Kayu Putih or Gelam trees at University Cultural Centre

At the start of the Battle of Panjang Commemorative Walk, we found ourselves leaning against some Kayu Putih trees. I was delighted to see these Gelam trees which Shawn Lum had introduced me too when he was working on them in the 90’s.We looked for stands of trees behind mangroves in Penang, Langkawi and Bangka Island which made a deep impression on me.

The trees is Melaleuca cajuputi (= M. leucacandra) has a peeling bark or paper bark and a whitish wood, hence the Malay name. The flowers have a bottle brush appearance and I seem to recall several wayside trees around the Holland Road-Farrer Road junction.

There are several places called “Kampung Gelam” or “Glam” in Malaysia, Singapore an Indonesia and are probably indicative of peat or blackwater swamp forests where they used to grow in large numbers.

The plant is medicinal and minyak kayu putih or cajuput oil is a concoction you can buy. It’s nice to have such trees in our neighbourhood.


Five cycling events which will keep me (and Zendogs) riding through to August 2015

To keep cycling for health and joy in busy Singapore, it helps to join events and infect your kakis in the process. This year there are several rides peppering the calendar until August.

After a relatively inactive monsoon, it is the NTU Sports Club’s Round Island which sees me climb back into the saddle to recover my cycling fitness by February. This year will be my 11th ride with them and I signed up for their 168km route along with only a single kaki from Zendog 2.0, Kenneth Pinto. Ladybug has promised to deliver lunch once again and Alvin Wong will probably cheer from his window when we pass Punggol! Flu has interrupted training but there are two more weeks.

In March, a Word Water Day ride, Re(Cycle) 360 beckons. It’s a fun event and we are encouraging NUS Toddycats to join us on the ride. We head to Pandan mangrove that afternoon for a mangrove cleanup so it will be an active day indeed.

In April I signed up for the 60km ride at Cycle Asia Singapore – the racers will tear away and I will be left far behind to enjoy an uninterrupted early morning sprint on my hybrid bike.

In June, Heart of Courage is a charity ride which friends of friends of mine pointed me to. This is the first time Teen Challenge is fund-raising with a cycling event so I signed up promptly (the funds go to the charity effort). I might be at a conference instead though.

And finally just as my life falls apart in August with the bulk of my heavy teaching load in Semester 1, there is one last respite with OCBC Cycle. The emphasis on safety has seen the 59km ride dropped so I will sign up for the 39km ride, when registration opens in early March. A bunch of my kakis will usually sign up for the Community Ride.

Next to plan for the offroad rides.

[1] NTU Bike Rally by NTU Sport Club, 08 Mar 2015 [registration closed; bikerally.ntusportsclub.sg]

[2] (Re)Cycle 350, World Water Day 21 Mar 2015 [register before 28 Feb 2015 for a Cycle 350 dri-fit sports tee-shirt; cycle350.peatix.com]

[3] Cycle Asia Singapore, by Spectrum Worldwide, 10-12 Apr 2015 [registration open; http://www.cycleasia.com/singapore]

[4] Heart of Courage, 20 Jun 2015; Teen Challenge (Singapore)’s first charity cycling event and fundraiser for DARE Centre [registration open; tc-heart-of-courage.org, facebook]

Biking for Charity  Heart of Courage 2015 | Facebook

[5] OCBC Cycle, by OCBC, 29-30 Aug 2015 [registration opens on 09 March 2015; OCBC Cardmembers can register on 03 Mar 2015 with a 10% discount. ocbccycle.com]

OCBC | Singapore mass cycling event

Chinese New Year Coastal Cleanup at Tanah Merah 7 with RVRC students!

I conduct a recce at Tanah Merah 7 tomorrow for Thursday’s Chinese New Year Coastal Cleanup with some 35 students from NUS’ Ridge View Residential College. They take a sustainability module I help teach (GEM1917) and this cleanup compliments the lectures.

