Happy Tioman Memories

tioman sunset

My favorite holiday was when I went to Pulau Tioman during my childhood years. I went with my dad, mum, younger brother and youngest sister. I was only 14 but for some reason I remember the trip vividly. Perhaps because I learned to snorkel for the first time during that trip, or because I have a memory of clinging onto my dad for dear life in the waters (although I was wearing a life jacket) or because I was just feeling happy and excited during the holiday. We don’t need a specific reason to be happy don’t we?

We departed from Singapore to Mersing via bus. The journey was about 2 hours, after which we took a ferry from Mersing to Pulau Tioman as the island is only accessible via sea transportation. My siblings and me were so excited that we were going on holiday! No matter how busy my parents were with work, they will always make sure to bring us on a holiday at least once or twice a year during our school holidays.

As for us kids, it didn’t matter how near or far they brought us, as long as it was a holiday and it was out of the country. Sometimes we would go just as one family, and sometimes we would go in a bigger group with the rest of my cousins, uncles and aunties. Alhamdulillah, I have happy memories of my childhood holidays which I have to be thankful for my parents for planning and organizing these trips for us.

At Tioman Island, we stayed in this very rustic 2-bedroom chalet with one bathroom. I remember seeing big ants in the bathroom (like I said, very rustic…) and avoiding it while showering. Surprisingly, I wasn’t very scared of it, just a little squirmy haha. It was also football season so I have a memory of my dad going to the open-air restaurant watching the match (there was no TV in our chalet, hotel policy – must be the no distractions kind of chalet) together with a couple of guys while we hung around enjoying the cooling sea breeze. Ahh I also remember the delicious seafood that was served, it was so fresh and yummy.

Recently, I went to Tioman Island again in 2011 and was pleasantly surprised to find that the resort had been expanded and renovated. In addition to the chalet, they added more types of rooms such as honeymoon suite and deluxe chalet which comprised of 2-storeys; this was where we stayed for my recent trip with my cousins. However, I am glad that although they have expanded the place and have had more visitors these years, the quality of the island still maintains somewhat the same as 10 years ago.

Renggis Island, where we went for snorkeling, still had beautifully maintained corals and clear waters. I say this because this is different from Manukan Island in Sabah, where the influx of visitors have led to a deterioration in the quality of corals and snorkeling experience there isn’t fun because you can’t really see anything much due to the less clear waters. But I guess that is just for the overpopulated tourist spots in Sabah because I do know that Sabah has amazing waters as well and I have not experienced it yet – like scuba diving at Sandakan one day please.

Daily Prompt: Memories of Holidays Past

My Kinabalu Story: Chapter 5 – Set and Sail

This is the last installment to the “My Kinabalu Story” series. I will be blogging about my Krabi trip in 2009 next! 🙂

padas_keretapi lama hijau

We woke up at 3am to get ready to get to Padas river, which was a 3-hour bus ride and 20 min-train ride away. The train only operates thrice a day; 8.30am, 1.30pm and 5.30pm and we wanted to catch the morning train, so we pried ourselves from the bed in the wee hours of the morning despite our aching bodies from the previous day’s climb.

padas_kaunter tiket padas_inside keretapi padas_keretapi lama

We are here! The area near Padas river is a peaceful village with schools and village houses surrounded by amazing scenic views of the mountains and a whole lot of greenery.

padas_stesen pangi padas_welcome

padas kampung house

Local boys assisting to pump and transport the rafts to the start point of the river.

padas_angkatpadas_push

Andddd we’re off! Woohoo!

padas river rafting padas river rafting team 2 padas river rafting submerged

Tunggang terbalik semua (we were all messed up flipped upside down and all…) but, good thing none of us fell out of the raft and our raft did not capsize. That would have been pretty terrifying and a whole lot of trouble…

masjid ar-rahman

After all the awesome kecohrable rafting, we then headed off to Masjid Ar-Rahman to wash up, pray and head back on our 3-hour bus ride to KK central – which took longer due to the evening traffic. Dinner and buying souvenirs followed after that, as it was our final night at KK.

