Our first attempt at finding a geocache failed quite miserably.
I was hoping to find this one, which is on the route from the nature reserve to MacRitchie reservoir, a route that K and I have hiked before. Two of my army buddies came along for the hike, and we covered good ground, making 4 klicks in about one and a half hours to reach the site.
Once there though, the actual cache itself eluded us. The clue was that it was "resting on metal", and the only metal visible was the girders supporting the boardwalk, but a search of the area around the approximate location given by the GPS turned up nothing. Quite disappointing for our first attempt at finding a geocache - perhaps I'll try an easier one next, like this one on the top of Bukit Timah hill, or maybe this one, which is in the city centre and could even conceivably be done during lunch hour. We did set a good pace though: 8-10km in 3 hours, which is very respectable exercise.
Aside: nature trails are now quite fancy. Wooden boardwalks have replaced most of the former dirt (i.e. mud) trails, which is good is all sorts of ways - it keeps hikers and the ecosystem separate, allows wildlife (like snakes, which we saw one of, a dark thin quick thing that slithered across the track incredibly fast and disappeared) to pass in safety under the trail, and keeps you clear of mud in the rain. The only drawback I can see is that hikers now make a lot of noise - clomping heavy boots, and the tapping of walking sticks on the wooden planks.
Another aside: what is it with these walking sticks? We saw a whole bunch of hikers armed with them, with one guy holding two of those high-tech, collapsable, lightweight space age material ones. They seem to be the latest fashion accessory for the well-dressed hiker, and there's a clear demographic that uses them - the young and hip who go hiking in the latest, shinest gear, nubile young things who venture into a mosquito-ridden forest wearing spagetti-straps and shorts. People who hike to be seen, as strange as that thought might be. Well, if they choose to sacrifice their delectable flesh to the mosquitoes so I won't get bitten, that's actually quite fine by me - I didn't get a single bite yesterday, despite having casually dismissed the offer of insect repellant, and I figure they must have had much juicier targets than me to go after.
Yet another aside: Bukit Timah hill was really, really crowded. I've always thought of the nature reserve as a refuge of peace and quiet, but on Sunday, we had coachloads of people swarming around the place. There was some sort of company outing (man with megaphone directing people, bored participant with paperback who obviously doesn't want to be there and so has brought along something to read - we've all been there), there was a busload of kids for an on-the-spot drawing competition (I used to do those as a kid ... never won anything, could never match up to those savant types who would produce incredibly detailed renderings in just one hour flat ...) and various roving bands of hikers ranging from moderately serious looking ones to your giggly, flouncy, completely so you-cannot-be-serious groups. I looked up the hill as we passed it, and there was a column of people trudging up it like a wave of ants.
Oh, and two more things. We saw a gliding lizard near the geocache, which is the most exciting wildlife sighting I've made in Bukit Timah since the greater racket tailed drongo I saw more than ten years ago. A beautiful lizard: I thought it was a butterfly at first, the shape of the skin-flap "wings" were so similar, and the coloration was a rusty orange with spots. It glided away from us in a smooth flight, and again when we pursued it to its tree, and was gone after that.
Second thing: if you're on a hiking trail in Bukit Timah, and you hear someone shout "BIKE!" a split second before a burly caucasian barrels past you in a whirring of gears and a backwash of sweat, you are not actually on a hiking trail. You are on a bike trail. Resist the temptation to trip the next one who near-misses you, make way for them (mechanical contraptions have a place in the nature reserve too) and make your way to a hiking trail ASAP!