By Tan Jen Kai
千里之行，始于足下 A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step ~Lao Tzu.
When the 5 ventures first registered for this Pioneer Exploration Assessment Hike, we knew that this was going to be a arduous challenge, set to test our mental thresholds, physical capabilities and character. In order to overcome this challenge and win this "war", we would need to go through extensive amounts of preparation and know ourselves, the weather, and the terrain. 2 weeks before this hike, we sat for the Skills & Fundamentals (S&F) Test, a prerequisite for attending this hike. To ensure we had the maximum amount of preparation, we attempted orienteering quizes online and even went down to North Vista Secondary School, our examination venue, to recce the site. Not surprisingly, all 5 ventures passed the S&F test with flying colours and proceeded with the next component of our assessment, the Pre-Assessment Submission (PAS). This was a report that was to be filled with the hike details, our diet plan and packing lists etc. On the day of submission of the PAS report (20/4), we gathered to do our final preparations and packing.
When packing for a hike, one must travel light and the bagpack should not exceed 20% of the hiker's bodyweight. The items should be packed compactly and when carried, the bag and body should move as one unit. As such, every item was taped together and wrapped with plastic cling wrap before being packed into the bagpack. Furthermore, our hiking bagpack had to be bought after much consideration about its comfort, capacity and durability. Our hiking bagpacks ranged from Mystery Ranch, Osprey and Deuters as these were reputable brands that would aid and not hinder us in our 70km journey. Lastly, with everything packed, we ran once around the track to ensure nothing was moving about inside. We also practiced laying out an inspection of the items as one Ventures Unit. At the end of this training session, the 10 candidates and companions were ready to show their best standards among others in the following Saturday which was the start of our hike. Even without knowing we were from Catholic High Scout Group, people would still be able to tell that we were one bonded and united Ventures Unit.
The following Saturday (27/4), all 10 candidates and companions reported at Fernvale Primary School, our start point, healthy and hearty. After laying out a perfect inspection and going through a series of equipment and readiness checks, we received our hike information in the form of type of checkpoint, nearest distance to next checkpoint, and bearing. At 0900, all 10 candidates and companions set off.
Day 1 proved to be a challenging 14 hours of hiking around central and East Singapore, as the participants clocked a minimum of 40 kilometres. For me, my checkpoints were the Air Force Museum, Lower Peirce Reservoir Jetty, a Church in Woodlands and a Bridge after Khoo Teck Phat Hospital. Thankfully, the company of each other helped to keep us focused on the task at hand as we trudged on with will and might, tolerating the sheer pain from our newly formed blisters and abrasions. For me, I only had one thought in mind that kept my momentum and drive, which was to put my troop at the top and put everything before myself. This meant sacrificing my time, effort and sweat and having no mercy for myself and my companion, as we could not afford to lose time lamenting about our injuries or the distance we had yet to cover. When we reached Terror Sea Scout Campsite at 2300, all 10 of us wasted no time settling down and preparing for the night check and briefing. We then received our second set of hike instructions, which was a scenario whereby we were on an elite reconnaisance mission. We were then tasked with finding our own checkpoints and coming up with justifications to choosing that checkpoint as a route marker.
Day 2, although shorter in distance than Day 1, proved to be a testament of our resilience and mental steadiness as we were hiking from North Singapore to National Museum, our end point, on 3 hours of sleep. Nevertheless, we maintained our cool and step after step, kilometre after kilometre, we had completed our Pioneer Exploration Assessment Hike, clocking a total of 65 - 70 kilometres. As we gathered at the National Museum for a debrief, we were fully drained of energy but beaming with pride that we had overcomed yet another mountainous challenge in our pursuit of the President's Scout Award.
This month long journey of preparation and execution has shaped us in one way or another, as we have learnt what it means to be the best in all areas, be it packing our bagpacks with the best possible arrangement, or laying out the neatest inspection, or drawing the most detailed and organised map sketch. From this experience, we have once again placed Catholic High Scout Group at the top. 智仁勇，日行一善，深谋远虑。
Attached below are the sample Map Sketch and Route Map for reference.