At about 7:10am yesterday morning, a group of 23 people assembled at the Kibambangan Resort, about 10 minutes' drive from Donggongon town. They consisted of doctors, triathletes, marathoners, RPM instructor, and other sports enthusiasts. They had one thing in common—they were all nutcases who would sacrifice their Sunday to torture themselves by walking miles and miles into the hilly jungle.
We were supposed to start trekking no later than 7:15am, but because we are true Malaysians, it was 7:45am when we finally embarked on the journey. Before we started, however, Dr Helen declared that "this is my backyard", and took it upon herself to conduct a briefing.
We turned attentive faces to her, while making last checks on our backpacks.
In the crowd were the newly inducted Port Dickson Triathlete, Teo Chen Lung and his friend Alex Tay. By the way, Teo was the most hi-tech trekker in the group. He had on him a state-of-the-art mobile phone, Solomon shoes, cap and hydration belt, heart rate monitor, knee guard, Compression calf tights, a Camel Bak pack with a 2-litre capacity bladder, and an Oakley Jawbourne shade worth RM1,200. Before starting on the journey though, he took the time to distribute the hardcopy registration form for the Miri Triathlon. I will discuss with Helen later if we should charge him some sort of royalty for promoting the Miri Triathlon during this training session.
Anyway, I was lucky to have had a short conversation with the Chok sisters, though actually that conversation was merely because they wanted me to take a photo of them together. Anyway, as you can see, tights don't look so good on men, if you know what I mean.
Interestingly, Cherylanne, the girl holding the camera loved her Solomon trail running shoes so much that she decided to leave them at home. Instead, she wore ordinary running shoes for the occasion.
A quick group photo before the nightmare began. I reminded everyone to smile as that could be the last time they'd smile for the whole morning.
The group photo done with, we made a slow procession across a hanging bridge, and then up a fairly steep climb for a good 20 minutes or so. It was around then that Boyd, Stephenie and John started running up the slope like mountain goats, while the rest of us could only watch enviously.
It was also about then that Teo announced that his heart rate had risen to 134, which was somewhat surprising, since it was observed to be at only 34 when he was having his fried noodle during breakfast.
Dr Felice, who was joining us for the first time had quite a good warm-up during that first few minutes and took a short break to pose for a photo. Felice has been an extraordinary specimen in that she has always demonstrated that her unorthodox training method can work equally well. She likes to do things her own way...
After a few minutes on the trail, the crowd began to spread further and further apart into smaller groups. Teo and Alex decided to stick together. After all, Teo's motto has always been "Slow & Easy"; though according to him for this particular outing, it was more like "Slow & Not Easy".
However, he did pick up a bit of speed later on when he reached the dirt road. And as you can see Claire was quite determined to catch up with him.
Further ahead, Teo was still going strong. Well, OK, at least he appeared to be strong still. Claire was still chasing after him.
Having suffered a severe cramp 2 weeks ago, Mia decided to play safe this time by going slow but consistent pace—a strategy that paid off handsomely.
I failed to reach Terian during the last two attempts, so I was quite determined to make it this time. I went a little faster this time and found myself in the leading pack with Dr Liaw. But later on, Boyd, Stephenie and John came from behind. Apparently, they had gone the wrong way for a bit before realising it, and then only now caught up with us. In a jiffy they overtook me and I had to walk in solitude for a bit until Dr Joseph came along. We walked for some minutes before finally arriving at this small shed where we met the leading pack again behaving as if they were waiting for a bus.
Beyond that shed, it was more or less gently undulating for some minutes before going downhill approaching Terian. I continued walking with Dr Joseph. Along the way, I could hear plenty of chattering sounds from the trees. But those were not the Predators of the movies. We also did not come into contact with any 10-foot-tall blue creatures with USB port at the tip of their ponytail hair.
All the way into Terian, I was conscious of the downhill path. I knew that we would have to pass this way on the return leg. The minutes passed and before we knew it, we could hear the sound of running water. It was a river, and I knew that we were already close to Terian. As we crossed a shallow river by jumping on boulders, we came up on the other side, and after a short climb, Dr Joseph suddenly threw up his hands to the heavens and exclaimed "At last!". And I could almost smell lunch!
We came to a hanging bridge which was desperately in need of refurbishment. As we crossed the bridge in the best of Indianna Jones fashion, we were pleasantly surprised by sounds of applause from below. Boyd, Stephenie, John and Dr Liaw were having a dip in the river below. My excitement mounted.
I was about to join them at the river when I suddenly realised that a leech was happily feasting on my left foot.
And if you're having trouble spotting it, here's another shot without my shoe. Can you see it now?
For the benefit of those who're not familiar with this parasite, let me tell you that it is no thicker than a matchstick. An amazing creature which is very primitive—it has no eyes, yet it can sense blood from several metres away! It somehow found its way onto my leg, moved all the way down, and from the surface of a thick sock, was able to sense blood flowing in my veins. It's such an efficient blood sucker. And it's also a damn greedy little bugger too. Although it had extracted blood as much as 10 times the volume of its body, it still won't stop; it kept sucking. In fact, it's almost as greedy, and as scary, as our politicians, if you know what I mean!
Well, after I dealt with the little leech, I went down to the river to join the rest. Oh! the river felt so nice.
One by one the rest in the group arrived across the hanging bridge above. I was quite surprised to see Claire, followed by the other girls (Teo, you should really come back for a rematch with Claire). Not far behind, Teo was happily approaching Terian. See for yourself!
I was still at the river when Judy arrived and took this shot from the hanging bridge. I still think men don't look very good in tights.
Later on, Jiki arrived and found that she, too, donated some blood to the little creatures. In fact, most of us did!
After the relaxing dip in the river, we made our way up the hill to where Helen had arranged for lunch.
Dr Liaw decided to tease the women in the group with his sexy white legs, whereas I went topless. I'm thinking maybe I should consider wearing a sports bra next time? We opted not to do the pole dancing though, because we had to conserve some energy for the return journey.
It wasn't some half an hour later when Mia finally arrived for lunch. We were counting heads and wondering where's Felice when she made her big entrance. Instead of crossing the river on the hanging bridge, she just had to be different—she approached Terian from who-knows-where, crossed the river wading thigh-deep water and lived to tell the tale! (Did I say she likes to do things her own way?)
After lunch, we had to quickly prepare for the return trip. It was by then that we realised that Dr Soma had already given up and turned back to Kibambangan. So did Tan and her husband, Alex. Janet got the cramp and had to turn back with Elisia. Cherylanne's shoes got torn and had to turn back about 10 minutes from Terian. The moral of the story is to use the Solomon shoes for what they're designed to do; not leave them at home.
On the way back, it started to pour, resulting in very slippery paths. The descent was especially tricky and I slipped a few times. Later on I overtook some of them who started earlier, and finally caught up with Cherylanne who had by then abandoned her shoes in the jungle (I wonder if the Penampang District Council would fine her for littering in the jungle) and had a pair of oversized flipflop instead, courtesy of the kind Terian folks. It was kinda fun watching the sisters bickering at each other like the sound of jentik-jentik nyamuk aedes.
Well, I reached Kibambangan again at about 4:13pm and had to wait a little over an hour before Mia arrived with Dr Felice. And shortly after we left Kibambangan, it began to rain lions and wolves.
Later in the evening, I was still admiring the skill of the leech in locating the veins in my foot with amazing precision.
Well, I wonder if it will be a little easier the next time we go to Terian, but I doubt it. I dread to think of going even further to Buayan. But we'll see what happens next..