It was in June 1998. A group of NSmen from Bedok Police Station decided on a trekking expedition up Mount Ophir. We heard of stories of the mythical beings of Gunung Ledang e.g. The Princess of Gunung Ledang whose beauty mesmerises men into falling in love with her and join her into the immortal world within the thick refuge of Mount Ophir.
It was a tiring hike for some of us and we reached Base Camp, which is halfway up the mountain, by 1600hrs. There was a pool for us to dip in. Cool, refreshing mountain similar to Salem High Country advertisement. We retired to sleep by 2230hrs for the following day’s hike up to the Summit. Two of my friends tried to do something extrodinary, unknown that the worse is yet to come. They tried meditation….as the verses continued, strong gusts of wind blew from behind them. As soon as they started the verses again, the wind blew… It was quite an ordeal for them that they were wondering what went wrong?
The hike to the Summit went on the next morning at 1000hrs. Along the way, we met several groups of Singaporean hikers descending from the Summit. Then we stumbled on this particular hardy Malaysian hikers group. They were fast hikers and hiked to the Summit with ease. Soon we reached the Summit. It was an eye-catching atmosphere! Fresh mountain oxygen with no impurities! While admiring the view, we realised that the Malaysian group were seating crosslegged in a circle and chanting, the meditation-style. Why should meditation be done here, in the Summit? We left as soon as we recharged our energy levels. We descending with ease to base camp.
At base camp, we prepared ourselves for the descend down to the foot of the mountain. We left at 1830hrs for a Night Hike down. Along the way, we met a group of Singapore secondary school students with their teachers making their way up to Base Camp. After giving these young adolescents not to give up their ascend, we continued on. I was the first man. It was 1850hrs and darkness is engulfing around.
Then we heard a voice. “Help! Help! Excuse me anyone! I’m Lost! Somebody help me!” I stopped the convoy to reassure what I heard. It was reconfirmed by the rest. The rest wanted me to go on. The voice continued to plead for help. I insisted that we should find out whose voice it was. One of my friends swore out vulgarities insisting that we should carry on down and not stop for the voice. IT WAS ALREADY 1900HRS AND TO STOP AND DISCUSS ON WHAT TO DO ABOUT A MYSTERIOUS VOICE WAS NOT A GREAT IDEA. We communicated with the voice and found out from the exchange that he was from the earlier Secondary School students and apparently he had drifted away from the group and went through a separate path and gotten lost. We told him to continue talking while some of us bashed through the thick refuge towards the voice. IT was …. in deed an Indian Secondary School boy and he was already scared to be out there alone in the dark. My Troop Leader volunteered to send the boy back. THE BEST WAS YET TO COME….
Our Troop Leader got back with us within 10 minutes as Base Camp was not too far back. We continued on with the descend. Along the way, my “vulgarian” friend has started to get feverish. We volunteered to carry some of his load. The atmosphere was strange. Then, something strange happened to the Last Man. The last two hikers were the ones who were attempting to do the unsuccessful meditation at Base Camp the night before. He seemed to observe some movement following us from the back. AT 1000 FEET ABOVE SEA-LEVEL YOU DON’T SEE PEOPLE IN ROYAL CLOTHES HIKING. And yet, this was exactly what he saw! A group of royalties dressed in the ceremonial Malay royal clothes were walking some distance behind us! Too shaken by the ordeal, he dared not to look back. The condition of my “vulgarian” friend had gotten from back to worse.
By then, it was already 2030hrs and the rain started a slight drizzle. We groped our way down with powerful Maglite Torchlights and fasten our pace. We thought that we had gotten lost. Darkness everywhere and we descended down based on the tracks and markers left behind by other trekkers. We reached the Foot at 2130hrs. The locals were surprised to see us at that hour. We would have gotten lost. We were told that some hikers were even lost within the mountain for several days…..and some were never found, apparently taken refuge in the dense jungle under the wrath of the mythical immortal world. Amazingly, the condition of my “vulgarian” friend had improved and his fever was decreasing.
Later that night, we had a Sharing Session, an after-action review. This was when the Last Man told us about the royal troop walking behind us approximately the same time our “vulgarian” friend got feverish. We were earlier told by the locals not to speak out any unnecessarily along the hike, well, sometimes things got out of hand and we had to bear the consequences. Luckily, nothing disastrous happen to us….or else…
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