Windsor Nature Park

Singapore opens another “nature” park – the Windsor Nature Park which is actually what to me used to me part of the MacRitchie Reservoir entering from the Venus Road side. And naturally knowing how authorities’ fixation on clean and neat, what used to be a nice semi-wild trail is now very sadly sanitised.

Like this broadwalk here. Previously it was just a nice trail with railings at the side to prevent people from encroaching into one of the few remaining natural stream left in Singapore. Now there is this nice broadwalk. Oh well, I suppose if it helps to keep the people from trampling all over.

The stream that goes into the forest. When the kids were younger and I was not into this nature protection thingy, we came here to catch the little longkang fish like guppy, mosquitoes fish, cichlids and the occasional barbs. Nowadays, activities like that are forbidden and carry a heavy fine which is good as we need to protect the little bit of nature that we have left although I must said most of the fishes there nowadays are not “local”. 

In addition to the broadwalk from the Venus Road carpark where there is now a Visitor Centre and a toilet, there is another new broadwalk, the Drongo Trail running almost parallel with the old trail adjacent to the SICC road. This broadwalk is above ground level and allow visitors to see at least the mid level of the trees and its inhabitants. This will leads to MacRitchie Reservoir.

From Venus Road entrance, there is another trail called Venus Walk but this is a cemented path and leads to the Windsor housing estate. It does look very nice though and very “runnable” hahaha.

Fortunately, my favourite part of this trail which is now officially known as Venus Loop has been left largely untouched and there is still this beautiful canopy tunnel as well as the winding trails for me to run through.

Overall I must admit Nparks have done a good job of striking a nice balance between keeping the place as natural as possible and yet protecting the environment. The expected popular area have been reinforced with the broadwalk and most of the trees and plants appear to be left untouched.

Never Stop Exploring Tanjong Tuan, Port Dickson

We reached Tanjung Tuan late and the Raptor flypast had largely gone by for the day. So our group leader decided to bring us for a short “easy” hike through the Tanjong Tuan Nature Reserve.

Tanjong Tuan Nature Reserve is a small area of protected forest in Port Dickson, Negri Sembilan. Like all Malaysian rainforest, it is dense with lots of undergrowth.

We started off somewhere at the top near the light house. Our objective was the beach and a village somewhere below. Going through the trail was not difficult although the trails didn’t appear very well trodden. What made it slightly more challenging for me was that I was still holding on to my 3.5 kg of camera and lens in the hand. I wanted to dismantle them and put them away but the thought that I may spot some birds or animals kept me from doing so. So I trekked slowly and carefully to make sure that I don’t hit the lens against a tree or a rock.

Although the trail was short, there was many side trails and with the group getting separated frequently, there were much back tracking. And at some place, there was short sharp drop which with my hand full I had to negotiate very carefully. In the end I did slipped once and allowed my body to take the impact rather than use my hands to cushion the fall rather than risk dropping the camera!

Eventually we came to a small little beach. Clean water but dirty sands.

Then we made our way up and this time the going was much easier as there were wooden and concrete steps to walk on. That lead us back to the main road where we headed back to our apartment while some of the others hopeful went back to the light house to see whether they can spot any raptor.

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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Dragon Back Trail @ Hong Kong

We had 1 day to kill before the marathon and so garang us went for a hike at Dragon Back. Dragon Back is supposed to be a easy hike and near enough for us to reach and complete in half a day so as not to tire out the legs for the race the next day.

We took Uber to the trail head at Shek-O instead of going through the hassle of taking the MTR and then changing bus. It cost us a fair bit more and I think took longer as the driver wasn’t familiar with the way there and didn’t know where to drop us until we came to this place where there was a group of hikers. We reckon this must be it since the GPS said so.

We alight and yes we were at the trail head! Up a short flight of stairs and the rest was dirt track. Like what most people described in social media, it was an easy walk even though the way was up and up and up. But the view of the surrounding was awesome and we stopped many many times to take photos. In fact I think we spent more time taking photos than actual trekking.

Eventually we reach an open area where there were many hikers taking photos.

Some were posing precariously on the rocks. Sighed… One wrong move or a gust of strong wind and this lady would be swept off the mountain top. Stupid gal.

From here, we backtracked a bit to go to the summit which was not very high actually.  Yah that the summit over at the top of the hill!Just 285 metres. We had our lunch break here before descending. We got side tracked by some paragliders launching themselves off the mountain top and spent some time waiting for a couple to get ready and take off. Wow!

Thereafter the walk down was pretty easy over a tree covered trail unlike the earlier open mountain top. Sheltered from the wind and sun! Yeah. This also means no view L though. We reached the bottom which was back at a different part of Shek-O Road. At that point in time I didn’t know that turning right will lead us to a beach. Instead we turned left to the main road at Tai Tam Road and took a bus to Shau Kei Wan where we chanced upon a char chan teng, Sun Kwong Roasted Goose Restaurant serving really great goose meat!

All in, we took about 3 hours + to complete the trek. Longer than expected but not too bad considering that we stopped at least for almost an hour for photos, lunch and watching the paragliders.

Never Stop Exploring – Mt Wakasuka

Most people go to Nara to see the deer. After our experience at Mt Daimoji, I didn’t want to get any surprise and this time we studied the location map and determine that there was another mountain behind Nara Park that we can climb – Mt Wakasuka. And while it was not too high – just about 350 metres, apparently there was proper access to the summit. Great!

