I spent a Tuesday morning exploring the lush and wondrous Clementi Forest.
My friends know me as a hermit who would much rather be indoors than outdoors.
So when I was asked to write a review about hiking at Clementi Forest, I was not the most excited for it.
Still, I accepted the challenge as I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and began preparing by researching the place.
Based on pictures online, the forest looked like a scene out of Jurassic Park, with its vast greenery and rough terrain.
The night before the hike, I was nervous about what to expect while hiking despite the research I had done.
I ensured that I had packed all the essentials on my list including insect repellent, an extra set of shoes, sunscreen, and a water bottle. I even had to set at least five alarms as we were setting out early to catch the sunrise at 6.30am.
Very early the next day, I met my colleague Barani opposite Ngee Ann Polytechnic, from where we were to enter the 85ha forest. Barani had planned the schedule for the hike and was in charge of filming our hiking adventure.
Unlike me, he was optimistic about the hike.
As we headed down the dirt path near the sidewalk of the bus stop that had been worn out by other hikers, it became immediately apparent that this would not be a usual hike through places like MacRitchie Reservoir or Bukit Timah Hill with concrete or wooden boardwalks.
Entering the forest, the mist gradually cleared to reveal a small ball of light in the distance. Watching the sunrise made me feel more rejuvenated as we embarked on our three-kilometer hike.
As we entered the forest bounded by Bukit Timah and Clementi, we were greeted by the croaking of frogs and cries of birds hidden in the forest.
I felt very uncertain walking into the unknown. With the towering trees, there was not a single hint of civilisation in sight.
The greenery stretched onwards as I ventured through the forest, and I could feel the tiny droplets of water on the leaves cooling my skin.
The foliage was so thick that it almost covered the narrow path we were walking on. I also found myself dodging towering plants and hopping over the fallen branches scattered on the ground.
The air was still as we continued venturing deeper into the forest, making me feel calm and peaceful.
Unfortunately, this beauty of silence did not last very long.
The path started getting steeper as we ventured onto rough, bumpy terrain. Things started to get more intense, and I felt like I was going through an advanced obstacle course as I tried to take a step forward, but my feet gradually sank into the ground.
Before I knew it, I was ankle-deep in the mud.
I lifted my legs to get out of the mud, revealing my shoes that were soaked with water and mud. With every step I took, I could hear the uncomfortable sound of my shoes squelching.
Unlike me, Barani walked through the mud with ease.
At that point, we had only been walking for 30 minutes and I already wanted to turn back. My mud-covered shoes were losing their grip, I felt myself slipping forward, and there was nothing I could grab onto except the unruly vines.
I soon lost my balance and fell onto a pile of mud.
I was frustrated by my predicament, but Barani helped me get back up on my feet and encouraged me to finish the hike.
With my pants damp from the mud and shoes caked beyond recognition, we soldiered onwards down Clementi forest towards a small river.
Throughout the journey we were sheltered by the dense foliage, but I finally noticed some sunlight peeking through the trees. I walked further ahead and saw moving silhouettes of people.
That could only mean one thing: we had finally reached civilisation!
“I see people!” I cried, completely abandoning Barani who was still crossing the river.
Emerging from the forest after two hours, a sense of relief washed over me as we saw a number of people on their morning walks.
However, my relief came too soon – I had made the grave mistake of not doing sufficient research before going on the hike. Instead of ending up at the Jurong Railway tracks, we had emerged at the wrong side of the forest.
Barani’s next words crushed my spirits: “We need to go back into the forest again.”
After resting at home for a few days, we returned to the forest for a second time on a Sunday morning. I felt more prepared this time as I knew what to expect.
We followed a YouTube guide that led us to the Jurong Railway tracks from Clementi Forest. The tracks were hard to spot at first glance as they were covered by the overgrown vegetation.
At first, we were able to walk along the train track but it gradually got muddier. The tracks were flooded from the rain the night before so walking on the tracks was not ideal.
As a result, we had to climb up a slope beside the tracks to continue the hike.
As we reached higher ground, there were some sections of the track that were blocked by fallen tree trunks, but we were able to climb over them.
While climbing the steep slope, we could see the tracks below. And by following in the direction of the tracks, we knew we would end up in the right place this time.
The ground was a lot more slippery than what I was used to, but that was a challenge that I was willing to tackle. After my first hiking experience, I had built some endurance and ensured I would not fall into the mud again.
After 20 minutes of exploring, we emerged from the forest and found that the tracks connect to the Jurong Railway tunnel.
We took some photos inside the cavernous tunnel to mark the end of our journey before heading home from the bus stop opposite Maju Camp next to it.
With that, we finally completed our journey along the forest. I was exhausted, but also felt satisfied as I had learnt how to embrace nature.
Being away from the bustling city for a few hours made me appreciate the peace and quiet in the forest — for the most part.
Hiking in Clementi Forest did make me happy to see a real jungle amid a concrete one. But for new hikers like me, I would suggest starting with places with more paved paths instead.
I would also recommend bringing a buddy on this journey. Not only will a friend be great company, they can also help you out of sticky situations.
Aside from the chaotic moments, this trip was a nice escape from writing articles at home. Clementi Forest has magnificent scenery and being able to witness that was a memorable experience.
To me, it definitely lives up to the hype.
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