Saturday, May 23, 2009
Bukit Timah Reserve
We had a good workout today.
Wifey and I decided to go for an outing, exploring nature at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve... finally.
Born over 40 years ago and living on this island all our lives, yet we never set foot on this hill before. It was our first on the "tin-bearing hill" as the Malays called it. Despite its name, the hill has no tin but granite.
The hill got its name from the Malay word for the Temak trees that grow abundantly there. Another name for it is Keruing tree or dipteracarps - two winged seed. Bukit Timah is the highest point on the central part of the island.
It was a strategic position during World War 2 as a stronghold for the British where most of the ammunition and food were stored there. During the Japanese Occupation, the Japanese built a Shinto Shrine similar but smaller version of its National Shrine in Japan, but demolished it before the British recaptured Singapore again.
Today, this couple concurred the hill! To many, it may just be like walking over a road bump as compared to say... climbing Mount Everest, but it rewarded us with personal triumphs and worth every effort!
Incidentally, the newspapers have for the past few days published the incredible feat a group of our local steely ladies had accomplished. They have scaled to the summit of Everest! Maybe, that was the subconscious choice that made us chose to "climb" Bukit Timah ourselves.
Though it may not be the highest point on earth, we settled for the fact that it is the highest point in Singapore! Unlike many nature routes we had taken on our family outings before, none of the terrain can rival the steep slopes of this hill. Wifey was utterly shocked when we first saw the slope up.
In retrospect, I think we made a bad spur-of-the-moment decision to climb the hill today.
We took a risk with Wifey when we went ahead to climb the steep slopes anyway at the start of the Red Route that reaches to the summit. She had not taken her once-daily preventer asthma medication this morning. She did not remember to bring along her reliever inhaler with her for the walk either.
I was worried that she might get an attack from over exertion during the climb, so I suggested that we turned back. I suggested that we take the flat-land jungle route instead and scale the steep slopes next time, but Wifey was adamant to continue.
I was also concerned that she might get an episode later tonight, but Wifey had full confidence that she could reach the summit safely. She has been exercising on the treadmill for some weeks now, coupled with some strengthening exercises on my home gym.
Still, I was worried inside but kept a confident look trying hard to trust her instincts. I was playing the action plans in my head should she develop an episode. I had the park ranger's emergency number on speed-dial in my iPhone just in case.
The Red Route from the Visitors Centre all the way up to the summit started with a steep slope and became gradual after reaching the first post called Kruing Hut at about 100 metres high. Wifey did very well then as we stopped at many spots for me to take photos of the signs and flora along the path.
It was not until we reached the Simpang Hut at 140 metres high that I became very worried for Wifey. That was where the steep steps were and reading the expression on Wifey's shocked face, I was ready to turn back.
"Slowly." Wifey told me. "I'll hold your arm while you climb and pull me up..." she said gasping a little, "slowly, I can do it."
As we were going to start climbing, it started to drizzle. Phew!
"Let's take shelter first." I told Wifey hoping we could not continue. I was totally worried about her but did not have the heart to break her spirit, "I don't want to get my camera wet." Giving my excuse as her little gasping made me nervous for her.
I was hoping for rain so that we had to turn back, but the little droplets stopped as soon as we sat down and quenched our thirsts. We rested a little and I suggested the Blue Route instead as I pointed it to her.
Her answer was "Let's go!" Wifey said with gusto, but to the summit. "There's no rain. It's the leaves rattling that sounded like rain."
She led in front of me to the steep steps, held my wrist ready to climb and exclaimed, "I want to reach the top."
It was definitely a tough climb for Wifey. Each step was too high and taxing on her legs. We stopped many times and at one point she was gasping hard and bent over to catch her breath.
It was the most scary moment for me. I took out the cell phone checking for signal and was ready to call the ranger at her slightest wheeze. "I'm checking if Sonny had replied my SMS." I told Wifey when she asked, not wanting let her know how worried I was.
Wifey's determination and will to be at the top were inspirational. It was as though she persevered for me because she knows I love rugged terrains and wanted to be a part of it. She is that selfless.
I let her take as much time as she needed at the steps and as many stops to recuperate. We finally reached the Summit Hut where the bold spot is, the highest point of Singapore at 163.63 metres high.
Unfortunately, no panoramic view. The whole view is covered with thick and tall vegetation.
Nonetheless, the summit is marked with a large boulder bearing the hill's altitude, a testiment to Wifey's strong will to achieve her undertakings. A personal triumph over her condition which makes me totally proud of her.
Yes, she gave me a few scares along the way, but she did it. An awesome lady!
Taking a picture with the marker rock reminded me of my Mount Ophir climb in Johor, Malaysia. Gunung Ledang as it is called in Malay, I scaled the mountain with a group of my army buddies back in my early twenties.
That climb took a day to reach the summit at an altitude of 1,276 metres high, the 64th highest mountain in Malaysia. We camped out on the summit for the night before scaling down in the morning to reach the bottom in the evening.
Now that mountain had a fantastic view from the top! A personal triumph for me, but that is another story all together.
Today, Wifey made me proud of her again as much as she is of herself.
I realized that she has more confidence to take on the hill than I gave her credit for. I would be rooting for her 100%, but only if she had her inhaler with her. Fortunately she proved me wrong this time.
Unnoticed to me, she had been building her strength and stamina at home all these weeks when she had started to feel better again after months of regimented asthma preventive treatments. Her exercises have proved to improve her health so much now.
She has been working out to having more endurance for nature walks and outings with me rather than window shopping at the malls. Though she loves being at home on weekends doing creative handmade jewelery, she rather joins me outdoors with my photography than being confined at home watching TV.
That said, I made her promise to take her reliever for our walks regardless of the terrain. It may not be as important to her nowadays, but it is a calculated risk I rather take as long as it involves my loved ones.