Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu

The High Alpine Approach to the Inca Citadel of Machu Picchu

The must-have item on one’s bucket list !

The Classic Inca Trail is overrated and over-subscribed.

It’s still worth doing if you could manage to get a permit as only 500 people ( including guides, cooks and porters ) are allowed on the trail each day – which is still a lot in my opinion.

A popular alternative nowadays is Salkantay Trek – which strictly speaking is a misnomer as the original one refers to the high alpine approach via Inca Chiriasqa Pass ( 4,950 m a.s.l.) that skips the the more rural and less scenic part of the Classic Inca Trail and joins it only after the village of Wayllapampa and as such would be subjected to the same quota system and the same restrictions as the Classic Inca Trail.

Inca Trail & Salkantay Trek

What the trek now popularly advertised in Cusco ( where most tours operators are located ) refers to is a mishmash of three trails and should be properly called Mollepata – Salkantay – Santa Teresa Trek which culminates at Machu Picchu typically on Day 5 of the trek.

There is only one high mountain pass involved, uninspiringly called Salkantay Pass at 4,580 m at the shoulder of the majestic Salkantay massif, the rest is mostly downhill and level and is usually substituted with some form of transport where the trail is no more than a glorified rural dirt road. The route is often described as a “ back door “ approach to Machu Picchu as it arrives at the official access town to Machu Picchu, Agua Calientes from the west, passing the Inca ruins below first along the river Rio Urubamba.

Detailed itinerary of Salkantay Trek

The trek is not only less strenuous compared to its Classic counterpart but it also draws less people and you are less likely to camp amidst crowds of other trekkers on the way. Scenic-wise it’s wilder and more spectacular as you will not only traverse plenty of cloud forest but also a proper glacial landscape and an alpine tundra with a tropical jungle valley all thrown in on the first 2 days of the trek, it’s just mind-bogglingly varied !

But to me the best thing really is to have a proper rest in a town with modern amenities the night before visiting Machu Picchu as I found myself all worn-out by the time I got to Machu Picchu on the Classic Inca Trail and didn’t quite enjoy it as much as I’d thought after all the efforts.

Arriving at Cusco fresh and overwhelmed by its sight and sound ?

So next time if you fly into Cusco clueless with what to do for the pilgrimage to Machu Picchu and is gutted to learn that the Classic Inca Trail is all booked out till the following summer the alternative Mollepata – Salkantay – Santa Teresa Trek is actually not a bad substitution and you could save yourself some money to spend on lodgings, meals and booze while getting to see the awesome Inca citadel as well !

This is what I’d like to do with all my collection of 360° panoramas from different treks I’d done in the past. Combining different forms of photography the visual impact is more compelling and gripping in my opinion.

For a synopsis of the trek please watch this video before you embark with me on this 5D4N adventure 🙂

Get the most from this Google Earth 3D reconstruction of the trail we are about to take !

Hong Kong from 0 m to 554 m a.s.l.

An Ingenious Solution to a Hilly Terrain ?

The renowned skyline of Hong Kong

The city of Hong Kong is built on some serious hilly terrain and one is not always far from the hillsides if they bother to look up between the skyscrapers for that sliver of green forest and granite above them.

They’re mind-bogglingly crowded it’s suffocating just to look at !

Despite some extensive land reclamation on both sides of Victoria harbour and particularly so on Hong Kong island side land is still scarce and a premium resource so much so that more and more buildings have to be built on the hillsides but that came at a price : all the roads hug close to the hillsides and are dangerously windy as well as being so narrow that at peak time traffic simply clogs up.

So born the Central-Mid-Levels elevator system to facilitate residents on the western side of Hong Kong Island to get to work easily – a meandering system of 20 escalators and 3 moving walkways between the many skyscrapers on the steep hilly streets of Hong Kong Island . The system is not continuous and at places it is connected via a series of footbridges. If one starts from the harbour front it takes about 20 minutes without stopping in between to reach the affluent district of Mid-Levels some 135 meters a.s.l. covering a distance just shy of 1 km.

