Chestnut Nature Park North Loop

Almost one year after the opening of Chestnut Nature Park South Loop, the North Loop officially opens on 25 February 2017.  Has the wait been worth it?

The initial signs are good. The North Loop is a smallish Loop which is all of 1.5 metres long. What a bummer! But it is in my opinion one of the best trail in Singapore. For one, it is not flat and straight like say MacRitchie or even the South Loop. Instead it is undulating and with many twists and turns. This will make it a very good run for those who loves cornering. And the best thing about this? Like the South Loop, the mountain bikers have their own trail and so there is no danger of being run down by one of them bikers.

In addition to the nice and I must add, natural trail, there is also a fast flowing stream. This was a big surprise as I have no idea there is such a big stream there. And the water looks clean although I won’t drink from it. As a result of this “stream” there are several crossings including a sort of suspension bridge, a wooden bridge and even some rocks crossing. 

There ae also 2 or is it 3 shelters. 

In addition to this loop, there is also another longish trail which used to be part of the trail from Butterfly to Woodcutter and Zhenghua. This is the previous Gangsa Trail and has also now been re-open with segregation for hikers and bikers. This is actually a continuation of the South Loop and does not lead directly to the North Loop but to Zhenghua and on to Track 13.

The best part of this Chestnut Nature Park? – combine all 3 and one can get a reasonable distance on it to hike and run without concern for bikers. Too bad it is still short of 10 km.

The worse thing about the whole place? – the Visitor Centre which still has no vending machines for drinks, no shower facilities and no locker facilities. There is a bike shop though which provides water for cleaning bikes for a fees although washing shoes is free.

 

 

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Trail Running Singapore Clean Up the World Weekend

I didn’t know there is such a day designated Clean Up the World Day until I was contacted by Kelly, head honcho at Trail Running Singapore to volunteer to clean up the forest. In fact, the event is a weekend event spanning over 3 days from 16 September to 18 September and Trail Running Singapore in conjunction with Nparks took part in cleaning up our forest over 2 days.

The venue for the clean up on 17 September was the Rifle Range Road. The volunteers on that day picked up a whooping 174 kg of trash!

I was involved with the team on 18 September and the venue was the Upper Seletar Reservoir Park. Initially I thought that the place was a strange venue for a clean up since the last few times I was there, it was always clean and immaculately maintained. But it turned out we were not cleaning the park but the forested area there. And surprisingly considering that the forest there is actually the Nee Soon Swamp and is not only swampy but also not easily accessible to public, there were a lot of trash. Most of them we reckoned were thrown in from the adjoining road and car park.

The group of us picked out the usual drink cans, bottles and styrofoam boxes but among the more unusual finds were a workbench, a golf trolley and a golf bag. Maybe the latter are not too surprising find considering that the place is next to the Executive Golf Course!dsc_1751

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The trash are collected and sort into glass, plastic, metal and miscellaneous and the Nparks staff weights each bag. For the 2 hours of work, we picked 104 kg of trash!dsc_1749

It is sad to see so much trash in the forest. From the type of trash that we picked out, it will appear that people who indiscriminately throw trash comes from all social class ranging from the migrant workers to nature visitors to golfers. I guess the right word to describe these people is no class.

The session ended around 11.30 and here are the remaining participants posing for the usual group photo.14390864_1374201919275884_8096624695999290736_n

Photo credit: Jancy Yap, Rosemary Chan-Sum, AC Leong

Chestnut Nature Park

Sometime ago, Nparks closed what was known informally to trail runners and bikers as Butterfly Trail. After a long hiatus, it has now reopened as Chestnut Nature Park.  Only part of the Chestnut Nature Park is now open. This is the South Loop which is on the right of Chestnut Avenue. North Loop will opens in the later half of the year.

South Loop is just 2 km long but throw in the added distance to say Dairy Farm or Mandai Track 11 and one can get a reasonably good distance to hike or run in.

Thankfully the fear that Nparks will turn the natural trails into another sanitised park much like Sengkang Riverside Park did not materialise. It is good to see that Nparks has retained the natural trail rather than choose to lay concrete or wooden planks over the trails.5-DSC_0810

There is a small little pond which was previously not visible when it was still Butterfly Trail.4-DSC_0809

Another good thing about the new park is that there is a separate hiking and biking trail and the 2 do not intersect at all! Signs are prominently displayed at the trail head advising park users where to go. And the trails are clearly marked with distance markers every 100 metres and there are shelters along the way.2-DSC_0805

Other useful facilities are the main visitor area which has proper parking and toilets. Unfortunately no bathing facilities and no vending machine.

