Rockin' in the rain

Wai-land Tai - Hon Treasurer HKJA

After a torrential downpour cancelled our first attempt to visit the Hong Kong Geopark, it seemed that the weather would again threaten to spoil our day. But despite the cold and the rain, 30 intrepid HKJA members and their friends braved the elements on a chilly Sunday afternoon to explore this unique geological site with one of Hong Kong's leading rock experts.

Professor Chan Lung Sang, from Hong Kong University's Department of Earth Sciences, was our guide for this little expedition. With over 25 years of teaching experience (15 years at HKU), he is one of the city's most popular professors renowned for his informative and passionate way of teaching. The full quota for this guided tour was just one indication of Professor Chan's reputation.

The tour began with a choppy boat ride from Ma Liu Shui ferry pier to Lai Chi Chong. On arrival, Professor Chan led the group along the west shore to explore the volcanic rock outcrops. Here, our esteemed guide gave a brief history lesson on the formation of the complicated rock properties and the sedimentary bedding along the coastline.

A staunch believer in the protection and conservation of Hong Kong's natural landscapes, Professor Chan encouraged us all to appreciate the opportunity to observe such geological wonders now as these rare examples of volcanic rocks may not be around for our grandchildren to see.

Before setting off on our hike, we stopped by a small family-run stall at Lai Chi Chong village to replenish ourselves for the grueling task ahead. On that freezing cold afternoon, any hot food was a blessing and the owner had to single-handedly cook up a dozen bowls of noodles with luncheon meat and egg as the orders came pouring in.

Here, Professor Chan enraptured the group once more with ghostly tales from his previous visits to Lai Chi Chong. He recounted one night when sleeping on his own, he had killed a centipede in his room and placed it at the far end, but when he awoke the next morning the dead insect was lying on his bed. And on another strange occasion while visiting with his students, his dirty underwear mysteriously moved in the middle of the night.

As well as being steep and narrow, the wet weather conditions had made the path slippery and in some places quite dangerous. In single file, we followed our leader on the muddy path hiking from Lai Chi Chong to Shum Chung. It was a hike of about 3 kilometres ascending to a peak of 140 metres with further samples of volcanic rocks and ash along the way. While climbing up was exhausting, coming back downhill again was just as tricky, especially with the rain making everything so slippery. But all in all, it was an invigorating and enlightening afternoon of education and exercise.

Our group very much appreciated Professor Chan's warm hospitality in showing us around the Geopark on a blistering cold day. Taking the boat back, everybody had one thing on their mind: a nice hot dinner and a long, long soak in the bath.