Monday, November 21, 2016

Still Alice

And Allah has created you and then He will cause you to die, and of you there are some who are sent back to senility, so that they know nothing after having known (much). Truly! Allah is All-Knowing, All-Powerful.
-Surah An-Nahl, Verse 70

The movie and the book has made me realise this: We derive so much meaning from-, place so much pride in-, and based a big part of our identities on: our work, our intellect, our strength, our beauty, our youth, our power and our wealth. But all these are temporary. How would we cope if these things are taken away from us?

In Alice's case, her sense of self was eaten away by the Alzheimer's Disease. For us, it could be old age, or an accident, a recession, an illness, a civil war or any other plot twists that life has in store. Point is, the rug can be pulled out from under us at any moment. A sobering thought which can really cut our ego down to size.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

5 Averroes 2016

To my 5E kids

A year went by in the blink of an eye.
You'll be sitting for your SPM in 3 days' time and all the hugging from today's Majlis Mohon Restu has made me nostalgic.

I want you guys to know that I've enjoyed being your class teacher tremendously. We always had so much fun during English lessons and I'll definitely miss all your jokes and antics.

Forgive my shortcomings; I think I should have been an adultier adult and not let you guys get away with soo many things tsk tsk. (2017 resolution: Run a tighter ship!)

My hope is that all of you achieve true success, in this life and in the hereafter. And that you'll make a positive contribution to the world, in small or big ways.

I love you guys.
Take care & all the best!

Here are some recaps of the fun times we had had (combed from my fb timeline):

This group did 2 chemistry experiments for their English presentation: Chemical Garden & Elephant's Toothpaste.
Ammar prefaced their presentation with the weirdest and most memorable opening line ever:

"Kids, watch where you're stepping...
Because Papa is going to drop some knowledge."

He delivered the line with such panache (i.e. Ted Mosby-like) that it was greeted with loud cheers and laughter.


I don't usually blow a gasket in class.
And technically I didn't but when my students didn't do the work I had asked them to, I just expressed how *disappointed* I was.
Kirtina said that I was very good at that (guilt tripping students).
Anyway, afterwards, I found this letter on my table and subsequent lessons had a different feel to it.

The kids have been extra nice to me (it feels like they're walking on eggshells so as to not upset me again) and they have been producing above average work. It's clear that they've been putting in extra effort in the ongoing ULBS presentation and I'm very impressed by what they have come up so far.

So maybe I need to employ this God-given guilt-tripping ability more often? 


A: Teacher, I just saw an angel
Me: What are you talking about?
E: He's talking about his crush teacher
Me: Ohhhh
A: Yes, the angel just walked through the gates of hell
Me: What??
A:  She just entered the school compound...

Pandai guna metaphor ehhh


Some of my 5E kids were trying very hard to increase their marks for English.
They tried every possible tactic to get me to change my mind.
I didn't relent and told them; "You know, in 5 years' time, it won't matter if you got 2 extra marks for a monthly test. You won't even remember whether you got 86 or 88 for English."
The students responded with, "But teacher, we'll remember you *kindness* and *generosity* in awarding extra marks to your students."
Good try kids but no, flattery will not work either.


The students were brainstorming ideas for their section of the school yearbook.
Several themes were suggested:
Star Wars
Syafiq asked the girl next to him, "Theme Ambition tu macam mana?"
The girl replied, "Kena pose jadi your ambition. Macam, what do you want to be?"
Syafiq, without skipping a beat, replied, "I want to be with you."
Smooth Syafiq, very smooth...


For our class photoshoot, the kids have really gone all out dressing up as flight attendants, doctors, veterinarians (Iffa even brought her cat as a prop), lawyers, imam, film directors, etc.
Khairul, our in-house photographer, has done a very good job of taking the pictures. They turn out real nice.
Today the students asked me what I would be posing as.
"Do I have to?"
"Eh, mesti la Teacher. Tapi Teacher tak boleh jadi teacher. Kena jadi benda lain."
"Okay, give me some ideas."
"Imran dressed up as a Prime Minister yesterday (complete with the Jalur Gemilang & I Love PM banner). Why don't you be Rosmah?"


