In preparing my team members for the coming Mt Kinabalu climb on 2 Aug this year, I planned a training hike at Gunung Pulai on 14 July, Sunday. At first it was meant for the team of 14 of us but not all can make it, I therefore posted on meet up site inviting other keen members to join us too. Finally, I had 25 confirmed but two withdrew at last hour due to sickness. Some of my regular outdoor kakis did join me too and they were Dora, CK, Long Chua, Catherine and Kevin Soh.
Gunung Pulai stands at about 800 metres high is located in Pontian, Johor and it takes slightly more than an hour drive after clearing immigration on both sides. The route from the base of the mountain to the furthest point is 5 km. It is a popular exercise site for the locals too. The plan was to trek up twice, and total distance covered is 20 km but some can choose to do one round instead. There is no hard and fuss rule.
We left Marsiling MRT Station at about 0730 hrs. The plan was to leave at 0700 hrs sharp but I 'booed-booed' when I realised some trains at some stations depart later on Sunday. I was stranded at Bishan interchange for good 20 minutes and therefore, for the first time as event organiser I arrived 10 mins late. One lesson learnt for me for not checking on train departure on Sunday, only to assume everything should be the same. Nonetheless, all was well and we managed to leave at 0730 hrs. There was no jam at Woodlands check-point and very soon, we were cleared and on the way. We even stopped at Perling for quick breakfast.
It was drizzling in the morning in Singapore but rain stopped before we left for Johor. The weather looked somewhat gloomy in Johor, threatening to rain anytime but it was cool. I was hoping the weather will hold until we finish our hike. It took a little while for our driver to find the place but our driver had to gingerly maneuver in the tight space that leads to the foot of the mountain where we were to set foot. This being a weekend, there were plenty of cars parked on either side of the road. The weather was still cool though it looked gloomy.
Before 1000 hours, we were ready to move off. Some in the group were planning to do 2 rounds and some just one round only. I have had trekked up Gunung Pulai on few occasions and I am quite familiar with the route. Majority in the group including Dora, CK, Long Chua and Catherine were there for the first time. For Kevin, it was his second. Though it is tared road all the way to the summit but the elevation at some points can be quite steep, almost 45 degree. This is a good training ground for those who are attempting Mt Kinabalu as the path at Gunung Pulai terrain is almost the same as Mt Kinabalu in the final push to the summit.
Along the way, we met a group of runners in their specially designed red tee and everyone had a number tag on them. After chatting with some, we realised the run event was organised by Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. It is not easy running up and I really salute some who actually ran up and ran down. An idea suddenly sprung to my mind. How about a charity run event at Gunung Pulai in the near future? I think it can be quite fun and meaningful too. Yes, it is in the pipeline soon.
When I finished one round and waited at the base to see if anyone from my Mount Kinabalu team can go for another round. Milan was already on his second round. I then went for my second round. Even though I exercise regularly, attempting second round can be quite taxing too. Dora, Catherine, CK and Kevin stopped at one round but Long Chua went for the second round. At some point, he even ran up.
At the u-turn point, I waited a while for the rest to arrive. Though I hoped many could reach the summit on second round but I had to make sure we won't end up too late. There were some who did one round were still waiting at the base for the rest of us. I decided that the cut-off was about 1330 hrs as it will take an hour or so to reach the base. I met Jimmy, one of my Mt Kinabalu team who was near the u-turn but I had to ask him to turn back. So too were Rio and Hui Wen. Rio had a heavy load on her small frame, I reckoned it weighed some seven kilograms and puffed & huffed, she still managed at least one and two third round when she was turned back by me. Had time was not the factor, she could have finished two full rounds with a heavy pack on her. I was impressed by her feat.
Everyone arrived and accounted for and by 1500 hrs, we headed to Bukit Indah Shopping Centre for two hours of leisure shopping before going home. It was a good training for some of us who will be going to Mt Kinabalu and I am confident my team members will do well.