Where can you go hiking in Singapore?

Singapore with a total land area of 687 sq km and highest point at Bukit Timah of 166m, has a pretty decent trail with some climbing… of stairs.

This walk takes you through stairs, mud and more mud, rocks and a stretch of paved road. Living in Singapore and wishing that not everything is boarded up or paved, try this for a off-the-beaten track hike. This is one of our usual routes for a weekend hike.

You will need about 3 hours to 3.5 hours to complete. Or even less. The last time I went, it was 13.5KM within 2 hr and 45 minutes with two bathroom breaks. I would rate this as an easy hike overall. But do bring plenty of water and hydrate well as the weather is hot and humid in Singapore. I finished a 3-litre bag of water during the hike.

Take a cab or drive to Dairy Farm Carpark A, if you wish to explore Wallace Trail or just head straight to Carpark B. The Dairy Farm Summit Loop is just right up the track. There’ll be a sign with ‘Dairy Farm Summit Loop’ pointing towards some stairs.

I went on a Saturday afternoon at about 1:30pm and there was hardly anyone on this route at Dairy Farm. I saw a couple, a couple of other runners and then I was at Bukit Timah Summit. Before that, you’ll come across stairs…. and more stairs…

You will get to a North View Hut, without much of a view, sans napping man, midway. You will continue on the route.

The route will be flat for a while before coming to another flight of stairs which will take you to the path leading to Bukit Timah Summit.

If you are heading towards Macritchie Reservoir, take the other side down, on the right of the Summit Hut and not the same you came up from. Follow the path down towards the Visitor Centre and I urge you to use the bathrooms on the left before starting out on the trail to Macritchie. You won’t see another bathroom for at least the next 5 to 6km.

Now, onto Macritchie. Go straight until you see a grassy path lined with some logs and a map. Follow the muddy path into the greens.

You’ll see this and seeing the two small bridges here among the trees and the sound of water always make me think how beautiful this small little spot is.

Continue on the path. I wonder about the history of this place. I see some fragments of tiles which look like they came from a house along the way. Some random stairs in the woods. I imagine some stories of an old kampong and a huge house when I walk through the woods. 

Some interesting bridges along the way…

Follow the sign towards MacRitchie Reservoir here and watch out for cyclists along this path.

Follow the pink marker to MacRitchie.

This is after you’ve crossed the road from where you would have emerged. Continue through this trail.

Head up… 

…and left.

This part of the trail can be rather muddy. So do be prepared to get some mud on your shoes and legs. You’ll get on Nangka trail and then onto Durian Loop. I’m presuming that this place used to be where some durian trees were found in Singapore?

I like going across these bridges…

Nicely paved steps here.

We’ve tried both paths here. You can skip the Durian Loop path on the right of the picture here and head towards the left. There are more muddy spots down the path on the right.

This is showcase my trusty Salomons. Still slippery on some muddy rocks, but grips well on most other terrains and light! Unfortunately, they won’t be good for my hike in Canada later this year. They don’t provide sufficient support for the soles and the ankles for longer hikes with a heavy backpack.

9km more to Macritchie Park. You’ll come to a road soon after this. Head left when you emerge and follow the road until you get to a trail among some construction.

You will come to a road. Walk uphill and follow the road for about 2km, I think. You’ll pass the Rifle Range Camp along the way and then another entrance/exit to a trail which is part of Macritchie. I saw these pheasants of sorts along the way.

Follow the yellow dirt road! 

Not far now! However, at this point, I do usually feel like it’s so near yet so far… 0_0

There are lots of monkeys along the way, next to the road mostly. I didn’t get any photos of them but I did get a photo of this millipede hurrying a long the path towards TreeTop…

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You may head up TreeTop or just follow the signs to Macritchie Reservoir Park, either through the Golf Link or the other way. If you continue to TreeTop, there’s a bathroom there you may use before continuing towards either TreeTop or towards Macritchie Park.

Depending on which route you end up taking at Macritchie, the hike is between 13.5KM and 16.6KM, to Macritchie Park’s main carpark.

Have fun and don’t forget to hydrate! Bring a waterproof bag for your electronics and valuables in case it rains. We were caught in the rain a few times on our hike. It can be fun to wade through the mini floods at Macritchie, but do keep your electronics and phones in a waterproof bag.