Imran was absent on Monday because he had a fever. When I saw him today, I asked him how he was feeling.
"I'm okay Teacher, it's just that now I have a sexy voice."
"Sexy? Says who?"
"Says me"
"Hurm okay"
I started to walk away but he was insistent:
"It's sexy kan Teacher? Am I right?"


Some of my students took part in a Solar Car Competition today.
One of them had this as his whatsapp status:
'Come home victorious or don't come home at all'.
"So menang tak?" I asked
"Might have to find a new home today" came the sheepish reply.


R: Teacher, cover your ears, we're about to begin our council.
Me: What council?
R: (in an officious voice) It's the Council of Men
Me: Am I not an honorary member of your council?
R: Are you a man?
Me: Urm, no.
R: Then you're not... as this is The Council of Men.
Me: Fair enough, may I know what does this council do?
R: It discusses, you know, MANLY stuff.


An example of students seeking divine intervention for their SPM Trials:
H: Teacher, I wanted you to pray for our Physics paper, but I would rather you pray that we'll win the gold medal tonight.
Me: Why? Is there a quota or something? Am I allowed only one prayer per day?
H: No Teacher, if we win the gold medal, we'll have a public holiday tomorrow!


Today, my students sat for, yet another, mock exam.
When I entered the class to start the English paper, the students looked weary and tense.
Some were frowning, some had furrowed brows, bulging veins on their foreheads, etc.
I tried to get them to relax:
"Just think of it as another practice session. Don't worry too much about it.
No exam is worth risking your mental health."
"Well it's a little too late for that Teacher," came the wry reply.


I examined the Panadol, tissue, Brands chicken essence & minyak angin on a student's desk during examination.
Me: What's all these?
Hong: Things a stressed student needs.
Another student brought a big box of tissue.
"What's with the tissue?" I asked.
"To cry," the boy answered succinctly.



A: Teacher, after SPM, could you text me every day and remind me to exercise?
Me: Every day? What's in it for me?
A: You'll get one hot student.

Thanks for the memories :)

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Last Runners!

At yesterday's #MHWHNightRun, I arrived way later than the flag-off time.
First, it was because my friends and I had spent too much time at Alia's open house (the food was really good!). Then I went to the wrong venue. By the time I arrived at the starting line, some runners were already heading back to their cars (!)

So Zu & I became, literally, the last two runners of the race. We even had two crew members on motorcycles to escort us. Whenever we passed a traffic marshall or people serving drinks, our escorts would call out, "Last runners, last runners!", and the people would cheer because their work was done for the night.

I haven't been running for months so I was so out of breath and I felt like walking throughout the 5-km route. But since I was with Zu (aka the alpha female), I had to run all the way just to keep up with her. Though she ran slower than usual so that she could keep her eyes on me, she was still about 40 metres ahead.

The man on the motorcycle was going very slowly yet I still lagged behind so he had to stop every few minutes for me to catch up. I think the only way for him ride alongside me was to put his gear in reverse.

Around two kilometres to the finish line, we finally caught up with the other runners and were no longer dead last. #pridesalvaged

We met with another runner, Nelson, who had already completed the race and was looking for his friend. He took pity on me probably because I looked like I was on the verge of crying or dying, or both, so he accompanied me to the finish line.

He offered me some drinking water, urged me on when I wanted to just walk and taught me the correct breathing technique. Well, he tried to anyway but I was still breathing like an asthmatic patient until the end. 

At long last we crossed the finish line. Yeay!
I have to admit it was kind of fun but I think hiking is more my thing :)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Anatomy of a Breakup

Breaking up is hard. But when the other party has let you down so many times and there's a growing distrust, I am forced to face up to the truth and make that tough decision.

I've glimpsed the writing on the wall for some time now but I was in denial for a long time.
We were such a good fit and we had so many awesome adventures together. Who could replace such a fun-loving, trustworthy and dependable companion?

We've conquered Kinabalu, Rinjani, Mulu Pinnacles, Irau, Kutu, Nuang, Twin Peak, Bunga Buah, Tabur & Broga together. Those trips wouldn't have been the same without his reassuring presence.