Parasailing and Snorkeling

parasailing two balloons

On the last day we went to Manukan Island for some water activities! Snorkeling and my first time parasailing. We gathered at Jesselton Point to board the boat after having our breakfast. Our flight was in the afternoon so this was the last activity we managed to squeeze before heading home.

jesselten point entrance jesselton boats manukan island

Parasailing was a whole lot of fun! Basically the rope is tied to the boat and we have to wear a harness that will secure us to the “balloon”, and then the boat driver will drive the boat and off we go! You can choose to ride it solo or in pairs. Once above, you can see a birds’ eye view from above with amazing scenic views of the picturesque mountains surrounding the islands. While we were “flying”, dja and me were like aaah-ing, ooh-ing, happily squealing “bestnye! cantiknye SubhanAllah!” before enjoying moments of peace and just quietly enjoying the beautiful view. It was an amazing experience Alhamdulillah. Would love to do this with my husband one day insyaAllah, mesti romantic. Hehe.

parasailing from boat ropeparasailing boatparasailing_mus ez2parasailing_mus ezdja n me at snorkel

Anyhoo after this it was home sweet home as we had a plane to catch back to Singapore. Boo hoo. Dearest Sabah, I’ve fallen in love with you. If we are destined to meet again, insyaAllah we will meet in future! 🙂

mardmood: This post is part of the series “My Kinabalu Story” based on my expedition to Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia on 26th September to 1st October 2012. For more chapters go to ‘Kinabalu Khronicles’ in the Categories section or click on the links below!

Summit. (Weekly Writing Challenge: Dialogue)

“Where are you?” I asked Khadijah, my sole female climbing buddy for the Mount Kinabalu expedition.

“I couldn’t make it up,” Khadijah replied.

“What do you mean?”

“The altitude sickness got to me and I had to climb down halfway. I’ll meet you guys back at the start point.”

My heart sank. Five of us had reached Laban Rata, the mid-point rest house where we were to rest for the night before climbing up to the summit. We were now waiting for the rest of our team members and I was on the phone with her, separated by an altitude of 2,000 metres.

Khadijah went on to explain that she was having breathing problems and felt nauseous at 4 km onwards, and as much as she wanted to continue on, the rangers had advised her to stop. There have been been several cases of climbers meeting a fatal death due to the decreasing oxygen in the increasing altitude so I was thankful that Khadijah was okay.

But this would mean I had to continue the rest of the climb up to the summit without her, as the only girl in my team. I felt upset, scared, and somewhat, alone.

Girlfriend company

Khadijah, or Dja as she is affectionately called, and I first met during a rockclimbing gathering with some friends. She was a friend of a friend, and our similar interest in adventure brought us together. This expedition was our first trip to the mountains together so we had developed a sisterly bond through our trainings.

There were only 2 girls in the team, which meant I depended on Dja for girlfriend company. Our 18-men team had consisted of 13 Malaysians, all guys, and 5 Singaporeans, consisting of Ezriel (who is also Dja’s fiance), Musaddiq, as well as his uncle, affectionately known as Uncle Man. Team captain was Abang Amirul from the Malaysian team.

At the start of Mesilau trail, we had positioned ourselves at different points for safety reasons, seeing that we were outnumbered by the number of guys in the team – me at the front and she at the back. So I was not aware of what was happening until I reached Laban Rata, 3,272 meters up in altitude. By then, there was nothing I could do but wait till the next day when we would reach Timpohon Gate, the end point…

Strength

After finding out about the news, I conveyed it to the rest of my team who was as shocked as I was. Later on I found out from Ezriel that Dja would be spending the night at a place near base camp, alone. I tried to gather as much strength as possible afterwards.

I prayed to God to keep both of us safe, in two different places. I prayed to God to keep me warm enough as the temperature had dropped and it was almost freezing. I prayed to God to protect me from altitude sickness as we were going to be in higher grounds. I prayed to God to give me strength to reach the summit and the wisdom to be OK if indeed reaching the summit was not meant to be for me.

Night Climb

At 12am we started our climb up to the summit. Coupled with our headlights, thermal wear, jackets and windbreakers, we headed off in the dark and cold night into the dark, always mysterious forest. There were many climbers from various countries and nationalities, but in the night only their accents differentiated them out as quiet chatter filled the air.