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Walking in Norway – Part 2

If you have read Walking in Norway…Part 1, you would know that we were in Oslo and waiting for the driver’s licence.

After breakfast at the hotel that morning, we drove into Oslo city the next day to get some supplies for our hike and to do some laundry. We managed to do two things. Getting fined SGD 60 equivalent in NOK parking for 5 minutes in the wrong parking spot while we checked out one of the supermarkets. The other thing we managed to do was drive in a loop in and out of the city as a few roads were closed and we were just trying to get to an outdoor shop. (Yes, I was still driving then as we were waiting to receive the licence.) I should also mention here that the third thing I managed to do which took some skill…was empty almost the whole lot of our laundry soap for two loads of laundry at the laundromat.

It would have been convenient if the hotel had a laundromat or provided laundry service. We went to a laundromat in Oslo and waited for a long time for our loads of laundry to be done. It was close to dinner time by the time we were done and we walked back to the car with our bags of laundry.

While driving around the city in Oslo, we noticed a few food delivery on bicycles and were just thinking that it was interesting and so urban. (We returned to Singapore and noticed that Deliveroo and Ubereats had also started bicycle delivery service here.)

We had takeaway subway for dinner that night. Thank goodness for Subway almost everywhere in the world. When you run out of economical food options, just have Subway.

The next morning, we noticed on the tracking site that the parcel has already landed in Norway and was re-directed from DHL in Lillehammer to Oslo Gardermoen airport, getting re-delivered again to Lillehammer that day before it heads back to Singapore. We called DHL and attempted to speak with someone who could re-direct the parcel from its route to Lillehammer back to Oslo so that we could pick it from the DHL near the airport. We thought it was silly for them to keep trying to deliver the package to the same place which did not allow such a service and was the same company… We were not going to chase down the DHL truck on the highway and so we asked for it to be brought back to Oslo Gardermoen DHL facility right away. They agreed and that it will most likely reach Gardermoen before 3pm or so.

That day, although we did not fly through Prague into Oslo, we had the experience of sitting at the airport for four hours. We staked out at the airport’s Starbucks for almost half that time, drinking so much coffee and eating cakes, which cost more than the Starbucks in Singapore…and the Starbucks in Singapore is more expensive than the Starbucks in Canada and the US, including the Starbucks in Prague. Our plan was to collect the package from the DHL facility near the airport and then head over to the Sixt rental car office at Gardermoen to register M as the second driver for the vehicle. After which, we would be on our way to the next location which we had not decided as it depended on where we would end up by nightfall.

We waited at the carpark next to the DHL facility for another half an hour to forty five minutes. After a few more calls to DHL, a guy called us to say that he’s driving over in a DHL car to pass us the package. So we had the exchange done. We drove back to the airport and parked at the outdoor carpark near the Sixt office. It was actually not necessary to head over to the office as we found out later after having waited for a while to speak with a customer service officer. She informed us that as long as the person driving has a relevant licence, we didn’t need to register the other driver(s). So driving in the Nordics is actually more convenient than in Canada, the US or NZ. We were required to register ALL drivers and to top up insurance for each driver.

So that was that. I was finally relieved of full-time driving duty. M drove around the block while I picked up more coffee and snacks from Starbucks for our drive towards Jotunheimen. We hope to reach Heidal or Otta for an overnight stay. We reached the area of Otta at about 8:30pm and started searching for hotels on our mobile devices with data roaming and hotspots.

Continue reading Walking in Norway – Part 2

Walking in Norway – Part 1

We left for Norway or rather Copenhagen after Prague. But not before we almost ‘lost’ the house cats in Prague…

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One of the housecats in Prague. This cat is rather adorable in his own way. He loves eating and purrs a lot. These cats hardly wander into the rooms when we leave the doors open. They love the garden and often wander outside. Which was how we managed to lock them out for a whole night. It was the day of the wedding and we were out for the whole day and it was late when we got back that night. We didn’t check if the cats were in the house and just went to bed. We woke the next day and it occured to me then that I haven’t seen the cats in  a while. I asked M’s mom if she has. So we started looking for the cat and kept the door of the kitchen opened for them to come in if they were in the garden. This big grey cat came out from the garden hedges all soaked and he was mewing piteously when he was walking gingerly over to the kitchen door. The other cat slipped in a little more dignified manner when we all weren’t looking.

