【明報專訊】Unintentional night hikes were a recurring motif of my university years. The Scottish ranges we used to hike regularly were a bit too hard to time, and the buses too early to finish. Or perhaps, we had yet to master map-reading. We always ended up missing the last bus, stranded on the main road and trying to hitch a car home. Failing that, a long homebound walk laid ahead. Exhausted, no one would speak. Nor would we blame each other for the dredge. This last part of the journey could take hours, and was often meditative, with a hint of heather, malt and vapour in the air — at least that was what I thought. I never verified the smells.
It has been years since we ventured into the night on a hike, until a recent trip to Pat Sin Leng (八仙嶺). The range, named after eight immortals in Chinese mythologies, comprises eight peaks like its name suggests. The path started in Hok Tau (鶴藪) with a steep climb, followed by some ups and downs across several hills. Soon, we were completely distracted by the tranquility (寧靜祥和) of the surroundings and lost count of the peaks. We even took our time taking cover photos for a proud lizard sun-bathing in the middle of the road. As the hills plateaued, we stopped for a long break to picnic and toast the eight immortals, thanking them for watching over our journey. Finally ready for our descent, we found in dismay a clear sign signalling the first of the eight peaks we were aiming at.
It turned out that for all the hours we spent panting up and down hills, we have only completed the ranges leading up to Pat Sin Leng. The eight immortals were yet to be greeted. Meanwhile, the sun was raging red, announcing its grand exit. Not long later, we found ourselves edging forward in the twilight. The air, crisp on the skin, smelt nevertheless like vapour. On and on we went along a rather mild path, with a phone torch in our hands.
And no one complained, just like the old days.
Mona C. has a strong appetite for stories. Feed her enough.