The stars at night are like fairy dust, there are so many. The vastness of the country, the green and golden plains, the silhouettes of sharp trees against immense, empty can feel your soul expanding. The animals - things you have only seen in the zoo, roaming freely, masters of their own space. Brightly-coloured birds popping out of the bush like confetti. From the tent, lying in your silken sleeping bag, just listening to all the sounds of the natural world - the calls and hoots and thudding of hoofs, the wind through the leaves, the crackle of the campfire. Absolutely magical. - Min

Monday, January 31, 2011

My bedtime reading lately has been Altitude Illness: Prevention and Treatment by Steven Bezruchka. It somehow comforts me.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Kluang Kaya Roti Rail Trail

Kluang is 3 hrs from Singapore by train which makes it the perfect 1 day destination for taking a joy ride out of the Tanjong Pagar KTM train station before it's gone for good. I was very touched when Lillian (who swore off all inclines after Kinabalu), Chin Chin and Bhas agreed to sacrifice their precious Saturday to explore the charms of Kluang with me.

The best time to get to the train station is before 7 am. You sit down at the M. Hasan station canteen for a cuppa teh tarik and do your train spotting as the morning sun peeks over the tracks which seem to go on for eternity.

There is something terribly romantic about this little piece of Malaysia which lives in the heart of the city. Can't really put my finger on it - whether it is the the surly train ticket guy who breaks out into a smile when he recognizes that you're taking a ride for nostalgia sake "taking a joy ride?", or the chugga chugga of the train setting off from the tracks which run right up to the tables.

Mainly though, it is the knowledge that we are all passing through as transients in this joy ride called life and the good things don't always last.


800 - Train departs from Tanjong Pagar
1045 - Kaya roti and rail coffee
1230 -Trek up Gunung Lambak
1630 - Rest and eat
1800 - Return to Singapore

How to get train tickets

This grand old lady plays hard to get. There is no online booking and you can't buy many days in advance. Ticket sales only open 24 hrs and you can only buy them by personally attending at the ticket counter.

Breakfast at Kluang's famous Rail Coffee

We had breakfast at Kluang's famous Rail Coffee joint with charcoal toasted roti kaya and frothy milk tea - one of the best in Malaysia. I have the soft boiled egg fetish so I snapped lots of photos.

Everyone was still laughing and smiling at this time. Well, this was before we went to Gunung Lambak...

Gunung Lambak

Was simply beautiful.

It started to rain just as we faced a steep incline - but this is where it got really fun. Always, always there were thoughts of turning back but everyone soldiered on, holding on to large tree roots - God's natural facility for climbing up a rain forest and scrambling over large rocks. It was a 2 hour uphill struggle.

At the summit, we celebrated with a group of Kluang teenagers who did the climb same time as us. I was really impressed by their footwear: sandals and flip flops!

Journey home

While drying off from the rain in the Rail Coffee joint, everyone blamed me for misrepresenting on the level of difficulty of the trek and made loud noises of protest. Chin shed some blood.

Dead pan expression from Lillian says it all.

But since I get to claim the narrative for this post, I can say that it was a very happy time - I got my train ride, Gunung Lambak and the company of good friends...lured by the kaya roti and bonded in adventure.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


4 rounds in a row yesterday night - next week it will be 5 rounds in a row! Then we'll do 6 in a row... : ) Then maybe we can try for 8 rounds one morning, before the trip.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Getting cold feet

Over chocolate cake and warm tea, I met up with Soo and Wansie for the cold hard facts. In their 30's with no health issues, they left for Kili on Christmas and completed the trek via the Machame Route.

Soo, a 4 hr marathoner, had a throbbing headache most of the time. On day 4, she took Diamox and the headache disappeared for the summit push. Wansie, made it to the Barafu hut without any prior training - just avoiding the summit push because her heart was pounding at 120 bpms at rest.

As I made notes, my stomach churned as if I was experiencing AMS without being there.

So, wow. Start from the top, the flight?

W: At BK's airport counter, check that bags are through using your luggage tags.

Flight from BK to Nairobi – no inflight entertainment and food basic. Smelly. A lot of men who take off their shoes. Try to sleep and eat before the flight bound for Nairobi. Flight time is 10 hours with 2 meals. Plane is smallish and colours of the carpet are dark blue, very dirty looking. Bring your neck pillow, they supply one but it is small.

