Friday, February 29, 2008

1st Tahan Expedition, part 9....Our 1st CRISIS.

Continuing the story of previous Blog

16th April 1969 - Malang Hills to Kuala Puteh

Photos: At the end of that tough day of climbing, we rewarded ourselves by plunging into the cool waters of Sungei Puteh. The water was very clean and pure.

We had a crisis on our hand as Tng K G said something to the effect that he " could not take it anymore " and wanted to return to Kuala Tahan Hqrs for no apparent reason....seemingly. Though hearing it came as a shock to all of us as it was so sudden and completely took us by surprise, we did not overreact ...especially negatively. I remember the 3 of us Twang, Balbir and myself removed our packs and gathered around give him immediate emotional comfort and support. The rest of the party, the 6 NJC boys, realised that this would be a much longer break and also removed their packs. We told everyone to have a good rest while we spoke quietly with Tng about the problem. Apparently, it wasn't any physical or physiological mechanism that was causing him problems. If that were the case as say in a serious injury or medical condition that is life-threatening, then our option is limited to only one....abandon the climb; saving life is top priority.

When we gently prompted him, he said he was "overwhelmed by all these green in the jungle, too much green and my mind cannot take it anymore". He requested for Ahmad to take him back to Hqrs or if that wasn't possible to leave him there with sufficient supplies while we carry on our trek to the peak. Ahmad, our only guide, stayed his ground and said he could not possibly escort Tng to Hqrs while we all camp there awaiting his return. There won't be enough food and time left for resuming the climb, after that. Ahmad also added that for him to camp alone while waiting for our return, perhaps a week later, was also out of the question. It was simply too dangerous for someone untrained, to be alone in the deep jungle and on Malang Hill of all places [ the 'unlucky' hills]. So...we were faced with the proverbial Hobson's choice....meaning no choice but one. Somehow we needed to use all the leadership qualities we collectively possess to help him and the whole group out of this matter how long it would take.

My first aid training and own reading on common medical problems had served me well so far.
In my mind, I was trying to process all the outward signs for the cause of his problems. Diagnose the problem...come out with a prognosis. If we know the cause....we can find the solution!
Not physical, not physiological.....then psychological maybe ! Something was affecting his psychological behaviour or balance . But what was it? What caused it? A person, especially someone as strong as Tng, just doesn't break to pieces mentally in a split second....out of the blue.
Bingo! I came to the conclusion that he may be on the verge of severe dehydration and perhaps lacking in blood glucose too. We were all told to drink sparingly at the beginning of that day's climb as no water is available until we reach our destination at Sungei Puteh., 14 km away over the toughest terrain. Severe dehydration can cause a number of problems including those symptoms displayed by him.

I conferred with Balbir and Twang...and advised that we all rejuvenate ourselves with some water and chocolate bars. These special chocolate bars are not the usual bars sold in shops. I went out of the way to the NAAFI British military outlet in Changi, through a friendly contact, to buy them. They were wrapped in small rectangular blocks and were very solid and thick. They were a source of high and quick energy, when needed. And boy , did we and Tng especially, needed this instant energy boost!
We unwrapped the bars and munched on the chocolate., even Ahmad had some. Then we all rested for quite awhile, conserving and building up energy levels again.
Going over to Tng again, we gently coaxed him with positive thoughts and the idea that we will see this challenge through as a team, all 10 of us, we won't leave anyone behind...especially him.

All he needed was to rest and recharge his "battery"...which was depleted.
We also offered to carry and redistribute the items he was carrying amongst all.
To his great credit and for the 1st time since we rested, he said "No" and added that he was"OK". Bingo! He had somehow recovered. His battery had been recharged!

Today, if Tng KG should ever read this excerpt he should feel relieved and vindicated. What happened to him can happen to almost anyone else. The effects of severe dehydration and low blood sugar level. I have known Tng a long time....he was and still is mentally very strong!
Not once during the crisis did we panic. We dealt with the matter cooly and calmly. But it could have turned out otherwise had the wrong approach been adopted or had we panicked.
Once, he was well-rested and recharged, from that moment on, he was back to normal through
out the expedition.

The trek over these 27 Malang hills [ actually mountains ] continued and tested us to our limits.
It can be very demoralising at times. Just imagine....struggling up to the top of a peak and descending again, gaining altitude and losing it soon after, this incessant up and down pattern was physically draining on the body and also the mind. It reminded me of the campfire song,
" The Bear went over the Mountain " [ A repetitive song ]
The lyrics:

The bear went over the mountain [ x 3 ]
And what did you think he saw?
He saw another mountain [ x 3 ]
And what did you think he did?
He climbed the other mountain [ x 3 ]
And what did you think he saw?
He saw another mountain [ x 3 ]
[ ...even singing this song is quite tiresome ! ]

By late afternoon, most of us had little water left in our waterbottles. And we were never certain how far more it was to our final water source, Sungei Puteh. The only one who really knew was Ahmad. We were all looking forward to that great water source. Whenever any of us asked him this," berapa jauh lagi boleh sampai tempat air? " [ how far more to the water source ]....
his standard reply was either, " tak jauh lah " or " sudah dekat lah" [ not far more or nearly there ] . Even though in real time, we were still hours away !
I believe Ahmad understood good and simple jungle psychology in his own way.
For it definitely was most reassuring to hear him say that our destination was very near rather
than saying it was still a million miles away, right?
He showed us how to use our bottle cap to scoop up water caught in the base pocket of huge ferns. The water was drinkable after we sterilised it with our tablets. To divert and distract us from our mental exertions on this torturous ridge, he pointed out interesting tit-bits along the way....elephant droppings and some animal tracks.

