Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mt OPHIR ( Gunung Ledang ) 1969

The 1st time I had scaled Gunung Ledang ( Mt Ophir ) in Johore, Malaysia was in late March/early April 1969. That was a mere fortnight before our 1st Gunung Tahan Expedition.
That trip was organised and led by Twang Peck Ee and assisted by Balbir and me. For this training trek we had the company of some staff and students of Broaderick Secondary School. Peck Ee was a member of the staff then.
The trail up Mt Ophir was quite clearly marked with simple, handmade signboards when we came to any major forked junctions....in the jungle. That was helpful and merely by following the signs carefully one may not need a guide. There were also simple maps but they were not easily available. Nevertheless, people have got lost in treks to Ophir in the past and great care must always be taken to at least ensure some of the climbers are experienced and familiar with the trail and terrain.
Top Left: Balbir in foreground...way past 3000 ft altitude.
Top Right: Having a rest at base camp...Twang and me having a chat with the others.
Bottom L: Balbir, me and Cikgu...had a wondrous view of the setting sun.
Bottom R: We were covered in light mist and rain very close to the summit. I had the same jacket which I also used at G Tahan ( centre ).

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

1st Tahan Expedition, part 31... A LUCKY MISS !!!

All the time that we were on the 1st Gunung Tahan
Expedition we were totally unaware of the trouble that
was brewing in the Malaysian capital and elsewhere on the peninsula that would eventually lead to the infamous
MAY 13 Malaysian Riots of 1969.
We departed from Kuala Tahan on the 22 April 1969
and arrived safely in Singapore on 23 April 1969.
Racial riots broke out on 13 May 1969 in KL and other parts of Malaysia. There were some attempts by various criminal elements to " spillover" the riots into
Singapore for their own rotten purposes. But they were
largely contained by our own security forces and police.
When the riots broke out , I and the others like Yew Ghee [ yg blog website ], Jason, Edward, Kar Wai etc.. from TTC, were fully immersed in our OBS full-time course in Pulau Ubin which was held from May 8 to 29th 1969. We had
no contact with the outside world and knew nothing much about the killings and massacres then. Only after we had finished the course did we find out the horror of it all. There was a great amount of tension in the air...even in Singapore, as many of us, our people, have
friends and relatives over there. My sister-in-law and her family with 2 young kids were in P J, Selangor at that time. There was no news about them.
Not until when calmness returned about a month later did we hear from them.
D2 and I went over to visit them and to help them relocate back home.

Looking back, it was indeed a most fortunate miss !
Just 3 weeks separated us from that fateful day of infamy.

We could have easily been caught in that terrible maelstorm.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

1st Tahan Expedition, part 30....Where are the RUGGED 10 today?

Where are the RUGGED 10 today?
Where is our guide Ahmad today?

Ok, let's start with the 4 teachers.

Mr Twang Peck Ee
After his stint at Broderick Sec Sch,
he joined the PE Dept of NJC. He also taught in some other schools in his later teaching years. He has happily retired from teaching many years ago. The last time I met him, he was living at Casuarina Road, off Thomson Road.

Mr Balbir Singh
After his stint at Balestier Hill Sec, he too joined the PE Dept of NJC. In later years, he was promoted as a vice-principal to a school in Bedok, where he eventually retired. I have met Balbir, in the course of my work, many times.
We remain firm as friends and as fellow 1st Tahanners. The last occasion we met was only last year at Changi Airport. He was on his way to Indonesia as an educational consultant while I was on my 1st exploratory trip to Myanmar.

Mr Tng Kim Guan
Kim Guan had the most varied roles amongst us. After his stint in Victoria School, he went upwards to a number of posts and places including Principal of Serangoon Sec, Deputy Principal of Raffles Instituition and finally Cluster Superintendent. In the course of my work, I met him more than the others. We remain firm friends. He has retired from a very fruitful education career. He lives in the Yio Chu Kang area.

Mr Dick Yip ( myself )
After my stint in PBS, I was head-hunted to join Hwa Chong JC PE Dept in the early 1980's.
I headed the PE and Sports Dept in 1991 until I left for SS where I retired from service in 2005.

T Jesudasen ( NJC)
Today Jesudasen is an ambassador in our Min of Foreign Affairs.
The last time I met him was when he and his wife took a walk in the beautiful grounds of HJC and we had a short, brief chat nearly 15 years ago.

Francis Lee, Louis Hwang, Tham Han Chew, Tan Yam Tee and Tan Yeow Huat ....all NJC
Well, I have never met them again since those 1969 days. ( Would love to see them again!)
And I have no details of where they are today.

And finally our expedition guide, Ahmad
In 1985 I led a Tahan team from HJC to climb the mountain again. There, I made some enquiry
about Ahmad. Other guides knew him but told me he was unfortunately not around at that time. I was really hoping to see him again. Then in 1995, Taman Negara Resort, a newly formed consortium came down to Singapore to further promote Tahan National Park and their new facilities, activities and adventure trips. Only a handful of "old hands"teachers, with a strong and active adventure background, were selected and fully sponsored for that trip to Taman Negara.
I was one of them.
So I ended up re-living my warm memories of Tahan, Melantai, wild animals, the boat trip, the rapids, leeches and nocturnal animals wandering around our huts. Then....I made extensive enquiries about our 1969 guide, Ahmad. I had an old photo with me. The news I got was sad. They told me that he had passed away not that long ago.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

1st Tahan Expedition, part 29....Equipment and Costs

This journal of our historic expedition to G Tahan will not be complete without some mention of the personal and group equipment we had and some aspects of the cost, 4 decades ago.