He's always had my back and pushed me on though I was ready to give up.

But he's changed. He now seems unsettled and a bit unsteady. And I can no longer rely on him :'(
When he didn't catch my fall the first time it happened, I just brushed the incident off. Things happen; There's no need to make a big fuss out of it. But when it happened again and again and he still didn't save me from shifting ground, I suspect that he is just unwilling to.

He has made his point very clear: I can no longer depend on him and that it's time for me to go to Decathlon to find a worthy  replacement.

(Quechua Grey, you'll always be my first love and I intend to find a pair JUST LIKE YOU)

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Why do you do it then?

Last Sunday I hiked Gunung Nuang (via Pangsun), a trek that normally takes 12 hours. Since it's too gruelling to make it to the summit, we decided to just hike until Kem Lolo.

But after reaching Kem Lolo, we decided to push ourselves further and trek another 3km to Kem Pacat.
But we underestimated the trek and were woefully underprepared.

For one thing, I didn't pack any lunch nor any high-energy food like I normally would. And our water supply was dangerous low.

Halfway through the journey to Kem Pacat, I regretted my decision. But somehow turning back was out of the question. Hikers have this deep-seated pathological taste for suffering I guess hahaha

Then I got multiple cramps which made things even worse. It's not just the pain, it's the guilt of having to inconvenience others. (I'm indebted to the stranger who offered me his analgesic spray)

So after what seemed like forever, we finally reached Kem Pacat. Yeay! 
It was packed with around 40 hikers, all jubilant (and relieved) that they had made it that far.
We refilled out water bottles and had a good rest before embarking on the journey home.

That journey was even more torturous. At many points in the journey I felt like taking off my shoes and throw them far far away, all the while entertaining these thoughts: 
"I don't want to do this anymore..."
"I wanna be home, relaxing and bingeing on Netflix."

I wrote on instagram that the last 2 hours was pure, unadulterated torture. To which my friend asked, why do you do it then?

It's hard to explain but the picture below might help. It's taken from the Outside magazine. The illustration accompanied an article that describes how running has helped the writer keep his demons away.

And that's how I feel about hiking. The (temporary) physical pain and suffering somehow clear up my mind; they unravel the knots in my head and make my problems seem smaller. And the process allows me to regain clarity and purpose.

Further, hiking teaches you so many life's lessons. The most obvious one being: to keep going even when the going gets tough.

So yeah, while I do need a few days to recover from Nuang, I'm already looking forward to the next adventure :)

Friday, December 18, 2015

New Zealand Trip, Part 1

2015 has been a rough year for me. It has been a rough year for everyone I think. Personally, I have had to deal with some tough issues. But they are easily dwarfed by the major issues, conflicts and troubles engulfing not only my country but the world at large today. Whenever I read the news, my heart sank a little further. Sometimes, I did come across some feel-good news (mostly about people's kindness and efforts to build bridges) but by and large, the hateful rhetoric blanketed and suffocated me.

I badly needed to get away from it all and find some peace. Thus the trip to New Zealand (that had been planned months earlier) couldn't have come at a better time. Besides, I couldn't wait to see Kakak again.

Kakak left for New Zealand in February 2015 to further her studies and since then, I have been drifting without my anchor. I've always considered my older sister to be one of my greatest blessings in life. She's my best friend, my partner in crime, my confidant and my pillar of strength all rolled into one.

She always listens attentively whenever I have something to say, regardless of how trivial it is or how long-winded I may be. She always laughs heartily at my jokes even though they are not particularly funny. We can understand each other almost telepathically. And since we have complementary attributes, we make the best team:
She's the driver, I'm the navigator.
She's the doer, I'm the planner.
She cooks and I wash the dishes.
So yeah, for the past 30 years, we have lived in a perfect symbiotic harmony.

But then she left for NZ and I was all alone. It wasn't easy and I missed her so much. Incidentally, at around the same time, a close colleague (and one of my favourite people in the world), Kak Safrina, went on an extended medical leave. I keenly felt both losses. But the ordeal has taught me that I shouldn't depend on the creation too much. It was Allah's way of teaching me to rely on Him alone. It was a very painful (but necessary) lesson for me to learn.