Then we arrived at our penultimate obstacle....Gunung Rajah at 576 metres with a steep incline.
We attacked this slope in zombie -like fashion. Having gone up and down 25 times since we started the day, this was the 26th hill and the toughest. With Tng, holding up well, spirits were high as we assailed that mountain slope. There was still much daylight left when we clambered over the top of G Rajah. The top was slightly flat and afforded a good view of the surrounding peaks and valleys. Then Ahmad pointed out where we were heading for....way down below, the Sungei Puteh. We could not see it as everything was enveloped by the green jungle.
How far more we asked Ahmad. " Banyak dekat lah!" [ very near ] was his reply. This time we were quite certain and confident.
It took about an hour for us to descend and make our way to the increasing loud sounds of roaring water. The sounds were music to our ears!
Then we came out from the jungle fringe and before us was another magical sight to behold...
the raw beauty and splendour of this river... Sungei Puteh. The water wasn't too deep as we went into the water and over to the other side where we scouted around for a suitable campsite.
After securing our camp, setting up our makeshift tents, all of us headed straight for a nice spot in the relax in the nice,cool waters which come from the mountains.
[ See photos ].
Whenever I think back about this stretch of the climb, though some of us had practically run out of water and the rest with little left to quench our dehydration and acute thirst, I recall the training sessions we went through with the boys back in S'pore. They obviously helped in more ways than one. For example during the selection process, to test their self-displine, endurance and capacity to withstand great discomfort, we took them on long,hot treks and hikes, each carrying only a standard water bottle. No further top ups were allowed during the trek. At the end of the journey, we measured the remaining water each bottle. Some had long finished off their water by mid-point of trek.This kind of training taught them to sip water rather than simply gulp it down at one go. It paid off handsomely for all of us as no one fainted or was to the point of delirium due to lack of water. Tng's case was slightly different. In any case, at no point was he in delirium or needed to be evacuated. He needed only to replenish his low energy levels.....and was ok after that.
For myself, whenever we stopped to rest, I kept my mind away from thinking about water by
concentrating on our immediate surroundings...the various interesting jungle sounds and calls, the foliage and fauna, the insects and spiders on the trail....such things. With each passing day, we were all better able to adapt to the tough conditions we faced.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

1st Tahan Expedition, part 8.....DAY 2 of Actual Climb

Wednesday, April 16th 1969 - Day 2
Sungei Melantai - Kuala Puteh

We woke up very early to the morning calls of owls and other jungle creatures. It was still dark outside our 2 tents. For light, we have our candles as there is practically no wind movement in the thickness of deep jungle. Light also came from our natural wood fire and the single Bluet Cooker which we used to boil tea, Milo or nestum. Ahmad, our guide made his own preparations mostly. Everyone went about his tasks effectively and happily. Soon, we gathered round the cooking area for breakfast which consisted of a hot
drink to warm us up and cereals.

Photos: The Rugged 10 enjoying the raw beauty
of Sungei Puteh, near our campsite!
During this time, as Chief Medic, I will take out my medical box and dole out the relevant tablets for the day to each member. Some they must consume immediately while some they could keep for later use that day.
What tablets ? Whatever for?
1. Salt tablets prevent muscle cramps
2. Iron tablets a supplement to
prevent anaemia owing to the total absence of fresh meat and vegs.
3. Anti-Malaria pills

4. Water sterilising kill bacteria before drinking the water.
We took the first 3 types of tablets.....
everyone., except Ahmad our guide. But he was watching us closely as that was the 1st time he had observed us at breakfast. I noticed he looked a little bewildered by our tablet-swallowing ritual. He was by nature a shy and quiet chap who hardly asked any of us questions. He was very focussed and professional in his own inimitable way.
[But his natural curiosity would get the better of him ....after we had "conquered" Tahan peak and on the way down, at the last campsite. It caused us a minor scare ....and I was fully involved. Details will follow in next few posts ].
So....we broke camp and brought out the foodstuff marked for that portion of the return journey. We chose a safe and identifiable spot and buried our carefully wrapped stuff. That would help lighten the group load with each passing day. You can see photos of that 1st breaking of camp in my earlier posts.
A short discussion about today's climb with Ahmad yielded little information about the nature of our route. Remember.....we had no maps, nor detailed prior knowledge of what we were facing, back then.

Today, climbers will hear about the 27 Malang Hills [' malang' means 'unlucky' ] and Gunung Rajah. Bukit Malang as a whole is actually a ridge of 27 hills. There is no water up there. It was and still is the most testing part of the route to Tahan due to the lack of water and the repetitive up and down, energy sapping nature of the terrain.
Ahmad told us to fill all our water bottles to the brim as we would need every droplet this day.
After taking a final look at our campsite, we embarked on our 2nd Day trek with Ahmad leading. Almost immediately, we were heading uphill at a steep incline. This was the beginning of the ridge and it entails a climb of 365 metres in altitude. It was tough going. The previous day's exertions, although quite tough, was beginning to look like a picnic in comparison. Thick jungle everywhere, slippery-moss and lichen covered rockface and boulders made climbing precarious.
A few of us actually rolled off backwards, in full gear, a couple of times as a result. I was one of those who had a "roll off", not a fall, and my right shoulder sleeve was caught by some prickly, sharp vines which tore off at the seams [ see photo in previous posts ]. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt.

