Singapore hikers lost for 15 hours in Kota Tinggi

S’pore hikers lost for 15 hours in Kota Tinggi
8 spent night on slope after wrong turn; call to cabby led to police search
Nov 13, 2012
By Priscilla Goy And Pearl Lee

A WRONG turn left eight Singaporeans stranded in a forest reserve near a Kota Tinggi waterfall for more than 15 hours over the weekend. They were finally rescued at about 10am on Sunday – wet and exhausted after spending the night on a slope and in utter darkness.

The eight trekkers were Ms Tay Wei Xin, 25, Mr Law Teck Chuan, 28, Mr Lim Pong Hui, 27, Mr Wong Thiam Siang, 28, Ms Seow Pei Wen, 25, Ms Xiao Yulin, 25, and siblings Sng Yu Xin, 21, and Sng Ping Qiu, 28.

Ms Tay, Ms Seow and Ms Xiao had trekked in Kota Tinggi, about two hours’ drive from Singapore, a few times before, while the rest were doing so for the first time.

Ms Tay, a teacher, said the group, who are all friends of either Ms Sng or Mr Sng, checked into Kota Tinggi Waterfalls Resort at about 10.30am on Saturday. They had taken a bus across the Causeway, then a taxi to the hotel. They had intended to stay for the weekend. They set off for the Pelepah waterfalls in the Gunung Panti recreational forest at about 11am. The trek was within walking distance of their resort. She said she told the receptionist at the hotel of their trek.

Mr Sng, an application developer, said they had planned to hike upslope, which would take them past the three waterfalls there, and then backtrack to the resort. The end of the trail would be marked by the third waterfall. At about 4.30pm, they came to a point where there were two markers, which are pieces of ribbon or plastic tied around tree trunks by previous hikers. One led to the left, another to the right. Said Ms Tay: “We took the left turn because it led downstream, but after about five to 10 minutes, we realised it led nowhere. There were no more markers.”

The group went back and took the right turn, but realised they were walking in circles. They stopped at about 7pm as it was getting dark. They considered waiting till morning before continuing their trek back, but decided to call the police.

“It was getting very dangerous to walk, and the trail was also very steep and narrow,” said Mr Sng. “We had to walk one by one… we couldn’t go in twos. One person had to stay at the back to flash the torchlight on the trail because it was too dark.” Ms Sng was also having a fever by then.

Mr Sng had saved the mobile number of the Malaysian taxi driver who drove them to the hotel from the Kota Tinggi bus terminal. He called the taxi driver, who alerted the Malaysian police.

Ms Tay said that at 10.30pm, the police called them to say that they would be searching for them. The group waited till about 2am on Sunday, but no one came for them. “We had water, we had food, we just did not have extra clothing,” said Ms Tay. They had between them a loaf of bread, some crackers and sweets – leftovers from the food they had packed for their picnic. Ms Tay, who was wearing two T-shirts, offered one to Ms Sng, who was feeling cold because of her fever. The rest of the group hugged their legs while sitting down to keep themselves warm.

At about 7am, the police called them to say officers would be going upstream to search for them.

When Mr Law went downstream to look out for the rescue team, he saw a villager fishing by the river. He blew a whistle he had with him to attract the villager’s attention. The villager led the trekkers out of the Pelepah falls area to the route that would take them back to their resort. They met their rescuers along the way, said Ms Tay.

The group took a bus back to Singapore later on Sunday.

Asked how they would trek differently in future, Ms Tay said: “I will bring a windbreaker, a lighter, maybe some things to light a fire.” Mr Sng said that although it was unpleasant to have been stranded, he was still up for another trek. “But this time, with a guide definitely,” he said.

The New Straits Times yesterday quoted Kota Tinggi district police chief Che Mahazan Che Aik as advising foreigners who want to trek in the area to alert the hotel operator before setting out or hire a local guide.

Driving holiday turns nightmare

By Elizabeth Soh & Jalelah Abu Baker

IT WAS supposed to have been a leisurely driving trip to a hilltop chalet in Endau Rompin National Park in Johor.

But it turned into a nightmare for 21 Singaporeans after rising flood waters cut off their only exit route and left them stranded in their vehicles, submerged in more than 3m of water.

To make things worse, a 1 1/2-year-old was ill and needed medical attention. But they were unable to get a strong enough cellphone signal to call for help.

