Getting the Sungei Buloh Anniversary Walk organised is agonising as it coincides with a hectic period of teaching and too soon after the exhausting International Coastal Cleanup – despite the wonderful help of Google Forms.
Still, I suppose unsurprisingly, I decided to go ahead yet again last year, on 5th December 2010, spurred on largely by tradition (we have conducted the event since 1997), the Toddycats who get to exercise their guiding skills and share their stories as well to hear those of some savvy old-timers who will recount their stories as well. The visitors always enjoy the walk and it’s a chance to tell them about things behind the scenes so they appreciate the reserve all the more.
And Buloh is rich with promise – there is always lots to see, e. g. Mei Fun had this to say about highlights:
“We saw a whip snake, beautiful, golden, yellow, moving very slowly in jerky movements. We saw migratory birds, osprey, a pair of otters, all the usual crabs, neritas, egrets, sun bird, noni. Also the Barringtonia flower and senesced sea hibiscus flower, courtesy of some kind soul who put it just outside the VC centre. Katydids, giant grasshoppers, strange spider with a funnel shaped web, golden orb spider…”
Station guide Lee Bee Yan added, “Some were quite surprised that the mud crab can still be found in our mangroves. Others were fascinated by how the crab-eating snake eats its prey and Many were interested with the crab larval specimens we showed.” Route guide Trina Chua simply said “The otters stole the show as usual!”
Otters and monitor lizard at the Visitor Centre. Photo by Fung Tze Kwan.
And for the past few years, the research students are dragged out for the morning to talk about mangrove denizens to supplement what people see or hear about during the Route Guiding session.
Station guiding – guides and public exchange stories! Photos by Fung Tze Kwan
The morning had not started out so smoothly though – a tidal wave of some 300 noisy people on an outing swept through the staging area at the Visitor Centre! That might have pulled some of participants away from the guides, messing things up a little. The entry point next year might be at Kranji instead, so that will get sorted out this year if we offer the event. A registration procedure will have to be sorted out at any rate.
By 8.30am, I had despatched about 50 people with their route guides and was introducing the park to a final group with their route guides standing by. Then I heard the news, relayed by a runner, a guide was not well. I walked over to find that actually, the guide fallen off the boardwalk backwards onto a horizontal log. Although she had initially tried to carry on guiding, the pain in her back was too great and I was called in.
At the scene, we decided to try 1777 – the non-emergency number – but even their operator advised us to get the SCDF- faster for someone in great pain. And the pain was getting quite severe so I called 995 for an ambulance, the first time in 20 years of field trips at Buloh.
The Station Guide Toddycats were on hand as the crowds had not reached them as yet. They responded well to my instructions about preparing to guide the ambulance crew in and the paramedics arrived in 15 minutes as promised through a shortcut to the boardwalk.
Once they applied nitrous oxide, all was well once again – well, enough to get her out via the bumpy boardwalk amidst an agog audience of visitors to Khoo Teck Puat hospital.
Nitous oxide being administered
My friends came down to keep me company until the guide was discharged four hours later. An X-ray, CT scan, an intra-muscular muscle relaxant cost just $85 plus a bumper crop of drugs to dampen the pain and reduce swelling. Since her spinal cord was misaligned, she would eventually visited a TCM chiropracter the following week who sorted out her back with some cracking – the pain was eliminated and she got off the drugs.
Meanwhile, back at Buloh Toddycats continued with their duties and the station guides were directed to eat the surprise cake NParks staff had prepared for my birthday – its always good to feed undergrads. Marcus Cha rounded up the session by conducting a detailed guided tour for them. He told them he was preparing them to guide in future!
Marcus Chua guiding station guides after the event. Photo by Lee Bee Yan.
Thanks to the Toddycats who guided and assisted on 5th December 2010: Airani S, Marcus Chua, Amy Choong, Trina Chua, Ivan Khong, Kok Oi Yee, Grace Lo, Amanda Tan, Cheo Pei Rong, Jessica Ker, Fung Tze Kwan, Wong Ze Lin, Lee Bee Yan, Meryl Theng, Glendon Teo, Diana Chiu, Germaine Leng, Adrian Loo and from RJC: Lai Wei Xuan, Gladys Chua, Lee Wei Siang, Kuah Sing Yee, Chiu Chai Hao and Sean Yap.
– N. Sivasothi a.k.a. Otterman
I went back to exam marking after the incident so forgot to post this earlier, but better late than never! If you have photos from the walk, send them to me as a zipped file via Wetransfer.com, thanks!