After about 2 solid hours, we reached a flat plateau, where we had our 1st major rest. Here, minor cuts and abrasions were treated. We were travelling in a northerly direction on the ridge. Twang, our Expedition Leader checked that everyone was ok and all intact....before we descended that rest point and continued on our most exhausting and challenging encounter on these Malang hills.
Our 1st Major Crisis
About 2 hours later we had another major rest stop called by Ahmad, again on a flat plateau. Water was copiously drunk to prevent dehydration. We were all drenched in full sweat, soaked to the skin. Everyone was numbed to the core. It was that tiring! So we just laid ourselves down to rest our tired bodies. Then, out of the blue, in the stillness of that place in deep jungle,Tng K G
suddenly said he could not carry on anymore! He said it very softly but apologetically.
Suddenly.....our great historic adventure was hanging on a precipice.
Even Ahmad was affected and got involved.

How did we solve this crisis?
What happened next and how we dealt with that unforeseen critical situation
is an important learning point for all....even today.
[ Story to continue in next post ]

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

1st Tahan Expedition, part 7.....Some Surviving Mementos

This is the original haversack which I used for the historic expedition in April 1969. It is more than 40 years old as I had bought it from the shops then located in the old Sungei Road. In fact, most of our camping items and gears were from there.
It is very small compared to haversacks today. However, there are many straps and clasps located conveniently at the front, side, top and even the bottom of the pack. This allowed us to
attach many bulky items securely leaving the cramped space within the pack for important stuff such as dry clothes, foodstuff, medical supplies, camera and film and other essentials. The pack is coloured jungle green and made entirely of thick canvas which is much stronger than the packs of today. But a major drawback is it gets heavier when wet.
This haversack of mine has outlasted all my other haversacks including my alpine pack from the mid 70's.
The stick lying on the haversack is the original "Tembusu thumbstick"which I crafted from the Tahan jungle while crossing the rivers towards Sungei Teku.
Both these items are still with me today, 40 years after.......surviving mementos of that expedition. I have my original sleeping bag with with me too. I bought an entire white nylon parachute from the same Sungei Road shop and paid for it to be folded and sewn into 8 layers. No downing feathers added. Just this 8 layers of nylon and it was sufficient to keep me warm at the peaks of G Tahan and other mountains.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

1st Tahan Expedition, part 6....DAY 1 of Actual Climb

Day 1 - Tues 15th April 1969, Kuala Tahan to Sungai Melantai.

We had no inkling how long exactly it would take for us to reach the peak of Tahan. But we were all prepared for a 10 day expedition, about 6 days up and 4 coming down...knowing full well that we were to be , in many ways, "trailblazers"and had to suceed " come what may!"
Above Pic:
The Tahan River
Before we left Kuala Tahan campsite, we gathered for a group photo at the edge of the jungle in full gear with our guide Ahmad. It was after breakfast and we were all in high spirits. The weather was fine as April was a good month in the dry season for such an expedition. We had topped up our army type water bottles....each of us carried two. For the expedition to succeed, we resolved to," as far as possible", follow the instructions, pace and timing of our indispensable guide, Ahmad. He will be the one calling out the short or longer rest stops and most everything else, including when and where to stop for lunchbreak and the most important stop of all...where to camp for the night. It is almost impossible to judge or estimate distances travelled in deep jungle, especially in difficult, tough terrain. Thus, it was wise of us to leave that kind of assessment to Ahmad....and not to veto him in anyway. He knew the jungle better than all of us collectively...and the maps were inside his head!

From Tahan we sat off, with Ahmad leading, we traversed through relatively flatter terrain, with a few steep hills, not too high, passing by rivers and streams. There were no clear paths once we got off the beaten tracks into the humid and steamy jungle. To ensure that