So, coming back to the New Zealand trip. Below are some of the things I've reflected on so far:

Travel is glamorous only in retrospect!

Though we looked happy and cheerful in our pictures, we encountered many hardships along the way. Those pictures only paint half the story. Our plane was delayed, our passports were misplaced, our luggage was lost and we had to travel hundreds of kilometres in order to retrieve it.
Then I got extremely sick on the journey to and fro Milford Sound. My stomach just couldn't handle the ten-hour journey by coach and though the scenery along the way was breathtaking, I just couldn't enjoy it and wished for the bus ride to end as quickly as possible.

But that's the essence of travelling, isn't it? In order to experience something wonderfully out-of-the-ordinary, you must be prepared to sacrifice comfort and familiarity. Brene Brown said something similar: "If you choose to be courageous, then you have to let go off the need for comfort, because you can choose courage or you can choose comfort, but you cannot have both."

I think when it comes to travelling, besides forgoing comfort, you also have to make do with less certainty and be ready accept whatever comes your way. Things will NEVER go exactly as planned and you're foolish if you think that you can control every aspect of your trip. It's a lot like life; You can sulk all you want or get angry or depressed when things don't go your way OR you can accept that disruptions are inevitable and that Allah is the best of planners.

The good always overrides the bad in the end

The best part about the trip so far is being on the road with my sister and mum. We rented a car and drove from Christchurch to Queenstown, often stopping to admire the view and take lots of pictures. Hours on the road were spent updating Kakak with the latest news from home and relating the funny things our nieces and nephews had done or said.

Kakak had also compiled our favourite songs in a playlist and we listened and sang along to these songs while driving. I thought that driving in a foreign country would be tricky but so far it has been smooth sailing, alhamdulillah. It's only maddening to have to drive at 100km/h even though the road is clear of any traffic. This rule is incomprehensible to Malaysian drivers who are mostly speed demons on the highways.

We also met a lot of wonderful people along the way and ate delicious food. But I think I'll save these two topics for Part 2 :)

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Bukit Tabur

I posted on Instagram that I was planning to hike Bukit Tabur today and was wondering whether anyone would like to join me.
Later that night, I suddenly woke up at 3.30 a.m. Out of habit, I reached for my phone and was alarmed when I read the text below:
Teacher, if it rains tomorrow and you decide to go for a hike anyways, even though the rain has stopped, then, i have a reminder for you: do not try to cross the path where you're stuck okay? Do not even try to jump over or something because it looks like you can reach there by jumping but you actually can't, well if you're fully equipped, that's a different thing because i live somewhere near there and the ambulance truck always comes and save the ppl ( the victims usually end up breaking a few bones) I really do not want that to happen to my teacher. Please do not post this, don't even think about it 😏. I know you'll probably screenshot and all 😏😏😏. Anyways have fun teacher and stay safe. :) (u can tell how much i actually care about you now, even though, I'm a shitty *** student to most of the teachers but that doesn't mean I don't care about em) i typed so long for youuuu 😂.
goodnight teacher and stay hydrated 💪🏽
Please disregard the fact that I did exactly what H had told me not to (i.e. post his message). 

I couldn't sleep well after that. I was tossing and turning while contemplating whether to go ahead with the climb.

I didn't have a good feeling about it and I truly feared for my safety. Though I had successfully scaled Bukit Tabur before, this time, I couldn't shake off the feeling that I would not make it out safely.

To calm my nerves, I made wudu' and recited some dua. Then I tried to resume my interrupted sleep. But I promised myself to back out of the trip if I was still feeling uneasy later.

Alhamdulillah, an hour and a half later, I woke up feeling much calmer. Plus, since it didn't rain last night, my fears were somewhat assuaged.
So I made my way to the meeting point in Melawati and met the people I was going to hike with. 

I've never met Mat, Jas & Ikhwan prior to today and was a bit apprehensive about hiking with total strangers but these three were super friendly so I was immediately put at ease.

