Friday, May 26, 2017

A stroll from Bukit Timah to Zhenghua and back

The morning of 26 May 2017 was a good day for a stroll in the woods.  The skies were overcast but rain was not imminent (which meant a cool day). I made the impromptu decision to check out the trail leading to ZhengHua from Rail Mall.

My trail head started from Rail Mall playground access point to the Quarry trail. My side of Bkt Timah was still in the shadows and so the trail started on a cool note. Along the way, the MOE learning center was buzzing with the excited chatter of school children. 

I was on a familiar route and opted for the longer path that points to Zhenghua PCN, in the direction of Wallace Center. The trail was well maintained except for a couple of spot where the bushes have grown faster that Nparks could handle.

Carpark B was a 15 minutes from the Rail Mall trail head, a marker for me. Runkeeper’s Kate noted that I made 1 km in that 15 mins.

I did a right as the signboard said.   A dirt trail opened on my left after a 5 minutes walk. The trail was part cement, part gravel and rotted vegetation. It was a slight descent but my walking pole came in handy in parts that was slippery with clay.

A clearing opened up pretty soon and “Belukar Trail” running perpendicular to my dirt track caused me to pause. Right to Rifle Range Rd or left to Zhenghua? A young , sprightly couple came trundling from the direction of Zhenghua, freshfaced and excited. Should we continue or exit to Bukit Timah, they asked. Decisions, decisions.

I made a left turn heading to Zhenghua. It was a shared bike/hiker path , wide and level for walking. Belukar ran under Dairy Farm Rd and continued northwards beside the BKE. I was never too far from the expressway and felt assured that should I encounter trouble, help would be just steps away.  

It was an easy walk all the way to Chestnut Drive. The nature park turned into a typical HDB style park with its ubiquitous wooden tables and chairs.  In case you did not notice the change in landscape, big signs announced that you are in Zhenghua territory.

Now that I have accomplished my ‘goal’, I checked out the park for another 500m or so before turning back to retrace my steps. Up to that point, the distance completed was just under 4km.

At 10.30am, the clouds parted and I was grateful to be in the shade until I reached Rail Mall. It was a mini workout going back as the terrain has turned into a gradual and long ascent, though it was nothing I couldn’t handle.

Kate has turned from loud to glum and I totally forgot about my Runkeeper time keeper. It was only later that I realized Runkeeper has died on me and I have lost my logs for the past hour.

I would have concluded it with a happy note by buying lunch at Rail Mall but I discovered that I have left home without a single dollar on me. I have walked some 7km  but felt defeated because there would be no reward at the end of the walk.

It was a 7km saunter but perhaps the next time, I would try to reach Bkt Panjang and beyond at a quicker pace.  

Saturday, May 13, 2017

14 going onto 17 (km) : Walking to Labrador Park from home

On Mother’s Day ( and Pat’s birthday as well), we decided to check out Labrador Nature Park. Google suggested many walking routes from home at Bukit Batok but we opted for the 14km route with promise of minimal traffic crossings.

We set off at 7.45am. The sun was just visible from the next tower block in my estate and we walked in the long shadows along Clementi Ave 6 before joining Sunset Way via Sunset Grove. At Clementi Rd, we hit the second major traffic junction that disrupted an otherwise smooth walk.

From Ulu Pandan Park Connector, we walked eastwards. The heat was starting to sap the life out of   us so we kept talking   to a minimum. We passed by Dover Station on our right and almost persuaded ourselves to get out of the sunny PCN onto the shaded walkway along Commonwealth Ave that came with a couple more traffic junctions.

Nearing the end of the PCN, it was now southwards to Star Vista and then Rochester Mall to get onto North Bouna Vista Rd. It was an uphill task as we labored in the heat towards Science Park. It would have been a monotonous walk but pretty candy colored buildings at InSead and Ayer Rajan JTC broke the monotony and injected some interest in where we were heading.

Across AYE, we did a left to Science Park Dr, passing shiny buildings that bore names of scientists. Clueless to their contribution to mankind , I mentally made a note to look them up after the walk.

