Urban walks: Walks in Hong Kong

Walking is a great way to discover and experience Hong Kong. It’s a compact city so getting around on foot is easy although the streets can get very crowded at times. Following are a couple of walks that I have done and would recommend.

1. Dragon’s Back

Perhaps best described as an urban hike, this 8.5km trail (which is also section 8 of the Hong Kong Trail) provides fantastic views and a quiet retreat from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong. The trail takes its name from an exposed ridge path between Shek O Peak and Wan Cham Shan that undulates and supposedly looks like a dragon’s backbone.

I really enjoyed this walk – the first section is reasonably exposed and a bit strenuous, but rewards your effort with great views including a magnificent 360 degree panorama from Shek O Peak. The second half or so is a delightful ramble through Shek O Country Park which includes shaded forest sections before descending to Tai Long Wan village.

From MTR Shau Kei Wan Station Exit A3, take bus 9 at Shau Kei Wan Bus Terminus to To Tei Wan, Shek O Road. Watch out for the stop – I almost missed it and if you do, you’ll have to get a bus back the other way as the road here is narrow and there is no footpath. Click here for Google street view that shows the start of the walk and bus stop on the left. At the end of the walk, walk along Big Wave Bay road back to Shek O Road and pick up bus 9 back to Shau Kei Wan.

For a map click here.

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2. Peak walk and Pinewood Battery

One of my favourite urban walks – a stroll around part of the Peak Circle walk that provides simply magnificent views of Victoria Harbour, followed by a walk in Lung Fu Shan Country Park and descent via Hatton Rd via the now deserted Pinewood Battery, which provides a look at a bit of Hong Kong history, before finishing at the University of Hong Kong.

The last time I did this walk I had rather grey weather, but the views are always impressive. Taking the Peak Tram (a funicular) up to the Peak is well worthwhile. If you don’t want to walk down via Pinewood Battery you can always complete the full circle of the Peak, about 3.5km in total.

From MTR Central station Exit J2 and walk to the Lower Terminus of the Peak Tram on Garden Road for the ride up to The Peak. The walk commences at Lugard Rd. At the end of the walk take bus 13 from Kotewall Road back to Central.

For a map click here.

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For more information visit the Hong Kong Tourism website. There are pages for city walks and hikes.

Walks in and around Alice Springs in the Northern Territory

When my family first moved to Australia we spent the first six months living in Warrego, a small mining township 45km west of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory. I had a great time there as a young boy and as a result have always had a soft spot for the ‘Territory’.

I made my first visit back in 2010, some 30 years after we had left, flying in to Alice Springs and then driving up to Tennant Creek, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I have been back to Alice Springs several times since and have done some great walking in the area.

The major attraction for walkers are the West MacDonnell Ranges that start on the edge of Alice Springs and extend westwards. In addition to an excellent, scenic drive along Larapinta Drive and Namatjira Drive, there are a series of enjoyable day walks as well as a the long distance Larapinta Trail (definitely on my walking to-do list).

I’ve covered some suggested day walks in previous posts:
1. Simpsons Gap to Bond Gap (along the Larapinta Trail)
2. Woodland Trail to Rocky Gap
3. Ormiston Pound walk
4. Redbank Gorge to Mt Sonder (the final stage of the Larapinta Trail)

All of these are thoroughly recommended, but if you could do only one then the Ormiston Pound walk would be my top recommendation.

In addition to these walks there is also plenty of opportunity to take some shorter walks in Alice Springs and its immediate surrounds. In particular, there are some good trails centred on the Alice Springs Telegraph Station, the site of the first European settlement in Alice Springs. Three that are worth doing, and all of which start at an undercover information board just near the entrance to the shop and Historical Reserve are:

1. Bradshaw Walk
Named after a Postmaster at the Telegraph Station in the 1890s, this is an easy walk of 2.5km that proceeds west through the carpark, climbs through acacia shrubland and eventually turns back towards the Todd river joining the Riverside walk back north to the Telegraph Station.

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2. Trig Hill and Cemetery Loop Walk
This track proceeds from the information board to the Alice Springs Waterhole before traversing alluvial flats and low granite outcrops to the base of Trig Hill. A short, sharp climb leads to the summit and fantastic 360 degree views. Continuing northwards, the path soon turns west towards the cemetery which holds the graves of five early settlers. From here the path meanders around granite outcrops and through Acacia and Senna shrublands back to the start. Another easy walk of around 2km.

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3. Spencer Hill and Stuart Walk Circuit
This easy walk of about 5km proceeds east from the information board, crosses the Todd River and then shortly after meets a junction with the Spencer walk (this is the return route). Continuing straight ahead (east) the path traverses ridges and gullies and turns south to the boundary of the reserve. The path proceeds through a gap in the boundary fence, turning south-west to meet another track junction signposted as the Spencer Hill walk, following this north to the first track junction and then back across the Todd River to the start.