Below: A Sketch Map of the Tahan Trail
no one got lost inadvertently, we observed jungle rule # 1 .... the distance between you and the next should be such that you can see the person in front of you always.
Rule # 2 .... put the slower ones in front. From Tahan Hqrs to Sungai Melantai is about 12 km as the crow flies. Today, that portion can be covered in approximately 4-6 hours depending on fitness level. But, I believe we took much longer.
We had to hack through many parts of deep jungle growth to clear the way. We had 6 parangs in all to do this. In deep jungle, even Ahmad had to stop to retrace his steps of the previous journey. The jungle grows very fast and can swallow up many things, including jungle trails pretty quickly. After trekking for about 2 hours we had our 1st major rest stop [ see photo in my previous post ]. At major rest breaks lasting for anything of 20 minutes or so, we check our water level, check for leeches, tighten up loose ends and just simply rest... often without removing our heavily loaded packs. The reason for this is psychological. Once the 50 lb pack is off your back you will feel very though you can float light as a mosquito! But, after the rest and the heady, light feeling.....when you load the pack onto your back again, it feels like the whole world is on your shoulders.....somehow the pack seems "heavier". Those who are not mentally strong will then feel demoralised.
Thus it is wise during intermitten breaks to rest with the packs on.
How did our group perform so far? I did not recall any problems in spirit or in performance. So far, so good. We heard all the strange noises, sounds and calls of different animals and birds....but none that troubled us. Most of the time,we were enveloped by the canopy over our heads and the luxuriant jungle around us. Though the terrain wasn't that was still very tough.
We had a major stop for preparing lunch where we cooked food on our mess tins. Food is critically important next to water for sustaining us in this trek. We had carefully planned for every meal namely breakfast, lunch and dinner. All the foodstuff were marked for example...
Lunch D1, Dinner D1 [ Day one ]....etc. Since there were 10 of us and we were ready for a 10 day climb, it meant that we were each carrying about 1 full day supply of food for the group in our pack.
Ahmad, our guide had his own haversack and prepared his own food. At times, he joined us for some warm drinks around the campsite firecircle.
After lunch, we resumed our that early stage, just learning to enjoy the wonders of the deep rainforest and adapting ourselves to the challenge.
We passed through huge, gigantic trees with wide buttress roots and the kind of vines...thick as cables or as shown in the Tarzan movies. Many trees we've never seen before all fighting to thrust themselves higher than the next one towards the sky. The deep jungle, you cannot see it. Only at a wide river break where the overhead canopy is absent...then you may see the sky again.
Eventually, Ahmad called a halt. We found ourselves before a magical place. Pure serene peace and tranquility abounded here. It was the Sungai Melantai....with its gentle, running waters. It looked like a scene from prehistory. Not a soul in sight, save for us and nothing but the sheer beauty of unspoilt raw nature surrounding us. Words cannot easily describe the picturesque scene or the emotions I felt. If there were more like this, I remember thinking, we should all be thankful and greatly rewarded.
This was where we would camp for the night. We selected a nice patch of higher ground from the river's edge to set up camp. The 1st thing we did was to erect 2 tents. To lighten our group load we did not carry the normal 5 men tent. Those were bulky and heavy with all the tent accessories. We made our own flysheet with another lightweight cover. No accessories. It was all set up in minutes and gave good protection from rain and dew. Everyone had his own assigned duties for the expedition and at a campsite.
Some were cooks among other things. Some were tent pitchers. Some looking after fuel and firestarting. Some water carriers.
For myself, I was appointed to 3 official roles even before the trip started.
Chief first -aider, Quartermaster and Photographer. So, I had a camera and rolls of films packed in water-proofed containers, a 1st Aid kit and our medical supplies, and a list of our group items...all with me. We dug a narrow channel around our makeshift tent and sprinkled yellow sulphur powder around keep away snakes.
After setting up camp....we removed our heavily drenched clothes and jumped into the cool waters of Melantai to bathe. For all of was heavenly to soak in and bathe in such a natural environment. There was still daylight left as we immersed and abandoned ourselves in that magical place. A bathe never felt so good.
Soon, the scent of woodsmoke drifted in the air. We prepared our 1st dinner consisting of rice and tinned food. Any food always taste good when you are hungry. And we were hungry! We cleared up after dinner, burning and burying all rubbish deeply so as not to attract wild animals to us. I treated those who had minor cuts, abrasions and scrapes. No one had any leech bite yet.
Those were still ahead...awaiting us!
Ahmad told us to turn in early as " Tomorrow will be a very tough climb!"
The jungle night and the nocturnal symphony of frogs, cicadas and other creatures soon took over as we faded off to sleep.

Monday, February 18, 2008

1st Tahan Expedition, part 5...The Route, Our Guide and Maps?

To write as complete a story for something as major as this expedition that took place nearly
4 decades ago, is not easy at all. One cannot depend entirely on memory alone. Fortunately, the photos, records, documents and some original artifacts are still with me. Some of my loose notes have been misplaced in the interim years. Among my most treasured resources is my personal diary of 1969...which contains important data and info pertaining to various aspects of the expedition. As a matter of fact, I started the habit of keeping a diary back in 1960 when I was a Primary six kid. And every year, after that, continued doing so. It was to be a huge blessing in disguise, in my later and present years, as a most valuable resource for info and data of the past.

The Route to Gunung Tahan in 1969
We had very little physical knowledge of the route back then. We had no printed nor well laid out maps and plans as found in abundance today. We did not have the advantage of even seeing a single picture of what we were about to it the hills, peaks, valleys, streams,rivers or the"impenetrable" jungle. The main reason for this lack of information was that very little was known about Tahan or the route to the peak. There were no marked trails anywhere at all. It was pure virgin jungle that confronted us at every step, turn, nook or corner. We did not have a single topo map of our intended route. I remember carrying my prismatic compass in my pack as an emergency piece [ just in case something befalls our only guide Ahmad ]. But that would not have been of much use without an effective map. Much of our hope and success depended solely on Ahmad. I remember chatting with him on the eve of the climb and asking him in Malay,

" Berapa kali Ahmad sudah naik atas Gunung Tahan ?"[ How many times have you ascended Tahan ?] . His reply," dua kali " [ twice ]. He told me the 1st time was in his youth. The 2nd time was a few years before our attempt....all accomplished without the benefit of maps. All those critical and important topographical info of the route, stored in a deep recess of his brain memory storage compartment. It got me thinking even back then ! If, during the trip, in deep jungle, should Ahmad somehow fail to retrieve vital info from his memory at a critical juncture or he falls ill etc..,the situation could turn out to be very precarious and serious for all of us. [ On 2 occasions during our actual climb, Ahmad did cause us a minor scare. I will relate details of the incidents in coming posts . It is not to be missed.] However, on hindsight, all this lack of info about the route and all it represented, might have worked to our benefit and advantage as we were truly heading into unknown territory....increasing our sense of real adventure and heightening our shared feelings that we must and should succeed as the pioneering mountaineers from Singapore.....come what may!

