I’ve never climbed any mountain, and neither has my son. But we went on an interesting adventure holiday trip earlier this year. It was a trip organised by his school for parents, fathers in particular, to bond with their sons. Among other outdoor activities, the main highlight of the trip was a climb up Gunung Lambak in Kluang, Malaysia.
Gunung Lambak isn’t a very high mountain, but at 510m above sea level, it officially qualifies as a mountain, and one that’s somewhat higher than our Bukit Timah Hill. My son was so excited about the trip, although I’m not sure if it was because of the outdoor adventure, or simply because it was a trip outside Singapore.
This would be a three days and two nights trip, and unlike our typical holidays that involve comfortable stays in decent, if not luxurious, hotels, this time we would be staying in dormitories. There is no air-conditioning, there is no private bathrooms, there is no hot water to bathe, and there isn’t a shower for bathe too. When we arrived late night on the first day, the sight that greeted me reminded me of… Pulau Tekong.
That wooden longhouse is quite reminiscent of Pulau Tekong’s Camp 1, for those of you who served National Service and did your BMT at Pulau Tekong would be familiar. It brings back horror memories from BMT! Fortunately, it is not BMT now.
This dormitory would be our home base for the trip. It’s on a farm called UK Farm. It has nothing to do with the United Kingdom, in case you were wondering.
So while we did many things, including water obstacles elsewhere, let me just zoom in to the Gunung Lambak climb itself.
This isn’t a difficult mountain to climb. We were told, the elderly local folks climb Gunung Lambak as their morning exercise. This would be just a stroll in the park even for young kids. It’s the perfect first mountain for young children to attempt. There were five Primary One kids on the trip with us, and one or two more younger siblings who had also tagged along. There were older kids too, all the way to Primary Six.
A stroll in the park, they said.
Then I saw that they had so garang commando guides to babysit us. They conducted warm up exercises and stretching exercises. It’s like we’re prepping up for some strenuous activity. Okay, this is not so simple as just a stroll after all. Oh well, I suppose it’s not realistic for a mountain climb to be simply a stroll. We could just go Bukit Timah Hill if all we wanted was a stroll.
Fast forward, here’s how the trek down looks like. If you still had any uncertainty, this is not a stroll in the park. At this point, I could still have a free hand to take photos with my smartphone. There are other parts of the climb where I needed to use both my hands, so I could not have taken photos even if I wanted to. So yes, there are still tougher parts.
The trek up wasn’t actually that tough, fortunately. It may take more effort to go upward, but the incline on the upward route wasn’t as steep, and the terrain wasn’t quite so difficult too. The downward journey was far steeper, and required ropes to aide the descent most of the way to the start point. At some places, the younger kids while grabbing on to the ropes for support would be barely able to reach the ground. It’s safe, though. Challenging, but safe.
The Gunung Lambak summit ought to have provided beautiful views of the city lying below. Unfortunately, much of the view was obscured by vegetation, as well as other structures. The transmission tower there at the top did provided excellent cellular coverage, so I was able to immediately post Facebook updates.
No one was really bothered that there wasn’t much of a view. The whole point of the climb was about the experience, and the father-son bonding. All the boys were still in high spirits at the summit. A little bit tired, thirsty, and hungry perhaps, but still full of excitement and enthusiasm.
Thirst and hunger, of course, can be easily resolved with water and energy snacks. The fathers were told to carry 2l of water per pax. Plenty of water. It seems the local folks climb the summit empty handed. We did really see some local elderly folks on our climb, so we know it’s true, and not just stories our guide told us to make us believe the climb was easy.
While we rested at the summit, our trip organiser managed to catch a millipede, and conducted an impromptu lesson for the boys. I was amazed that the boys, my son too, didn’t freak out. They were in fact very fascinated with the millipede and many of them took turns to handle the arthropod.
Once sufficiently rested, lesson concluded, and refuelled, we begun our descent. Descent, as mentioned earlier, was steep, and we pretty much tackled the whole descent at one go, all the way to the rest point in the lower part of Gunung Lamkak. Truth be told, tackling the descent was actually quite fun, although one certainly had to be more careful. The ground was still a little wet from the rain on the previous day.
I’d have imagined that those who were ahead would take a breather when they arrived at the rest point. Surprisingly, the boys who reached early still had the energy to play their own games.
All things considered, the climbing Gunung Lambak was quite manageable. Of course it isn’t a stroll in the park, or the woods. Don’t expect a staircase up the mountain, though at some points the tree roots do form some sort of steps. One person on the trip came with a prior hip injury, and had to give up the climb midway, so expect that you should at least be physically fit. I don’t mean fit in the sense that you can get IPPT Gold. Just fit, physically.
The trek up and down Gunung Lambak was supposed to have taken no more than 5 hours. Somehow, things will not happen according to schedule. Army guys will know. You wake up extra early, hoping to finish off an activity on-time, or even early, but it doesn’t work that way. In our case, by the time we returned to UK Farm for lunch, it was past 4pm. Fortunately we had brought along plenty of snacks.
Back at UK Farm, believe it or not, all the boys still had energy for more farm activities after that super late lunch. I had thought my son would have conked out, fast asleep, and needed to be carried back to the dormitory. But no, he had lunch, and he was ready for more.
I think all the fathers were very proud of what their sons had accomplished, and even more so how they had done it. Me too. Back home, or even on our own holiday trips, sometimes our kids can be quite nuah, but on a school trip like this, you see how independent, brave, responsible, and capable the boys are.