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The walks above are all marked with coloured trail markers that make route finding pretty simple. This fact sheet provides more information about the Telegraph Station and includes a map of the walking (and mountain biking) trails.

The Telegraph Station is about 4km north of Alice Springs, and is accessed via Herbert Heritage Drive which joins the Stuart Highway. Alternatively, you can walk from the town centre along either the west or the east bank of the Todd River.

The map below shows the starting locations of each of the walks covered in this post:

Bushwalking: Simpsons Gap to Bond Gap, Northern Territory


This enjoyable out and back walk takes in part of section 2 of the Larapinta Trail in the West MacDonnell National Park in the Northern Territory, starting at the popular Simpsons Gap and heading west to Bond Gap.

The track begins at the main car park at Simpsons Gap and is reasonably clear and well sign-posted throughout. The path is somewhat undulating but not particularly challenging and proceeds through mulga and witchetty bush with good views of the West MacDonnell ranges and back to Simpsons Gap. Eventually a track junction will be reached (with a path that leads to Rocky Gap) – Bond Gap is not much farther on and is an excellent spot for lunch and photos. The walk then returns via the same path. You could take the path to Rocky Gap and then the Woodland trail back to Simpsons Gap, although this would require a 3.5km road bash to get from the Woodland trail car parking area back to the Simpsons Gap car park.

Distance/Time: 16kms / took me around 4.5 hrs (incl. breaks)
Grade: Moderate half-day walk
My rating: A

Access: From Alice Springs head west along Larapinta Drive, the turn-off to Simpsons Gap is about 16km further on. The main Simpsons Gap car park is just under 7km from the turn-off.

See this fact sheet for more information, and this budget rent-a-car map for an overview of the area and attractions around Alice Springs. There is also a new website for the West MacDonnell National Park, although it appears to be still under construction as some of the links don’t work.

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Fellwalking: Rannerdale Knotts/ Whiteless Pike/ Wandope/ Grasmoor

This was a very enjoyable circuit walk in the North Western Fells of the Lake District, taking in Rannerdale Knotts, Whiteless Pike, Wandope & Grasmoor.

I started at the small car park off the B5289 where the footpath down from Grasmoor over Lad Hows meets the road. I then walked down the road (or the grassy if somewhat muddy path beside the road) to the starting point of the track up to Rannerdale Knotts (starting just before Hause Point)


The path soon starts climbing steeply and it’s not too long before the ridge line is achieved.


From which there are great views of Buttermere and Crummock Water.


After descending from the ridge the path joins with another footpath that leads up to Whiteless Pike (at this point you could return via a footpath that follows Squat Beck for a short but enjoyable ramble).


The weather was fantastic so the views just kept getting better.


Whiteless Pike was a good place to stop for the rest…


…before the walk along Whiteless Edge to Wandope.


From here there a good views accross to Whiteside and up to Crag Hill.


If you have the time and inclination you could take a detour to Crag Hill, but I took the path west to Grasmoor…


…resting and taking in the views from the summit before returning via the path south and then west over Lad Hows and back to my car.


All in all a great day out. Buttermere is close by and a great spot for a post walk beer.

Time: Around 5.25 hours
Grade: Moderate day walk
My rating: A+
Map: The English Lakes: North Western Area (OS Explorer Map Series)
Wainwright Guide: The North Western Fells (50th Anniversary Edition): Book Six (A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells): 6
Access: The walk starts at a small car-parking area just off the B5289. Google street view now covers this area, here’s a view of the parking area on the right. There’s also another carpark just before this one – either one will work.

Four more walks in New Zealand’s South Island


After last year’s visit to NZ I was very keen to go back and explore some more of the beautiful South Island.

Following are four more fantastic walks.

1. Mt. Somers, Canterbury

Mt Somers provides for an invigorating and reasonably tough day walk. The effort to reach the summit is rewarded with excellent views of the Southern Alps and the Canterbury Plains.

The walk commences from Sharplin Falls carpark, a small parking area at the end of Flynns Rd, accessed via the small village of Staveley. The start of the walk is clearly marked and initially follows the Mount Somers Walkway before branching off just after Staveley Hill to climb towards the summit. The track climbs pretty much all the way – there’s very little respite – and the last section to the summit is exposed and steep.

Time: At least 6 hours return
Grade: Hard day walk
My rating: A
Photo gallery.

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2. Bealey Spur, Arthur’s Pass National Park

This is a simply fantastic walk that provides expansive views while not being particularly strenuous.

