Swashbuckling through Eco X Adventure Race 2015
What do you do when you see an interesting outdoor adventure race which you’re doubtful of finishing? Rope in some friends for the journey! Team work will assure that you will get through the tough and tougher times indeed.
Our group was 24 strong, consisting of newbies to adventure racing, and who’ve never run 10km in their lives, but were up for the 21km challenge nonetheless! When you sound crazy, rope in more crazy buddies and suddenly, you won’t seem that odd anymore.
We stayed overnight at Nomad Adventure’s eco-friendly Earth Camp domitories which had toilets and showers constructed from recycled water tanks. They also had huts beneath the trees which looked quaint.
Weather delay fails to dampen spirits
The lengthy morning rain failed to dampen our buzzing spirits. In fact, I think we ‘buzzed’ rather loudly and might have woken up the entire camp before sunrise. Rise and shine, people! An adventure awaits.
With a minor weather delay, the Race Director set us off on a changed route, sadly avoiding the long-awaited river crossings due to the raging river currents. Now we wished we could float down the river in tubes instead. Oh well, suggestion for next year perhaps?
Stepping it up in Gua Tempurung
We ran through a small loop around the village before returning to camp to perform two obstacles out of six, namely the Monkey Bars and a bar where you had to hoist yourself up before making your way down while hanging upside down and then balance yourself on some beams. From there on, we set our way towards Gua Tempurung, for some caving.
Sadly, also due to the raging river currents, we could not traverse the river in the cave, and could only climb the steps to a mid point to make a u-turn. Dissapointing to say the least, and the steps were not quite the adventure we were looking for.
While rushing through the steps, I did remember to stop and smell the cave. The guano smell was not as strong as I’d expected. We peeped into some chambers and saw bats catching a snooze upside down. A tour guide was explaining the formations of the limestone caves to a group so we stopped for awhile to listen in and spot the formations too.
Once we exited the caves, we ran pass more of Perak’s signature limestone caves and picturesque disused mining ponds. The trail led us through a small river where we happily jumped in, imagining our cancelled river crossings. We soon crossed a bridge over the North-South highway, reminding us of the civillization we left behind this morning.
We were hoping for more adventure along the way, but there was nothing much to look forward to, apart from miles and miles of running through undulating slopes of a palm oil estate and rubber estate.
To distract ourselves, we kept picturing that it would’ve been more fun to ride this route on a mountain bike. I kept sliding without traction on the slippery laterite slopes of the oil palm estate, imagining myself yelling, “whee.. no brakes!” if I were riding my mountain bike.
As dry as a desert
Fortunately, I had refilled my hydration pack at the first water station, as we later discovered there were no other water stations to be found on the route. Fortunately the cool weather prevailed until high noon, when we started to feel the effects of high noon. My fateful steed kept reminding me to eat, but we had to be a little conservative on water, not knowing whether there was a water station ahead.
At approximately the 16km mark, we came to a small cave where we walked on steel cables to cross the cave. Yes, finally some form of adventure, but the route was too short, and only lasted a few minutes.
Thereafter, we meandered through a banana plantation, passing by the back of someone’s house while waving to the residents inside. We were either disturbing their peaceful Sunday lunch or we were giving them something to cheer about. I could smell a few bushes of lemongrass and ‘daun kaduk’ (akin to Betel leaves) had been sacrificed for us to pass through the idyllic ‘kampung’. The water was still raging at the second river crossing which was duly cancelled. I could still hear the cheerful sounds of families having a picnic by the riverside.
The afternoon sun bore down relentlessly, and you know you’re almost there when the road seems unending and you’re running round in circles through Kampung Chulek. Each time you think Earth Camp is around the corner, you would be diverted a little further away for yet another turn. Alas, four more obstacles awaited us back at camp, and we took a breather before attempting it. The water baby in me was more than happy to p[unge into the swimming pool, which did not prove to be an obstacle to me, for sure.
The finish line was finally within reach, as we sprinted to the end for a photo-finish after 4 hours. It was all about the journey and not the destination. However, tried as they may, the newbies within our group were swept up into the ‘Lorry of Shame’ as they did not make the cut-off time of circa 3.5 hours by the 14km mark. They shall return to redeem themselves and hopefully get a run across the river and more caving as well.
Watch the video and get inspired for the next edition of Eco X Adventure Race!