Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Riding the rapids…

Phew… this is one busy busy CNY for me. First up , pre CNY event : White water kayaking beginners course.

Now, the idea of taking up white water kayaking came about last year, after my one day stint with Pris and Jaffri at Sg Samak in Dec. Fell in love with riding the rapids and it was definitely a different experience from rafting from which there is 6-8 per raft. Kayaking gives more freedom of movement as there is only one person per kayak, and from that more excitement as you get to choose which path to take to ride the rapids (in which, I always choose the wrong one and end up either stuck or capsizing).

Ok, it all started out while surfing the ‘Net that I found links the forums hosted by the Malaysian Canoe Association (yeps, din know we had one) Someone by a very weird nickname put up a post looking for ppl to go with for the course in January. Initially, it clashed with my skydiving dates, but after a few rescheduling here and there, managed to push skydiving back by a week, and free up some time to go for this first.. hehe… thanks Unker.. well.. filled with glee and delight, I booked a place in the team, and prepped myself to go.

Met up with the rest at the KTM station in Tanjong Malim (yes, another first for me – taking a train to Msia) - Sam (the ever cheeky organizer), Tak (canoe poloist), Eileen (veteran white water canoiest in the US) and Vince and Stella (two pure beginners, like me). Had a drink there while getting to know everyone, and at about 10pm, time to depart. *here’s the funny thing, the immigrations chk here is weird.. you enter Malaysia first before leaving Singapore, so in that sense.. I was actually in 2 countries for about an hour before leaving Singapore for good*

Sam managed to book us berths on the train (phew!!) and the beds were, well, okla… actually managed to get a good sleep, except for the minor interruptions when the noisy sliding door banged while opening… toilet – Msian standards.. about AirAsia level of cleanliness… heheh..

The girls in the train

Buuuut anyways… We reached Tanjong Malim at about 830 am.. not bad.. actually arrived ON time… and the station was deserted. It was quite new, think they’re preparing for the KTM komuter later on and looked nice. Called up Amin (our instructor) who fetched us about 10mins later. We met the second instructor, Zuki, as well, and headed straight for breakfast at a nearby Muslim eatery as all our stomach were growling by thenx. From there, we departed for our homestay accommodations the Sg Klah FELDA estates, near Sungkai.
All prepped to go!!

After a short rest and changing into our wet clothes, we were set to go. The river we rafted at was Sg Sungkai, lower part, which was about 15 mins from where we stayed. We unloaded the kayaks and gears and got into them. Fitting is essential to kayaking… especially the foot placement, as it helps in maneuvering the kayak. OK… next.. down to the river..YAY!!!

The part of the river we were set to train in was a small clear area with a Grade ?2 rapid at upstream and lower grades downstream. It river was cold..brr… and we all jumped in. First session was swimming in the river .. against the current, and swimming across the river from left to right- NOT easy. Hahah…. Also learnt some stuff like safe swimmer position – the position a person should stay in after capsizing while flowing with the river, and also how to swim into an eddy (safe spot). Before ending, we all did some waterboarding down the rapid, first solo-ly, then as a wave train.. haha.. fun and siao all put together.. especially since our wave train kena turned astern, with now the back ppl all at the front and everyone facing the wrong direction. After this tiring session, we stopped for lunch and a short break.

Finally, after lunch, we were all geared up to go into the kayaks!! Man, I miss kayakin and it felt great to be in a kayak again.. and paddling and turning and stopping (or trying to stop) and well.. you know, trying to keep the kayak right side up. We were split into 2 group- the beginners and the experienced kayakers. The noob (me included) were then taught the most important thing in kayaking – how to kayak straight and believe me, it was not easy to do, especially in the river water where the currents push the kayaks from side to side. Also, we learned how to save ourselves when we capsize. Had a few runs along the strong currents as well, and had a short try at ferrying from side to side upstream. Nevertheless, after a few hrs, managed to get the kayak to go where it needed to go, turn where it needed to turn to, and stop whenever it needed to stop. Saving ourselves after capsizing was easy, but emptying the kayak and getting back in was a tiring. Each time after capsizing, we needed to overturn the kayak and get as much water out as possible.. then getting in and getting the skirting over the catches was also evenrgy consuming. In the end, I realized that the only bad thing about capsizing was that it was superbly energy draining.