Their ordeal ended only some 48 hours later when they were finally airlifted to safety by a helicopter on Tuesday.

Yesterday, three members of the group spoke to The Straits Times about their trip which had started brightly from Singapore on Saturday.

‘It was supposed to be a family trip, with colleagues and their families and friends,’ said oil sales representative Farahana Anwar Hassanuddin, 25.

‘The worst thing that we thought would happen was a flat tyre,’ added Ms Farahana, who counted her boss Andrew Fatipah, 34, and her colleague Sandhora Salleh, 27, an administrative officer, among the group.

They set out early on Saturday in four four-wheel-drive vehicles and eight dirt bikes, accompanied by three Malaysian tour guides.

The wet weather meant slippery conditions but the group managed to make the 55km ascent to the chalet in five hours.

They stayed the night at the chalet and, the next morning at about 10am, started their journey home. They had travelled about 6km and crossed one of the two bridges over Lembakoh River when a serious problem cropped up.

‘The second bridge was completely submerged in water. When we first reached it, the water was halfway up my waist; by the time we started turning around to return to the chalet, it was up to my neck and the first bridge was submerged too,’ said Mr Fatipah, director of Singapore-based firm Sapphire Oilfield Services. ‘We were basically trapped.’

Park officers were contacted via radio to help tow the cars – stuck in the muddy road – and they were able to reach the chalet five hours later.

Two cars managed to cross the submerged bridge safely but the other two cars required some effort.

At the chalet, the group contacted the police in Mersing as well as the Singapore consulate in Johor Baru via a satellite phone.

Mr Fatipah said the group was informed on Monday morning that a helicopter would arrive later in the day to airlift the toddler who had developed a high fever and was running out of milk powder.

But there was more drama to come.

In the evening, the helicopter came, but only to airlift a snake-bite victim at the chalet who was not part of their group, leaving the sick toddler and her distressed mother behind.

‘The mother was all ready to leave, carrying her bags and her daughter and standing in the rain for the helicopter,’ said Ms Farahana. ‘When the helicopter left, she just cried.’

Hearts sank when the group were told of their options: either pay RM1,600 (S$650) to rent two motorboats to ferry them back to Mersing; or wait two weeks for the flood waters to subside and the bridges to be repaired.

‘They told us if we took the boat, we would have to sign a waiver of any responsibility for our safety, and we said ‘no way’,’ said Mr Fatipah.

‘We were really desperate and so we kept calling the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs for help. Eventually with their help, we were rescued.’

They spent another night at the chalet. The next afternoon, on Tuesday, a helicopter, dispatched by the Mersing Fire Brigade, evacuated them to Mersing.

There, they boarded a bus supplied by the Singapore consulate to return home.

Mr Fatipah said the group, which had never been to Endau Rompin National Park before, was not told by their tour agent that it was closed and that it was very dangerous to travel during the monsoon season.

They had booked the trip with Tristan Park, a Singapore-based company specialising in all terrain vehicle tours.

The trio said if they had known about the weather conditions, they would never have gone.

Malaysia media reported yesterday that the tour agency had applied for a permit to visit the park last Saturday but it was rejected. Calls to the agency yesterday were unanswered.

The three of them, who were back at work one day after returning from Johor, said while the trip was an experience they would never forget, it would not deter them from exploring Malaysia or its parks again.

S’poreans tell of 3-day jungle ordeal

May 7, 2011
Women got lost on trek in Malaysian national park
By Jalelah Abu Baker

ATTACKS by leeches, unnerving sounds of wild animals and a food shortage were among the trials suffered by two Singapore women when they got lost during a trek in Malaysia last weekend.

In an exclusive interview with The Straits Times, Ms Neo Yiling, 23, and Ms Wendy Zhao, 25, said they decided to trek 8.5km from the entrance of Taman Negara National Park in Pahang to Lata Berkoh, a tourist spot there, after doing online research.
Continue reading S’poreans tell of 3-day jungle ordeal

Hiking Shops in Hong Kong

Some of you asked me about looking for hiking gear and equipment in Hong Kong. I have patronised a number of shops and would rank them as follows:

1. Overlander Flagship Store in Mongkok
10-15% discount for Gold VIP members. I am a Gold VIP member so I can lend you my membership card.
Widest range of hiking equipment I have seen in Hong Kong. Staff are knowledgeable and can advise you on equipment purchases. Occasionally they have a sale and you can get a good deal.