Climbing Tahan, even today, is not to be taken lightly. Back then it was pure, virgin jungle. There were no clear trails leading from point A to B or C. We had to literally hack away with the 6 parangs we carried....the deep undergrowth we encountered in the lower regions. It was a most ardous and hazadous journey that demanded physical fitness and mental strength and determination, as well as thorough preparations, good equipment, sound leadership and excellent camaradie and teamwork.
The entire journey up and down will cover more than 60 miles or 130 km over some of the toughest terrain imaginable in the Malayan jungle.
Monday 14th April 1969
This day was the eve of our actual climb. We spent the day in making and finalising all our important preparations...permit for the climb was settled, guide confirmed, check for further information at the Park office for weather updates, wildlife updates and such stuff.
We each left a small package of travelling clothes kept in an office...for our return journey.
There was a small canteen/cafe at the park where we had our meals...of typical nasi lemak
type food. Nothing fancy as you can expect back then.

Photos: [ left click on pic to see enlarged version ]

Top :- This is one of the few coloured photos that survived. Notice my torn right sleeve. The original caption was," Clothes torn already? The climb in thick, virgin jungle.". Others in that picture are Yeow Huat, Yam Tee, Louis and Tng KG.

Centre:- The caption read " resting with packs on". The 2 clearly identified ...Louis and Tng K G.

Bottom:- This photo was taken by me on the morning of the 2nd Day. We were breaking up camp. In foreground, Jesudason and and 2 other guys bending over to roll up our tent sheets.... Twang P E putting on his shoes, Francis and Balbir can be seen too.

[ The next episode....Day 1 of actual Climb ]

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

1st Tahan Expedition part 4...Sungai Tembeling - Kuala Tahan

Our journey on the 2 boats, on the 13th April 1969, along the Sungai Tembeling...heading upstream towards Kuala Tahan 60 km away, gave us our 1st introduction to the world's oldest tropical rainforest. At 130 million years old, this 4,343 sq km of virgin jungle fondly called Taman Negara is a virtual haven for hundreds of species of wildlife,exotic fish, birds and plants. This diversity of rich wildlife in their natural habitats has remained undisturbed even in 1969. The river we were travelling on... the Sungai Tembeling, is one of 2 principal tributaries of the Pahang River [ largest in M'sia ]. The other is the Sungai Jelai. Both these rivers join up at Kuala Tembeling and form the Pahang River which continues another 300 km to the sea.

As we cruised along the 1st 30 odd km of our river expedition, we could still see signs of civilisation along both banks. Mostly Malay kampongs [ villages] set well back from the river's edge, on high ground. There were water buffaloes along the banks. Halfway past our route and near Kuala Atok...we reached the boundary of Taman Negara. From here on, the right side of the river was secondary growth and cultivation...while the left is all National Park.

We remained quiet and observant to take in all the sights and sounds of wildlife to our left. Although wildlife is not abundant along the river, we still saw some of the inhabitants of this area as shown in the drawings. The Long-tailed macaque with its high pitched calls " kroo....kroo, the water monitor lizard resting on logs or the bank, the small clawed otter and many varieties of exotic birds especially kingfishers.

After that 3-4 hour boat journey, we caught our 1st glimpse of Kuala Tahan jetty, We disembarked, collected all our gear, bade the boatmen farewell and headed for the National Park office. We divided ourselves quickly for various duties. The main one was to register ourselves for the ascent, meet up with our appointed mountain guide and to check all our supplies were ok and properly packed.
As this was the 1st ever successful Tahan Expedition from Singapore....there were no previous local expedition reports we could refer to for any tips or guidance...for example.., amount of food to carry, fuel, water etc.... . We had to estimate and calculate our supplies. And in this, we preferred to over -estimate a little, giving ourselves more leeway and flexibility for a 10 day climb. Thus our supplies and provisions should last that long in the jungle trip. But that would also mean that we were all heavily loaded down, averagely 40 -50 pounds each. That was really heavy by our present day average. We had no porters. Only 1 guide who calls himself" Ahmad". He was an Orang Asli from the Batek tribe. We conversed in malay. Orang Asli means original People...the 1st human occupants of the peninsula. The Batek are a gentle people, short in stature, dark-skinned with tight , curly hair.

Our guide Ahmad, leaning by a tree. Me surveying the scene 2 hours into our trek. The rest of the party having a short rest.
Notice the haversack we all used. The standard, green army type of canvas... very uncomfortable, heavy and small compared to today's super-lightweight backpack that comes with proper back rest and frames.