We climbed Tabur East at a leisurely pace and were rewarded with the picturesque scenery below:

I'm glad I went ahead with the climb and got to experience such beauty but H's message made me realise that I should never underestimate a climb even though I had successfully scaled the peak before.

One should always be humble and have proper reverence for nature. And to always remember that:
لاحول ولا قوة إلا بالله العلي العظيم
(There is no strength nor power except for Allah)

Thursday, September 03, 2015


It's true, isn't it? Social media has the powerful ability to incite envy and make us feel inadequate. I think we can all relate to the above punch line: "I can't handle anymore fake displays of perfection!"

Of course the displays are fake as no one's life is perfect. We carefully curate our Facebook profiles, Instagram pictures and our presence on other social media platforms so that we only display ourselves in the most flattering light (literally & figuratively). We only share our happiest memories, most successful occasions and when we're having the time of our lives. We don't share the moments when we feel broken, sad, lonely and empty, though we all experience them.

I once read that the source of envy is when you can only see other people's blessings and not their trials, whereas you only focus on your trials and not your blessings. 

I also love this quote by Lillian Schneider that drives this message home:
"Single people want relationships, settled people wonder if they're missing out on something, traveling types miss stability, stable ones are restless, old friends want new friends, new friends miss old friends, and basically almost everyone my age has some dangling worry trailing around after them everywhere that they're somehow not doing everything, that what they're doing is not altogether the right thing, that they are missing out.
A million lessons can be taken from this. All I want to say is, don't for a second convince yourself that you are the only who knows this doubt. Do not be ashamed. The doubt is natural, and everyone you know -- yes, even that person -- carries it sometimes too. Allow yourself to be peaceful. Allow yourself satisfaction in what you have. If you really don't like it, allow yourself permission to make changes."
The truth is everyone struggles. And everyone has their dark moments. And all of us are on a quest for that elusive and ephemeral thing called happiness.

I think as one grows older, one realises that it's okay to be sad sometimes. That life will never be perfect and can never be devoid of pain, but that's okay too.

For me, faith plays an important part when dealing with life's trials and curveballs. One of my favourite hadiths is:
“How wonderful is the affair of the believer, for his affairs are all good, and this applies to no one but the believer. If something good happens to him, he is thankful for it and that is good for him. If something bad happens to him, he bears it with patience and that is good for him.” (Narrated by Muslim)
Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim said something profound:
“Truly in the heart there is a void that can not be removed except with the company of Allah. And in it there is a sadness that can not be removed except with the happiness of knowing Allah and being true to Him. And in it there is an emptiness that can not be filled except with love for Him and by turning to Him and always remembering Him. And if a person were given all of the world and what is in it, it would not fill this emptiness.”
I think this post is getting quite incoherent now but what I'm trying to get at is this: Though everyone seems to lead a perfect existence on social media, the truth is, no one is. Everyone is familiar with that void in one's heart, that sadness, and that emptiness. As a Muslim, I believe that "verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest" and that sabr (patience) and shukr (thankfulness) should be an essential part of our character, so that we can weather life's ups and downs, with contentment.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Mount Rinjani, Part 2

Things that I couldn't squeeze in the last post:

1) How grateful I am to our guides and porters.

There were 8 porters who accompanied us. They carried our tents, sleeping mats, inflatable pillows, sleeping bags, our personal belongings, drinking water, cutlery, cooking utensils and ingredients to cook our meals. I think each porter carried around 15 kg and they navigated the arduous routes wearing only slippers!

I thought we would be eating simple meals like sandwiches and sardines but no - these men cooked for us fantastic meals. Some of the things we ate were: pisang goreng cheese, omelette, pancakes, maggi goreng, gado-gado and spaghetti. Not only were the meals delicious, they were also served in generous portions and artfully-presented! Their hard work made all of us try to finish everything on our plates. I even ate all my veggies for once!

