Friday, 22 October 2010

Hong Kong Wetlands

A few days ago, we visited an area of the natural wetlands left apart in Hong Kong and made accessible to the public. It was a pre-arranged visit with a local home education group. We missed the time for the meeting. I have no excuse, beyond the fact that I manage triplets before breakfast and, even ten years on, have a chronic sense of how much time an argument over three pairs of the same size shoes can take.

But we got there in the end. We usually do, steaming and breathless, and with a fresh squabble brewing at the back.

To calm us all down, even though Dig started to pick a fight with the ticket seller over the five application forms needed for a six-month pass, the Chinese authorities had dealt a stunning blow for natural causes: an enormous steel and glass building with fantastic light and sound theatrical galleries straddling over the wetlands, an alligator in a glass surround and, before us, a set of pre-organised, informational loaded boardwalks, suitable for leading group parties across the natural diversity that is lakes, pools, mangroves and mudponds.

Discontent at something and everything was murmuring already. Foolishly, I tried to pour soothing oil over the rumbling in the family party, and said I expected we would bump into our education group at some point. Even though we were late to arrive, and must set off adventuring alone, I can see that the Hong Kong wetlands park is not a place where you can become lost. You simply follow the given routes.

Of course you can't please everyone. Dig said he was disappointed. He wanted to photograph wilderness, sea edge, wading birds, and lapping estuary waters.

Not in this zone. This orderly education site is at the edge of a world protected wetland. Access stops here. We can only stand at a viewing platform and point to where we can't see: somewhere over there, in that direction of China, where migrating birds come and holiday.

I console Dig and say there must be a protected site, and quite frankly, in China that seems pretty rare. If they don't fence off that area, there's nowhere else for those battered birds to land in safety, recover from their flight, and chatter about the journey back again. They need that unhuman site to be there, or they die.

Right too, I tell the children, who are now complaining that nothing is ever fair. To enter further into bird land, we have to apply for group visits and no children under 12. Unkind, says Shark, pointing at herself. I look at her, and think briefly she's right. But the argument escalates - the one about which way to go - and the fingers point at each other, the feet descend firmly, the voices rise, and we all become intemperate while not walking anywhere. Then I think that excluding children from a world protected wetland site is a fair policy after all.

So here are some photos of the Hong Kong Wetlands before the family outing became irredeemable and went bellyup.

I recommend you visit, if you're passing through. Even though you won't hurl yourself into the wild, wild, wilderness, you get a managed slice of it, and you can gain an education via the extensive information panels on birds, shoreline, mangrove, water crops, lakes, streams and rivers. If you miss seeing the actual kingfishers and otter poo, the Hong Kong authorities kindly supply concrete replicas, which you can examine under pretend telescopes from the safety of your boardwalk.

And the fact that we missed our group was probably for the best.

The argument over which pre-managed boardwalk we should take transmuted into who has the right to read a brochure first and which shade belonged to whom.

Then it all went to a territory beyond the point of no return, and certainly lost us our weekly ice cream, when it ended in two resounding slaps from one sister to another. One ran off and sat in a boil of furious misery at the discovery centre, Dig took himself off to a bird hide, and I sat down and crossed my arms in a sulk that nobody works harder to bring a discordant family together than me, and look where it got me.

When we did locate our education group - as they were just about to make the journey home - the prime culprit slunk off to contemplate the proper way to resolve arguments and consider the icecreamless perils of physical violence. The other two just looked miserable, and I couldn't really advance our cause by admitting why, or by consoling the organiser that we could have made the group all the more burdensome, by turning up on time.


sharon said...

Back to the same old, same old then Grit - arrive late complete with own cat-fight ;-) They must all be feeling much more 'at home' in the new home. Better luck next time. The Centre does look very interesting, even though you aren't allowed to wade through any muddy fields.

Grit said...

i'm going to use that as our motto, sharon. Arrive late, with catfight. i guess that also works in latin.