Ahmad our guide was a gentle soul. Looking at him one would not be very impressed. But I say never judge a book by its cover! The Park office must have chosen one of the best,...if not the very Best.[ More about him in later posts.]
Shy Ahmad asked for an advance of the guide fees so that he could buy some basic canned food, rice and other stuff. He had practically no money, nothing. We gave him some stuff too to help him out. When all that was settled we went to set up camp for the night. The nocturnal animals of the park came a-visiting during the night. They openly wander about and around the park HQ. Tapirs, musang, wild pigs and other animals helped make our 1st night at Taman Negara Hqrs an unforgettable night....before we descended into much needed we reminded ourselves,

"the day after tomorrow THE REAL TEST AND ADVENTURE begins ".

[ Story will continue in part 5. There will be many more parts of the full story in coming posts.
I have decided to make it a major article principally because of the following reasons:-
1. I have yet to come across any complete expedition report of this 1st Tahan trip.
2. After nearly 4 decades, it is time this story is told fully for posterity's sake and to further
inspire others.
3. And after such a long time ( next April will be the 40th Anniversary of the 1st Tahan ascent ), I am uncertain what memories, notes, records, photos and artifacts still remain with
other fellow members of our expedition. But for me....fortunately, I still have most of the memorabila of that trip including my 1969 personal Diary...which contains important facts and data. Among the artifacts I still have today are the " Batu Tahan "...those quartz-diamond like stones only found at the very top of G Tahan. Another is a thumbstick which I made for myself from Tahan Tembusu...which is still in good condition. And the TTC badge on my hat.
Thus, I felt that at least one of us should make an attempt to tell the story.
It requires a lot of time, research and depending on memory alone is insufficient.
But it will be worth the effort. ]

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Oriental Eye Test

This is a truly brilliant example that confirms some points I made in my previous post on regaining perfect eyesight and improving your vision.
If you look at this image as a whole, without " focussing" what you see are some white patterns set in a black rectangular box. That, most people will say is " how the brain works". I do not agree at all. The 1st time I saw this image....only a few minutes ago,...
I can clearly read the 5 words and without " pulling the corner of my eyes". It is about what I call micro-looking [ refer to previous postings ].
Some of you may need to squint your eyes a little....that is making your eyes smaller to better focus. Recall how we use the binoculars. We need to adjust the zooming dial or knob.
Recall too my advice on massaging facial and eye muscles daily. It is important.
Try this right now as you are reading this post.
Look at the image again. And slowly pull the corner of your eyes to the extreme. What happens? Everything slowly becomes blurry. How come? You are actually manipulating your tuning dial.....the eye muscles, nerve and ligaments. And since you are pulling to the have over-zoomed the process.
What we can conclude is this. The eyes , controlled by the muscles and ligaments around them,
can do the work of focussing themselves.
But we need to keep all these muscles and ligaments in good tone.
We need to learn how to use our eyes again.
It is still not too late to teach your kids at home or in schools....the simple steps I've outlined.

Wise Owl

Saturday, February 9, 2008

1st Tahan Expedition, part 3...

Journey up the Tembeling River

After boarding the two launches
at the jetty at Kuala Tembeling, our real
adventure into the unknown began. We had arrived here all the way from Singapore after an overnight train journey to Jerantut and from there, a bus took us to the boarding point. We had taken in a quick breakfast at a coffeeshop in Jerantut and was raring to go.
The 2 long boats were narrow and powered by simple engines at the rear. We settled ourselves down comfortably but that would not last very long. The river journey, going up stream is 60 km long to our destination....Kuala Tahan and will take about 3 hours plus. At certain stretches of the river we had to get off the boat to push and shove the boat over the rapids as the water level was too shallow and the boat's engine could not produce sufficient power to overcome the strong currents going against us.
Photo Details:
Top left: I captured this picture of Boat 2 gently following behind us in Boat 1 as we began our
our river journey.
Centre : My boat ...with Twang P Ee, Yeow Huat, Francis Lee and Yam Tee. I took the pic.
Bottom: Boat 2 gently gliding along with Balbir, Jesudasen, Han Chew, Louis Hwang and
Tng K Guan.

Top right: That's me at the front of our boat. The caption on the photo reads...' a communist on
a picnic? Hell no! A determined, fit, tough mountain climber ! ' Look carefully at my
jungle hat. Attached to it was a shining badge bearing the logo of the TTC YLTCC.
It is still with me today. And on my left breast pocket...was the NJC cloth emblem
which was given to me by the boys and which I sewed on myself during the train trip.
Back then, I was super fit and tough.... having my own weight and body training
regimen with a couple of my scout mates done in a makeshift gym at my home...from
1965 to 1970.
Centre: Meeting our 1st of many rapids.....Boat 1.
Bottom: Boat 2 skilfully shooting the rapids.