The course of the Central-Mid-Levels elevator system 

Whether it has served it’s purpose is yet to be seen as the traffic is still pretty jam-packed most of the time but the system has become a tourist attraction for it is reputed to be the longest outdoor escalator system in the world and it really brings people to see the different facets of Hong Kong society cheaply and comfortably as the system courses through the different districts of Hong Kong, from the impoverished to the well-off and finally to the realm of the super-rich.

So hold tight to the handrail as we begin the tour to see a part of Hong Kong Island that I always find fascinating. We’ll begin by taking a ride on the iconic Star Ferry from Kowloon side first 🙂


Downhill direction: Mid-Levels – Central 6am to 10am daily
Uphill direction: Central – Mid-Levels 10am to midnight daily

This has to be my most ambitious project up-to-date with over one hundred 360° panoramas shot over a couple of months with information assembled from several sources to give you not just an immersive tour but also history and current affairs about this colony of Britain that was handed back over to China in 1997. You will enjoy more of the Monkey Hill Tour if you also take your time to try this tour as well !

The Giant Pyramids of Teotihuacan

The story behind Teotihuacan

A sweeping view towards the Pyramid of the Moon from the Avenue of the Dead

When the Aztecs stumbled upon this ruins over 700 years ago they thought it was the birthplace of their gods and those pyramids were their resting place.

An aerial view of the ruins

The 5 km long avenue on which these flat-topped pyramids line on both sides is so wide and majestic to them that they thought giants once walked on it.

The Avenue of the Dead from the top of Pyramid of the Moon

They named the place Teōtīhuacān, roughly translated as “ Birthplace of the Gods “ and its major thoroughfare “ The Avenue of the Dead “ as they presumed those flat-top ( talud-tablero ) pyramids were tombs.

They were so impressed with the architecture of this place they began to build their only very capital Tenochtitlan on the same grand design, hoping to copy their gods whom they believe they themselves were their true heirs and descendants.

The remains of Tenochtitlan in present day Mexico City

Little did they know they were actually picking up on a civilization that preceded them by almost a millennium that has left very few clues about themselves.

And like them their gods were only mortals who had succumbed to war, famines and diseases.

They were not supreme either for during their reign in the valley of Mexico there were rivalling Mayan states south of them principally Tikal and Palenque respectively.

The Maya State of Palenque in southern Mexico

The period between A.D. 200 to 500 must be an interesting and testing time for many expanding Maya states and the multi-ethnic state of Teotihuacan and indeed Tikal was briefly conquered by Teotihuacan in the latter half of the 4th century.

The Mayan State of Tikal in Northern Guatemala

Cultural exchanges also flourished during this period. A case in point would be the so called talud-tablero pyramids – this architectural style of flat-topped pyramids seems to have originated from the Teotihuacan but copied by many other Maya states. They also seemed to have worshipped various versions of the same deities as well, a well-known case is the Feathered Serpent god.

One of the many Feathered Serpent sculptures found in Teotihuacan

We do not know what happened precisely that have suddenly killed off this civilization but there was an sudden upheaval in the climate system starting in A.D. 536 that plunged the world into many long cold years afterwards with aberrant weather patterns that wreaked havoc with many Central and South American civilizations. Known victims include the Moche who left many great adobe pyramids on the north coast of present day Peru.

Excavation at the Moche Temple of the Moon in Trujillo

Fascinating stuff and who could have thought that a massive volcanic eruption in a far-flung corner of the world ( candidates includes Krakatoa, Rabaul and Llopango ) could have such a knock-on effect ?

Anyway present day archeological findings suggest both civilisations suffered the same fate: a sustained period of crop failure led to an extended famine that ultimately consumed the authority of the ruling class and aristocracy, whose status relied on their perceived ability to communicate with deities to bring good and stable weather to the people. This was also the period when the practice of human sacrifice became rife to appease their gods. All to no avail as strife and unrest followed and finally and abruptly brought an end to both civilisations at the hands of their own people. In Teotihuacan’s case, there was widespread evidence of arson and the city or a large part of it particularly the aristocratic sector was burnt, ransacked and razed to the ground.

