Archive for the ‘outdoors’ Category

Pulau Ubin, or the Tile Island is probably the last place in Singapore where you can get a feel of some village life. (Technically it’s an offshore island, so it’s not really on Singapore mainland,but it’s still part of Singapore).

We decided to check it out on Singapore’s National Day, Aug 9,2012.  Us being a group of seven guys, and the rendezvous time at Changi Point ferry terminal was at 9:30 am. Since, four of us shared a flat, we were first to reach at 9:30 am. However, the rest of them didn’t turn up till 10:30 am owing to some unforeseen circumstances like getting up late, not getting a cab on time etc. etc. After venting our feelings when they finally arrived, we started on the queue.

After about a short wait , we boarded a bumboat towards Ubin, which is about 10 min away from mainland. After taking turns at posing and hunting for that perfect Facebook profile pic, we reached the island without further ado.

Once on the island, we were greeted by lots of bicycle shops and some restaurants.  We were forewarned , so we booked quite good-looking, new bicycles with full suspension at 20$ apiece. Unfortunately, the baskets had run out, so we were left to carry our backpacks on our backs. I also got hold of a map, which however, didn’t prove to be of much use, as there are neat instructions, all across the island.

After cycling about 800m from the shop, there was a split in the road,one which took us to the Chek Jawa wetlands(far east), and the other to Ketam Mountain Bike Park, (north-west). Since, the time was around 11:30 already, and the low tide time had gone by,  we decided to ride straight to the bike park.

Another ride for 10 min, and we all got thirsty as soon as we saw a shop selling coconut water. We had our fill , clicked some more pics and then rode till the bike park.

The bike park is huge, about 8-9 Km and has several paths for beginners, intermediates (blue square),experts(black diamond) and super experts(double black diamonds). We decided to stick to a blue intermediate trail, about 900m in length. The bike park is just next to the sea-shore, so you catch glimpses of the sea in between. After the first trail was covered,  we paused to catch our breath. One amongst us had recently been back to home in  India, and had brought some goodies. We had an amazing snacks break, and clicked some more.

From that spot onwards there were 3 marks: a blue, a black and a double black. Buoyed by a sudden flush of adrenaline, no doubt by the food we just had, the consensus was to try out a double D. However, since none of us could even see the path through the trees and boulders, we decided to give it a miss. Goals readjusted, we ventured for the single D. The climb was steep, narrow, and frankly too much for us. But we powered on, only this time,not on our bikes. The entire track(barring the first 10 metres or so) was covered on foot, with our head (and bikes) held high.

Finally, we came to a gentler slope and since the sea-shore was just beckoning us, we decided to take a dip. The water was not very clean, but nevertheless the swim was refreshing. After some more hilarious photo shoots, as can only happen if there are seven guys in their pants, we decided it was time to move on.

After another coconut water/beer break , we decided to ride back to the jetty. There are some excellent slopes coming back from the park towards the jetty and we had a great time absolutely zapping through the descents with gay abandon. Soon, the time to take a decision was again upon us. Towards the left, was Chek Jawa, a 2.4 Km journey, while the jetty lay close by , on the right , invitingly within a km. The last slope seemed to have raised everyone’s spirits for the majority of us agreed to go towards Chek Jawa. There were a few murmurs among some of them, but they were nipped in the bud as a couple of us quickly started cycling.

This 2.4 Km is the most difficult part of the journey with rocky roads, and seemingly endless inclines. However, the journey is well worth the destination. After docking our bikes at Punai Hut, we walked the last few yards. We were soon greeted by a family of wild boars .

There are 3 spots at Chek Jawa: 2 board walks and an observation tower overlooking the sea. The tower is pretty high, and our legs felt like lead, when we had to drag ourselves up. But once up, you get some amazing views and , yes you guessed it right, some great photo-ops.

We also managed to go to the board walks, but since it was a high tide then, there was very little on view. The sea creatures are on view during the low tides, since Chek Jawa is an intertidal wetland. Since, by this time, we were really feeling hungry, owing to the prolonged cycling, we decided to ride straight back to the jetty and catch the boat back to the mainlands. The track back from Chek Jawa is way easier than the one which goes to it.

