14 February 2007

Rumble at the docks

After accompanying Alex down to the pier for his morning ferry ride to work, and bidding him thanks and farewell, I took a detour past some ramshackle fishing huts on wooden stilts in a small bay hidden behind the headland.  The owners of the old shacks were offered land by the authorities to encourage them to move out of their decrepit accommodation, but being enterprising sorts, instead of moving out they built rental properties on the offered land and stayed put in their hovels.  Their fishing dinghies are parked alongside on the mudflats, and fish-hungry cats lurk on nearby rooftops hoping for a free meal.  The shacks are built so close together that the public path narrows drastically, and the way is almost obstructed by aging lean-to walls daubed with old magazine advertisements and lucky charms.  
Later in the morning I met Sarah at the pier returning from dropping Lily at pre-school, and we wandered amongst the bayfront shops of Yung Shue Wan, along to a bazaar being held at a concrete pier behind the village football pitch.  Sarah had been told about the market the day before by local Chinese retailer Doris, who could conceivably be someone who might have a sharp tongue if crossed.  At the venue, dozens of kumquat and tangelo bushes in plastic pots sat ready for deployment in homes across the island in honour of the Chinese New Year.  (pic); But as fevered shopping ravaged the stock, the supply of plants dwindled and a crazed tinge crept into the eyes of the local shoppers.  Sarah was elbowed away from one plant by a woman exclaiming, "Get away, get away!  It's mine!".  The melee was almost too much for Doris, who was racing back and forth to keep an eye on all the primal do-or-die commerce being undertaken.  But in the end Sarah secured some suitable vegetation for the Wilson balconies, and we loaded up the smaller ones into the pram, while the larger ones would be delivered later by one of the island's quad-bike delivery vehicles. 

After Sarah set off to town to see Alex for their 8th wedding anniversary, I strolled back into Yung Shue Wan for lunch, and then walked southwards to explore a little more of the island.  I ventured up the hill to see Lamma's 800kw wind turbine, which has 50m diameter rotors and makes an impressively ominous swooping noise as it cuts the air.  The view from the site was impressive too, with most of the southern coast of Hong Kong Island to the northeast.  In the opposite direction the mammoth Lamma coal-fired power station also thrummed menacingly, and its three smoke-stacks dominated the island's skyline.  Luckily the station itself is hidden from sight if you live in Yung Shue Wan or Tai Ping, and only the stacks are visible, lurking over the hill crest like a trio of industrial giants. 

Heading back down the hill, I followed the trail further to pretty Hung Shing Yeh beach, which was being tended by rake-wielding beach groomers wearing broad-brimmed basket hats to keep the sun off.  Deciding that the heat was getting to me, I paused for a cool drink in the shade, before turning back to Tai Ping. 

As I said farewell to Sarah and the kids, poor little Charlotte expressed her grief at my departure in the time-honoured method of all little ones: she let forth a veritable torrent of vomit onto one of the sofas and burst into tears.  Surprising how much one tiny stomach can - or, more precisely, can't - hold. 

After an arm-stretching baggage haul down to the pier, I bade farewell to pretty Lamma and headed for the bustle and grime of Hong Kong proper.  A short NZ$8 taxi ride took me up the hill to the Midlevels, and I disembarked at 8 Old Peak Road to begin the second phase of my Hong Kong visit - staying with Reuben and Alex and the boys in their fab Hong Kong apartment. 

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