Before we left the house in Prague that morning, I heard a piece of distressing news. It was 3:30am as our flight from Prague to Copenhagen was 7am. M informed me right after I got up that he forgot his driver’s licence at home in Singapore; about 9,842 km away.

I must be dreaming, I thought to myself and was about to walk back to bed. M repeated again and asked if I had my driver’s licence with me and I knew it wasn’t a dream when it was also confirmed by his father who was researching online for some alternatives.

Why is that important? Because our plan was to fly into to Copenhagen, rent a car from the airport and drive to Oslo and then to the Jotunheimen area, where we would hike through Jotunheimen South from Gjendesheim through Besseggen ridge to somewhere before making our loop back to the car. The drive from Copenhagen to Oslo is about 606.3km according to Google Maps. That would mean me, a driver from Singapore who hardly drives and even when I did drive my Dad’s car in Singapore, it was hardly 40km in a day given that Singapore is only that small. The drive from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia is half that distance.

After I’d accepted the fact that I would be driving until he gets his licence shipped via express air to him, my next thought was safety. Would I keep the both of us safe as I have not driven on the  right side of the road before (in the left side of the car). The driver’s seat is on the right side of the car in Singapore and we drive on the left side of the road. That would mean getting used to this way of driving really quickly. I started researching about driving in Norway and the Nordics when we got to the airport.

So we left Prague for Copenhagen and took things one step at a time. We went to the Sixt counter at the airport to complete the car rental process. As M booked the car under his name, the licence we use for the rental had to be his licence. Yes, we tried…So we got that switched to my name and my Credit Card. After all that, he mentioned about the car we were renting. It was a manual SUV. Although I have a licence to drive manual cars, I’ve not driven one since 2009 and I’m definitely not confident of having to deal with everything else which will be new and to remember to clutch in whenever I’m changing gears…so no. I requested for an auto and he said he can’t guarantee if there’s one available right then. We were lucky. He found an Opel Astra SUV which was an auto car. That costed more to rent.

So now that we had the car and also decided that we would drive to Oslo that day, we made our way to Starbucks where we bought our very expensive drinks and muffins. Copenhagen is a very expensive city as we later learnt when we picked up our lunches.

As my dad was cat sitting for us while we were away, I asked my dad to send M’s driver’s licence to us via express air parcel. He went over to our place as soon as he could that night (it was night for him when we contacted him that morning when we arrived in Copenhagen). As the parcel can only be picked up and sent during office hours, the licence can only be on its way from the next day. We provided the address of a DHL office at Lillehammer where we’d intended to pick the licence up from. Little did we know at that point in time that it was impossible for us to send it to a DHL office as it was a ‘receiver point’ similar to ComGateway where they would receive parcels on a registered customer’s behalf and then ship that out accordingly. 

We stopped by Copenhagen city and picked up some lunch and food for our long drive to Oslo. Our very expensive lunch from a burger pop-up store, I must add. In addition to getting used to driving on a different side, I was also trying not to run any cyclists over. There were cyclists everywhere in the city. Now, that is something we should have in Singapore as well. Cyclists in Copenhagen enjoy a proper fairway. In Singapore, cyclists fear for their lives on the road with impatient and errant drivers who do not wish to share the road with anyone, sometimes, not even with fellow motorists. Ergo, more accidents from rogue driving, impatience and road rage.

The highlight of my drive was driving over the Øresund Bridge. As you can see, it links Denmark to Sweden with parts of the link in a tunnel and we emerged into the light again from the tunnel onto the bridge, which was rather cool in my opinion. Of course, since I was driving, I couldn’t take any photos. So here is an aerial view from Wikipedia.

Just in January 2016, on the back of the European migrant crisis, Sweden was granted a temporary exemption from the Schengen Agreement. That meant that travellers between the Nordic countries will now need to provide photographic proof of identity or passport, after 60 years of passport-free travel, when they cross the border to Sweden.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%98resund_Bridge#/media/File:Oresund-over-2008.JPG
Image taken from Wikipedia.