The walk starts at Bealey, 10km or so before Arthur’s Pass Village.  There’s a signposted parking area just off the SH73 (note there’s nowhere to park within Bealey itself). After climbing to meet the end of the road into Bealey, the track then climbs though beech forest before entering an open area with tremendous views. The track continues uphill past a tarn and through some more forest eventually reaching Bealey Hut. Although the track officially stops here, you can continue further up the spur if time and weather permits.

Time: 4 hours or so
Grade: Moderate day walk
My rating: A++
Photo gallery.

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3. Avalanche Peak, Arthur’s Pass National Park

A classic walk with magnificent views. This is a fairly tough walk and the last part of the ridge is exposed, narrow and requires a bit of scrambling and a head for heights, but experienced walkers will find it well worth the effort.

The walk starts at the DOC visitor centre in Arthur’s Pass Village, where there’s plenty of parking. The initial part of Avalanche Peak Track is a rather steep and strenuous haul up through beech forest with lots of tree roots across the path to trip up any walkers not paying attention. Once the track breaks through the tree line it follows a spur and then climbs up to meet Scotts Track. From here there’s a rocky and narrow ridge which leads to the summit.

From the summit you can either return the same way or go down Scotts Track which is a bit longer and not quite as steep as Avalanche Track, but provides some variety and also passes the Arthur’s Pass Chalet on the way back to the visitor centre, providing a great spot for a beer.

Time: At least 6 hours
Grade: Hard day walk
My rating: A+
Photo gallery.

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4. Lewis Tops, Canterbury

This was a great walk to finish my trip – the Lewis Tops route provides for some fine ridge walking, with great views and attractive alpine tarns.  Thoroughly recommended.

The walk commences off the Lewis Pass Highway about 20km from Springs Junction. There is an old car park right next to the start but when I was there it was overgrown and flooded. The St James Walkway carpark to the east is a better choice and is only a short walk away (it does require you to cross the highway though so care needs to be taken).

The path itself soon enters beech forest and starts climbing. After an hour or so the tree line is reached and the track follows a spur, marked with poles, to a knoll. From here the track is not marked, so it is worth taking a note of the descent point before continuing along the ridge. You can continue as far as time and energy allows, taking in great 360 degree views before returning the same way.

Time: A minimum of about 4 hours
Grade: Medium day walk
My rating: A++
Photo gallery.

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Four walks in New Zealand’s South Island


Last year I made my first visit to New Zealand’s South Island for pleasure rather than business and was able to do four terrific walks, all of which are thoroughly recommended.

The walks are in the southern part of the South Island, in the general Queenstown area and are as follows:

1. Key Summit, Routeburn Track

The Routeburn track is a famous New Zealand walk of 32km. It commences (if walking west to east) from The Divide which is on the road that goes from Te Anau to Milford Sound. Key Summit is accessible from the first part of the track and provides for an excellent half-day walk with excellent views if weather permits.

Starting from The Divide which is a parking area by the road with a shelter and toilets, the well-formed track climbs steadily for an hour or so, before reaching a sign-posted turn-off to Key Summit. From here it’s a steep climb to the treeline and thereafter a more moderate walk along a track that loops about the tops and provides fantastic views of Fiordland.

Time: Around 3 hours or so
Grade: Easy/moderate half-day walk
My rating: A++
Photo gallery.

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2. Routeburn Flats Hut, Routeburn Track

This walk takes in the eastern end of the Routeburn Track finishing at Routeburn Flats Hut.

The walk commences at the Routeburn Shelter at the northern end of the Routeburn-Kinloch Rd. In addition to the shelter there’s a carpark and toilets. The trail itself soon crosses the Route Burn river and continues through forest before climbing steadily, crossing the river again and then eventually reaching the hut which has a delightful setting.

The hut itself is designed for overnight walkers, but has a large common room which provides a good spot for lunch before returning via the same route.

Time: Around 4 hours
Grade: Easy/moderate half to full day walk
My rating: A
Photo gallery.

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3. Ben Lomond, Queenstown

Ben Lomond holds a commanding position above Queenstown and is an obvious target for a walk. There’s a reasonably well formed track to the top, and experienced walkers will enjoy an excellent day walk.

I took the (expensive – like everything in Queenstown) Gondola to Ben Lomond Saddle to save some climbing. From here there’s a short walk past a luge track and then a brief section within forest, before a steady climb to a saddle and then the final pull westwards to the summit. The summit has magnificent 360 degree views, taking in Lake Wakatipu, Mt Earnslaw and The Remarkables.

Time: 5 hours or so
Grade: Moderate/Hard day walk
My rating: A+
Photo gallery.

