NYAA Adventurous Journey
I am going to start this report by elaborating on my own understanding of the words ‘Adventurous Journey’ and what I think its all about. Personally to me, these word just mean that i complete 1 of the 5 components of NYAA, but taking a deeper look into it. These words can mean so many different things, on so many different levels. To me, its all about getting away from the bustling city life and secluding yourself in nature to understand yourself better or to reflect on your own life and how I can change it after the ‘journey’. ‘Adventurous’ Means to explore and discover more about myself when I’m thrown into all sorts of different situations while on the ‘Journey’. Basically, in Lehman terms, to take time off from life, sort of a holiday to heal the soul or to relax. Others ask me why don’t I go for something more relaxing like a resort but there is no purpose in that, there isn’t the feeling of accomplishment when you finish the journey and I believe the ‘Journey’ starts the moment I decided to go this trip.
Objectives for this trip was simple. Initially, I just wanted to experience for myself on how It would feel to climb a mountain and stay at base camp and etc. I wanted to be able to go through myself and tell myself I did it. I wanted time away from life in this bustling city. I yearned for the feeling of accomplishment and I wanted to reach the peak with my friends. That’s was the initial objectives but as I went through the preparation phase, many things changed. I was initially appointed the role of being the expedition leader and having taken the role I prepared myself emotionally and mentally to be able to help the team as much as I could and bring them up to the peak by any means possible. But some things changed and the roles switched. Motivation plummeted, hesitation came in and I even considered dropping out of the expedition but deep down I knew I still needed to finish this climb. So I picked myself up and went in search for more reasons, personal reason to why I needed to finish this expedition. So I came up with the following objectives,
- To relax
- To have fun
- To reflect
- To learn
- To discover more about myself
- To experience
- To change and improve myself
As I mentioned above, the preparation phase had a lot of ups and downs. Preparation itself is already the ‘Journey’. First of all so many things were changing as the weeks went by, we only had about 5 weeks to prepare ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally. Those 5 weeks weren’t easy at all but in the end it was worth all the hard work and commitment! % weeks were all we had to prepare logistics, get fit, confirm the people going and lastly the transport there. We were hit by loads of obstacles but we still managed to somehow overcome them and move forward ultimately fully prepare for the trip .
I start of with training regimes. As my role got switched, I was the IC for training. Many thoughts went through my mind while preparing the regime. ‘What Ifs’ came into my mind countless of times when I was trying to get the regime up and proper. Then there was the problem of commitment and timing of the trainings as well as consistency. I had the help of my second IC, Amelia and expedition advisor, Am, to help out with changing the regimes on the go depending on the situation and I am really thankful for the help. As many of us were either still schooling or working adults, trainings had to take place in the evening after work/school which makes it hard for everyone to be present for every training but I believe that everyone put in their utmost effort to come down to every training possible with regards their own schedule. We held training every Monday, Thursdays and Saturdays whereby we categorized Fitness, Endurance and Hiking/Trekking respectively. With the training regime put up, my heart was at ease for a bit. But that wasn’t the end of the obstacles we faced.
Another huge wall came up for the whole team. Which was the inconsistent number of people always coming in and dropping out. Personally to me, it was a huge drawback because if we couldn’t get someone up to pace in time, things would screw up and preparations could not be done properly and we would all suffer during the trip itself. It was a huge factor to the reason why my motivation to keep coming for training kept dropping. Eventually, I told myself that I could only rely on the ones who actually stayed and did their jobs because I believed they were serious about it. From then on, I managed to keep my motivation consistent with a few dips here and there but things were more constant for myself. Honestly, I had a very selfish outlook on the whole team but because of the situation and environment, I felt that I could only trust myself and a few others in the team and I kept with that mindset all the way up until the trip itself and even when on the trip. And when finally everything was finalized, and things started getting done, the selling out of train tickets to dabong hit us. Then we had to scramble to find another way to get ourselves to the base of the mountain.
One last obstacle that hit us was that the day before the expedition, our expedition leader fell sick and couldn’t come on the trip, followed by the safety 2IC who caught a fever and also couldn’t make the trip. When I first heard it, I felt that when the team found out, morale would really drop and I was afraid that things would really mess up this time, and there wasn’t much time to help change that fact nor was there anything that could be done. So I just totally ignore this feeling of mine and went ahead with the last minute preparations and packing of bagpacks. Finally the night before we headed out, the whole team sat down to give our honest thoughts about the team and also the whole ‘journey’ so far that had lead us to that point. The discussion went through smoothly and we prepared to leave the next day. So with that, it was the end of our preparation ‘Journey’ .
During the trip
Day 1: 19th Sept 2015
The whole team gathered to pack and even out logistics into our bagpacks as well as our own personal belongings. Dividing the load among each other went quite smoothly, with our bags all packed, we prepared to board the bus which was going to bring us all the way to the base of Mount Stong which was situated at Dabong, Jelawang Jungle. It was a grueling 12 hours bus ride that lasted thru the night. Whilst on the way to Dabong, we stopped by at Johor Bahru to procure the food Logistics that would last us through the whole trip.
