Written by Daniel Ong, Edited by Chey Jedd
As Ventures and vanguards of the Troop, we constantly test our physical and mental capabilities. On 30 April 2022, my fellow JC1 Ventures and I embarked on our Pioneer Exploration Assessment (PEA) hike, a key milestone in our journey as Ventures. Below is my reflection on the journey my batch took to complete PEA.
Knowing ourselves, Understanding the Terrain
In preparation for the PEA hike, we regularly practised our orienteering skills such as area survey and map sketch, getting insightful comments and tips from the Rovers who had experienced and knew the standards of PEA. We also went on frequent mock hikes that were modelled after the actual PEA hike. These mock hikes serve two important functions.
Firstly, it gave us the opportunity to better gauge our own abilities and condition ourselves for the physical demands of the hike. We were able to catch weaknesses and areas of improvement early on and rectify them so that we would not be caught surprised during the actual hike. For example, we were able to track our average hiking pace and the time spent doing the sketches so that we know which area needs to be done faster and could then better plan our time during the actual hike.
Secondly, when planning the mock hikes, the Rovers ensured that we travelled at least once in each direction; North, South, East, and West. This was to allow us to have some experience with each area so that we would need to refer to the map less during the hike. It was also a learning experience for us to understand which roads we can take as being in the area physically lets us learn which roads can be used and which are highways that we should avoid.
On the day of the hike, we began with a Zoom inspection where the examiners asked us to show specific items, namely our bottles of water as well as our first aid kit. We were then given the MGR and a clue about our checkpoints to plan our route. After confirming the locations with the examiner, we set off on our hike.
The hike was an arduous one. The need to move at a quick pace to meet the time limit of the hike constantly conflicted with our need to move slowly so as to record as much information as possible for our route map. While I initially struggled to juggle these two tasks, I was able to strike a balance as time passed.
Similarly, the map sketch and area survey also required us to be able to work under immense time pressure so as to produce sketches that were both detailed and specific. This greatly tested our situational awareness as well as the orienteering skills accumulated over our years of scouting.
More notably, this hike tested our mental resilience. The distance as well as the need to produce high-quality sketches and complete the hike in time meant that we were under immense pressure to succeed. Personally, this pressure acted like a parasite, attacking me from the inside and discouraging me from completing the hike. Thankfully, with sheer willpower and support from my companion, we forged ahead and completed the hike.
The next few hours after the hike was then spent resting as well as sending our draft sketches to the examiners. Although largely unpolished, these sketches were detailed enough to show that we were in the areas physically and had taken note of their key features and landmarks.
Afterwards, we all worked tirelessly until 8 a.m. the next day to do our final sketchbooks. Despite having to touch up 3 route maps, a map sketch, an area survey, and write the captions for our checkpoints and reflection on the hike, we were not daunted by this challenge. We were committed to submitting quality sketchbooks as this was the standard we expected of ourselves as Catholic High Ventures and as ambassadors of the Troop.
While this hike may seem like just another test of our mental resilience, one part stood out a lot to me - my second checkpoint. This was at Pandan Reservoir, along the South-West coast of Singapore. I recalled a great sense of relief and happiness upon reaching this checkpoint. While I initially attributed this to the end of the hike being in sight, I have now come to realise that it was the reservoir itself that gave me this feeling. Situated between an HDB estate and industrial sites, the reservoir provided a bubble of peace and tranquillity, where all the ache and tiredness temporarily vanished. I was able to admire and take in the beauty of the reservoir.
With this feeling, I am reminded of the ever-urbanising Singapore. In the pursuit of economic development, Singapore has been willing to deforest and destroy. The BKE (Bukit Timah Expressway) for example, split the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, literally cutting a forest into 2, to allow for more efficient transport. At the same time, the authorities have given the green light for the upcoming Cross Island MRT line to cut through the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. With such rapid urbanisation, it is very likely that Singapore will be different from the Singapore of today in the next decade. Perhaps the next generation will follow my route and fail to see the various trees and forests as I saw them, but as concrete, steel and glass trees.
The Pioneering Exploration Assessment hike was a physically and mentally demanding challenge, however, with ample preparation and support from the Leaders and Rovers, we were able to overcome this challenge. This hike was also an eye-opening one for me. It allowed me to put my orienteering skills to the test, challenged my ability to think ahead and reminded me about the need to protect the little green spaces that we have left.