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4. Roys Peak, Stack Conservation Area, Wanaka

This walk takes in Roys Peak in Wanaka and like the other three walks provides excellent walking and fantastic views. To start with there a great views over Lake Wanaka and when you finally crest the ridge fine views of the Southern Alps.

The route commences at a small carpark just off the Wanaka-Mt Aspiring Road about 6km out of Wanaka. Following a jeep track for most of the way, the route is easy to follow although not signposted other than at the start. It actually looks a bit easier than it is, in the end it’s a solid climb and will probably take at least 5.5 hours. I got the full four seasons on this walk, with sun, then rain, then a bit of snow and then a fine afternoon.

Time: 6 hours or so
Grade: Moderate/Hard day wlak
My rating: A++
Photo gallery.

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Revisiting Ormiston Pound


When my father attempted to complete the Ormiston Pound circuit in the Northern Territory’s West MacDonnell ranges in 2011 he was unable to do so due to the amount of water in Ormiston Gorge. When I tried in 2012 I experienced the same thing, but I was able to complete the full circuit on a revisit last year without getting my boots wet.

I did the circuit clockwise (opposite to that described in the linked post above), starting with the Ghost Gum walk which delivers fine views before dropping down into the gorge and permitting completion of the circuit. I’d recommend doing the walk this way – if there is too much water in the gorge to navigate, you’ll find this out at the start rather then the end of the walk, and then can make a decision about how far to walk the other way if you are so inclined.

See here for a full photo set of the walk.

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Bushwalking: Woodland Trail to Rocky Gap (Simpsons Gap), Northern Territory


Simpson’s Gap is described in the West MacDonnell National Park fact sheet as “one of the most prominent gaps in the West MacDonnell Ranges. At dawn and dusk it is renowned as a place to see Black-footed Rock wallabies…”

A short walk leads from the carpark to the Gap and is well worth exploring. After visiting the Gap I’d recommended doing one of the other walks in the area – I decided to do the Woodland Trail to Rocky Gap.

This is an excellent and reasonably easy walk of around 10km. I was there just after the end of the wet season so the area was very green and lush. The walk itself follows a reasonably distinct track to Rocky Gap through some Mulga Woodland, with good views of the West MacDonnell ranges. If you are feeling energetic you could continue on to Bond Gap – this extends the walk to 17km return.

I only saw one other person while doing the walk – what struck me (apart from how green it was) was how quiet and peaceful it was, it also felt quite remote.

Distance/Time: 10kms / took me around 3hrs (incl. breaks)
Grade: Easy half-day walk
My rating: A

Access: From Alice Springs head west along Larapinta Drive, the turn-off to Simpsons Gap is about 16km further on. The Woodland trail is about 3km from the turn-off and there is a small parking area and information board at the start of the walk (and Simpsons Gap carpark is another 3km or so).

See this fact sheet for more information, and this budget rent-a-car map for an overview of the area and attractions around Alice Springs.

Link to full photo gallery.

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Bushwalking: Redbank Gorge to Mt Sonder, Northern Territory


A trip from Redbank Gorge to Mt Sonder marks the start or end of the long distance Larapinta Trail and also provides a fantastic day’s walk. Mt Sonder, at 1380m, is the fourth highest mountain in the Territory and commands superb 360 degree views from the summit. It’s a solid day’s walk but well worth doing.

The track starts at the camping area and heads downhill to cross Redbank Creek (usually just a dry creek-bed). Soon after there is a junction where the trail is joined by the previous section of the Larapinta Trail, at this point the trail turns left uphill continuing up to a saddle with the imaginative name of ‘Saddle’, and then generally eastwards towards Mt Sonder.

The trail is generally distinct and reasonably well marked – there are however a few places where it becomes a bit indistinct and care must be taken to stay on the right path. Having said that, one of the good things about walking in the NT is that visibility is generally excellent, so it would take a bit of work to get lost.

The summit, marked with a cairn, is a good spot for lunch and a rest – and the return involves retracing the path back to the start.

Distance/Time: 15.8km / took me just under 6 hours (incl. breaks)
Grade: Moderate/hard day walk
My rating: A+

Access: From Alice Springs head west along the Larapinta Drive and after 46km turn right onto Namatjira Drive. The turn-off to Redbank Gorge is another 145km or so, and then it’s about 5km along a rather rough gravel road to the campsite. The drive itself is enjoyable, going through some great scenery. Glen Helen Resort, about 20km before the Redbank Gorge turn-off is a good place for a cold beer after the walk.

More information: See this this scan of the Budget rent-a-car map which gives a good overview of the places to see around Alice Springs as well as the type of roads that will be encountered. I also recommend ‘Take A Walk in Northern Territory’s National Parks’ by John & Lyn Daly.

Link to photo gallery on flickr.

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