leaves. The plant is of medicinal value. Its extract can be used to make toothpaste that can soothe red and swollen gums. A toothpaste brand even uses the plant as its brand name. While you are enjoying the walk, be careful not to be hurt by the spikes!
As you climb Shek O Peak, you will have the chance to appreciate magnificent panoramic views of Tai Tam Harbour, D’Aguilar Peninsula, Shek O and Big Wave Bay. The remarkable walk from Shek O Peak to Wan Cham Shan is like a ride on the Dragon’s Back, and hence the path’s name. This section has been named the Best Urban Hike in Asia!