The northern coast of Peru saw the worst ever El Niño during that period in history

The damage was so great that the city was finally abandoned for good at the latest by the 7th century.

The demise of Moche culture also happened at the same time

Next time when you are in Mexico City don’t forget to come and visit the ruins of Teotihuacan and really there is no excuse for missing it as it only lies 30 mins by bus on the northeast outskirts of Mexico City.

Begin your virtual visit from the first landing on the Pyramid of the Moon.

The Vanishing Glacier of Pastoruri

The Death Knell of Pastoruri

Pastoruri shrouded in clouds

I was there in 2005 when the glacier was retreating so fast that it was deemed dangerous to visit many interesting ice formations like the much touted “ Ice Cave “ and it might just be as well for the weather was atrocious with snow, sleet and rain and the sky was so low I hardly did see anything.

Some of the formations were gone already…

The place was packed nonetheless and the many vendors there selling souvenirs and snacks were doing a brisk business.

My itinerary

Pastoruri Glacier the world’s only tropical glacier accessible by road had been the life line for many locals scraping a living in nearby villages, principally Catac. In peak season the glacier used to pull in tens of thousands of visitors a year but now the number is dwindling to less than one third a year and fast decreasing.

Rare to find me with companions but then Pastoruri was popular 🙂

The reason – the glacier is dying.

Cordillera Blanca – a 200 km long range of the Andes in Peru

In actual fact many of the glaciers in Cordillera Blanca, the range of Andes north of the tropic of Capricorn, home to 70% of the world’s tropical glaciers have been sounding their death knell in the last couple of decades: 40 % of their surface area has disappeared since the 1970s and Pastoruri alone has shrunk by half in the last 20 years.

All 722 glaciers there are at risk of disappearing…

The process is likely to be irreversible and there’s no better case in point than Pastoruri for it has since the early 2,000s fractured into two halves, with the northern lesser part now no more than a pitiful slab of thin ice standing forlornly against the dark granite of the cirque of Cerro Pastoruri. The southern half fares a bit better as it still bears a semblance to a glacier but it is exsanguinating fast and its meltwater has formed a large glacial lake just buy its edge.

The glacier has shrunk tremendously over the years ( credit : Living on Earth )

As the glacier retreats the once heavy-metal-rich rock surface is now left exposed to the elements and the run-off meltwater nowadays contaminates the river and soil downstream with cations that decrease their bioproductivity.

and supports an ecosystem that counts such unique flora like the gigantic Puya Raimondi

Sooner or later this part of Peru will have a crisis at hand….

The glaciated peaks hold vast amount of potable water

With this background information my second visit a few years later was more like paying homage to a dying giant, a victim to the phenomenon of global warming. As expected the number of tourists going there was a far cry from when I first visited it in 2005. The whole parking lot was vacant save one tourist minivan which I rode in. Gone were all those vendors and all the hassle and bustle that left me with a indelible impression then.

The two halves of the glacier as seen from the trail

Unlike many others I took the left paved trail from the parking lot to see the glacier’s northern member first. Along the way there are still many signposts left standing though all those strange ice formations they described were all long gone, leaving only bare dark granite behind with marks of serrations.

Then came the pitiful sight of what’s left standing below the new exposed northern peaks of Cerro Pastoruri – just a small excrescence, like an unsightly outgrowth 🙁

The northern half, a shadow of its former self…

I didn’t linger long for it was just so painful to watch. I then scurried back to take the right trail and that duly brought me to the southern half of the glacier – it still looks grand with its 10 m high terminal face, glistening with a tint of blue under the sun but the many crevasses on its surface tell a different story – it’s retreating and fragmenting inside 🙁

The southern half looks a bit better….

A lot of the rocks on the ground have distinctive shiny streaks in them, and I think they are mostly composed of iron pyrite. No wonder the glacial meltwater will be rendered acidic and as it runs off the terrain it will carry more dissolved minerals on their way, some less desirable than others…..

This would probably be my last visit to this glacier and many predict that what’s left would be gone within the next decade or so.

How long will they last ?

Without knowing the sad story behind the glacier of Pastoruri a tour of the place is still rewarding just for its majestic landscape and mountain setting and I would still highly recommend it !

