Sometimes impatience leads to a great adventure, where instead of waiting for something to happen, you forge your own path. Such was the case when I saw the line for the tram to get from the bottom of Mount Austin to “The Peak”. I had only come to Hong Kong for the day, the line was way too long, and I was meeting a friend for dinner. I didn’t particularly feel like waiting, so I decided to start walking. And walk I did.
About 2 hours later, I had an adventure and some excellent photos of the Hong Kong skyline. At first, I had thought, “This can’t be too bad. There are stairs over there!” The tram ride was about 5-10 minutes and it didn’t look like it was going very fast, so I figured it would be a half-hour hike to the top, shorter than waiting in line. As I started walking up, I was quite happy about my decision, surrounded by lush greenery instead of swathes of people. As I trekked up the stairs for a good 15 minutes, I felt like a genius as I was skipping the crowds and getting a workout in at the same time.
Two sharp turns and an hour later, the path had departed from the tram tracks. Instead, I was taken through some lavish apartment buildings and fancy cars. Obviously this was the nice part of town and I was underdressed. In my capriciousness, I had began my climb not realizing that I was wearing regular shorts, a t-shirt, and sandals. I knew I stuck out like a sweaty, sore thumb. Hiking gear would have been infinitely more apropos, as by this time, I was simultaneously cursing myself for not just waiting in line and feeling contented I was rubbing proverbial shoulders with Hong Kong’s elite. A few teenagers who obviously lived in the area passed me by. What kind of life did they lead? Did they want for anything living up here? Did they have the same troubles as “regular” teenagers?
The turn after the posh area led up very steep hills. It was at this point I finally considered that I was lost and wasn’t actually on my way to The Peak. I have been to San Francisco before and have walked up some of those hills, but those were nothing compared to the hills I walked up on my way to The Peak. Legs burning, I pulled out my phone to try to see if I could figure out where I was lost. Much to my chagrin, there wasn’t a strong enough signal at this point and the WiFi wasn’t accurately capturing my location, instead placing me in the middle of some trees. Resolute, I decided to press on until I saw another upscale neighborhood or major road to try again. Walking up above some of the smaller office buildings in Central, I finally came to a sign: “Old Peak Road”. Somehow, I had stumbled upon the right way again. Determination renewed, I carried on with my hike.
It had now been 2 hours. The sun was starting to dip low in the horizon, I guessed. I actually couldn’t see the sun itself as I had moved into an area entirely enveloped in trees. The Old Path Road, an old road cut into a mountain, was rustic: there wasn’t a sign of any development besides the road itself and some green signs which dotted the path on the way up. I took a look at one of these signs to see what they were.
I never grew up near mountains, instead living in the great flatlands of the Midwest. To me, something like maintaining slopes to avoid landslides was never even a consideration. As I marveled at what upkeep a slope might require, I almost walked into a person on their way down. Surprised, I looked up and saw that there were more people walking down, some as poorly equipped for walking up (or down) a mountain as me. There was another road which fed into the Old Peak Road I was walking on and it led up another steep hill. At the top lay a curious structure. As I approached, I noticed some train tracks, no, tram tracks. In my serpentine path up the mountain, I had finally met back up with the tram. I half-hoped that I would find the tram sitting at the station and I would be able to jump on and ride it to the top, abandoning that idea after waiting for a while and seeing no signs of any trams. Perhaps this was just an abandoned station or future construction.
In the distance, I could hear crowds of people. Looking behind the tram station, I saw a stream of people walking down a path. I surmised that it was the source of all of the people walking down the hill and it was a direct path that led up to The Peak. It was certainly possible, as I could finally start to see the top of the tops of the hills nearby. Blood surging through my limbs, I doggedly made my way to the top, sandals and all. The noise of the crowd got even louder as I walked by a restaurant. I saw some stairs and made it up to a flat platform crowded with families, couples, and groups. As I looked around, I noticed a purple sign. It read, “The Peak”. I had made it.
Having made it to the top of the mountain, I decided to get some water and walk around. There were the consumer staples: small convenience stores, a theater, and restaurants galore. I passed by a sign illustrating the various hiking paths on top of the mountain. Obviously, The Peak was just the beginning of the exploration on Mount Austin. Tired enough, I instead opted to walk around the nearby area. It was the perfect time to go, as the sun was finally dipping under the horizon line and the whole area was washed in the golden light of the dying day. It was a gorgeous Autumn evening and the view made it all worthwhile.
After walking around, I looked at my phone, realizing that I had about 45 minutes until I had to get dinner with my friend. I started walking back towards the main square, only to see another huge crowd leading to the line for the tram going down. Sighing, I decided it wasn’t worth the wait and started walking again.