Almost every weekend as a child I drove past Lion Rock – taking the tunnel on the way to Fanling. And every time I’d crane my head out of the car as far as I could, trying to get the best view of it – looking up in awe and excitement at the Lion, made of rock, that looked out over all of Hong Kong. Every damn time; the excitement never lessened.
So – when exactly did that feeling change?
NEVER! Lion Rock is just as awesome to me today as it ever was, perhaps even more so. As a kid I didn’t know you could actually climb up it, so age 35, when I found out, I was pretty damn stoked! I googled the hike, and came across this blog – Lion Rock – and emailed the writer, Barbarah. Yes, that is ‘B’ who features in this blog, now a very close friend, yogi, and Hong Kong adventure buddy! ❤
I get nervous about hiking alone – with good reason. In the city, I’m pretty decent at directions – map reading, generally remembering where I am; gut instinct. In nature… not so much. (Check out what happened on this little wrong turn…)
So, one March morning, I packed my little day sack, and hopped on a bus from Tin Hau to the Lion Rock Community Garden, around 35mins away. I was nervous. I knew it was all uphill, and wondered how hard it would be – I also have a rather specific fear of falling, which generally means I can be, and like to be high up… but I really don’t like steep slopes (this includes theatres/stadiums, etc…) which is at best annoying, at worst – petrifying.
Still, I was determined to make it up 495m, and sit on the top of Lion Rock. I was surprised to be greeted by monkeys at the bottom, so quickly moved on – I love them, but monkeys are not to be messed with, and a staring monkey makes a scared Weeze! It was a cold, misty day, but pretty quickly I warmed up, discarding layer after layer. I passed a few people, but generally was on my own for the hike up. I stopped a lot – mainly to just take in my (misty) surroundings… The mix of green & urban co-existing, as always, to me was just intriguing and beautiful.
After around 45 minutes I made it to the top. The last ten minutes had me feeling a little nervous, having to navigate carefully around the side of the hill, clambering up rocks – and worried it would get steeper, and more exposed – but I was fine – until I saw the actual Lion’s Head.. and knew I couldn’t go up there! Instead I sat across on the Lion’s back (same height) admiring it, and the spectacular view, whilst eating my sushi & chinese leftovers from the previous nights band practice dinner.
There are many ways you can get to the top of Lion Rock, and I initially attempted to go down a different way, taking a longer path – but given my previous experiences I eventually decided I’d probably end up doing two more sections of the Maclehose Trail by accident.. and perhaps not the wisest idea alone. Instead, I doubled back, finishing my hike on the same path I came up on. Looking back up at it, I felt pretty damn good. It’s not one of those landmarks that doesn’t look like it’s namesake, it looks like a Lion, protecting Hong Kong, and it’s damn magnificent.
Fast forward over a year later of saying I would join B for a hike up before work, moving offices from Jordan to Sai Wan gave me the push I needed. The weather was better, the skies bluer, and more monkeys were on the trail – with my protector (B) to stay in-between us! It was absolutely glorious. I actually made it to the top of the Lion’s head this time – clambering pretty much on all fours, and stayed for a total of around 10 seconds.. I never a got a photo. BUT I DID IT! SO BRAVE! Haha.
What was so unbelievably amazing on this hike was that, in a city of over 7 million, B & I were the ONLY ones on the top of Lion Rock. It was all ours. To feel that secluded and away from the crowds, looking down at everyone, and being there only 45 minutes earlier – it just captures the utter uniqueness of Hong Kong and it’s contrasts.
Lion Rock Way, Hong Kong Democracy Protests – Mid Autumn Festival, Sept 2019
After the success of the Hong Kong Way (based on the Baltic Way, very close to my Latvian heart) it was decided to attempt the Lion Rock Way to celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival as part of the Hong Kong Protest Movement. (Check out the previous link to see some incredible pics of Lion Rock in August)
My friend Lauren & I met at Lok Fu station, to a pretty large crowd of people. We had no idea what to expect of the night, and both a little apprehensive of climbing up a pretty narrow pathway, in the dark, with a tonne of other people… After assembling our little paper lanterns we made our way to the Lion Rock Community Garden, chatting & chanting. We had an interesting discussion with a middle aged Chinese man, wondering why we were there. On telling him we were Hong Konger’s he first looked a little surprised, then we went on to tell him, that even if we weren’t democracy & human rights are something everyone should be fighting for, and standing together in solidarity. He told us, that until June that year he’d never really thought about politics or democracy, and mainly focused on how to make money to look after his family (in one of the world’s most expensive city’s this is/was normal, not due to a LOVE of money, but a need to survive) But now, he knows it is so important, and so is out protesting every weekend, doing what he can.
When we arrived at the park entrance it was totally packed. Friends had already made it to the top and said it was rammed… We decided to hang around the bottom for a while, and soaked up the Mid-Autumn Festival atmosphere, singing & chanting – with families and dogs. Ultimately we decided against going to the top, and seeing photos later of how densely packed the trail was, I know personally, I made the right decision. I would have been terrified! Check out some pics here.
My last trip up Lion Rock was a few days before moving away from Hong Kong… The visibility was crap – probably pollution, but the company and the hike, as usual, were impeccable. The path had been adorned with graffiti; both pro democracy, and pro Beijing (the cockroaches are what pro-democracy protesters are called) – filling us with warm solidarity… and cold rage.. a lot to discuss and vent.
I felt a little antsier than before being on the top of the hill, really noticing that I was.. on the top of a big hill, and the top itself was not very wide…. You ever have that thought, ‘What if I accidentally fling myself off the side?’ Surely that’s not just me?! I put this down to everything that had happened in the last six months – the protests, completing my Dive Master, leaving Hong Kong… (as I write this COVID19 is putting a lot of the world, and London, where I currently am on lockdown, so these things seem a little less overwhelming than what I feel we are about to deal with – oh hindsight…)
But I digress.. again, I was so, so brave, and managed to get a few shots overlooking Hong Kong without flinging myself off the side… 😉 Oh my, my feet hurt (a stupid thing that happens when I look at pictures involving heights) just looking at these pics, remembering how nervous I was! And behind me, there was a man abseiling down the side of the head… but on his own – we couldn’t quite work out what his plan was!
It is hard to put into words how special and iconic Lion Rock is. It symbolises perfectly the strength of Hong Kong – even more so recently during the protests – banner after banner has been unfurled off the head, Lady Liberty was taken up there (and subsequently vandalised.) You can see it from so many places in Hong Kong. I would sit on North Point Pier at lunchtime during my first teaching job, and admire her. Or from the rooftop pool at my office in Jordan… Standing on her, looking down at my home city – it only I could capture the sense of calm, and empowerment it gives me.
Gwong fuk heung gong, si doi gak ming!!