Sometime in May 2016 John Huong had just descended from having successfully reached Low’s Peak and was resting at Laban Rata before continuing on his descend down to Timpohon Gate. I can’t remember if I saw his status on Facebook or Instagram but I was quick to ask for a favour while it was still convenient and that was to mail me a postcard from the highest post office in Malaysia — located right next to Mountain TORQ’s Pendant Hut at 3,289m above sea level.
I walked past this very post box during my climb a month earlier and it didn’t hit me at the time that it might have been a functioning one until I chanced upon a web page that said it’s “certified the highest post box by Malaysia Book of Records.” John picked the postcard of St John’s Peak and gave me an exciting addition to my growing collection of postcards from around the world.
Fast forward two years after my first Canada Hill hike on 20th October 2013, friends who learned that I had registered for the 3rd Canada Hill Trail Challenge asked what made me decide to sign up for the race (I’m not known in my circle of friends to join races) to which I replied, “I have unfinished business to settle at Canada Hill.”
Those who have never driven up to Canada Hill, check out the magnificent view of Miri City photographed (on a haze free morning) from a spot adjacent to Hazard Bistro.
Looking at the left log below, 1.93km is hardly the sort of distance to drive to Miri for. We stopped short of however much more we could have gone because a member wasn’t feeling 100% so we all decided to stop. If someone had asked if I would be interested to participate two years ago, I would not even have given it a second thought. So much has changed in the two years since I began working out — I’m better prepared today, mentally and physically, for such demanding races — a long way to go before I find comfort in racing tougher and longer trail distances!
I observed that many participants were dressed light in that they were competing in the same Men’s Open 4.7km category and were entirely reliant on the water stations for hydration; they brought no water bottles of their own to speak of. Quite a number of them were dehydrated with one or two around me were suffered fatigue and cramps because they ran the Curtin University Warrior Run just the day before. If organizers happen to be reading this (and I hope they pick up on this important feedback), the first water station was unnecessary (too close to the start of event) and the second (which is also the last) one too far apart. Fortunately I had 2L of fluids on my back and was taking sips throughout the hike due to the stifling heat and exhaustion.
Now that I’ve hiked a distance more than twice that of my first attempt what do I think of Canada Hill? Coming from someone who according to my friends is a sucker for pain, I can see myself going back for leisure hikes. It’s not as hike friendly as Bukit Shahbandar or Tasek Lama trails but man, Canada Hill is one attraction that will also give you an upper body workout. The only question is finding like-minded buddies to join me.
Thanks to my wife who drove me to Miri, and my Miri buddies for changing their minds about participating, I got to earn my first trail medal, second only in my collection after Mount Kinabalu climb. Will I be back for the 4th Canada Hill Trail Challenge next year? It’s too early to say with any degree of certainly but I don’t see any reason to not sign up! 🙂
Now, for those who have never visited Bukit Shahbandar in Brunei and would like to find your way around the trails (first-time visitors getting lost is not uncommon) be sure to you have the Bukit Shahbandar Trail Map with you at all times. Even better is downloading MapMyHike App, import a route and hike with GPS assistance.
I did say I was going to come home with a medal …
and did exactly that — a Men’s Open 4.7km Finisher Medal (completion indicated by the three coloured strings around my neck collected from three checkpoints). Out of a total of 580 participants, there were 30 Bruneians who pained our way through the forest to finish on a high note!