The Terraced Pools and Cascades of Semuc Champey

A Series of Mishaps and an Anticlimax 

A rolling terrain of haycock hills in a karst landscape of central Guatemala

The highland of Central Guatemala is a rugged and varied land with rolling hills and many strange geological formations hidden under a  thick expanse of tropical jungle. A large part is karst and the limestone that makes up the landmass could be sculpted and shaped by time and the elements to form fantastic landscape.

My itinerary

I first visited this part of this most populated Central-American country back in 2005 on the recommendation of an Israelis couple I met in Tikal who raved about this place, not very well-known then.

The legendary paradise of Semuc Champey as it was quite inaccessible then….

But it wasn’t until I left for Livingston, a Caribbean seaside town east of the country from the tourist trap of Antigua west of the capital ( where I had a dabble in Spanish for a few days to help with my travel ) that the idea of taking a side trip to the central highland occurred to me.

Antigua, a popular destination for tourists in Guatemala

As I had flown into Guatemala City from Tikal followed by a taxi to get to Antigua I didn’t really have a clue what public transport in Guatemala was like then.

It was a cruel awakening and the beginning of a most eventful journey to say the least.

For starter I had my first taste of the much dreaded chicken buses ( La Caminonetas ) after finding myself gawking at a fleet of them in the central bus grounds next to the messy and smelly Central Market of Antigua.

Chicken Buses are really just rickety U.S. school bus that had been sold to many Central America countries to form the mainstay of transport there, most having served at least 10 years or 150,000 miles on US soil already before auctioned off en-mass and brought to other parts of the world to serve another life sentence in a more colourful attire. No retirement, sorry 🙁

The colourful designs of many ” Chicken Bus “

Super-crammed with passengers and often piled high on top with luggage ( sometimes livestock hence their name ) they are often found defying the law of physics on the many potholed highways in Guatemala and spewing an exhale of black pungent smoke all the way as they grumbled along.

My introduction was swift as an ayundante ( a helper to the driver on a chicken bus ) promptly took me in onto the right bus. Once seated I duly found myself trying to balance on the edge of my buttocks holding my backpack on my lap on the choppy road to the capital with passengers packed like sardines around me. The trip took about two hours as it made many stops en-route to pull in more patrons and I nearly drowned in my own perspiration ( as well as other’s I suspected ) by the time the bus finally pulled into Guatemala City. That’s only the beginning for I subsequently got lost in the many avenidas of the capital trying to look for the bus company that plies the route to Coban, my next port of call. And noon is already steaming hot enough without lugging a backpack around in the busy streets of this polluted capital teeming with humanity. By the time I got to this provincial capital, Coban in the central highland I was totally exhausted and soaked after another long ride – a gruelling 4 hour journey in a packed minivan ( thank god, not the chicken bus again ) on a windy and often unpaved road. I nearly got motion sickness and puked.

The city of Coban, a popular enclave for Germans before WW II

I had steeled myself for what was to come but I clearly wasn’t quite prepared.

The worst was yet to come as I was pick-pocketed on the next leg of my journey to the village of Lanquin the following day and by the time I realised it that I had no money on me I was about to pay for my meal, a filling spaghette bolonese and my lodging. Fortunately the owner of El Retiro Lodge where I came to stay is a very understanding Brit and for the following two days I shuffled on the bumpy road between the village of Lanquin and Coban to sort things out – insurance, cancelling stolen cards etc. and I swore myself that I’d never again bank with Barclays after speaking to robots countless of time or to personnel in some far-flung offshore centres if I had managed to get through 🙁

On the back of a refuse collection truck to Semuc Champey

So by the time I got to my destination, Semuc Champey a 30 min ride on the back of a refuse collection truck from Lanquin I thought everything had finally worked out but little did I know that another mishap was still in store for me – that I could not get to see the place properly even when I was physically there for within 10 minutes inside the place I slipped on one of the many slippery slime-coverd trails and fell into a large and deep terraced pools with a big splash and lost my glasses in the water in the accident. I wasn’t hurt but for the rest of the time there everything became a blur to me. I wished I had put on my contacts instead that day which I normally would prefer to.