Photo: The Sungei Tahan at dusk

Group Equipment
1) ponchos - 10
2) parangs - 6
3) Haversacks -those without
4) Belts - 10
5) Aluminium water bottles - 10
6) matches - in waterproofed pouch
7) mess tins - 10
8) tin openers - 4
9) ropes - sufficient coils
10) crackers -sufficient packets
11) Bluet Cooker - 1
12) Tent side sheets - 4
13) cooking pots - 2
14) Fuels - sufficient qty
15) Sulphur powder

First Aid and Medical Kit
Besides the standard items such as plaster, bandages of various sizes and types, we also had the following:
1) antisan
2) anti-malaria pills
3) salt tablets
4) Iron tablets
5) water sterilising tablets
6) Insect repellent
7) Corricidin - red
8) Panadol
9) Po Chai pills

Personal Items
1) A small torch with extra battery
2) Extra water bottle
3) Shirts - 1 for trekking, 1 for sleep
4) Slacks - 1 for trekking, 1 for sleep
5) sleeping bag - 1
6) face towel - 1
7) jungle hat - 1
8) sneakers - 1 pair
9) ankle boots - 1 pair
10) socks - 2 pairs
11) dagger or knife -1
12) safety pins, sewing kit
13) spoon - 1
14) camera - 1 [ only Jesudason and myself had one each ]
15) films for camera
16) water-proofed containers, small
17) jacket or windbreaker - 1

Some Group Costs $ ( S'pore )
1) Train fares - 300
2) Stores, fuel - 70
3) Boatfare - 130
4) Camping fee - 100
5) Camera fees - 10
6) Food - 65 ( We chipped in with supplies from our homes )

Monday, April 7, 2008

1st Tahan Expedition, part 28.... We were on TV !!!

1st page of my 1969 diary. Did you notice the telephone numbers...only 6 digits back then!

I started keeping a simple diary since Primary 6. Those early years proper diaries were hard to come by. Most of us had no money to buy such a luxury. I recall using unwanted, old exercise books or a discarded notebook for such purposes. In the mid 60's, as I was then working, a free diary or two will somehow land on my desk yearly.

Here is the cover page of my 1969 personal diary. The page is also from this same diary dated May 24th 1969....barely a month after we had returned from our Tahan expedition. After the story of our exploits broke in the newspapers of the day, RTS [ Radio and TV Singapore ] contacted us. TV programmes and shows back then were all in black and white. No colour yet until 1974, I think. RTS were eager to feature all 10 of us in a special 30 minute programme they named " THE RUGGED 10 ". The recording and filming were done in their studio at Caldecott Hill.

From the May 8th to 29th 1969, I was attending the full 22 day OBS course # 15 at Pulau Ubin Outward Bound School. About 14 of us from TTC were chosen for this course, fully sponsored by the local British Army Hqrs. We were the 1st batch of teachers from TTC so honoured [ I will have a post about this OBS thing later].

So, on the 24 May, as can be seen from my diary notes, my OBS watch "Tensing" had just returned from the land expedition. I had a message waiting for me and was passed over by OBS Chief Instructor then....Henry Sng. I was told that our RTS special feature will be on air at 3 pm that day. Since my group was back, I asked for permission to see it"live" with my watch members. There was a TV set at the Meeting room and we gathered there, together with many other OBS instructors and also members of other groups.

That was the very 1st time[ not the last though ], that I appeared on national TV. That 30 min programme entitled, " The Rugged Ten" was shown a few times back then. But alas, none of us possessed the technology then for recording it. VCR did not exist at our level yet. Before 1999, that will be 30 years after our Tahan success, I did inquire from then SBC whether they still have an archived copy of the original programme. A friend there told me they most likely do....but it would not come cheap to get a copy made, provided clearance is approved. The figure quoted was frightening!!!

Friday, April 4, 2008

1st Tahan Expedition, part 27.... Mountain Plants

After nearly 40 years they still look well-preserved. I'm referring to some of the tiny ferns, leaves, mosses, bark and flowers which I collected from the 1st Tahan Expedition. Not having had any particular or special training in plant specimen preservation, I simply pasted the ends
of each piece of fauna with scotch tape onto the pages of an exercise book.
I have no clue to the specimens' actual names.
The value to me will always be that they once were part of our collective experience in that remote rain forest of the Gunung Tahan region....back in 1969.
To many others, they see leaves, twigs, bark etc.. as nothing more than just that.
For me, it is an emotional thing. Something that money cannot buy since they were picked by me and carefully protected to this day even.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

1st Tahan Expedition, part 26..... A hero's WELCOME !

The report of our Gunung Tahan Achievement appeared in Malay, Chinese and English press....on Thursday 24 April 1969. Here is the original Straits Times report with photo.