I was last at this site for International Coastal Cleanup, Singapore with NUS Toddycats & Independents on 13 Sep 2014. This group did a great job at the very far end of Tanah Merah and brought trash over almost kilometre.

NUS Toddycats & Independents working a chain gang to move trash out at Tanah Merah 7 during ICCS2014 before the tide rushes in. Photo by Kenneth Pinto

This coastlines is under restricted access to the public, and we will probably remove at least 1/3 tonne of trash. So I did have to email a few people and they all responded quickly and supportively as usual, which is really nice to see. So I let the RVRC students know that:

  • Permission for access to the site has been granted by Singapore Police Force via Singapore Land Authority.
  • The Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal operator (Singapore Cruise Centre) is providing us access to the side gate access to the site and space in the Car Park for us to place our trash.
  • NEA’s Department of Public Cleanliness has arranged to have our trash picked up by 12pm on Thursday.

We head out early on both recce and cleanup days to catch the shore while its nice and cool. There is always the reward of eagles overhead while we work the beach. Looking forward to this and observing the students at work!

Shoulder joint and muscle aches through the new year!

In the course of a four day wilderness first aid course, we huffed and puffed with a 82kg “fracture and bleeding casualty” from the forest near the car park to Block S2. At one point I relieved a tiring colleague to cover two points and probably took on a bit more than I should have.

Typically the pain came days later. Salon Pas, stretching and what not, but to no avail.

Two of five plasters I slapped on my shoulders and neck
2015 02 10 13 19 shouder ache

Before I recovered, I forgot the pain and enthusiastically helped dig up the mulch for four trees (i.e. tree-planting) at Windsor Park (Venus Drive). The occasion? NParks had announced this park as a yet another buffer for the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and launched Chua Ee Kiam’s latest book, “Rainforest in a City”. It was a happy day!

The week after, my shoulders and arm muscles ached even more terribly than before! Especially my right shoulder joint which felt very loose. Ache, ache, ache all through Chinese New Year to add, erm, injury to the insult to a bout of the flu.

My joints ached so much, I came close to breaking out a triangular bandage sling at work today.

All this pain is simply due to unused muscles getting a rigorous workout too suddenly. Since I cycle, trek, conduct coastal cleanups and briskwalk once in awhile at least, those muscles are not startled easily. Stretcher-bearing and ‘tree-planting’, on the other hand, were too demanding for this desk warrior! So despite an old fashioned energy-saving technique with the changkul, the muscle power required was still too high a demand.

Thankfully that day, the fifth tree eluded me. I looked, but there were no more unplanted trees.

Solution? More tree planting sessions – but with some preparation before hand!

Tree-planting on Sat 14 Feb 2015 with Darren Yeo for support. He planted three trees during the EcoLink tree-planting session so wisely took a break this time!
Digging for gold 6376

I am well supervised – Subaraj Rajathurai joins the side-pit discourse!
Tree planting2

Happy camper, before the pain!
Tree planting

Photos by Nick Baker and Airani S.

It’s Recess Week at NUS and I think of this dusky leaf money in Penang

It’s Recess Week at NUS and we have been issued a cease and desist order over academic activity for students so they can catchup. Which means it’s a time for academics to engage in a frenzy of catchup activity. this with great longing I think of this dusky leaf monkey (also spectacled leaf monkey, ‘lotong mata puteh’; Trachypithecus obscurus) whom I enjoyed observing spend a lazy afternoon on a tree branch at Penang National Park (Taman Negara Pulau Pinang).

This area was my haunt in the early 90’s when it was Pantai Acheh Forest Reserve. During my brief visit, I was relieved to see the area quite unchanged. All thanks to efforts over decades by naturalists (especially Malaysian Nature Society) which led to the area declared a national park in 2003.

The Dusky leaf monkey is also easily seen at Penang Botanical Gardens.

20150110 dlm sleeping