A word of warning – the slime covered travertine terrace is super-slippery !

Something was at work to prevent me from seeing the place and I was so disheartened by the series of events so far I didn’t linger long inside the place except to take a few photos.

I left the following day and stuck to my original itinerary.

The seaside Caribbean town of Livingston, my original port of call 🙁

But chance would have it I could visit the place again albeit a good few years later. Things worked out smoothly and efficiently this round as the tourist infrastructure and service had improved significantly. I had spent 2 and a half days to get to Lanquin in the old days but now the same journey could be taken in the comfort of an air-conditioned people transporter in less than 5 hours from the same old town of Antigua directly with no stopover and wait in between. No more pickup truck as lodging could be chosen right outside the beautiful karst formation where one’d be dropped off.

I stayed at the El Portal de Champey this time

It was super easy nowadays but somehow I do missed the old tortuous and torturous way for the experience alone would bring one to be more in touch with the actual country and the life of the people there. it feels like travelling in a parallel universe, cocooned and pampered.

The sense of achievement in overcoming the many challenges of backpacking is no more.

Semuc Champey at long last, almost an anticlimax !

It was a whirlwind visit in Guatemala this time for I managed to retrace my footsteps in Panajachel, Antigua, Tikal and Lanquin in less than a week. Their stories will follow in due course.

On my second visit I began my tour from the El Mirador right away – a viewpoint located a couple of hundred meters above the travertine formations to one side of the limestone gorge. It was a steaming hot slog but well-worth the effort. After taking in the scenery from there I worked my way down and began documenting my visit from one end of the formation to the other end where it abruptly terminates as a cliff over Río Cahabón below.

Take your time and enjoy this beautiful wonder of nature, reputedly the most popular of all destinations in Guatemala 🙂

The Giant Stupa of Boudhanath

An Oasis of Tibetan Buddhism in Kathmandu

Kathmandu is chaotic.

Its old, crumpling and overflowing with humanity and disorderly traffic.

Yet right in the city proper just north of the airport tucking behind a row of low-rises lies an oasis of serenity – a large stupa ( chorten in Tibetan ) surrounded by some 50 Tibetan monasteries ( gompas in Tibetan ), most of which were established by refugees fleeing from Tibet following the Chinese invasion in the 50s.

Aerial Map of Boudhanath

In fact the village of Boudha has always been the cultural and religious centre of a sizeable population of Nepalese of Tibetan descent since ancient times as the place once lied on the important overland trade route between Tibet and the kingdom of Nepal and this is especially the case when the population there suddenly swells with the influx of exiles from modern day Tibet.

Prayer-wheels, prayer-flags, monks in red robe, prostrating Buddhists on pilgrimage etc are a common sight there. If you don’t want to visit Tibet under communist China’s rule, this place in Kathmandu is a good option indeed.

So I just followed Lonely Planet’s directions and took one of those old rickety Hyundai minibus from a corner of Ratna Park, the main city park near the tourist enclave of Thamel in Kathmandu and within 30 minutes I was ushered off and landed right on the doorstep of Boudhanath.

But it wasn’t the main gate where I was let off in fact I was dumped somewhere a few blocks away. By the time I made it through to the main square after finding my way through a maze of alleys I somehow had managed to enter the place without paying the mandatory fee for foreign visitors.

There right in the centre of the square a huge stony structure crowned with a ” minaret ” cladded in gold dominates the skyline. Suspended from its four cardinal corners are some of the largest and longest and most elaborate prayer-flags I’ve ever seen.

Fluttering in the morning breeze they seemed to response to the religious chants emanating and echoing around through the windows of the numerous gompas around.

Before I realized it I was already following the stream of people there and began my pilgrimage to the circular structure, albeit in the wrong direction anti-clockwisely which meant disrespect.

It is said amongst other holy relics inside the stupa is a piece of bone that belongs to Buddha himself.

Despite the presence of hordes of tourists the place still exudes charm and offers a glimpse into the religious devotions of many Tibetans and it certainly is worth a visit.

