MacLehose Trail Evokes Memories

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Stretching from Sai Kung on the east coast to Tuen Mun in the west, the whopping 100 km-long MacLehose Trail is the longest and first long-distance hiking trail in Hong Kong.

 

The trail is divided into 10 sections and traverses eight country parks which embrace magnificent natural scenery, interesting historical relics and a wide range of wild fauna and flora, winding past the coastline, rugged mountains, valleys and reservoirs to provide a diverse outdoor experience for hikers.

 

It was even named as one of the world's 20 dream trails by National Geographic.

 

A lot of hard work went into building the trail, with Agriculture, Fisheries & Conservation Department workers out in the elements without much shelter, often carrying heavy equipment uphill and downhill over varied terrain.

 

Building bonds

Wan Keung and Lai Hing joined the department around 40 years ago. They both took part in the MacLehose Trail project which was started in 1979 to promote hiking activities in Hong Kong.

 

The project was named after the then-Governor Sir Murray MacLehose - who was himself a keen walker - for his significant efforts to conserve Hong Kong’s countryside.

 

“I have contributed a lot to the trail. I am happy as it is packed with people now,” said Mr Wan.

 

While Mr Lai added: “We are going to retire, but the trail will be here for a long time.”

 

Despite working on the same project, the pair - now in their 60s - only met for the first time recently because they were assigned to different work stations back then. However, they became firm friends instantly.

 

From setting up the many signposts along the way, to hand-building the heavy stone steps, the two men eagerly shared all the skills and techniques they learnt on the project.

 

Listening to their conversations now it is hard to imagine that when they first started work, both had little practical knowledge about constructing a trail. They acquired welding, plastering and woodwork skills through hands-on experience and with the support of their seniors. But that was not the biggest challenge they encountered.

 

“Building the trail was really difficult, as there were so many sections. We were either drowned in sweat or drenched by rain while working,” Mr Lai explained.

 

One poignant memory for Mr Wan was of working during wildfires that raged through the countryside.

 

“There was only one thing for it: we stayed until the fire was extinguished. That was really hard.”

 

Lasting legacy

After nine months’ hard work the MacLehose Trail was finally opened on October 26, 1979.

 

These days Mr Wan and Mr Lai enjoy the trail for leisure instead of work.

 

Both said receiving compliments from family and friends or witnessing the sheer enjoyment of hikers on the trail made their hard work worthwhile.

 

They now hope to pass on their skills to the younger workers, so that a new generation of Hong Kong people can take care of the trail and ensure it lasts for decades to come.