So after the obligatory photos with the deer at Nara, we made our way to the entrance gate of Mt Wakasuka. There is a small admission fee of Y150 per person.dsc01045

We started our climb via a small flight of stairs flanked by trees with leaves that was turning red. 20161108_112533The stairs ended and became a small path which was very easy to walk. But it was raining and getting cold but all that was forgotten when we reached the first opening from the forest and got this stunning view.20161108_115845

And as the path ended, more and more stunning view emerged. It was all the more beautiful with the fog rolling in.dsc01103

There was this big open area where I would have love to just lie down and roll down – if it wasn’t raining.dsc01076

We reached this place that some website describe as a plateau where there were some signage. I supposed this is the mountain peak?dsc01062

But there was more road to go and so we continued our climb until we came to the top where there was a refreshment kiosk, a toilet, a guard post and a big car park but no view. What a bummer!dsc_2017

There was a road leading down from the car park and so we decided to walk down. After 20 minutes of walking, we felt that it was wrong. According to the map we seen at the entrance, we were suppose to be walking on a trail and not car road. So we decided to back track. By now the rain was getting heavy and we were in our poncho and the camera has been kept.

We reached back the summit and went back down to the plateau where the view has become even more beautiful with the heavy fog. dsc_2026 dsc_2032Thank goodness both our phones are waterproof phones! But visibility was getting bad even though it was only about 11 am and we didn’t waste too much time taking photos.dsc_2036

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And we saw the trail that we should have taken to reach the bottom and it was an easy walk from here on to the bottom. Another off the tourist path outing done and dusted. Wet hike but nonetheless one of the highlight of this trip.

Never Stop Exploring – Mt Daimoji

So there we were happily exploring the many temples along the Philosopher’s Path. We came to this Nanzenji Temple. We didn’t want to pay to go into the temple so we just wandered around the exterior. Somewhere at the back, we came to this forest and there was a trail!

Ting! Our eyes light up!. At that time we didn’t have any idea of where exactly we were and heading to but heck, got trails we trek. And so off we go exploring.

 The initial part of the trail was some gentle slope and staircase.dsc00346

As we go along, the ground became a bit more technical with many roots. But it was still fairly easy to walk on.dsc00347

Subsequently, the trail became a proper dirt path.dsc00357While there wasn’t many people, we did encounter a few hikers. Most of the time we were in the forest and surrounded by trees with nothing much of a view to see what was beyond. Then we came to this trail marker and learnt that we were on Mt Daimoji!dsc_1925

Oh my, a real mountain! We were excited but the board didn’t tell us how far to the summit and it was already mid afternoon. We didn’t want to be caught in the dark in the forest. A lady trail runner came down. First thing I noticed – she wasn’t carrying any water which means it might not be that far away. We managed to ascertain from her in a splattering of English that it will take us another 30 minutes to walk to the summit. Great! So since it was about 3 pm, we figure we had plenty of time.

But after 30 minutes of walking, there was still no summit. Then we met an elderly gentleman who was hiking up. He spoke English! And then the bombshell. He said another hour to the summit! Which means 4.30 pm. And as it get dark at 5 here, we were in a fix. We had no torch and just enough water for a casual stroll not a trek in the dark. But we could smell the summit! So near and yet so far. We took a gamble and decide to push on. And we reach the summit in 15 minutes!20161105_160815

Lesson learnt. Never believe anybody you met on the trails when they tell you it is XXXX distance or XXXX time to a certain point.  God knows I said the same things to a lot of hikers before. Hahaha

So we reached the summit and there was a group of Japanese picnickers having a party. After the customary summit photo – the view was so so only, we decided to descend. dsc_1932

We had taken 2 and a half hours to reach the summit. It was now 4 pm and we figure if we go down the same way, it will be dark, in fact very dark before we reach the bottom. Did I mentioned I had no particular desire to be caught in the dark?  So we asked the Japanese whether there was an alternative way down and it turned out there was. Just 45 easy walk down. They said, pointing to the opposite side from where we had came up from.

So we followed their directions and went down and barely 10 minutes later we came to this place which I shall call the false summit – and it had a stunning view of North Kyoto! 20161105_163232

Although it was only 4 +, the sun was already setting and it was beautiful!dsc00380

And then there was this interesting structure. dsc00389which I found out later was some sort of pit where annually in August during the Obon Festival, it is lighted up in a bonfire and it will form the word “大 “ which can be seen from far far away all over Kyoto. 

Photo from Openkyoto.com

Photo from Openkyoto.com

There were 2 set of steps leading down and we didn’t know which one to take. We got directions from Japanese teen and he told us either one can. dsc00390So we choose the one on the left and walked into a by now rapidly darkening forest. Certain part of it was tricky to navigate and there were ropes to hold on to. But where were the rest of the hikers. When we started our descent from the false summit, there was one fella in front of us and another behind us. But both of them had disappeared. We figured we had taken a wrong turn and decided to back track as we didn’t want to go deeper into the forest. Then we saw another trail marker which pointed to the direction we had went. So we weren’t wrong but it felt so wrong to us. Nevertheless, we decided to soldier on and after 40 minutes of walking in the forest, we finally emerged onto a road which appears to run through the backyard of some houses.

Phew… thank God, it was still bright enough for us to see and we got out just in time.

Back at our apartment, we did a Google search and discovered that there was actually a very much easier 30 minutes climb via the steps from Ginkakuji Temple where we had started our day, and which we should have taken for the descent but somehow missed.

But all well that ends well and at least we got our legs exercised and managed to explore something off the beaten path and climbed a mountain that was 433 metres high – 3 times that of our Bukit Timah Hill.