By early afternoon I followed Lonely Planet’s itinerary and made my way on foot to Pashupatinath, the holiest Hindu temple in Nepal where many cremations are performed in the open along the banks of the holy Bagmati River by which it stands. Indeed one could see the smoke rising afar from the many burning funerary pyres as I neared the river.

As I made my way and finally climbed the small hill south on the banks of the holy river I could still see the golden top and the huge dome of Boudhanath.

As I turned my head one more time for a last glimpse of the glowing structure under the sun, I prayed for all Tibetans and hopefully one day they could roam free on their home soil again.

Footage of the 2015 earthquake in Nepal

The pictures for the 360° tour were taken before the devastating earthquake which struck Nepal in April 2015 with 9,000 fatalities. The relatively shallow hypocentre caused massive damage not only to many century-old structures made of wood, brick and mud but also modern cement ones across many districts of the country. Kathmandu Valley where most of the country’s UNESCO World Heritage sites are located saw many palaces, temples and monuments crumbled to smithereens in the blink of an eye. Fortunately Boudhanath escaped the worst damage with only cracks appearing in the massive dome. I suspect the largely pyramidal structure helped a bit in the tremor.

The Untold Story

Where is Golden Hill aka Monkey Hill in Hong Kong ?

Where to find monkeys in HK

Getting to Golden Hill ( Kam Shan ) Country Park is easy for most people in Hong Kong – just hop on bus 72 or 81 or drive right through the country park in the comfort of your own car along Golden Hill Road to see the mischievous monkeys that make the place synonymous with them for most Hongkongers.

Travelling to Monkey Hill like a local on bus 81 for less than 1 USD each way !

Golden Hill road also doubles as part of a section of a long hiking trail, stage 6 of MacLehose Trail named after one beloved former Governor of Hong Kong. This popular trail, about 100km long traverses Kowloon from east to west mostly following the main mountain ridge on Kowloon Peninsular. It is against such fact that I came to know this road and later this place when I began to call Hong Kong home in 2009.

Murray MacLehose, 25th Governor of Hong Kong ( 1971-1982 )

Golden Hill Road is a cul-de-sac and is normally deserted as it only serves as an access road to the police shooting range and to various reservoir facilities inside the park only. The traffic only picks up after office hours on weekdays as people come to visit but that only amounts to a dozen of vehicles at most usually and on weekends the road is banned for any traffic between 9:00am to 4:00pm.

A moving time lapse shot of Golden Hill Road

An aerial view of the country park

As a matter of fact I tried to ignore our primate kin which share almost 94% of our DNA at first as I always and still think the best way for any wildlife’s conservation is to leave them well alone so as not to draw human attention to them.

It’s better to just observe them from a distance….

However it then came the exception when I saw what human beings were capable of a few years back to inflict on these little critters.

I still remember vividly that it was a cool morning one day in November in 2011 as I hiked from stage 7 to stage 6 on the Maclehose Trail when I first bumped into a little macaque, no bigger than a small puppy with its right forelimb – if you could still call it as it’s avulsed from the shoulder and hanging limply and awkwardly down with most of the forearm element missing, leaving a red and angry open wound at its end emitting a low shrill cry, all alone by the kerb halfway along Golden Hill road.

A poor maimed macaque alone by the kerb 🙁

I guessed it was less than a year old then and normally an infant should be accompanied by its mother and so I was really curious and at the same time worried about it. Clearly at this young tender age it would still rely on its mother for milk and on its own in this shape it wouldn’t be able to forage anything meaningful to survive. There’s still a lot of skills it had yet to learn from its mother.

A baby would be wailing even if its mum is only a footstep away….

I waited at some distance away so as not to disturb the baby and hoping that its mother would somehow turn up to claim the baby miraculously.