[ story to continue in part 4 ]

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Singapore's 1st Gunong Tahan Expedition, part 2

At the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station we assembled for a proper send off by a party of well-wishes from our supporters, family and friends. The date was 12th April 1969. We took the night train. All our expedition gear was loaded on board our bunks on the Malayan Railway train which will take us to the rustic town of Jerantut, Pahang. Each of us was carrying between 40 to 50 lbs of personal and group items all packed into a single haversack. Everyone had an assigned role and different responsibilities.
We had taken the chosen 6 student climbers on repeated hill climbs at Bt Timah Hill and on long, endurance hikes in Mandai, Jurong and elsewhere. Taught them all the camping and outdoor skills necessary for jungle and mountain expedition. In the end we felt they were ready for the big challenge confronting us.
Twang Peck EE, Balbir Singh and myself ,being members of the very respected TTC YLTCC, came with rock-solid outdoor experience and background. The only slight uncertainty was Tng Kim Guan. Although he was physically a strong chap, had an easy-going personality and a sportsman, he was not moulded and trained like the 3 of us.
Still we had vowed to work as a team and everyone got along extremely well.
To cover the expedition we had at least 2 cameras. One was mine and I was the official photographer besides another. Most of the photos were from my camera as the other valuable rolls of films were accidentally submerged on the return journey during a river crossing by the other member.It was no easy task to keep the camera handy, yet safe and dry, throughout the expedition. Traversing in deep, humid jungle with many deep river crossings, posed great difficulties.
Top - From Jerantut train station, a chartered old rickety bus took us to this place...Ferry point at Kuala Tembeling...where we boarded 2 chartered motorised launch for the up river journey to Kuala Tahan . Left to Right: Tham Han Chew, Louis Hwang, T Jesudasen, Balbir Singh[ Asst Leader] and Tng Kim Guan posing at the jetty...assigned boat 2.
Centre - Boarding the launch. The person walking towards the left is myself.
Bottom - Each launch carried 5 of us. The 5 of us in boat number 1....Twang Peck Ee[ Leader] Francis Lee, Tan Yam Tee, Tan Yeow Huat and Dick Yip [ Asst Leader ].

[ story will continue in part 3 ]

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Beginning of Singapore Mountaineering Expeditions

I'm certain many of you would have heard of Khoo Swee Chiow and the Singapore Mount Everest team who made our nation proud with their successful scaling of the highest mountain on earth. An increasing number of adventurous Singaporeans have also jumped on the mountaineering bandwagon and gone on to conquer other
peaks, in far away lands and places. Even school groups, with better funding and resources today, have made their way to peaks such as Mt Kilimanjaro, Mt Kinabalu and other mountains in Nepal too. Singapore is certainly a land of plenty today! But it was not so about 40 years ago.
The 1st Singapore Mountaineering Expedition in an attempt to conquer Gunong Tahan, West Malaysia's highest peak at 7,186 ft comprised all of 10 full-blooded Singaporeans. To be precise, the party consisted of 6 students of the only Junior College then in existence...the National Junior College [ NJC ] and 4 teachers from Secondary Schools. The idea for this historic attempt was first mooted by Mr Twang Peck Ee, a key member of the TTC YLTCC [ Teachers Training College Youth Leadership Training Camp Committee ] back in 1968. He was a very fit and really tough Expedition leader. He was also very selective and careful in his choice of assistant Expedition leaders for such an unknown adventure. He approached Mr Balbir Singh and myself, who like him, were also members of the renowned TTC YLTCC. In my humble opinion and many others have concurred, the TTC YLTCC, back in those halcyon days, were in the forefront of camping, leadership training, outdoor pursuits and adventuring. There was no other group like it. Everyone who was fortunate to have served in that Committee was specially and carefully picked for his or her special strengths and qualities in the rough outdoors and other inherent qualities. Each of us was given a set of TTC INSTRUCTOR [ yltc ] T-shirt and it was something we wore with the greatest of pride when carrying out our extra voluntary duties.
In late 1968, we met many times to discuss and plan the expedition. Eventually, we decided on picking only 6 boys from NJC and to make it a party of 10, Peck Ee added another teacher Mr Tng Kim Guan. From research and enquiry made by us, we discovered that no other Singapore group has "conquered" Tahan yet, back then. Only a few British army personnel had been up there [ this was later confirmed by the Kuala Tahan National Park office when we were there ].
Thus we made serious preparations for this 1st ever attempt in early 1969. More than 100 students turned up for the series of selection physicals, hikes and climbs up Bukit Timah Hill, held over many weekends. We had novel ways of testing their endurance and 'breaking point'.
After all the gruelling tests and close observations, we agreed on the final 6 young aspirants...with 2 more as standby.
We were scheduled to go in April 1969 during the 2 week school holidays. This official, recognised MOE/ TTC expedition had the full backing of our MOE as all of us were connected to it. The Government was also encouraged as the theme at that time was ' Building A Rugged Society'. So everyone's leave was officially granted and approved.
Photos: Top left: Base Camp...Scout Den, Victoria School
Top right : Me , on the train to Jerantut
Bottom : At Jerantut bus station

News clipping: Sunday Times edition, 13th April 1969

[ to be continued in part 2 ]

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Improving Vision...a Fantastic Discovery !

The picture of me jamming at the Gold Coast , Brisbane Australia was in 1993. Even during the night, in fact everywhere I went, or whatever I was doing, most times I wore my glasses....without which I could not see properly. I had several pairs. The picture on the right..was in year 2000, the new millenium. more glasses, day or night. I have not worn spectacles, except for protective sunglasses, since the mid 90's when I succeeded in my 'experiment'.

Wise Owl

Improve Your Eyesight...Free from Owl !

