Sunday, March 1, 2015

Singapore - Sisters' Island

This was a weekend of firsts. I spontaneously agreed to go camping with a group of people I did not know, save one or two. Which required me to change my other weekend plans around. Not difficult, but the old me would've just denied the invitation because of previous set plans. It was also my first visit to the Sisters Island, about a 40 minute boat ride away, off the coast of Singapore.

When we got to the island, we had a meeting so that everyone was on the same page. Actually, I was the only new kid on the block, everyone else had camped out on this island at least once or twice before. So this meeting was mainly for my benefit.

Mostly to discuss our plan of action against the audacious monkeys that live on the island. Nothing we did could put the fear of God in them. They attack in waves, they had strategies, and most of all, they could predict our ever predictable human behavior. Even as we first walked in from the pier to our campsite, the monkeys were sizing us (and our bags) up, plotting and scheming in their monkey minds how to raid and loot our rations. I felt like it was a scene out of Planet of the Apes as I walked past them. The plan was to have at least one person watch the food at all times. Even so, within the first twenty minutes of our arrival, the monkeys sneaked up on us and managed to take off with our precious bag of marshmallows. When that happened, it was all out war. No more sympathies for our very remotely distant relatives.

Second thing to consider - we had to set up our shelters for the night. Some were going to sleep in tents and the rest of us in hammocks. I was pretty useless with knot tying, so I looked on while everyone else got busy setting up the accommodations for the night. I wish I could say this was also a first for me, setting up hammocks, but alas I had to rely on my seasoned camper friends. Because it was such a last minute decision, I had no appropriate camping gear. My friend Tian generously loaned me a hammock. Yes, sleeping under the unpredictable open skies - also a first. Luckily, the skies were clear that night, and there was also a cool sea breeze that kept us in comfort all night.

We also had to collect firewood for the campfire. Fortunately for us, the local authorities have plans to turn this beautiful island into yet another touristy marine park (whatever that means, though it can't be good). So they've been clearing a lot of trees (stupid, why can't they leave anything well alone) and left a decent supply of firewood at our disposal. Very soon, we had a magnificent fire going, that would also last throughout the night.

A couple of the girls decided to show me around the island, and so we took a quick tour of the circumference, which only took less than twenty minutes to complete. It was a really small island. And quiet, which I appreciated. There was no one else, save the monkeys, and a pair of brothers who were also staying the night. They had kayaked from a beach on the mainland to Sisters' Island to fish and snorkel. The brothers became an integral part of our team, fighting the monkeys, guarding all our belongings.

During our free time, when we're not busy with camp "duties" or rendered useless in a food coma, we played with the toys my friends brought. My friends are poi performers, poi being a style of performance which involves the swinging of tethered weights in rhythmical and geometrical patterns. My talented friends swung poi lit on fire, but I was pretty happy using their practice tennis balls and LED staffs. I certainly do not have a death wish. It was difficult trying to coordinate the more complicated moves like the two or three ball weaves, but after a while of practicing, I got the hang of it. The trick is not to think too hard, or break down the technicalities totally, but to move with the flow. There is, I think, a natural body instinct or rhythm. Well, or maybe I am just a natural. Lol. I'm totally getting a set for myself to while away my free time when I get to California.

The food was just another amazing part of the weekend. We had Toby and Sophia's couscous salad, chia seed pudding, some grilled veggies topped with different types of cheese (absolutely divine), Barry's signature bamboo chicken, Greta's hummus and baba ghanoush and home baked chocolate cake. I really couldn't say we were roughing it out. In the morning, we had omelettes and maggi goreng (local instant noodles) for breakfast. And Guy's brewed-from-scratch chai tea!! What?? These guys are camping pros I tell you. I was suitably impressed. No wonder the monkeys hung around as much as they did. They knew these were no ordinary campers.

It was amazing to sleep under the stars. We hung light sticks on trees for fear it would get too dark, but the half moon shone so brightly we could've done without. I watched the moon set as I tried to fall asleep, wondering why justin and I missed out on camping opportunities the whole time we were in North Carolina. He had gone once or twice with his dad and his friends; we talked about taking the dogs with us, but we never did.

I was the first to wake. I wanted to watch the sunrise, do some morning yoga and meditation. Just as I laid my mat on the ground, I heard some cackling, turned around and saw about four or five monkeys invading our food station. We had covered and tied up the food with a ground sheet the night before, but one of the monkeys managed to reach under and had grabbed a tray of eggs. He broke two before I chased him away with a stick. This woke a couple of the guys and so they stayed on guard while I resumed my morning routine.

We did some acroyoga (another first!), swam in the sea, ate and drank some more before packing up our stuff. It was 5:30 in the evening when the boat arrived to pick us up. I had spent the entire weekend with no access to electricity or internet connection and I didn't even miss it. I think I just might survive off the grid in my upcoming Cali trip.

So grateful for this weekend, for friends new and old, for new experiences and for living life.

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