So after about 4km in the tunnel and about 8km on the bridge, we were in Sweden. Most parts of the drive was in Sweden through the E20 and E6 motorways. Once I got onto the highway, it was a breeze…of about 130km/h. Traffic in Sweden was heavier than in Norway, with the higher population in Sweden compared with Norway; almost double. There are also more mass market brands present in Sweden. Like we knew we were out of Sweden when the views of ‘the famous golden arches of McDonald’s’ along the highway disappeared. Not that we would have wanted McDonald’s in the Nordics given the ‘smorgasbord’ of gourmet choices available. There were a notable number of Teslas on the road in Norway. Norway is one of the most EV-friendly countries. The Government laid out EV policies which provide EVs exemption from VAT and purchase tax which usually form about 50% of the total cost of the vehicle. The EVs are also exempt from road tolls, tunnel and ferry charges.

It’s mentioned on Google Maps that it would take an estimated 6h and 36 min drive from Copenhagen to Oslo. We got to our Oslo destination about 9pm. It is a fabulous place called Lysebu hotel in Oslo. About 20 minutes away from the city centre. It has modern rooms, very nordic style and rather spacious. Just check it out yourself here: http://www.lysebu.no/en/.

I was fascinated by their really furry chickens by the way…and no they didn’t serve chicken at the restaurant. The place just oozes simple elegance. We stayed at the hotel for two nights and explored some walks around the area.

Some places we made up the pronunciation. Like Frognerseteren, which sounded a lot like ‘frog in your system’ when we spoke that aloud. We went to Frognerseteren Restaurant and Cafe, which was a short walk from Lysebu and highly recommended.

Everything’s expensive in Norway. After discovery of Norway’s oil fields after 1969, the country now has a much higher standard of living compared with its neighbours, Sweden and Denmark. It was previously about 30 or 40 percent lower in 1960.

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The food was so-so. It wasn’t exceptional. I think it was the ambience of eating outdoors in the fresh air with a great view that led to the perceived better tasting food. It wasn’t bad. Definitely fresh and good.
Apple pie
The highly recommended apple pie…but please go with one piece before getting the other. They are really sweet. Look at all that cream on the top…
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View from the restaurant. It’s a little dark here due to the facing of the camera against the sun.

We walked for about 2 hours around the area before heading back to the hotel. We told ourselves that we needed all those carbs and calories for our long hike in Jotunheimen.

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Walking to the lunch.

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It’s summer! All the pretty flowers are in full bloom and there were so many different plants and flowers in Norway.

 

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Hotel grounds

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Keep your dog(s) on a leash? Chickens wandering? We were just guessing…

More in Part 2 of Walking in Norway.

Feel like you need a break? Take a hike.

No, not in the context of ‘f*** off and leave’. You might feel like telling someone that but perhaps it is time for you to take it literally – plan a hike and make it longer than 3 days.

It sounds ironic that you should take a hike when you need a break doesn’t it? A hike with a road trip can help us work better.

You’ll be surprised how going back to nature and basics can give you perspective and also make you more resourceful. Take the opportunity to plan this with your partner. However, just a cautionary note that it may make or break the relationship if you do not understand each other enough or have not done a trip like that before. Always a first.

Hiking takes your mind off other things at first when you are planning. If you get a sense of purpose doing meaningful things, this can be such a good ritual. The things we learn from taking a hike  (which also includes a road trip), can teach us a lot about how we can approach work and life.

Planning for that hike requires research. It gives your mind a different kind of focus and also gives you something to look forward to. Until you sink ankle deep in mud during your hike and have to walk around the next few days with wet and caked hiking boots. Think about the time when you were planning for your vacation. Weren’t you excited?

Throw in the element of challenge. This is how a hike can affect you mentally. You feel mentally and physically stronger after, perhaps not immediately after the hike for the latter. A hike can make you feel like you have achieved something. Carrying your own pack, cooking your own food over a small gas stove, pacing your day and planning when you stop and how long you’ll need to get to the next campsite or where to pitch the tent, where to get water and how to filter your water, where to set up your shower and how to shower without anyone catching you naked or almost naked, sometimes even battling the cold and sandflies…

Hiking requires a ton of discipline. Walking a certain distance each day, meal planning and keeping to it, waking up at a certain time to get in the right amount of distance before the next campsite or ground and continuing even when you are tired requires that discipline and grit. These attributes can be applied to life and work.