A special shout-out to our extremely patient, kind and friendly guides: Pak Suni and Yannick (who speaks very good English and French). We wouldn't have made it without them. I am especially indebted to Pak Suni for helping me out on Day 1 when I was stricken with cramps. Meanwhile, Yannick was Nisha's saviour throughout the trip hehehe. Pak Suni can be reached at, while Yannick at

It's funny how us yuppies with our high-tech gear (from our watches that measure heart rate / calories burnt / distance and what-not, to our gaiters, hiking shoes, sunglasses, gloves, trekking poles, hydration bladders and Dri-FIT clothes) were of no match to these men who wear everyday clothes and slippers. If the weather's cold, they just use kain pelikat in lieu of a windbreaker. Even so, their strength and speed made us all trail in their dust.

2) Journeys are made by the people you travel with.

I've always loved that Malaysia Airlines slogan and in this trip I had the best travelling companions one could ask for. Thank you Nisha, Atiqah, Zulaikha, Sarah, Faizal, Umar & Hadi for making the trip so enjoyable by infusing it with your positivity, enthusiasm, sense of humour, generosity, kindness and adventurous spirit. Thank you for the laughter and for egging me to do things way beyond my comfort zone.

We've all been bitten by the adventure bug and now our next aim is to scale the Mulu Pinnacles. It's crazy what these trips do to your psyche. Hiking for 25 - 30 hours in the space of 4 days had resulted in some of us suffering from multiple blisters and blackened toes. All of us are now nursing sore muscles and everything aches from the waist down. Yet, our whatsapp group chat is now buzzing with plans for our next adventure. To borrow and edit Viper's slogan: Forget pain, worry about addiction. How true.

3) Ambil hanya foto, tinggalkan hanya jejak kaki

Sadly, some people do leave more than their footprints in Mount Rinjani National Park. It saddened me greatly to see the beautiful paths marred by candy wrappers, wet tissues and plastic bottles. Littering is already a despicable habit. But to do so at such a stunning location? It's almost criminal!

4) Some of life's lessons learnt.

To me, hiking offers some great lessons on life. First, you learn that its rewards are proportional to the effort you put in. As our guide said, "difficult routes lead to beautiful scenery". If we didn't hike for hours on end, we wouldn't have had the chance to see incredible views like this:

Second lesson: Life is not a race. You are not competing with anyone. Everyone wants to reach the final destination (i.e. the summit) and it doesn't matter how long one takes to get there. Don't compare yourself to others for your journey is unique. Further, though at times it can be exhausting, you have to be able to still smile and enjoy the journey.

Third lesson: لا حول ولاقوة إلا بالله
There is no might or power except from Allah. The strenuous hikes and getting lost in the woods have reaffirmed this lesson for me. I simply would not have made it if not for Allah's help.

Fourth lesson: We can have amazing conversations and make deeper connections in the absence of WiFi. Throughout the trip, we had a great time eating and socialising with one another but once we arrived at the hotel in Senggigi, we retreated into our own worlds, interacting more with our phones than the people around us. I was guilty of this too. I think we need to start putting away our phones when we have company because, in all likelihood,  whatever it is we are doing on our phones, it isn't more important than the person in front of us.


Selamat Menyambut Ramadan dear readers! May Allah help us to make the most out of this blessed month!

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Mount Rinjani, Part 1

"Saya yakin semua orang boleh sampai puncak," Yannick, our guide said to me while we were trekking to the summit. Nisha and I were way behind our other group members. We had already walked for about 3 hours and we had yet to cover the toughest part so I replied, "Ye ke? Sebab saya tak yakin."

Yannick nodded and reassured me, "Ya, awak boleh. Nisha pun boleh". Until now, I still couldn't figure out how he could have known that all of us would make it. We had heard that most of the previous groups were unsuccessful. Though many reached the summit, some members of each group did not make it. However, miraculously, for unknown reasons, ours did.

Climbing Rinjani, so soon after scaling Mount Kinabalu was not on the cards for many of us. Somehow Umar and Nisha talked us into it. So we bought our flight tickets and booked the package with JomOutdoor (I highly recommend it!). We booked the 5D4N package (3 nights in the mountains) and anticipate Jun 2, 2015 with a mix of excitement and trepidation.