Day 2: 20th Sept 2015
Having had rested the night on the road, we arrived in at the base of the mountain in the early morning around 7am. Having extra logistics to pack, we did our final packing as we distributed the load within the team. We were ready to set off. It was roughly about a 2 hour hike up with our 20kg loads to the base camp where we would set up our campsite that we would be staying at for the next few days.
Upon arrival of our base camp, Kem Baha, we breathed a sigh of relief but in actual fact we had loads of work ahead of us. Setting up the campsite was very sluggish due to hunger and exhaustion from our hike up, we had to persevere and finish it as quickly as possible. We split the team into different groups and started to set up the tents as well as the kitchen. To me, it felt very inefficient because none of us knew what we needed to do and everyone was just standing around waiting for things to happen. Roughly, 1 hour into building the campsite, we all decided to stop for lunch as things were not getting any better.
After we finished lunch, we reorganized ourselves and things were getting done quickly as well as more efficiently. Within the next 2 hour we managed to finish setting up the place where we’d be living in for the next few days regardless of rain or shine. There was this sense of accomplishment when all was done as we all sat down to admire this campsite that we built. It was my first as well as everyone’s but personally to me, I was ecstatic and proud of it. Once we settled down into our tents, we headed to the nearby waterfall to play around with water as well as a awesome slide down a rock face.
To me, it was sort of a reward for the effort we have put in up till thus far. It may have just been the start but I believed that’s reward like this give us all a boost of confidence as well as a chance to relax before the summit climb the next day. This relaxation time was also the way we cleaned ourselves up, in other words, to bath. I still remember the water being intensely cold and tingly as I submerged myself to relax. The water somehow felt magical to the point where there wasn’t a single sign of me feeling tired and exhausted from the day’s trip.
Once we were done with cleaning ourselves up, we all headed to the kitchen to start preparing dinner. Menu for the first night was Rice coupled together with popcorn chicken as well as stir fried veggie with oyster sauce. I can tell you for a fact, having such a nice meal together as a team in a circle, envelopes this sense of appreciation of each other’s company as well as how privileged we are when we are all in the bustling city. Having a simple meal like this especially with the same people who went through the same hardship to get to where we all went through. After finishing dinner, we all washed up the pots and utensils followed by a debrief for the day. Just a reflection on how our day unfolded and what could be done better the next day. Once debrief was done, we head for our much desired sleep as we all wanted to rest as well as catch sunrise the next morning.
Day 3: 21st Sept 2015
We woke up around 6am, stepped out of our tents feeling and breathing in the cold air, it was a whole new experience because the sun was not up and it felt as though it was still night time. Went about our business, followed by preparing lunch and breakfast for the summit climb later on in the day. Once we were done preparing breakfast, we headed to the top of a waterfall which opened up a wonderful view to the surrounding areas and mountain as we sat there having breakfast whilst waiting for the sun to rise.
Personally, when I sat there sipping my hot cup of coffee, I was taken in by the fog and atmosphere, as I watched the fog move and clear out showing the mountain peaks, roads and other houses, I realized that sometimes we cant see the fog when life gets hard, we are temporarily blinded by the hardship around us but we just have to be a little patient and wait for the fog to move on then we’d be able to see clearly where we want to go. As the fog cleared, the sun started to rise like an egg yolk, skies cleared, clouds turned orange, the skies glowed. Everything was so peaceful, it was like we were all being sucked into nature and it calmed me down. For once I really sat down to appreciate something that happens everyday but I’m just too hectic or busy to even take notice. And I realized that, we tend to become unappreciative of things that we are used to, unknowingly and unexcitingly, we don’t realize the absence of such things until we lose them.