New Zealand Day 5 Tarawera Trail Marathon & 50k

After 4 days of enjoying ourself in cool NZ, we reached the purpose of our visit. The day of the Tarawera Trail Marathon & 50 K.  A few months ago, together with the rest of the group, I had signed up for the 50K. I must say quite reluctantly. I  am too lazy to train for long distance and the thoughts of running in our hot sun freaks me out. But still the thought of finally doing a decent 50K race in nice cool weather was too tempting and I followed suit. I figured this race wouldn’t be that difficult and I wasn’t too far wrong.

The race takes place in Te Puia in Rotorua. Te Puia is a geyser park and so as we waited for the flag off, we could see smoke and steam rising everywhere. I must say this has got to be the most unique race start ever. 13-DSCN6246Before the race flagged off, there was a prayer for blessing for the runners by a Maori Priest. There was also a Haka dance by the Maori.

The first part of the race took us through fairly wide open flat trails. It was an easy run and most of the experienced runners seem to take advantage of it to push fast. What’s the hurry?27-DSCN6270There is supposed to be an aid station every 7 km. Over here in Singapore we call it a drink station. But I call these aid station at this race, buffet table cos I never seen such a big spread. They have absolutely everything! From all sort of candies, chocolates, fruits, chips, bread to electrolytes, soft drinks …. Just look at the length of the table!02-DSCN6275 34-DSCN6287 I almost want to DNF here. What the point of suffering for the next 43 km when I can sit here and eat and enjoy myself!

But of course I have a mission to accomplish and have to continue. The next  7 km brought us through more of the same open trails before we hit the next buffet table. And then we have our first climb up this little hill. I think 500 m or so of trudging upward.03-DSCN6292This was the only climb that was steep enough for me to have to hold on to the trees and roots for support. After that it was all rolling hills. Round the corner we had our first glimpse of the Green Lake, one of the highlight of the race. 04-DSCN6298

And then we were out in some farmland where we had to run alongside the middle of the hill. Being a coward and scare of hurting my ankle on the grassy surface or worse rolling down, I decided to walk this stretch.05-DSCN6306it was a long walk up and down before another climb to the next aid station and then a long climb down and run over the farmland.06-DSCN6314

Out of the farmland and we begin to climb. Then the cursed problem that had been hitting me this year came back again. Out of the blue, my right calf seized up! Shit! I walked it off for a while but every time I try to run, it came back. And worse it moved up to the quads! Sigh…. there goes my race! And I still had another 30 km or so to go!

I managed to walk on and reach back the aid station at Green Lake. There I applied a little bit of muscle rub and ate a lot. The next check point was Buried Village where there was a cut off. I asked and was told I had 3 hours to cover that 7 km. I think even if I walk all the way, I will still take less than 3 hours. So it looks like I have no excuse but to continue.

There was a stretch just before Buried Village when we have to run on the road and surprisingly I could run. 08-DSCN6349I ran the entire 2 km stretch here. Oh mine, it felt good to be able to run again. The leg didn’t give any problem and when I reach Buried Village or what I call the Carnival, I knew I was home free. There was no way I was going to DNF this.

The aid station at Buried Village was unlike any I ever seen. There was nice picnic table, a long stretch of tented tables with again all sort of food and volunteers in costumes. I just couldn’t believe my eyes. And they served hot tea too! That why it is a carnival to me.09-DSCN6354After this there was a series of waterfalls. Beautiful. I think I spent at least 10 minutes there trying to coax my compact camera to come up with some nice picture.10-DSCN6368

And from one nice scenic waterfall to one nice scenic lake, Lake Tarawera for which the race and area is named after.07-DSCN6339

After walking for what seems like ages I see this:12-DSCN6398Time to celebrate? But no I have been forewarned that this is the most brutal part of the race. There is a steep uphill climb of 2 km. Sighed. And that climb seems like almost never ending. The only saving grace was that it wasn’t that steep and rather easy to walk up. No need to crawl. And what goes up must come down and finally after what seems like an eternity, downhill at last and soon the shore of the Lake and a final 50 metres run and I completed my first official 50 km trail race!

As I had expected, this is a relatively easy trail race. With the generous time given, one can simply walk the whole 50 km and still complete on time. In fact they do have a Walker category which flags off half an hour earlier. If not for my cramp which I still trying to figure out what causes it, I think a sub 9 hours is possible. As it is, even with walking almost 30 km, I took just slightly over 10 hours which considering the terrain and climb, I think is pretty decent.

There was a nice reception waiting for me back at the finish line. The rest of my group had long finished and were waiting for me. The race directors were there to personally greet each returning runners and the buffet table was still there plus coffee, hot dogs. There was even a hot spring for us to soak our tired legs in although I didn’t get to use that unfortunately.