Team work. You definitely play as team with your partner. In life and also while hiking. Sharing and splitting up what we carry in our bags, dividing tasks during the trip and lending a helping hand when that bloody branch suddenly appeared in your view when it is too late and you see yourself doing splat to the ground in slowmo.

Setting up camp is usually a task we rush through since we try to hike as much as possible in a short time frame since we have to get back on schedule and catch a flight home. Once we get to the campsite or grounds, the aim is to setup and cook before it gets dark. At the same time, we also shower and that takes time in setting up our little shower bag, getting food cooked and then finishing that before it is too dark. In the Canadian Rockies, we had to ensure that ALL food items are locked in the anti-bear lockers after we were done. You don’t want unexpected visitors in the night to your tent.

Showering in the wilderness in New Zealand during early September was a real pain. One, it was still cold but not cold enough for sandflies. We get attacked whenever we are stop moving or when there’s exposed skin. You and your partner will stand guard during this really vulnerable moment when you take turns to shower and watch for other hikers and also swap sandflies away. After the shower, we hop around shivering while trying to get on all our clothes, all at the same time, bottoms and tops together. Frankly, I doubt this is a sight which would turn any hikers on at all. I doubt I’ve ever showered so quickly with soap before. It was camp soap on and off in 60 seconds and literally shivering through the whole process and then hopping into the thermal pants or trying to push both legs, which are still a bit damp, in the same time, while cursing why they won’t just slip on quick enough. In NZ, there was the extra check for sandflies under the pants and top.

Team work is so important on these trips. This is also where partners learn more about each other. Eg. Driving and navigating. I am usually designated navigator as I’m better at reading maps and directions then with non-stop driving.

At the end of the trip, you will stink and will just wish to teleport to a nice Airbnb house for a shower.

Once you are cleaned and had some comfort food, you will appreciate what you have experienced as something that you have accomplished together a team. You will feel tired but mentally stronger and that is something helps with everything in life. Resilience, discipline and team work. Sometimes, getting out of our comfort zones can bring out something good.

Travel Canada Summer 2014

Our itinerary is not for the faint hearted. Would we do this again? Yes and yes again.

We spent about 5 days hiking and camping at Wells Gray and Mount Robson, of which, half went to travelling/driving time. We misjudged the time it took to get from one campsite to another and we didn’t know that it takes another 1 hour or more to get to the campsite from the time when we see the signboard indicating our arrival to a Park. 😀

GoogleMap - Vancouver to Wells Gray

It took us another 1 hour or more to drive from the signboard of “Wells Gray Provincial Park” to our Campsite at Clearwater which was another 90km to 100km. Watching the gas gauge became almost obsessive during our trip and we did almost get stranded at one point when we took a gamble and continued on the highway hoping for another gas station to appear. But no, we had to turn back almost 90km to the other gas station before we run dry. #exciting #adventure #canada

GoogleMap - Wells Gray to Mt Robson

Do check out the TravelBook section under ‘Canada’ Pages for the documented trip.

Flights
Flight CX 736, Singapore to Hong Kong
Departure:  SIN, Jul 17 2014 9:55 AM
Arrival:  HKG, Jul 17 2014 2:05 PM
Flight CX 826, Hong Kong to Toronto
Departure:  HKG, Jul 17 2014 5:10 PM
Arrival:  YYZ, Jul 17 2014 8:20 PM
Flight WS 372, Toronto to Ottawa
Departure:  YYZ, Jul 17 2014 11:00 PM
Arrival:  YOW, Jul 17 2014 11:59 PM
Flight PD 271, Ottawa to Halifax
Departure:  YOW, Jul 22 2014 7:55 PM
Arrival:  YHZ, Jul 22 2014 10:45 PM
Flight DL 5133, Halifax to New York
Departure:  YHZ, Jul 27 2014 3:14 PM
Arrival:  LGA, Jul 27 2014 4:20 PM
Flight CX 889, New York to Vancouver
Departure:  JFK, Jul 27 2014 9:55 PM
Arrival:  YVR, Jul 28 2014 12:45 AM
Flight CX 889, Vancouver to Hong Kong
Departure:  YVR, Aug 4 2014 2:00 AM
Arrival:  HKG, Aug 5 2014 6:10 AM
Flight CX 759, Hong Kong to Singapore
Departure:  HKG, Aug 5 2014 8:40 AM
Arrival:  SIN, Aug 5 2014 12:30 PM