2. HK Mountaineering Centre and Chamonix Alpine Equipment in Mongkok
10% discount for purchases over $300. Occasionally they have a sale and you can get a good deal.

3. Protrek
15% discount for VIP members. I am a VIP member so just quote my mobile number and they will give you the discount.

4. RC Outfitters in Mongkok
Distributor for Berghaus.

Hike at Clearwater Bay – Lung Ha Wan Country Trail

Dear all

Please find below details of the hike this Saturday.

Date: Saturday 27 November 2010

Meeting time: 2:30 pm

Meeting point: Tseung Kwan O MTR station (outside the turnstiles towards Exit A1)

Duration: 2 to 3 hours

Distance: Around 4 km

Level: 1 boot (suitable for inexperienced hikers)


From the meeting point (Tseung Kwan O MTR station – outside the turnstiles towards Exit A1) we will take taxis to Tai Hang Tun at Clear Water Bay Country Park, the starting point of our hike. We will work our way up the hill to the summit at Tai Leng Tung (291 metres).

From the summit we will pause for a break to enjoy the views for about half an hour. Part two of our hike will commence with a descent along Lung Ha Wan Country Trail. You will be rewarded with views of great scenery and Sai Kung laid out in the late afternoon sun far down in the distance. We will end the hike at Lung Ha Wan Picnic Site.

If you still have energy, you can continue down the road to look for the Lung Ha Wan rock carvings:

Bring all the usual things, a camera, enough water, sun block and if the weather looks dodgy, rain gear.

Route Map:

If it is raining hard or thunderstorms are threatening, the walk might be cancelled and I will send out an email. If in doubt, call my mobile.


Wong Lung Hang and Tung Chung Valley

Tung Chung (東涌), meaning ‘eastern stream’, is an area situated on the north-western coast of Lantau Island in Hong Kong. The area was once a major defense stronghold against pirates and foreign military during Ming and Qing dynasties. Since the Song Dynasty between 960–1279 AD, there have been people living in Tung Chung. At that time, they lived on fishing and agriculture. The place was originally called Tung Sai Chung, when Hong Kong was still a group of fishing villages. Tung means east in Cantonese, while Sai means west. At that time, merchandising ships sailed east to the village and west to Macau.

Tung Chung Valley is the home of some of the steepest and most primeval mountain streams in Hong Kong. The formation of spectacular waterfalls is facilitated in the presence of the sheer cliffs and deep gorges in the valley.

Being the main branch of the Tung Chung Valley, the deep-set Wong Lung Valley is the home of the Wong Lung Stream (The Yellow Dragon). The main stream has its source on the saddle at the east of Sunset Peak, but the stream collects water through a large network of feeder streams on both sides of the valley, including the famous Tung-Lung, Pak-Lung, Chong-Lung, and Ngo-Lung Streams, which are known collectively as “The Five Dragons of Tung Chung”.

We call it “Wong-Lung” (Yellow Dragon) since during a heavy rainstorm, when we view from the high ground, the stream resembles a yellow dragon ready to take off for heaven when it and its feeders are flooded with torrential muddy water, with Wong-Lung as the trunk and the feeders its limbs.

Clear Water Bay – Lung Ha Wan Country Trail

Today I hiked in Clear Water Bay’s Lung Ha Wan Country Trail.

Clear Water Bay (traditional Chinese: 清水灣, Cantonese: Ching Sui Wan) is a bay on the east shore of Clear Water Bay Peninsula of Hong Kong located within Clear Water Bay Country Park.

Its beaches are protected by shark nets after three fatal shark attacks in Hong Kong in 1995.

More photos:

Lai Chi Wo

Today I hiked in Lai Chi Wo.

Lai Chi Wo 荔枝窩 is a Hakka village near Sha Tau Kok, in the northwestern New Territories of Hong Kong. It is described as a “walled village” by some sources. Lai Chi Wo is located within the Plover Cove Country Park and near Yan Chau Tong Marine Park. The history of Lai Chi Wo dated back to 400 years ago. It was once the largest and most prosperous Hakka walled-village in the North-Eastern part of New Territories. There were around 1,000 residents in the most prosperous period.

Continue reading Lai Chi Wo