Almost everyone was late, some more than others. I myself was late by about 5 minutes.
Eventually, after some of the shared weight had been distributed somewhat evenly, we gathered for the pre-launch photograph.
Most of us at least.
In attendance were Hermann, Hendrik, Titi, Fendy, Omar, and obviously, your’s truly.
Along and (unconfirmed right up till the moment he reached Mamam) Mael would be joining us later.
Much to Omar’s and Fendy’s annoyance, there was effectively no wind during the launch.
With 2 unhoisted sails, we made our way to the prawn farm to get us some fresh bait and some ice.
Curiously, all 6 of us managed to berth at the kelong. As per normal, I’m the last to get prawns so I took the opportunity to use their facilities.
The tide was high but none of us had bothered to check whether we could cut across Chek Jawa (we’ve been forgetting to check for quite some time now). Despite being the only one in a hand-paddled kayak, Titi decided to join us the long way around for personal safety reasons.
Below is a picture of me standing on my kayak at Chek Jawa. There really was no wind at all!
Around this time, I got a call from a client about an overseas job that was to happen tonight but I had already committed to this adventure so I politely declined.
Some of the guys who you would not expect to be slow were lagging behind so the guys in front slowed their pace. Unfortunately, just like at St John’s, slowing our pace meant the tides and currents caught up with us quickly and for some, they had trouble setting their mind on the goal once they saw the water rushing past them. Later, we found out that one guy who we expected to be miles ahead of us, had actually been on the verge of heat stroke. Fortunately, he set his mind straight and paddled to slower moving waters with the guys in the lead.
Hermann and Titi were doing very well, especially considering Hermann had been towing her for some distance. They were among the first to finish the chek jawa crossing.
Those who arrived first, anchored themselves, and began to fish.
In that brief period of about 10 minutes waiting for those behind to catch up, Titi and Fendy both managed to catch some fish. Titi, with a pretty decent Red Snapper and Fendy with an unfortunate Sembilang (eel tailed Catfish).
Just a little further up, the current changed direction to match the incoming tide and those of us who had peddled ahead found ourselves drifting comfortably towards Mamam.
Then the wind suddenly started. Off in the distance, to our East, we could see storm clouds gathering and lightning thundering across the previously flat waters.
Most of us made a beeline for Mamam Beach. Up till this point, we were undecided on whether to camp at Mamam Beach or Nordin Beach, despite reports of the latter being closed off. The whether made our decision for us as Mamam was closer and fortunately that decision was the right one because as we later found out, Nordin really was closed. It was also the right one because it had started to drizzle.
Fendy was surprisingly quick to mark his spot and so I followed suit.
We beached our kayaks (and later anchored them in the middle of the river) and began to set up the rest of the campsite.
We met a few kayakers who had rented their kayaks from a local guy. That local guy was very helpful in pointing out to us the least slippery way to get up and down the breakwater and pointed out to us a few good fishing spots.
In the mean time, Omar and I began to play with our firesteels. He had just bought his but I had bought mine many many years ago. Aside from a single time that I had played with it while outdoors (it was a BBQ and it was from there that this trip was born), I had never really used it before.
We caught on quick but little did I know at the time that there was so much else to learn (and that we were doing it wrongly)!
With our living quarters all set up, we began to settle dinner.
Titi was our main chef today so she settled almost all meals. She steamed her Red Snapper in aluminium foil and threw it in the coals.
It was very tasty and the meat was very tender.
Then she set out to cook the Lamb Chops.
It was very tasty too.
Some of the guys then helped to set up the kettle so that we could have English Breakfast Tea. At night. Culture knows not of time. lmao
With the food mostly settled by now, some of the guys went into the nearby jungle to gather firewood for a campfire. Someone found some cotton wool which made starting the fire that much easier and though the strong wind blew it out once, we were able to get it from embers back to flames by, ironically, blowing air on it.
Fendy had gone to sleep in his hammock by now.
At around 10 to 11pm, and after a few overseas calls (you can’t get local reception here but you can get a Malaysian signal), Along and the unannounced and uncofirmed Mael showed up.
After more food (the 2 late comers had brought snacks and jelly!), the 2 of them and I relaunched to see if we could get anymore fish. We didn’t.
Fendy, having awoken from his slumber, promised to join us but as we later found out, he merely dozed off back to lala land.
So about an hour or two later, we headed back.
As our kayaks were near the middle of the river, I left everything on except the camera. The in hull lights and external lamp were left on their lowest setting.
Then we went to sleep. Or most of us at least. Along and Mael did not plan to sleep and so didn’t bring any gear other than that for fishing.
I lay my weary head to rest on my very comfortable hammock and I began to have one of the best nights of sleep I’ve had in a while. Except for the fact that it was cut short.
A few minutes shy of 7am, I felt rain drops falling on my face.
The rain grew very strong for about 5 minutes before calming down and alternating between a moderate strength rain and a strong drizzle.
I wasn’t exactly pleased as I value sleep very highly, and to lose out on very good sleep made it worse.
We made our way to the toilets, which happened to be the nearest shelter we could find.
When it became apparent that the rain wouldn’t let up, the guys began bringing their cooking gear over.
Most of us had brought our own food to cook for dinner/supper last night but as the dinner portions prepared by Titi were quite large, we found ourselves with an abundance of disposable, bulky and heavy items needing to be consumed. A certain special someone wearing a red jacket and going by the name of Omar had also brought a truly surprising amount of shareable snacks and light foods. While a nice surprise, it had also meant that there was a small but not insignificant number of redundancies.
And that is the story of how we ate breakfast next to the toilet.
As you can see, it was a complete protein breakfast though I personally skipped the beans.
The weather kept up for a bit then finally petered out.
With the tide coming up, we were able to pull our yaks (some of us at least) right next to the breakwater to load our stuff up.
When everyone had loaded up, we headed off.
Based on the currents, we decided to head left (West) to make it easier on us.
We passed by Nordin and not only was it fenced up from the inside (we already knew it was fenced up from the outside), the beach was practically gone.
Everyone except Along, Fendy, and I, had made a beeline for the west edge of Pulau Ubin, eager to avoid the outgoing current which would be against them. They were rattled by the strong currents they had experienced at Chek Jawa yesterday.
They literally sped off with little to no word of caution.
For our determination, I was rewarded with a little catfish, Fendy got a Kaci, and Along got a Red Snapper.
By this time, as predicted, the current had started to shift against us.
Then the currents got a little stronger.
As we were nearing the west edge of Ubin, the wind began picking up and it blew strongly against the 3 of us. The waters became extremely choppy and the skies began to get gray.
The rest of them were still nowhere to be seen.
If we stopped peddling, within a few seconds, we would be drifting backwards at about a knot or 2.
Low on battery power for my phone, and without a spare battery or charger, I headed straight for watercross. Fendy and Along joined me shortly after and the rest soon appeared on the beach too, evidently returning from the Lorong Halus dam.
I learnt many lessons that day and I’ve since learnt many more. This trip is officially my first proper step into kayak camping and indeed camping in general.
PS: Oh… and a little video. Like and subscribe!
Shawn started fishing in 1994. He caught his first fish (an Ah Seng) on that very first trip to Changi Carpark 4 (before it was barricaded). He built up his fishing knowledge and gear over the years but still keeps his old gear, just like the memories.