The only bad thing was the transportation logistics at the end. The race ended on the far bank of Lake Tarawera and we have to rely on boats to bring us back to the mainland. But there were too few boats and it took too long to come. We waited for almost 2 hours for our ride and finally when it came, we were dropped off in the middle of an open ground with no bus! Cold, tired and hungry, the group of us huddled around in the open and waited for another half an hour before a bus turned up to bring us back to town. That was a big let down coming after the high of the completion. Hopefully the organiser will sort that out for the next edition. That little cockup aside, this has got to be one of the best and fun race ever (cramps aside). Nice easy route, good food, beautiful places, cool weather, what more can one ask for,

More photos of the beautiful race here on my FB page

Trail Running Singapore Trail Run Series No 2

The second run in the current series for Trail Running Singapore. This time round, with the promise of a beautiful new trail, about 40 runners turned up on a bright cheerful Saturday morning at the Dairy Farm carpark.

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Photo Credit to AC Leong

After a short safety and trail running etiquette briefing, the runners took off for the Wallace Trail, a short but challenging trail that is easily accessible from Dairy Farm car park but often overlooked. Here it was group photo taking time before the runners proceeded to the familiar Belukar Trail and the Zhenghua Park Connector before entering the Gangsa Loop.

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Photo Credit to AC Leong

After a long hard run to the end of the Gangsa Trail, it was time for another group photo before the runners u-turn back to explore 2 not so well known trail.

The first one was a 1 km run to the West Seletar Pumping Station, a relatively flat and straight forward trail on partly broken up asphalt. Next up was what I guess most people came for. The promised “Fisherman’s Trail” so named because people go there to fish. And there are reports of sting rays and other large fresh water fish being caught. And indeed during our run, we saw 2 fisherman patiently waiting for their catch.

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Photo Credit to Eu Gene

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Photo Credit to Eustaquio Santimano

But what took our breathe away was the stunning view of the Upper Seletar Reservoir as we ran along the shore. Some runners who are familiar with the now closed Butterfly Trail might be forgiven for thinking that this is the same place but it is not. The reservoir at the Butterfly Trail side is the Upper Peirce Reservoir while this is the Upper Seletar Reservoir. But both are just as beautiful. The other difference is that the ground here is a tad softer and while winding and challenging, is not as technical with less big roots.

The total distance for this run was a doable 15 Km. I think all the participants had really enjoyed this 2nd of the 3 part trail run in the lead up to the Singapore TNF 100.

The next run will be in mid September. Folks who are interested in joining the TRS monthly run, do look out for the details in the TRS Facebook page.

Trail Running Singapore Trail Run Series No 1

Trail Running Singapore launched its first lead up run for the upcoming Singapore TNF 100.  This is the first of 3 trail runs to introduce the Singapore trails or whatever remains of it to trail runners and to assist runners in their preparation for the upcoming TNF 100.  About 30 trail runners turned up on Saturday morning at the Buona Vista MRT station for the run.

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Just before start of run at the Green Corridor off Holland Drive

After a short walk to the Green Corridor,the runners set off for a nice scenic run in fairly cool weather. The run route is a 16 km run along the Green Corridor and winding through a mixture of flat tails, technical trails and road and covering some of the most scenic spots in Singapore.

After about 3 km, we reached the now unused former KTM Bukit Timah Railway Station where we naturally stopped for a photo at this historical site.2-DSCN6213We continued on and exited the Green Corridor to Rifle Range Road where after a short 100 metres, we entered into what is the Durian Loop. The bonus of this slightly technical trail was of course the aroma of the durian as it is now durian season. Along the trail, there were people waiting to collect the fallen durian. The additional bonus was that there was a “water crossing”. The bridge across the small stream is under maintenance and we had to cross the muddy tiny little stream something that was not expected.

From the Durian Loop, we crossed back onto Rifle Range Road and went into what is popularly called the Pipeline Trail, a sprawling open ground of up and known and guarantee to make the runners paused to take in the magnificent view of the horizon.3-DSCN6222

Group photo at the top of the Pipeline Trail

After a pit stop at the Dairy Farm carpark B’s toilet to top up water it was another short but challenging run up to the beautiful Singapore Quarry, an little known beauty spot of our little red dot.4-DSCN6228After this, it was a fast and furious run back to the Buona Vista Green Corridor before the might of the Sun comes full force.  Total distance 17 km.

The next run will be sometime in August. The runs are free and anyone can join in the run. Runners who are interested to join the run can check out the Trail Running Singapore Facebook page for updates.