The Altar

During my NS, we were having an exercise which was a 3D2N (or 4D3N I can’t really remember) navigation exercise over a training area in Taiwan that is bigger than Singapore. Similarly, each section was divided into 2 details (bed 1 to 5 in one detail, bed 6 to 10 in another detail).

This navigation exercise was the best time in my trainee life as there were no instructors to look after us as we were totally on our own. Not forgetting the ninja vans and I still remember the ninja vans uncles knew our checkpoints better than us! We could almost literally did what we wanted. We bought chicken cutlets, soft drinks during our navigation exercise.

On the second day, we were supposed to detour the base of a small mountain to get to the next checkpoint when we saw the map. If we went up the small mountain and then descended from it, maybe all it would take would be 1-2 hours. The detour would take us at least 6 hours. However, the map showed that there was no tracks and no civilization on the small mountain.

We discussed a while and being the lazy trainees that we were, we decided to take the shortcut and went up the mountain. Initially, we had to bash through the forest and then walked on the dry riverbed up the mountain. Halfway up the mountain while walking up the dry riverbed (remember, there were no path/tracks/roads), we suddenly came across a very old wooden hut right beside the dry riverbed. As we were tired, we decided to take a break at the hut and walked around the hut to see if we could refill our water and talk to the owner of the hut.

The hut looked deserted and there was no one in sight. I then went to the wooden window and opened it to peek into the bedroom. Once I opened the window, I could see that the entire room was covered in cobwebs but I also clearly saw 2 plain white t-shirts (the type that people usually wear at funerals) which looked brand new and well-ironed, and they were hung on hangers near the window. I didn’t gave much thought and commented out loud “nothing much here except 2 new white t-shirts” to my detail mates.

This was also when Bed 9 and 10 (my detail was Bed 6 to 10) came to the front of the hut after checking out the backyard of the hut. They told us that they found an altar that was very clean with no dust at all. It looked like someone was maintaining the altar. I then told them that it’s strange as the hut had a lot of cobwebs so it must be deserted. With everyone trying to prove ourselves right, we then walked around the hut to find traces of human and also to find a road/track/path that led to the hut.

This was the interesting part. There was none. No road, no track no path. The entire hut was totally surrounded by thick forest and thick bushes other than the dry riverbed. At this point of time, we started to panic. It was about 3-4pm and the sun set around 5pm as it was early spring. We needed to find a place to harbour (stay for the night) and decided that the deserted hut, though a lot more questions than answers, would serve as a good spot for harbouring. We didn’t want to sleep on the forest floor which would be wet and cold.

We needed to comms our harbour location to our instructors every night so we took out our maps and compasses to check where we were. This was when all 5 of our compasses were spinning like KDK ceiling fans. I could still remember the looks of my detail mates – priceless. It took us a while to realise what happened and Bed 8 said it might be due to magnetic fields interference and we should back-track and get out of there. This was also when we realised that our signal set had been quiet for a few hours. Usually the signal set would be noisy as every detail had to report each checkpoint and location.

It took less than one second for all of us to agree to back-track on the dry riverbed to where we came from. Luckily for us, we managed to head back to a plantation where the previous checkpoint was after 2 hours and by then, the sky was already dark and we harboured for the night.

What was that hut?

Why was it there?

Why wasn’t there any roads/tracks/paths?

How was the hut built?

Why the 2 plain white t-shirts looked so new and white when the entire bedroom was in cobwebs?

Why the altar at the backyard of the hut was so clean and well maintained?

We had no answers and to be honest, we didn’t think so much about it.

If you think that’s the end of my summary exercise in Taiwan, the next story will be the climax. I will never forget this for the rest of my life. I might get CSI-ed out as the next story involved my entire platoon and other platoons.

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