At Normantan Park, we accessed Kent Ridge Park through a series of steep steps. It was hard work but the prospect of shade and a view of Pasir Panjang Port     motivated me to carry on.  We continued left on Vigilante Dr and finally got onto the Treetop walk leading to Hort Park. Now at almost 10am, the sun shone relentlessly on us. Beyond us, the city smog hung low, blurring the skyline.

Hort Park is huge. Perhaps jaded from the countless walks here, I hardly gave the place much of a glance.  We used the bridge to the Southern Ridges to access Alexander Rd. Very soon, the sky did an about turn and it became overcast. It began to rain fat drops of rain and our pace quickened until we sought shelter at Labrador Park Station.

It was a passing shower and with much relief, we reached our first milestone at the park via Labrador Villa Rd. Runkeeper announced my feat of 14km but I wasn’t too elated when Harborfront was not even in my line of sight.

We hugged the coast and headed east on the unsheltered boardwalk, passing multimillion dollar condos and the marina where the rich played.  At Keppel Bay Drive, a sign made known that we have reached the end of our trail. It was back to the road again on Telok Blangah Rd. Harbourfront beckoned us and we made haste for the sky has turned grey again.

We took almost 4 hours for the 17km walk. Except for Kent Ridge Park, we were sun drenched all the way. The shower did not provide respite. If there was anything that was interesting and worth checking out, it would have to be Gillman’s Barrack with its promise of food and art galleries. Remind me to visit, but this time with a car.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Bukit Timah to Venus Drive 10 May 2017

For the longest time, we have been talking about walking from our Bukit Batok home to MacRitchie Reservoir. It was all talk for at least 10 years or maybe more, if the timer starts from the time we even thought about it.

We may live within walking distance to many trail heads, but we mostly ignored the call of the wild because weekend sleep is a precious commodity. That is, until the good doctor told me that I am in dire need of exercise.

I have been walking parts of the Green Corridor off Rail Mall and making countless ‘summits’ to Bukit Timah Hill. The walks quickly gathered steam to 10km walks and our forays went from our backyard to the central catchment area.

Recently, I did a solo 10km walk from Venus Rd to McRitchie . I raved about it until  Pat felt  compelled to join in the league. Soon enough, he became my weekend walking partner. It must have brought back a bit of army days to him.

These walks paid dividends handsomely. We are now fitter and trimmer.

This morning had an ominous start with overcast sky. Despite a sudden shower , we were not deterred. We made our way to Hindede Rd and found that half the population around the area has descended upon Bukit Timah Hill. The Kampong trail starts from the Monkey business placards. Among ruins, we traipsed along the  disused road before coming to a crossroad of sorts.  Upon the sign post that points to  MacRitchie Reservoir, we did a right and continued the dirt track until it hits Rifle Range Rd.

We made a left on the uphill Rifle Range Rd that was devoid of cars since it was a holiday. It was about 9am and walkers from MacRitchie were already at their tail end of their walk, soaked in rain and sweat.

Rifle Range Rd extended over the BKE and at long last terminated before ST Kinetics. There was no guessing where the dirt trail towards the reservoir was; scores were emerging from a sign posted track at our right.

We took the obligatory selfie to prove our accomplishment and hit the dirt track again. After a long walk on a proper road, it was tedious stepping on gravel and stone embedded in red clay. My $10 walking pole bore my weight reliably as it provided relief for my right knee.

We passed countless water tanks and made slow progress because of the terrain. Youthful runners zipped past us both ways making a mockery of my slow progress.

At the Sime track, we headed towards the Treetop walk. The treetop trail is a one way trail so we gave it a miss and used the bypass to head to Venus Drive. We couldn’t bash our way to the treetop walk even if we wanted to  – scores of walking folks of all scribes were pouring out from the treetop trail making a celebration of the place.

At the 2.5 hour mark, we chanced upon Pat’s colleague Ivan and his wife ,Conney, at the Venus Dr carpark. We chatted a bit and  then it was down to Thomson Plaza for an early lunch.

Would I do it again? Definitely yes! The route is varied with a bit of urban and rural. The vibe from the other walkers were infectious. The weather was cool, overcast with occasional glimpses of sun but not too much. If there is anything to improve, it would be to get another pair of hiking boots, thicker sole this time to take the strain from the stone and gravel.