How to Improve your eyesight....and throw away those specs!

Hi Yippies!
Thanks to handsome Linus (without glasses now !) I can share with you my personal battle with the nuisance of having to wear glasses. I remember when I was very active in the 60's, 70's and early mid 80's, actively engaged in many outdoor pursuits....I had near perfect vision. Never wore glasses ( except for cosmetic reasons ), did not require any.
Then for reasons I'm still unsure day I went to the Optician in the late 80's at Hougang to make a pair of sunglasses ( AO , as I was out in the sun alot ), the lady there, as a matter of standard practice, tested my vision with their optometry reader. Suddenly, my perfect vision was no more! Both eyes required lenses of 100+ degrees. correct....ACCORDING TO THE OPTICIAN.So, I had no choice, not wanting to further aggravate my less than perfect vision, I followed her reccomendation for 2 pairs of sunglass, one normal for everyday use. Costs few hundred $!
From then on, every year or so, I went to the same place to change lenses, frames, eye testing etc.
Then one day, they told me I was suffering from double vision !?!...and astigmatism ( whatever this was? ). So, despite my FAITHFULNESS in putting on glasses at all times, and despite my regular visits to test my vision and upgrade my lenses regularly and not to mention spending over $1000 -2000 since my 1st pair of specs, things did not improve. Instead it got steadily worse ! So, I thought to myself, if that were to continue at that rate, I would soon require 1000 degrees specs since my highest was around 300+ degrees already.
By mid 90's, when I tried to play a game of badminton without my specs ( as an early experiment ), I saw 2 shuttlecoks in the air instead of one....and felt GIDDY. I also could not estimate the distance between me and the net causing repeated errors.

One day, I read a little ,short excerpt about improving one's eyesight with some tips provided. Basically, what it said in the article was people who are living close to nature never have problems with vision. Those in the jungle, or living in the forest or mountains or valleys...they have close to perfect vision always, from kids to the aged.
Can we not learn from them?
Like Bob the Builder says," YES WE CAN !"
But How?
Please don't ask me for that article now.....if I can ever find it, sure I'll put it here.
But more importantly, since I made a VOW to myself to try out the suggested tips sometime in the mid 90's, I can state them here for your benefit. Fortunately, I can recall most of the tips. Note that try out meant that I deliberately locked up my spectacles, never to use them again from that moment I made my self -promise!
I have kept to my VOW all these years....why?
How did I achieve it?
Here's how......SIMPLE, REALLY SIMPLE !!
All the things I state here are to be done without glasses.

1. Exercise the eyes.....rotate the eyes up, down, left, right. Helps to strengthen eye muscles.
2. Massage areas around the eyes, eyebrow, nasal fringe, upper cheek near eyes. Do 1 and 2 as often as u can daily.
3. Wash your eyes with running tap water a few times clean it.
4. Read anything in good lighting conditions. Hold away from eyes. Don't stinge on saving light!
5. Daily, really LOOK at nature surrounding u..especially green stuff...trees, leaves, bark, branches, flowers,grass,ferns etc.... as often as u can, even while working, step out, have a breather and LOOK!
6. Micro- look technique.....focus your eyes, STARE if u like to call it and follow the path of a tiny ant, bug, fly, mosquito, or anything that is really tiny. Learn to use your eyes to see and OBSERVE tiny differences in these insects as they move, play or fight etc. Spend more time on this kind of micro observations with your naked eye. Do it as often as u can.
7. When u are working facing a wall at your desk, stop a while to look for tiny spots on it...the wall with your eys wide open or squint alternatively. This exercise your eye muscles.
8. From time to time, close and tightly squeeze your eyes shut...for about 20 seconds, then open it as wide as you can. This act to stimulate your impt nerves and muscles controlling focussing!
That's it.
After I started to do all the things I have mentioned above.... daily, my vision very QUICKLY came back to weeks and months, not even in years.
Today, I do everything without specs.....swim, play,drive,read, watch, etc..
I still FOLLOW the 8 steps above daily.
Should I charge people for my advice and testimony?
[ Since the day I posted this entry here on my blog, this has been one of the most
visited article on internet searches for improving vision ]
You should all try these simple really worked for me.

Luv to all.

Unk Dicko


The post above was written by me in March 2007 for our private Blogsite"The Yippies Blogspot".

There are many superb posts, anecdotes, stories and photos on many topics and subjects within.

But most in the extended family of mine prefer the website to be kept private and closed for now. So, visitors can't access it at the moment.

Back to the question of improving your vision.

What I have tried was so simple in its application and the results so astounding....that I was truly

amazed. I have not gone to any eye doctor, specialist or hospital since the mid 80's. Don't need to. There is no medicine, contraption or herbs involved.

Just those steps I've outlined above.

Back to nature....would be apt... to describe the process I took.

If you ask me ...the most important, critical decision to make, at least for me, was to

literally lock my spectacles I would not be tempted to simply put them on, thus

defeating the purpose of my self imposed' experiment or try out'.

It was not easy at first....BUT,...gradually and sub-consciously, improvements were taking place.

Not noticeable at first......BUT,....slightly later, with progressive accumulation, BINGO !

Back to almost perfect vision again.

Do drop me a line or two if you are at it.
Would love to get feedback from anyone regarding this.
Wise Owl