Saturday, July 5, 2008

lost in the mandai forest

it is actually not difficult to get lost in our nature reserves if you should stray away from the well-marked and well-used tracks, and especially if you start your hike in the late afternoon and it gets dark before you are out of the forest.

the macritchie reservoir is very popular with hiking groups as the tracks and paths are well used and clearly marked but should you decide to follow the path close to the water edge, sometimes you may be forced to make a detour like when the path get submerged under the water. when this happens, you have to move away from the used path and hack your way through the undergrowth. in most cases, you might be able to rejoin the same used track at a later stage.

the problem begins when you are not able to do so. then you will end up disoriented and not knowing exactly where you are and where to go. i know of at least one group which ended spending their night in the forest of macritchies reservoir. mind you, these people were led by very experienced hikers.

in the 70s, i led a group of about twelve senior scouts - they were either in secondary three or four - around the upper seletar reservoir. we decided on a route that would follow the water edge. we did not encounter any problem during the first part.

but as we moved on, deeper into the reserve, we were forced to create our own path as the original was covered by water. it was sometime past noon when we realised that we were lost. we did not have a map of the area but we had a silva compass. because of the sweltering heat, the boys had finished drinking all the water they had brought with them.

we were hot, thirsty and starting to worry about having to spend the night in the forest of mandai. as we were bashing our way through unfamiliar territory, we must have intruded into the privacy of some of the inhabitants. one huge python, whose peace was disturbed, made its getaway in a rush through the leaf litter.

after moving for about two hours, we came to a stream where the water was clean and clear. we were so parched with thirst that we did not think twice about scooping and drinking the water from the stream. the quenching lifted our spirit a bit and we pushed on with more grit and renewed vigour. i told my scout leader with the compass to keep heading north. i figured if we kept in that direction we would eventually get out of the forest.

as luck would have it, we emerged at a clearing and some distance from us we could see evidence of civilisation. there was someone working on a farm. we were so relieved that we kept shouting and waving to the farmer. we then came to a track and saw a lorry. we approached the driver for a lift to the main road - which was mandai road - and he graciously agreed.

we piled into the back of the lorry and thanked our lucky star that we managed to get out of the place before dark.

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