Monday, October 27, 2008

Tree Top Walk

Today is Deepavali, a public holiday, which comes after the weekends, granting Singaporeans a long weekend, as we normally term it, to rest.

But I find Singaporeans should not rest home too long else boredom will set in, though in this economic gloom, more Singaporeans may be staying put at home to reduce their expenditures.

When it comes to public holidays, the Istana and the museums are open free to Singaporeans (Open house), but more or less these are the places I have visited before.

The adventurous streak in me struck and I decided to spend a day in touch with nature, to tame the forests and walk the HSBC Tree Top Walk in Macritchie Reservoir....solo.

I was ashamed of myself as here the tree top bridge was: open since the 5 Nov 2004 by MP Lim Hwee Hwa and 4 years have passed and I have not even gone to take a walk!

With must gusto and without further ado, I commenced on my plan for this fun expedition. And there I got the travelling information from my beloved SBS transit website on the travelling route to the tree top walk.

For me, I took a MRT to Toa Payoh station and from the air-conditioned bus interchange, I took Bus 163 and alighted at the 12th bus-stop (not counting the interchange itself): Thomson View Condo. The crucial road to note is Venus Drive, for it is the nearer route to the Tree-top walk: around 3.5km.. the other longer route to trek from Macritchie reservoir itself may be around 6 to 8 km or even longer. This is the first time I heard of Venus Drive, sound like the solar system thinggy. And there, I stopped at the 12th bus-stop:

And I saw the directional board which points to where Venus drive is:

and I walked in the direction as indicated by the signboard.

It was around 1330 hours at this time and the sun rays were unrelentingly hot! I walked up and down the long slope of road, and along the way, noted that all the roads along this road were named after the planets: Capricon, Jupiter, etc and thus the name Venus Drive was not alone.

After 15 minutes of trekking along the road, I could not locate Venus Drive, it then dawned on me that I could have taken the wrong route! True enough, my doubts were affirmed by a resident I asked and there I went down the slope again.

The actual Venus Drive was a minute walk AFTER the signboard which I have seen.

After locating Venus Drive, I just walked till I saw a carpark sign:

And at the end of the carpark, I finally found the marker which would kickstart the trail towards the Tree Top walk:

Further, a signboard welcomed me (as well as other trekkers):

I saw a family of three in front of me: all of them were holding some tree branches in their hands. They must be seasoned trekkers as I do not have anything in my hands, and I did not wear a hat. Anyway I could be 'Garang' if I wanted to as my two and a half years in National Service was spent in walking, trekking the thick bushes of Lim Chu Kang, Thailand, Brunei and Taiwan.

The road which appeared in front of me looked innocuous, which really underestimated what is to come later!

As I started on the road, me alone among the bushes, rugged terrains, with nature, with the flora and fauna, away from the maddening crowd of the city, the stupid office politics and some stupid people and thing, I feel at ease with myself and with nature. I feel back in army as I could sense the smell of jungle.

Signs are put up in a number of spots, advising trekkers to be alert to branches which could drop. And these are the real threats as I encountered many fallen trees along my trek, an example as below:

The terrain slowly gave way to more and more laborious types and the slopes become more and more unforgiving. Though I was travelling solo, there were some trekkers coming down the slope, walking in the opposite direction as I.

I encountered quite a number of interesting things along the way. Along this jungle trek, one should not just see, but should train his sense of ear and smell to the surroundings.

At times, I could hear some shuffling of movements among the leaves and there I saw some monkeys in the thick flora. One should not underestimate monkeys. One should not think monkeys are cute or harmless or they can win over these monkeys. Monkeys are cunning creatures and they could prove provocative. Armed with sharp paws, when they come in a pack, it is a no play play matter. Walk fast, do not stare at these monkeys, keep your equipments, cameras guarded. You are not in the zoo, whereby these monkeys are your captives, you are in THEIR terrority to be exact, so now who is scared of who?

Wow such a big leave, even bigger than 4 times my arms!

The treks proved more and more treacherous and I was able to confirm my locations inside the jungles by these helpful signboards scattered among the forests:

I was sweating profusely, my shirt stuck to me like a second skin. I could feel that it was not an easy trek, even though I was an avid and regular jogger. But trust me, such a workout, such a perspiration amidst nature can heal your soul. It is extremely relaxing, serving as a catharsis, a chicken soup for your soul.

Along the way, I noted this secret structure. Aiyah, must be an army camp again, such camps are always hidden in such ulu locations, I thought to myself. But I was wrong, this was a PUB service water reservoir:

And guess who are the guards of this station? I do not see any people but monkeys here and there around the fences, acting as though they were the security guards.. they may really prove effective, who knows?
As I headed down my journey, I was in the midst of real natural reserves, alone. The sky was cloudy, going to rain fast. I hastened my pace as the HSBC Tree Top Walk as not opened everyday. There is a certain timing of opening hours. I have to fasten my pace. It is quite scary at times, being alone, walking what seem to be an endless path and heading down to the unknown. Yesterday night, watched a film called 'Pulau Hantu' starring Carl Ng on the new channel Okto and I imagined I was the Rambo in the show, walking such rugged terrains fighting the ghosts.

Speaking of ghosts and spirits, it was a normal practice to say 'siam, siam': literally translated: 'Go, Go' as a mark of respect before one urines in the bushes. Such a phrase 'siam siam' does not seem polite to me, though using it, I am okay during NS days: you know what, on the most 'potent' fourteen of the seventh lunar month, I was on top of a hill in Lim Chu Kang at the stroke of midnight but I saw nothing I expected to see...Lucky sia! But there was one fellow who saw a being without a head and become mentally disturbed for a night and 'helping' the whole battalion to cancel the exercise. It was during an overseas exercise but I do believe that spirits like such quiet and humid places like the forests thus it would be EVEN SCARIER if one treks in the night in the forests I am trekking now!

Finally, I reached the Ranger Station where I knew I was not far from the Tree Top Walk already:

There are toilet facilities here as well as a water cooler. The ranger station provided good shelters against thunderstorms as well a good resting places.

I trekked up a steep steep slope and finally reached the stairs: start of the HSBC Tree Top Walk:

Finally reached the tree top walk. And for your information, just before stepping the bridge, a ranger in a station at the entrance of the bridge will advise you on what to do and what not to do.

Do not use your handphone on the bridge. At such altitude, your phone may serve as a lighting conductor and during thunderstorms, that is it!

Also do not walk back, just keep on walking front... the rule is this bridge is a forward looking bridge, walk forth and do not walk back in life. Just a joke, the simple reason is due to structural stability theories.

The bridge is only 250 metre in length thus it is not long and visitors may be disappointed as they trekked for long hours just to get to the bridge. However, in life, it is not the destination that matters, it is the journey: I believe the bonds between the members of each trekking group becomes stronger along the way, navigating the tough terrain:

What a breathtaking scenary:

After the bridge walk, I head up and down what seems to be the Great Wall of Singapore: endless flights of stairs.

And just as I thought that was the end of my adventure, I was wrong ... the Best (or rather the worst) is yet to come .. stay tuned to the sequel to find out what I have encountered!

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