We approached and prepared for the trip differently. Zu did an extensive research on Mount Rinjani, Umar read up on a lot of blog entries, Atiqah bought a lot of hiking gear, Nisha organised a trip to Gunung Irau for some practice, while Faizal and Hadi were the fittest among us so they didn't need to do much. Me? I think I read one blog post and just drooled over the beautiful Mount Rinjani pictures on Instagram.

I had heard that Mount Rinjani is many times tougher than Kinabalu and though I was scared I did not get to prepare much for it because I was busy with work. Azmil, the co-founder of JomOutdoor told us not to worry and if we didn't reach the peak, "it's not the end of the world."

Bearing that in mind, we embarked on our journey. and below is my account of it:

Day 1 (Jun 3, 2015):

We started our journey at 9.30 a.m. after registering our names at the centre. Our group consisted 8 climbers, 2 guides and 8 porters. We were scheduled to hike for 8 hours or so that day (including lunch break). Everyone was in high spirits and the sun-kissed hills looked so lovely. The first half of the climb was very enjoyable. After lunch, the fog started to descend and the climb got harder and harder as we got more and more tired. Then tragedy struck: I pulled my calf muscle and my legs just buckled under my weight. Then cramps settled in. I just couldn't walk another step. I had to take off my shoes and massaged my legs and toes. This happened two more times. Each time it happened (at the aptly-named Bukit Penyesalan), I was convinced that I would never reach the campsite. But Pak Suni stayed by my side and led me up the hill for a good hour or so. He kept on saying "Nak dekat sampai dah" and I tried to squeeze every ounce of energy I had but after 7 hours of hiking, there wasn't much left. Finally I reached the campsite at 4.30 p.m., thinking nothing could be worse than today. Obviously, I was wrong.

Day 2 (Jun 4, 2015):

We started off for the summit at 2.30 a.m. It was a beautiful full-moon night. Again, the first half of the climb was manageable but the second half was "sheer madness" (as a Chicagoan we met put it). The last 300 metres was the toughest as the route was all sand and gravel. The shifting sand causes you to slide one step back for every one step forward you take. Thus, the journey seemed never-ending as you made very little progress. At this point, it was every man for himself. Our group got separated as each member had to ascend the torturous path at his/her own pace. I kept on thinking about the quote Zu shared with us "Berjalanlah, walau sambil menangis. Jangan sesekali berhenti". That kept me going though I could see many people resting (or giving up altogether) by the sideways. After 5.5 hours of battling strong winds and shifting sand, I actually made it to the top. I thought to myself yet again, nothing could be worse than this. And yes, you've guessed it! I was wrong again. But that story is for later.

Going down to our campsite after reaching the peak was a breeze as you only need to slide down the sandy path. After lunch, we headed to the lake for our next camping site. This was my favourite camping spot. Out tents directly faced Lake Segara Anak and the smoking volcano. The view was just unparalleled.

That evening, we went to a hot spring for a swim. Submerging my aching feet in its warm water helped to alleviate the pain. That night, the full moon was covered by some clouds so the stars came out in full force. It was a breathtaking sight that I wished I had marveled at for longer but I was too tired and slept early.

Day 3 (Jun 5, 2015):

It was a beautiful morning for another day of hiking. Breakfast was pancakes and banana fritters with pineapples at the sides. Someone commented that we might actually gain weight instead of shedding some because of the good food we had been having throughout the trip. We were scheduled to trek for another 8 hours that day. We left Lake Segara Anak with a heavy heart but the view along the way was spellbinding.

The tragedy I alluded to earlier happened later that evening. As usual, Nisha & I trailed behind the others. Pak Suni led the group in front while Yannick guarded the rear. I started to walk a bit faster, hoping to catch the others in front. But I never caught them. The forest got darker as the evening progressed. I was still feeling fine as I encountered other hikers and porters on my way but after awhile, I was hiking alone with no one in sight. Panic was starting to set in but I assured myself that I would stumble upon the campsite soon. I could see that the sun was about to set so I stopped and prayed Asar and Zohor. I was hoping that Yannick and Nisha would catch up with me after I had finished praying but they didn't.