It is this same air, silently thinning as we go up, that threatened the breaths of several climbers. As we go along, some people had thrown up due to nausea from altitude sickness. It was scary to hear this in the silent night as every sound was magnified. I made a silent prayer for them to be okay. Also, I found myself getting breathless and so sipped my hydration pack of water more frequently than usual.

Lost…

My group had planned to gather at Gunting Lagadan hut, where some of us stayed, before proceeding to the gate leading to the start of the summit climb. However, in the darkness of the night I had unfortunately lost my sight of the hut and by the time I realized this I was already several steps ahead.

Fearing being lost of the tracks in the dark and ending up not knowing where I was, I did not turn back but instead continued on following a group of Japanese climbers in front of me. Ironically, I found comfort with their presence as it indicated that I was going the right way, and that I was not lost.

…and Found

Halfway through, I stopped an sat on a big-sized boulder to take a break and drank some water. Few minutes later, I saw 2 of my team members, Ridzwan and Baizuri, the fastest guys in my team. At that moment, the sight of them had never been so comforting. I had been climbing on my own with a different group and now, seeing them meant I was in familiar ground again. Perhaps God wanted me to feel this way so that I could appreciate the struggle. As happy as I was climbing alone, I was of course, happier climbing with my group. There is nothing like familiar territory to make you feel comforted.

This familiar territory then went on to question me, wondering why in the world did I start the summit climb without them. Umm, sorry guys. Totally didn’t mean to. And then another 2 of my team mates Musaddiq and Ezrieal appeared, wondering the same thing. You can question me all you want, I thought, I’m just glad I was found. At that point, they were my family for the expedition, and you know how families can be. They annoy you but you love them anyway. I must add that they were also happy to see me as they had been wondering where I had been all those while. Thanks, guys!

Step by Step

By now the terrain had gradually changed from dirt tracks to steep boulder-like tracks. It was more difficult because boulders can be slippery. Hence due to the absence of trees and easily accessible branches, there were strategically placed ropes at certain spots and these really helped me navigate my way up. It was also getting harder to breathe as per normal, and we had to stop every now and then to catch our breaths and drink up. I just went step by step because at some points, I just did not have the strength to speed up. It was all mental from then on.

The last checkpoint we stopped by was the Sayat-Sayat Hut, which contained a small office where the rangers would record your name by checking your tag as you go through this checkpoint. This was for the certificate that you had indeed summited Mount Kinabalu. On the way down, the rangers would double-check again with the climbers to make sure who reached the summit and who did not. Every climber would get a certificate regardless of reaching the summit or not, but the difference would lie in the color (summit in color, non-summit in black & white) and of course, the text. After a brief rest at this hut, we continued on.

I swear this last few moments to the summit felt like the longest journey ever. The summit was just right in front of me, but it was not. Every time I get close to it, I’m not freaking there yet. It was so frustrating and the mental aspect of it was excruciatingly painful. Trying not to think of my tiredness, as well as accompanied by my team mates who put their strength and ego aside to wait for me, I tried with all my might to just put one foot forward and go.

Finally, the summit!

After an excruciating and very slow climb, finally the summit, the real one, was now in sight. It was already daybreak and we had been climbing for almost 6 hours. But there was one last obstacle. The terrain here was an all-kinds-of-sizes-boulders, vertical uphill climb. The good thing was that even though it was uphill, it was not as steep as the previous terrain and there were a lot of literally climbing up with your whole body, hands and all, to get up. Again, all mental from now on. 80% mental strength and 20% physical strength.

When I finally, finally reached the summit, Alhamdulillah, all thanks to God, I was just…speechless. Just in awe of the smallness of myself against God’s majestic mountains. And the view, it was tremendously awesomely amazing beyond words can ever describe. As I stood at the summit point, thinking of Dja, thinking of my late adventure-loving dad, thinking of my upcoming wedding, and then everything else that happened prior to this expedition which almost did not happen, I thought, it’s not about reaching the summit. It was about many things, but it was never about the summit to begin with.

Out of the many things it was, one word was what it was to me: Humility.

Weekly Writing Challenge

mardmood: This post is also part of the series “My Kinabalu Story” based on my expedition to Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia on 26th September to 1st October 2012. For more chapters go to ‘Kinabalu Khronicles’ in the Categories section.