It's a public holiday and the plan was a harmless hike up Singapore's tallest hill, which, admittedly has a height that is nothing to boast about.
Nothing could have gone wrong, right ?
Anyway, the first part was tough enough. I mean, I have not hiked for ages. Okay, so I've done MacRitchie but the ground there most level, with the exception of that crazy stairs after the bridge. But then again, those stairs are nicely constructed.
But stairs like these...?
I tell you, I wasn't exeggerating when I say that some steps have risers going as deep at 0.5m! And treads embedded with little rocks so sharp that it hurts everytime you landed on them.
They're supposed to be buried in the soil but naturally, erosion cause these little devils to cause menace on hikers (or literally, their feet).
Therefore, it's important that one wears suitable footwear. Never mind that the hill ain't that high. I doesn't mean that the forest trail is any less treacherous.
Entangled tree roots, fallen leaves, eroded paths, rock embedded paths, deep steps and muddy ground. All the things you expect of a rugged trail. Never mind that it's dry the whole week. The ground will still be muddy. Wet. Do go thinking that there's low chance of you slipping.
Because the nature reserve has THIS:
Spring water trickling from a natural source (mata-air), coming from deep within the hill.
Here, they build up an area to contain the cooling water for trekkers/hikers.
The water is clear, as one can see. Even if you see sediments in the water that you have collected, I guess, the water is clean once the impurities has settled at the bottom of the container.
This is one trip that bring forth a lot of blessings (and where my instincts works at full force- if only I'd listened).
I'm glad we started the hike up the main road, namely the easiest route. I've checked beforehand, that the red & blue trail is the easiest and I also took note that a trail of another colour is the most difficult. Problem is, I wasn't sure which one.
Succeeding in reaching the summit in 1/2 hr, I though of getting a tad adventurous. After all, the kids have had their fill and also stuffed their faces with enough chocolate to give them energy to last them a whole day.
So we decided to follow the 'yellow' route. It must have been a bad sign when the route starts with a treacherous climb down some really zany steps. Just when we thought that we should stick to the main road, we got on flat ground so, hey! That wasn't so bad...
So we got deeper. And then I realised that we've stumbled into the green trail but it's too far to turn back to get back onto the yellow trail. All this while, I had thought that the green trail must have been the most difficult. I mean, no trails can be worse rite, after all those crazy steps we have to climb up AND down?
I just read this, when I got back on the nParks website again just now.
Trail 3 (Green) 1-2 hours. Trail grade: moderate to difficult.
Trail 4 (Yellow) 2 hours. Trail grade: Difficult.
Gah! So the accidental stumble onto the green trail had been a blessing after all! Imagine what we would have gone through had we insisted on the yellow trail....
I mean, I have 6 & 11 year old kid, 2 girl tweens, 3 teens and another 2 super-unfit adults. My cousin's daughter brought a fren of hers; a bubbly girl, who got exasperated with every uphill climb, be it the steps or even slopes. But then again, she the same kid who ran/bounced down those crazy steps like an over-zealous gummi-bear. As opposed to her disdain for climbing, she LOVES going down.
I remember screaming after her, "When you climb up, you kept saying you wanna go home. When you go down, you're like a crazy girl. Slow down! BEE CAREE-FUULLL!!!!" Not once, I did that, ok? Many times, in fact.
So why is it that I wasn't surprised when I heard her scream and she was on the ground when I got to her? Geez.
Somehow, the anger inside me quelled by the time I came by her side. No point scolding her right? It's happened. Then there's the crying. Her endless tearing made me wonder if she's broken her ankle instead of just spraining it. Feeling around it, everything semed intact. It's not even swollen yet. But we can't take any chances.
Many other hikers passed by, some even families. To those who stopped to ask about us/give advice/offer help/drop so encouragement, I THANK YOU LOTS. It's really heartwarming to see that you sincerely cared.
Sending all the other kids away to rest at the visitor centre, my cousin and I stayed with her while she rest her leg and let the pain subside. Looking at the way she cry and badly handling the pain, something eventually crossed my mind. "Is this your first time? I know it's your first hike. But spraining your leg. Is this the first time..?"
Ah, I see. I turned to Sue. "I must have sprained my ankle so many times, it felt like something that happened every year... "
"Hey do you remember the first time you sprained your ankle..? Mine was so long ago but I rememebered the most embarassing time, though... I fell down the bus when alighting at the interchange. Imagine that!"
"Ekeke... I feel down at the shopping centre, wearing a skirt. My mum only laughed at me.."
So we got to exchanging funny stories about spraining ankles while that girl looked up at us, smiling amidst her sobbing. I guess my tactic worked after all, for later she said, "Cik CT, jom kita jalan. Dah boleh sikit-sikit.." (Auntie CT, lets move on. I can walk a bit..)
I want her to see the lighter side of this whole incident. So I just told her, "See? The first time you hike, you sprained your ankle. Some adventure, huh? Whenever you go through a bad situation, tell yourself, Nothing Can Be Worse Than THIS!" I gave her a wink.
She smiled. Cool!
I guess this taught her a bit bout pain endurance for later, she was hobbling around by herself, following us around when she should just be resting her leg. I guess she got the hang of it. But I took no chances and drove her back home with my cousin, as the mum of her friend to explain to her mum.
That incident aside, the green trail is still a blessing. Besides the gorgeous sight, that is the trickle of water from deep within the hills, I remember climbing up this treacherous flight of steps and seeing the others lagging behing, I had stopped at one of the steps and leaned on a tree. I gentle breeze made me turn and the sight that greeted me blew me away.
I was overlooking the valley that was overgrown with foliage that make up this tropical rainforest that the authorities were so determined to conserve.
It was such a gorgeous sight and before long, more gentle breeze blew subtly from across the valley and drain my exhaustion away. I can never thank Allah s.w.t enough for that opportunity to view and be part of this gorgeous landscape.
And Cave Path, true to its name - is indeed littered with caves.
Just too bad the entrances are barred. I would love to know what's inside. Though it kind of feel a tad creepy, seeing these dark caverns deep in the hill forest.
All in all, the green trail had been some experience indeed. I think I may just hike up that hill just to get a taste of that natural spring water...
And I shall part with a shot of this gorgeous flower, which to me, is reminiscent of the ginger torch.
MacRitchie - check.
Bukit Timah - check.
Next stop - Sungei Buloh!