After the sun had set, the forest got substantially darker. I checked the contents of my bag: I had very little water left, 2 energy bars and no headlamp (I had packed it in another bag that the porter carried). My phone had no signal and it was running low on battery. I contemplated whether to keep searching for a signal or to put the phone on flight mode to save on battery so that I could use its torchlight function. I decided on the latter.

By now, the forest was pitch black. To say that I was scared would be an understatement. I thought about turning back but Yannick had told me that there was only one path going down. How could I have missed a huge group of people? I must not have passed them yet. I must keep going. So I did. But for 20 minutes or so, I still didn't come across a soul and I couldn't see a single light in front of me nor behind me.

Could I have missed a turning? I remembered them saying our water supply was running low and that they might make a detour to a water spring. The possibility that I had gone too far caused me to turn back. Every sound and movement of the forest crept me out but I was still trying to keep calm. But after 20 minutes of retracing my steps, with still no one in sight, I just broke down.

I sat on a log and whispered Ya Allah, please, please, please help me. I let out a few stray tears. I had been making dua all this while but before, I was still feeling optimistic; I still thought I could find my way to the campsite or be found by someone. But by then, on that log, all traces of optimism and hope had left me. I was alone, I was scared and  I was feeling utterly helpless. When you're in that state, you make dua like you've never made dua before. And all your false dependencies vanish from you: You realised that your family can't help you nor your friends / wealth / possessions or any other thing or person that you normally put your trust in. The following verses encapsulate what I was feeling:

Surah Al-An'am, Verse 63:

قُلْ مَن يُنَجِّيكُم مِّن ظُلُمَاتِ الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ تَدْعُونَهُ تَضَرُّعًا وَخُفْيَةً لَّئِنْ أَنجَانَا مِنْ هَٰذِهِ لَنَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الشَّاكِرِينَ

Say (O Muhammad SAW): "Who rescues you from the darkness of the land and the sea (dangers like storms), when you call upon Him in humility and in secret (saying): If He (Allah) only saves us from this (danger), we shall truly be grateful."

Surah Al-An'am, Verse 41:

بَلْ إِيَّاهُ تَدْعُونَ فَيَكْشِفُ مَا تَدْعُونَ إِلَيْهِ إِن شَاءَ وَتَنسَوْنَ مَا تُشْرِكُونَ

Nay! To Him Alone you call, and, if He will, He would remove that (distress) for which you call upon Him, and you forget at that time whatever partners you joined with Him (in worship)! 

And just as I wiped those tears away, I saw 2 flashlights in the distance. A HUGE sense of relief washed over me. I walked over to the source and met Yannick and Nisha who were alarmed to see me on my own. Yannick thought I had caught up with the rest while Pak Suni thought I was with Yannick. It was an honest mistake. I was also at fault for straying away from the group. Yannick called the people at camp and they sent two porters to help us get back. The porter carried my bag and I walked with him to camp. By the time I reached it, I had walked for 11 hours that day.

My friends were equally alarmed and wanted to know what had happened but I was just too physically- and emotionally-exhausted. I went into my tent, zipped it shut and had a good cry. Once Nisha arrived, we hugged each other and cried some more.

Day 4 (Jun 6, 2015):

Managed to recover from last night's event. I apologised to my friends for being uncommunicative the night before. They told me it was all right. That day, we were going to Tiu Kelep Waterfall. Once there, the others swam while I sat on the rocks, enjoying the view. But the water spray from the waterfall drenched me regardless.

On our way back, Zu casually mentioned that she had seen a video of people sliding down the irrigation channel like a water slide at a theme park. Faizal was intrigued. He volunteered to do it first. We watched in suspense. But his screams of delight managed to influence us. One by one, we all had out turn. It was super fun! Nisha and I even joked that today was such a happy day, it was worth getting lost and hiking for 11 hours for.


We changed our clothes at our guides' homes. They even treated us to some maggi-in-a-cup and coffee. We then said our goodbyes and left Senaru for Senggigi.

Some reflections on the trip coming up in Part 2! Photos from the trip can be viewed here.