As it began to pick off grit and other dirt from the wound I was really surprised how neat the wound appeared, in fact it’s like an amputation and I began to suspect it was the work of a trap – probably a steel-jaw type – which I later learnt from the local press that such devices were being discovered at a few other country parks at an alarming frequency. As most wildlife ( except wild boars ) is protected by law ( a legacy of its British past ) people suspected they were laid down illegally by smugglers coming from China across the border as game is highly sought for and valued medicinally in China so much so that most forms of wildlife are now extinct there. In Hong Kong however wild mammals like the Red Muntjac ( a kind of dwarfed musk deer ), pangolins, porcupines, civets, leopard cats, bats and wild boars are abundant and still roam free in large swathes of protected countryside that cover almost three quarters of all land area of Hong Kong, another legacy of its British past.

A red muntjac, this species of small deer is still seen and found in Hong Kong…

To make matters worst these mainlanders ( as opposed to Hongkongers ) seem to have de facto impunity under the new administration of Hong Kong as the authority would often not react or just let them off easily in petty crimes or even serious misdemeanours. No wonder these unscrupulous traders whether in animal or rare wood trade would come to Hong Kong to make quick money – a case in point is the protected Buddhist Pine ( Podocarpus macrophyllus ), an evergreen that is highly valued in China for its good Fengshui. Another is agarwood which fetches high price in the market for its aromatic resin. These two have almost all been cut down now by smuggling gangs coming from mainland China at night. Now they have turned their attention to less valuable but still highly profitable game trade.

illegal logging for agarwood in Hong Kong

My hope however grew thinner at each minute passed as the baby’s shrill became more desperate. It’s jittery and nervous but just when I was wondering whether I should call the appropriate authority for help ( whether it would response is another matter as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, SPCA, the R which stands for Royal had been dropped since the handover in 1997 to China is well-known for putting animals down only. Furthermore to catch an agile animal like a monkey on its home turf one would require more than just a few personnel, besides by the time they appear the animal would have been long gone into the woods ) an older female, probably its sister came to his side to comfort it. The maimed little critter huddled close and appeared to be pacified somewhat. No sooner had this happened an entire troop of monkeys appeared around this stretch of the road and the moment I tried to get closer to the maimed monkey a few became aggressive towards me. I knew then the little baby at least wasn’t abandoned by its troop.

stumpy-comfort 4 500
A female, probably his sister came to comfort him 🙂

But still there was no sign of the whereabouts of its mother. I suspected whatever was the cause of this little baby’s injury also claimed the life of its mother : if it was a steel-jaw trap the stronger bone of an adult meant that it was still immobilized by the trap and probably had died from a combination of both exhaustion and exsanguination. The small and brittle bone of an infant resulted in an instant amputation by avulsion. Whether it had scurried away in the subsequent confusion and pain or was simply ignored and pried away by the game smuggler as it still clung to its mother with its only hand left is really anybody’s guess.

stumpy-comfort 1 500
but he’s orphaned that’s for sure 🙁

The following weekend I came again specifically for the little critter – and there it was still in good health. The wound was still red and raw but at least it hadn’t deteriorated. As it climbed and jumped from tree to tree I knew the injury hadn’t incapacitated it – it’s still as playful and energetic as most other babies, a testament to our primate kin’s amazing tolerance and ability to survive. I also noticed it was receiving many treats from passers-by so obviously many kind-hearted locals were taking mercy on it. Given it was still in a troop and all the protection that came with it as long as the wound healed properly without complications this little baby should survive.

He loves goodies 🙂

He has since been known as ” Stumpy ” for those who have been following his progress on youtube.

here’s Stumpy’s story in a nutshell 🙂

As I hiked along the road and really started to see these critters properly I became horrified at the sights of many injuries these poor animals suffered : some were missing an arm, others had their legs chopped off. A few babies were blinded, others were horribly disfigured – to the lay person they might think these were natural injuries but to the trained eyes, these were the result of machetes and even corrosive agents. Clearly there was an evil at work for quite a while here besides illegal poachers – an animal abuser. Judging from the injuries the perpetrator of such heinous crime had taken advantage of these poor animals’ trust on us so as to get close enough to commit such atrocities.

A mother comforting a baby with skull exposed from the effect of some corrosives…

The mother didn’t fare any better for she’d suffered total disfigurement on the other side. This female, a matriarch has since been named as Löwina….

