ODAC, Johor Bahru
The Year 5 ODAC began preparing for the expedition to Gunung Tahan, a mountain on the Pahang- Kelantan border in Malaysia in late January. The team, comprising of the Year 5 ODAC, Miss Lee Siew Choo and Mr Genesius Ng, trained hard; we had weekly physical training sessions and stair-climbing practices. We were given a chance to plan our own trainings, equipping our members with the skills, knowledge and fitness required to ascend the summit. We were also guided along by Miss Lee and the Year 6s, and they made up for our inexperience.
In the midst of busy planning and multiple discussions, 3rd June arrived. We took an overnight sleeper train from Singapore to Gua Musang. It was a novel experience for us, as we got to sleep in a bed on a moving train! We arrived at 5 am, and walked along the railway track, into town. It was so dark that we could not see at all, and we had to work as a team to reach safely. We reached and had breakfast, and after took jeeps to the Tahan base camp, where we saw exhibits showing specimens of birds and beetles that lived in Tahan. It was an eye-opener because we saw many large and exotic insects, which we never knew, existed. After, we declared the contents of our bags, as the park rangers were very strict about littering in the mountain. As their slogan goes, “Take nothing but photographs, and leave nothing but footprints”, what we brought up there had to be brought back down. We proceeded to take another exhilarating open- air jeep ride to Kuala Juram, where we were starting our trek, and thus our journey began.
On the first day, we trekked 13.5 kilometres in 5.5 hours, and arrived at Kem Kor, ahead of schedule, despite being delayed slightly by fallen trees. At the campsite, we took a cool and refreshing bath in the river with “sand bath”. Bathing was a joyful experience, filled with much laughter, screaming and splashing. As we prepared for the next day, it began to rain, and we got a taste of how the next few days were going to be like. It was only the beginning of a wet journey.
On Day 2, we were supposed to ascend the summit. We trekked over 16 kilometres, only to discover that we could not climb from Bukit Botak to the summit due to lightning. We were all disappointed and slightly demoralised. The rain only got heavier. The night was wet, cold and rather miserable. Our dinner, although simple, brought much warmth to our stomachs, and more importantly, our hearts. We managed to ascend the summit the next day at 6.58 am. The sense of achievement was overwhelming, and magnified by the fact that we did it together as a team. Everyone was exuberant as we made our way back down. However, we knew that we were only halfway through our journey.
The descent was tough; the rain had worsened the steep slopes, making the trek down muddy and slippery. Coupled with leeches, thorns, ants and various obstacles, it was awfully challenging. At certain points, it felt like we were walking on a never-ending trail. However, we faced it together and cheered each other on, managing to make it down safely in two days. On the jeep ride back to Gua Musang, we looked back at the mountains and realising that we climbed all the way up felt pretty surreal. We reached home on 8th June, sleeping soundly on the midnight sleeper train.
The director of Green Earth Affairs, Alan M. Eddison once said, “Modern technology owes ecology an apology.” Humans have changed so much of our natural environment, and we should definitely treasure whatever we have left. From this journey, we realised that Mother Nature is much bigger than us and we should always respect and care for her. We appreciate things like proper sanitation. Seemingly trivial things like serving others warm food and helping others across a river goes a long way. We learnt that no obstacles are too large to overcome. We stretched our mental and physical limits. Despite the cold, insects and unfamiliar terrain, we enjoyed the trek immensely, taking in the sights, smells and sounds of the forest. We’ll miss looking at stars scattered across the night sky and being surrounded by nature. This was an unforgettable trip and the common experience has brought us closer. We started the trip as individuals and returned home as a team.
13Y5C42 Goh Yen Lynn Amanda