Tuen Mun – Castle Peak Range

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Mostly low vegetation, the scars of a recent hill fire visible in the background.

The Castle Peak Range in Tuen Mun is one of my favourite areas. It used to be, well officially still is, a live firing practice range. As far as I am aware it is not in use any more. The result of years of use as firing range, and the resulting total neglect, has resulted in a very barren landscape. There are few trees, and the hillsides are heavily eroded. Hill fires occasionally occur, particularly around grave sweeping festivals where careless grave sweepers burn the whole hillside together with the incense and other offerings, and these fires prevent trees from surviving and growing tall.

The land is quite low overall, most peaks are no more than 300m tall. It is hot, and unless you are on a hilltop there is not much wind. The lack of trees means there is little to no shade, exposure is high.

My hike started off fairly easy, walking over an asphalt road up the hills. It was steep up, until a few bends later it was time foDSCF6785r me to branch off, and continue over the smaller trails. Barren as the landscape is on first glance, there are still many plants and flowers. Higher up the hills the soil is dry, and only the sturdy plants may survive. But in the valleys you may run into swamp areas, and some crystal clear rivers. Those rivers are really great for a dip, to refresh oneself after the sweaty climb.

DSCF6782The range is also known for odd shaped rocks, such as the heart rock and the bread rock (see image on top). The bread rock looks quite delicious, but eating it, as this geocache suggests, may not be a good idea. The shapes of these rocks of course happened naturally, and by total coincidence they resemble things.

DSCF6761It is also home to the moon gully, a particularly large gully that resembles the crescent moon. Gullies are steep cuts in the terrain, with sometimes almost vertical walls, that are cause by the working of rain water and the erosion of granite. In hot and humid climates granite erodes fast. Water collects at spots that are slightly lower, washing away the erosion debris and exposing fresh rock to the weather, enhancing erosion at that spot. This self-reinforcing effect can result in really large gullies, like this one. It is also featured as Earth Cache with the same name.

DSCF6791 Walking further towards Lung Kwu Tan the terrain changes drastically again. Overlooked by a rock that looks like it’s smiling at you, the final stretch is heading slowly downhill. This gentle slope has taller vegetation and is overall wetter. The trail is obviously an old village trail, used by villagers in the day to get to their fields. Still some small banana plantations and other crop fields can be seen in this area, tended to by some of the last remaining farmers in Hong Kong.

All in all it took me almost six hours to complete this 8-9 km route. It is just really rough terrain, making the going slow. And of course I did take my time enjoying the beauty of this area.