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     Volume 4 Issue 32 | February 4, 2005 |

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Trekking Down Lamma

Manzur Hussain

There are many islands that make up greater Hong Kong. Some are very small while a lot of them are barren and uninteresting. Lamma is covered with vegetation and is green in contrast. I got off the ferry and made a mental note about the departure times. My fear was that I would miss the last ferry and then remain stranded there for the night. But I need not have worried because there were ferries on the hour until about 10:00pm.

Lamma has many Buddhist temples and a large statue of Buddha. Throughout the island there are many small pagodas also. I started to walk away from the jetty and into a small market place. The houses were all small and flat-roofed and reminded me of houses in Dhaka. There was no traffic here except occasional bicycles. Over the years several narrow cement paths have been laid down and one could follow these around the island. Intersections have small signs telling you which way went where.

After walking for about 45 minutes I came upon a small shop on my right. It had small artefacts from Nepal and I chose two for the kiddies. When I went inside to pay for them I could hear a very beautiful bamboo flute playing on a small portable CD player. In another 15 minutes I had left the small hamlet behind me and the terrain began to incline upwards.

Following the narrow pathway I began to climb the small mountain. The incline was quite steep in some areas and it was a bit of an effort.

The day was not hot, yet the exertion made me warm and sweaty. A side route branched away from the main walkway to my right. Curiosity guided my feet that way. But I was glad I took the detour. So far there had been a lot of large bushes and shrubs. But this route went through a small wooded section with trees all around me.

The walkway was covered with dead eucalyptus leaves. All of a sudden I reached a clearing and placed at the very edge of the mountain was a small pagoda. I sat under the roof and took off my shirt entirely. After a while I took off my shoes also and let my feet cool off. I was quite high up now and I could see all around me. The sea was far below me and I could look out well into the horizon. The sea was a glitter far below and the ships at a distance seemed hardly to move. There were a few other people there, but they left presently and I was glad of the solitude. Without the intrusion of conversation I could hear small birds chirping somewhere. A cool breeze came in from the sea adding a slight rustle to the leaves. It was soothing and I loved being there. The afternoon had an air of laziness and I was in no hurry to leave. Looking down to my left far below I could see a small crescent beach in a lagoon. Half an hour passed before I stirred and made my way back to the main concrete pathway again. From here on the terrain inclined down. At some places the angle was so steep that grooves had been placed in the cement to offer better footing.

Winter brings no rain here. Everything around me was still green but all the leaves were wilted and listless. I walked along a passage where the branches of the trees on either side of the walkway formed a canopy overhead. The roots of many of the trees were above the soil. They were twisted and grappled, as if by some internal anguish, and some of them reached out and clawed at the cement pavement.

There was another detour to the right. Once again I took it. It went through small bamboo groves and finally after a flight of broken stairs I stumbled upon a small crescent beach. It was the same one I had seen from the pagoda high above. It was a very small place and I could pace the beach from one end to the other in about five minutes. But I had no intention of doing that. There was a small embankment there and I sat there under a tree. Nature seemed to be in a stupor.

The waves broke not with a roar but with a soft plop. The water did not rush onto the beach. It crept up the sand instead and seemed to be in no hurry to roll back. It was rocky to my left. Everything was sluggish even there. With each lazy wave the waters funnelled in the nooks and crannies. They seemed to like playing with the rocks and lingered there for as long as possible before finally slithering back reluctantly into the sea. Looking around I noticed that there was a restaurant farther away from where I was. But everything was closed and there were not too many people there. All the adults seemed to be smitten by the permeating lethargy. But the children invented games and busied themselves on the beach. Children must play I suppose.

After about 45 minutes I decided to go back to the main pathway. The path wound itself down, twisting here, turning there. I was coming upon the valley and there was more water here. As I turned a bend I came upon a carambola (star fruit) tree. I am not too fond of carambolas. But I always loved looking at them as they ripened on the tree. This tree was fruiting and there were long tendrils of carambolas here and there. They were at various stages of ripening and the colours ranged from green, to yellowish green, to yellow and to orange. They were lovely to look at. I would have plucked one but there were none within reach from the pathway. Others with a similar desire had been there before me.

I was pretty much in the valley now. I came upon a woman tending to a small farm. She was slightly bent with age. Time had etched many tales on her face. She was totally oblivious to me as I stopped to watch her. Her garden was doing well. There were cabbages, lettuce, onions, coriander, garlic, etc. It was a small garden, but adequate. There was a small ditch at one side where water seeped in and collected. She had a large plastic bottle attached to the end of a long pole. This is what she used to carry water from that dirty pool to her garden. The garden provided her with sustenance. But it seemed that this was also recreation for her just as surely as it is recreation for us to sit in front of a TV.

The road finally came to a clearing and across the water on the other side there was the village I wanted to reach. The sea had narrowed here into a lagoon and then finally to a creek. There was a bridge across the creek and that is where the path was leading me to.

Crossing the bridge brought me to the outskirts of the village. I came upon a house that looked rather well built. It was a small two storied house, but larger than any I had seen. It was situated very well with an excellent view of the lagoon. The grass was all brown now but you could see the lawn was cared for and had no weeds. The doors and windows were ornate. The front wooden door was large and especially etched with a floral design. There was a wall around the compound and the wrought iron gate also had an interesting design. The lawn was small but it was lapped by the sea. I am sure that sitting on one of the lawn furniture would offer a very good view. A German shepherd served as a sentry and stopped curiosity from going too far. This was obviously the "cottage" of someone well-to-do.

It became more crowded as I proceeded until I finally came to where there were many seafood restaurants one after the other. I looked at all of them. Most of them had menus and many small tanks with all sorts of fish and shell fish. After inspecting all the restaurants I came back to one I liked most. The proprietor spoke English pretty well with a heavy accent. But he was an honest fellow and even suggested that the items I chose would be too much food for me alone. He suggested alternatives and I finally settled for an order of deep fried shrimps with garlic and black pepper, and a lobster with garlic butter. It came with tea of course. I had the pick of any table I wanted as there was hardly anyone there at that time. So I sat right by the water. The food was very good and I took my time eating it. The service was rustic just like the surroundings. But it was politely given and adequate. I thanked them with whatever Chinese I knew.

From where I sat I could see the ferry come in. The return ferry was larger and a bit more posh. I chose to sit upstairs by the window and made sure I sat on the side away from the shore and looked out to the see. That way I could gape at the large container ships as they passed by. Somehow they hold a fascination for me.

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