This was the last I’d seen of her baby …

For that this individual is even worst than the illegal poachers for he simply tortures and kills just for the pleasure and fun of such act. Clearly he’s not content with just simply drawing blood and was hell-bent on inflicting as much pain on the animals as possible hence he improvised with corrosive agents – which I suspected was some kind of chemical drain cleaners.

Poor baby 🙁

An infant blinded from some corrosives. I wouldn’t have noticed him had he not cooed for help…

Another victim of some corrosives. Notice the massive tissue loss on left forelimb..

How could anyone hurt these animals who are one of our closest kin in nature ?

Why ? What good does hurting them bring ?

I took many pictures of such instances of abuses and asked my local hiking buddy to write to the press and he duly did. It didn’t at first draw a lot of attention but soon word began to spread as people were disgusted by such cruelties. A few newspapers also picked up on the story as well as stashes of machetes, half-empty bottles of corrosives began to be found in various spots amongst the thick undergrowth inside the park.

Local press ” Apple Daily”‘s follow up on the abuses…

As more instances of abuses began to surface a demonstration against animal cruelties was called for as the public demanded actions from the government. That same year 2012 while I was away from Hong Kong news had reached me that by early summer enough momentum had been gained so much so that the administration could no longer pay a lip service to the demands of many animal lovers of the city and began to act, much like any bureaucrat – comically and ruefully inadequate by simply putting up giant banners inside the country park reminding people NOT TO HURT MONKEYS and TO REPORT ON SUCH INSTANCES and that FEEDING MONKEYS IS ILLEGAl and CARRIES A FINE OF AROUND 2,000 USD PER OFFENCE, much to the chagrin of all those concerned in the cause as the original demand to set up a dedicated squad to deal with animal abuses and to catch those responsible seemed to have fallen on deaf ears and continues to remain so till these days err …. on the laughable grounds of inadequate resources ( despite Hong Kong having the second highest ratio of police officer to citizen ratio in the world since the handover to China ) – not that the crime scene has deteriorated significantly since but that the alienating administration popped up only by China is feeling increasingly edgy as more people are displeased and disenfranchised by the political setup in Hong Kong, a case in point is the largely peaceful ” Umbrella Revolution ” in 2014 which saw tens of thousands of people, mostly students and young people who took to the street to demand China to stick to its original promise to grant people in Hong Kong at least UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE. After nearly 3 months of street occupations, the movement lost focus and petered out and everything remains status quo if not worsened since ).

call the nearest police station if you see something not right ….

The movement demanding China to stick to its promise back in 2014….

People taking to the street in Central, HK in support of the ” Umbrella Revolution

Fortunately the exposure seemed to have stopped any further spate of abuses by the middle of 2012. The perpetrator(s) of such heinous crime though is still at large.

However there is no stopping to poachers and smugglers coming to Hong kong at night as the border is increasingly porous nowadays and the administration has no intent to patrol it like it was then under the British. After all Hong Kong is now part of China and the administration is only doing its bidding. And the police force is increasingly being used to stifle oppositions only, much like its counterpart in China.

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I love mum… please do not hurt her…..

I fear for all the wildlife in Hong Kong : not only are they being hunted their habitat will shrink as the administration is increasingly clear with its intent to cede piecemeal the once protected countryside to urban development as the city swells with immigrants from China – indeed some 2 million New Hongkongers have settled down legally as China continues with its policy to dilute the indigenous population of Hong Kong so much so to the extent that nowadays almost every one in three Hongkongers belongs to this new category – your average Mandarin-speaking and brain-washed mainlander Chinese, hostile to many western values and not very much law – abiding and worst still all bigot-minded. I’m sure you must have met one in your own country ! To make matter worst in this small city of 7 million it has to cater to the various needs of mainlander Chinese who swarm this overcrowded city by tens of thousands everyday ( in total about 45 million mainlander Chinese visitors per year ) as some vote with their money and feet on Chinese merchandise, others just want to take advantage of various legal loopholes to make a quick buck.

Once “ mainlandization “ of Hong Kong is complete which at this rate is not far off in the future it will spell the end of Hong Kong as we have come to know it, much like what’s happening in Tibet.