Briskwalks: Sundays in June
Hike with the Habitat Group's Briskwalk Club, 6.45am - 9am
Walks, 7am - 9am,
Thanks to the guides and the regulars who helped to escort, pace, guide and encourage all those who turned up on the eight Sundays: Jaswant Singh, Kok Min Yee, Debbie Fordyce, Kok Oi Yee, Tham Yen Lin, Goh Si Guim, Kelvin Lim and Alvin Wong. And Choong Mei Fun who was to guide but got struck with chicken pox! Thanks to all the participants who made it interesting for the rest of us!
Despite my muscle aches over a bout with the recent flu bug, the enthusiastic bunch I was with took 1hr 38mins to complete the route last Sunday, well below the predicted two hours. Instead of the predicted breakdown of 30-60-15-15 (mins) for the four legs of the journey, we took 29-35-19-15 (mins; my timing).
Rezel, a friend of a friend (an ex-school runner), said it was lucky his friends hadn't turned up. They were expecting an easy pace complete with a little picnic - he had sandwiches ready in his bag. Obviously my email message wasn't read carefully enough!
The initial part of the trail was filled only with the sound of crunching gravel and a myriad of birds greeting the morning. The pace is a bit forced then, for most had a cold start and also were walking in a single file to avoid the MR25 joggers on their 20km run. Jaswant Singh set the pace and I was soon trying to catch up. We could feel acid in our legs then, as we travelled up and down the gentle slopes.
Another of my effusive former classmates, Kok Min Yee, struggled, to keep quiet during this part (failing miserably) while everyone focused on the walk, enjoying the morning sounds while tight muscles slowly loosened up. Concentrating on the ground in front of me, I realised I could tell my location from leaves that line the trail, e.g. that of Keruing, Terentang and Nibong are common in different areas.
Some Sunday morning joggerscommented about Lyn being the only rose amongst the thorns. She held her own easily enough and eventually reached the summit ahead of us and urged the puffing men (with their assortment of knee injuries) to the top. Thankfully Si Guim was our sweeper so I didn't have to look back all this while.
At the summit, I was completely bushed! The pace had been fast but it was lingering effects of the flu that had really got to me. Perhps it was not such a wise thing to do the walk, but the other guides had all called off due to chicken pox or urgent office work.
Happy with the energetic start to the day, we retired for a breakfast about 9.45am where we were later joined by those on the NSS Bird Group outing, fresh from Chestnut Drive. We yakked for an hour over roti prata and come teh tarik, before heading off, bright and alert for the rest of the day!
With the flu a distant memory, the walk was a breeze this time around. We took 1 hour 35 minutes without a break, and realised we could easily break the 1:30 barrier in future when we reached the summit effortlessly.
One game lady who was totally unused to the pace amidst a bunch of fast walkers, managed somehow to keep up with the group right up to Rifle Range Road! At that point, with the 5-miunte gap widening between groups, she opted for an early breakfast and skipped the summit climb this time. So Oi Yee walked her out.
Darting back and forth between groups (to provide direction and/or encouragement) proved to be quite a workout! Unfortunately the other two guides were still down with chicken pox or office work.
Andrew Tay had informed me that the NSS newsletter would be coming out in a few days time so we expect a few families the following week. Got me wondering how we'd cope.
With the Nature News newsletter in our mailboxes by mid-week, it was an NSS crowd this time, including some new members. One had joined after the recent Lim Chu Kang walk - the NSS office had processed his application quickly enough for him to receive the recent newsletter and turn up for this walk! We also had three families, each with a kid, which was nice. We would learn what the young 'uns could handle.
The kids were comfortable with the initial pace,some were even sprinting back and forth at the beginning. But by the time we reached SICC (end of the first leg), we all realised that the first 2.5km at that pace was a good point for them to stop. So with their mums and dads, they took a slow walk along the trail back to their cars at the MacRitchie carpark.
This appears to be a better arrangement than walking out to Thomson Road to catch a bus. The 30-35 minute fast pace hike to SICC provides a good workout without being exhausting, and the slow walk back To MacRitchie acts a good warm down. The trail back is a clear straight one (maintained by NParks), with no branching to complicate matters and is well used by joggers. This is now the reccomended route for families with young children.
Grandma Oi Yee (who can outpace us all) had to leave us at that point, to rush home for some baby-sitting, and along the way back, she met Si Guim, who was early for his Plant Group walk with Shawn Lum.
As the rest of carried on, we eventually discovered that everyone save one was from departments in NUS - physics, biological sciences, personnel and one formerly from engineering faculty.
I met someone who had provided me with reports of otter reports before, so I happily gave her the recent news of yet another Smooth otter cub in Sungei Buloh Nature Park! I also met Debbie, who had turned up for the first International Coastal Cleanup-Singapore mangrove cleanup which we conducted at the Sungei Mandai Kechil mangroves in 1996.
We could not travel at the previous week's pace, but with scattered breaks, everyone managed to reach the summit of Bukit Timah after 1 hour 50 minutes of walking time + 40 minutes of breaks. We then took the slow walk down which I like the least due to the strain on knees from the steep slopes, and we retired for quick brunch before going home to a really hot and humid afternoon!
[4th trip] 28th May 2000
Timing with breaks: 2 hours 20 minues
I was busy with another field trip of sorts, so Alvin took over with the help of Jaswant, Lin and Kok Min Yee. He gave me a typically cryptic report "it went okay"!
This was a good workout for me since I had to rush back and forth between the last man and pack leader - there was a wide gap amogst the 25 people led thankfully by Debbie who was helping me out. One family gamely struggled on and we coaxed them on even as their reluctant daughter led the way up the stairs to the summit. But it was her mum who actually reached the summit first! Initially contemplating the walk back to MacRitchie, they decided to labour on and they made it along with everyone else! We ended with with a treat (orange juice and many familiar faces) at the Bukit Timah Visitor Centre. The Singapore Environment Council was launching the very first Singapore Green Map (see Habitatnews 2000-22) and we were in time to join them in their celebrations, and we all went home with a new copy of the Green Map! But the most breath-taking moment was when all stopped walking to watch two pairs of Hill Mynas (Graculosa religiosa) intonate, chirp, whistle, etc on a tree near us at Rifle Range Road.
There were 20 of us, with the regulars, Kok Min Yee, Debbie, Jaswant and Lin. Jaswant and Lin confessed to lateness and beat a fast pace to catch up, which they did by Chartered Industries. In order to fight the flu and keep dry, I changed t-shirts 4 times. The weather remained clear throughout, although it was a bit chilly! Storms occured in in many places in Singapore and several called to cancel, much to my dismay. But somehow, of the 20 who were at the carpark early that morning, were optimistic about the weather.
With the cool temperatures we managed to clock a time of about 1hr 45min to the summit. The last group was escorted by Kelvin Lim who inadvertently led them straight to the Visitor Centre. He apparently did not know we were going to the summit much to the delight of his group!