We hung around for a little longer to enjoy the scenery and then headed back to the campsite to prepare for the summit climb. I believe in starting the day right and I believed we did. I felt things went pretty smoothly ensuing the preparation for the summit climb. It was going to be a grueling 4 hours climb through steep and slippery slopes and steps and river crossings. We didn’t know what laid ahead of us but everyone had the same goal in mind, to reach the summit. We began the climb around 930am hoping to reach around lunch time. We had a total of 5 checkpoints to rest before we reached the summit. The ascend went pretty well although it was really tough and grueling but we all made it to the top. The peak was just a large boulder and as we sat there eating our lunch. Many thoughts ran through my mind. The feeling of accomplishment didn’t hit me, I don’t know why but maybe it’s just because I was feeling very tired. But honestly, the peak was sort of disappointing to me because I was expecting a nice scenery but we were just surrounded by trees. We had a short rest atop the boulder then we decided to descend. I was so focused on the ascend I forgot that I had to descend and that’s where I starting thinking of my past injuries and how it would affect the descend. Many people think that the descend is easy but to me it was harder than the ascending because of the constant stress on your knees and legs from stepping down. Due to the terrain around us, many of slipped and fell down slippery rocks and steps as high as our faces. Although the descend was faster, it was more tiring as we had to be even more aware of our surroundings and where we were stepping. The descend took roughly about 3 hours and by the time we reached the campsite, the sun was setting already. We still had loads of things to do but we were all shagged out. As much as we wanted to rest, we had to get moving. We had a quick wash up and we started preparing dinner. Dinner was Spaghetti! Somehow the meal was scrumptious maybe because we were just all too tired and worn out. Nonetheless, once dinner was done, we washed up and gathered again for a debrief of the day. It was then that it hit us that we had accomplished what we had set out to do. This feeling was great. Once we were done with the debrief, honest opinions came up and we had a very open session whereby we just said what we had been holding on inside our hearts about the trip and team in general. It was an enriching day and night for me as I found out what others thought of me and how I viewed so I had time to reflect and improve myself. Halfway through the session, it started raining very heavily. It was the highlight of the trip to me! Mother nature was putting our campsite to the test. We were tested and we prevailed. Although the ladies tents were flooded, we managed to adapt and react and make decisions based on the situation. The rain was relentless, the guys were soaking wet helping to move stuff over to different tents and making drainage trenches for the water to not flow through. Eventually, we had everyone in the guys tent. By the time we all had settled down, it was already 1am. We quickly settled on what time to wake up the next day and went to sleep. It really was a whole new experience. It showed me that mother nature always wins no matter what. As much as you can prepare for it, mother nature takes over.
Day 4: 22nd Sept 2015
We woke up around 630am to prepare breakfast and lunch. As the sun had already risen, we saw what the rain had done to our the campsite through the night. We knew what we had to and we set out to do it. As some prepared breakfast, the rest went about to tear down the campsite. An amazing thing happened as we went about our business, suddenly the fog came swooping through the campsite. It felt as though we were in a dream and I felt like I wasn’t on earth, I never knew such beauty existed! We admired the phenomenon for a little while as it went through the whole campsite then continued doing what we needed to do. We overlooked the amount of time we needed to have breakfast and tear down the campsite. We were behind schedule, but we had to do things proper. Eventually we finished up 2 hours behind schedule and began our descend with our 20kg loads yet again. Having been through the trail, we knew what lay ahead in wait for us but this time more slippery because of the rain the previous night. By the time we reached the base of the mountain. It was about 2pm. We celebrated for a while then headed to bath at the nearby toilet. Well, needless to say, after not bathing properly for the past few days, the shower was oh so heavenly. It was more than refreshing, it was godly! Once we were all done with showering, we boarded the bus and prepared to head back to Singapore. It was yet another long ride throughout the night but this time, all we wanted to do was just to sleep! And so we did.
Day 5: 23rd Sept 2015
We arrived at CAMP CHALLENGE SEMBAWANG at around 4am. We settled into our dormitory and started unpacking our bags. Putting out the tents and bags to air through the night. Followed by a well deserved macdonalds breakfast. We all went to bed. Woke up around 12 noon, had lunch and set out to keep the logistics we had put out to dry. Once we were done, we sat down to have a final debrief and that ended the expedition.
Well, the past week flew by, and I couldn’t believe that I had finished conquering the mountain. I was reflecting on myself and my attitude and reexamining my life. Looking for ways to further improve myself in every aspect in life. Re-evaluating my priorities and my choices. The trip was honestly fulfilling to me. It allowed me to take a step back and readjust my views and also myself. One question stuck in my mind during the final debrief. “What did you gain and lose?” Not particular to gain but its what I loss, other would have thought what can you lose when you go on such a trip? But then to me, a loss doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a bad thing. A loss can be turned into a gain. My answer to that question was that I lost the feeling of taking many things for granted. When we were up in the mountains, we were stripped of the daily devices in which we are all addicted to using. Even commodities were taken away, how does one survive like that? I asked myself that question but nature showed me that you can live without these. If there isn’t a bathroom, bath in the river. If there isn’t a toilet, dig a hole. If you have something to say to someone, use your mouth and tell it to them instead of turning to social media on electronic devices. These are the some of the things that I lost during the trip, but then again, it is a gain too. Up till today, I still cannot believe that I had finished all these and time flies. Its back to reality for me and time for me to use this experience to my advantage and move forward in life.
Lastly, to end everything off! I would like to thank the whole team, including everyone we originally wanted to join but somehow couldn’t. I would like to specially thank Am, Sara, Norman, Yu Ling and Amelia. I believed that this trip would not have been so fulfilling if not for these people. Am for his guidance and showing us his vast knowledge with regards to mountain climbing. Sara and Norman for being the best Chair and vice-chairperson for this trip. Yu Ling for the admin support that may seem like little to the untrained eye but it was a lot more. Amelia for being my awesome buddy as well as helping me out with the training regimes. And lastly, the team as a whole because I wouldn’t have it any other way. Thank you all very much!