Nairobi airport has 2 cafes one near gate 14 and one at gate 4. It is a boring airport with alcohol and chocolate shops. Bring basic toiletries to clean and freshen in Nairobi airport. Very important that you bring Yellow Fever card. Confirm that Singaporeans don’t need visa. At Kilimanjaro airport, bag collection is fast and someone will be there to meet you.


W: Most groups get a packed lunch. Lunch is in a cardboard box, banana, fried chicken and a sad sad sandwich and maybe a muffin, sometimes nuts, cookies, juice. They had a similar packed lunch on safari again.

Dinner is a hot soup, stew and rice or stew and pasta. And some fruits, coffee. Tea, milo. Classic worst meal was a pasta with corn beef sauce.

Breakfast is bread, egg omelette and sausage. Quite oily but eat as much breakfast as you can. Bring bakwa, cup noodles, anything which agrees with you because sometimes you have no appetite.

The trek

S: Most difficult thing about the trek was that it was very long and extended. First day, it rained after lunch, shoes completely soaked. 6 hour hike took 7 hours. It was cold by the first evening. Very tired. Damp wet, all you see are many trees. Go toilet, very cold. Too cold to wear wet shoes.

Had throbbing headache by dinner. Crawled into sleeping bag and crashed. Had to go toilet many times at night.

Toilet is very smelly. Need the headlamp for the night. If you can stand the cold, the stars are nice but you can’t stand outside for long.

W: Everyday, I had 2 questions for the guide. 1) What is tomorrow's trek going to be like? 2) If i decide to quit, is there a short route down?

So, what d'you do in the evening? Don't you sing songs by the campfire?

There is no campfire and singing – nothing. Either you are in tent, meal tent or toilet.

Gosh, what were your feelings after the first day?

W: Felt regret the first night. Negative thoughts, I said to Soo: I want to get off the mountain.

S: I wanted to cry. Some tears came out.

General Tips

W: Bring small plastic bags to throw things away in tent (10). Wet wipes - can get big ones called TENA from the adult diaper section (40 pack). Big, thick and good for wiping down.Wear wool socks to sleep. Keep 1 dedicated set of dry sleeping thermals for sleeping. Wear tights under pants. Don’t need to wear short sleeve t shirts. Mostly use long sleeves because it is too cold.

By the 3rd day, you will need your gloves and beanie. There was frost on the tent by the 3rd morning.

How much did you drink?

S: Drank 3-4 litres a day. I used a camelback with 2 litres and had 1 litre water bottle. When I ran out of water, I drank Wansie's water.

W: I drank 2 litres. Had two 1 litre Nalgene bottles. I don't drink much. Water tastes awful, with sediments. We told the porters we had no purification tablets to ensure that they would boil the water.

Is a hydration bag useful?

S: Yes, think I drank more with a hydration tube. Recommend something to flavour the water - I used an electrolyte powder called Nuun.

What does a 7 hour trek feel like?

W: Process driven, planning each step. We kept quiet as we walked but some groups were talking. I don't know if that helps to make the trek more bearable.

S: From day 2, it was more than 1 second a step. There were no rest huts. When you rest, you rest on a rock. The mountain was crowded.

Can I go up in my Tevas?

S: No, too cold. I brought 2 pairs of shoes, a trail runner and walking shoes. Used walking shoes from day 3.

The Summit

S: I did a day summit, it was very good. Less tiring than a night one. The guide was not sociable, but very experienced in bringing people up the mountain. When he saw that we were not eating, he suggested to shorten the trek to 6 days and do a day summit. He was very patient. I was panting like mad but I had no headache. About 10 metres away from the summit, I wanted to stop but the guide held my hand and walked me up.

W: I paced at the base for 8 hours waiting for Soo. Some people thought I was mad. If I was well enough to pace around, then I should be making the push for the summit but it was enough for me and my heart was pounding.

Random thoughts

S: Not the same joy as Nepal or Kinabalu. It was very foggy. Saw a lot of mist. Experienced rain, hail and snow. Porters say that the Rongai route is the easiest one.

W: Bring lots of socks - so that you get a fresh pair everyday.

S: I will never do a mountain again!