Finally, we returned back our bikes, boarded the bumboat back to the mainland. We had a quite filling lunch at a restaurant in Changi Point, the quality of food on offer no doubt enhanced with our ravenous hunger.  That was the end to an extremely nice outing, and for a change, it didn’t burn a hole in our pockets in Singapore.

P.S: We went for an hour of table tennis, followed by an hour of swimming when we came back. Yes, you can call us crazy!! 🙂

How to go there ? Go to Changi Point, board a bumboat, rent a bike, have fun.

Pointers : Can carry the following:

  • Extra pair of footwear/clothing to change into for the journey home.
  • Get a hat/cap.
  • Get some water, though there are plenty of coconut water stalls.
  • umbrella (u never know when it rains in Singapore)
  • Sunscreen: if u don’t fancy sunburns
  • Some food(Nothing Indian/vegetarian) – plus the only restaurants are at the jetty.
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Gaga over Scuba!

Posted: August 6, 2012 in outdoors
Tags:

I want to dive deep and explore the underwater wonders! While that may suggest me as being a “liquid” “adventurous” soul, its stretching the truth a little thin.

AquaPhobia

As a kid I was petrified of water, thanks to a family friend who had let go of a myopic 8 year old in a humongous pond. (I come from a suburb which produced Bula Chowdhury http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bula_Choudhury , the first woman to cross the seven seas and huge water bodies are(were,thanks to the recent spate of construction) numerous around my area) .

It was “his” way of teaching me to swim. However, that one dive scarred my psyche for good for at least a decade or so. A good 10 years later, after my board examination , I finally decided to exorcise the demon for good and asked a kindly soul to teach me to swim. This time the “dighi”(colloquial for water pool) was the largest water body in my district.Coupled with the fact that I was practically blind without my glasses, the sight of the vast pool did nothing to soothe my nerves.However, I persevered and did manage to start swimming after 3 or 4 days I reckon. I had learnt to swim,but I didn’t love water.Not yet. Very quickly the break passed,and my next swimming moment came 6 years next, in Bangalore, in a small pool.It was hardly 15 metres long and I struggled to cross it even then. That was a very costly paying guest accommodation and with our meagre salaries, I and some of my college mates decided to search for a house. “The end” of my swimming in Bangalore.

In Singapore

Fast forward three years later, I travel to Singapore, I and some of my colleagues end up renting a condo which has a swimming pool. Within 2 months of renting the condo, we went to ‘Phuket’, probably the best place to go vacationing if you love the waters.I didn’t. I had a blast nevertheless owing to some cool friends. Even though, I snorkelled  for some time,I didn’t venture out too much.But I saw enough to understand what I was missing. Unfortunately, the condo had a gym as well, the lure of buffing up was nigh impossible to ignore. And since I am a normal human being, I couldn’t prioritize more than 2 things at the same time,so swimming again went to the back burner.

In Love

About 2 more years had passed,and I got a new flat mate,an expert swimmer who again took me to the pool.After about two more months of practising on and off,yesterday I was able to complete my first 100 metres at a single stretch and it was an exhilerating feeling.More importantly, for the first time in my life, I loved being in water. I always try to understand the “why” of things. A big reason was that I had started wearing lens. I have noticed that it’s very difficult for me to exhale under water if I close my eyes. So, the fear of water was not just fear of water, but also fear of darkness or being unable to see. So maybe sometimes,its easier to circumvent a small problem to solve a bigger one. Also, the presence of a better skilled person always helps. Yes, this is something you have to take with a pinch of salt, as being second “always” is NO fun. But improvement is what matters.

SCUUUBAAAA

I plan to go the whole hog, be NAUI certified as a diver and and as I gleaned from  http://makosubaquatics.com/ I still have to go someway before I even take the test(200 m swim, 15 min underwater swim, 10 min treading). I am probably midway through all of them. So here’s wishing me the best of luck to complete this by September end.

To scuba diving!!