Before finishing the day, we were given a chance to go down the rapid near where we trained. I managed to carry the kayak upstream (super heavy) and rode the rapid down.. hehe .. no capsizing… yes!!! Achievement of the day!!

We were all dead tired by the time we got back to the homestay. Cleaned up, ate dinner, and off we were to bed…. Turned off at 830pm that night and had a nice sleep, which was abruptly ended by the roosters at 5am.. oh well.. kampong life, laa…

The following day, we were split into two groups again. The beginners continued to practice what we learned yesterday while the more experienced group went upstream to practice more advanced skills like rolling. Finally, managed to gain more confidence in manouvreing the kayak as well as capsizing (was kinda bored with that after a while). After lunch, the beginners went upstream, where we learned to read the water flow, while trying to get into eddies while going against the currents. It was not easy to do at first, as it required more precise turnings and bracings into the eddies, as well as very aggressive pedaling. The second eddy almost took me out completely.. phew. Managed to read the end of the pool of water and played a bit there. Zuki then taught on pushing on another kayak to save ourselves from capsizing. Tried a few times but halfway through, I got too tired and ended up resting on the other kayak instead while my kayak remained perpendicular to the water…
One of the smaller rapids

After ending another day of kayaking, we were then brought to the FELDA hot spring nearby. It’s a new attraction there, a Hot Spring and Spa resort in Sg Klah, and there were many ppl around. First stop, the hot pool itself.. I went in and within seconds came out.. ok lesson learnt.. slowly acclimatize to the pool’s temperature. Second try.. slower this time.. ahhh.. nice… good to relax and enjoy….After about 20 mins, we headed over to the mountain spring pool. This pool had some waterfalls and a slide and was more fun to be in. We stood under the water as the falling water massaged our dead backs and strained shoulders. Had a go at the slide too.. haha.. felt like a kid again. Finally, after all that water play, we went over to some food stalls and had burgers and chips while awaiting Azmi (the guide designated to be our driver) to pick us up.

Went back and had dinner. This time, stayed up longer and caught “Deal or no Deal” on TV in which the guy lost. Slept around 9plus this time, and was awaken fresh the next morning.

After breakfast, we were off for our last day of training. This time, the beginners team went down the river to the pick up point. But before that, we went upstream again to practice more skills and warm ourselves up. Could still feel the muscle strain from the day before, but after a couple of minutes… was back into the game again. As the run down the river was quite short, Zuki gave us the chance to go down the rapids as many times as we wanted, hehe… did x3… one run in which I capsized.. no prob there, just stayed cool and calm and release the toggle… too used to capsizing already. After that, got too tired from capsizing and carrying the kayak that we decided to just continue down the river and finish the run.
After the run... no place to sit on the ride back..hehe

The run, was, as Zuki said, was short with simple grade 1-2 rapids along the way. Finally, when everyone was done and gathered, we head to the Wildlife Reserve in Sungkai for lunch and some photo ops with the animals. Managed to catch a shot of the huge seladang here.. and of some hornbills as well. After lunch, we were all tired and as it was already about 3-4pm, we decided to cut the day short and head back to clean up and rest.

The guides came at about 5pm to have a debriefing session with us.. hehe surprise surprise, they also handed us our finishing certs… one of the proudest moments there. Mum, dad and bro came to pick me up after that and we had one group shot before we left. The course was indeed super fun , but at the same time super short. I vowed then and there to return one day, and further my skills in WW kayaking. But before that, the star qualification in Singapore might do me some good in honing my basics first.. so anybody up for the courses in Pasir Ris/Changi?.. I’ll be around…. ;)
Group pic...after it all!!

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