“Violent Hill, I call it,” remarked a former colleague of mine. She didn’t say what she called The Twins, she doesn’t approve of strong language.
Violet Hill, to use its proper name, and The Twins are three hills within the Tai Tam Country Park. To look at them on the map you’d think they would make for a pleasant afternoon stroll offering spectacular views across the Tai Tam Valley, and the old reservoirs. In reality, though they are not particularly high, they are quite a steep climb.
A good place to start this hike is at Wong Nai Chung Reservoir which is next to the Hong Kong Parkview residential development. The reservoir was built in 1899 to supplement the main Tai Tam Reservoir system but it became surplus to needs in 1960 and is now a family boating lake. The path starts by skirting the reservoir wall to the end then dipping down a flight of steps and left and onto a path that will shortly meet a narrow catch-water where there is a marker identifying it as Tze Lo Lan Shan Path.
Do a hairpin turn back here following the catchwater for a few metres then turn right, crossing it and start the climb. This part of the trail is called, but not marked as, The Tai Tam Country Trail. The first stretch is a narrow path which passes clumps of bamboo and soon gives way to long stretches of shoulder high vegetation and paths of pale red sedimentary outcrop.
Violet Hill, which boasts three summits at 436, 433 and 430 metres respectively, takes its name from the rare Hong Kong iris (Iris speculatrix) whose pretty violet flower blooms around July and August. But even without this the hiker will be rewarded with quite breathtaking views of the city, the Tai Tam Valley and the reservoir group.
Shortly after passing the first summit the path doubles back briefly and then joins up with the Wilson Trail for the last few metres before the second, 433 metre summit. From here, the trail bypasses the third summit and progresses downhill for a while but any idea that down is easier than up will soon be dispelled by the steepness of the descent towards Tsin Shui Wan Au. This is something of a trail walkers crossroads. There is a little bridge and a bench to sit and get your energy back. If you don’t think your knees can cope with the twins there are other options. Whatever you decide it’s a lovely place for rest and refreshment.
From the little bridge there is a trail around the south side of the Tai Tam Intermediate Reservoir to the left and the Twins Catchwater heads off to the right. Straight ahead the twins loom. Two summits separated by a saddle at 363 and 386 metres respectively and a thousand steps, or so I was told, to the first summit. I lost count somewhere between three and four hundred. Long before the top I had lost the ability to care. But it is only a momentary lapse and on reaching the first summit the hardest work is done. The second summit may be a bit higher but the climb is nowhere near as steep.
The views from the top are not as spectacular as those from Violet Hill but the descent, on a clear afternoon, affords some rather lovely views along the Stanley peninsula.
The trail, as the crow flies is slightly less then 5 kilometres though it feels slightly less then fifty. It ends on Stanley Gap Road where you can catch a bus into Stanley or back to Central.