Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Annual Camp 1961 - Cameron Highlands Revisited

Image:1 Brinchang Camp: A 1961 Postcard take from the air showing the whole Complex

Image:2 Outside Brinchang Camp ( a few yards up the road - the signboard says ' You are now 5000 ft above sea level') From Left ( foreground) : OPs Hank and Jalal ( at the back ) Weng Yin and Zawawi ( Datuk)

Image:3 Jungle Trekking/Map Reading Excercise: From Left (front row) OPs Bachik, Zubir,Saifuddin (middle row) Pathma, Hank, Rahman ( Maj Gen Datuk) (middle/back row) Choon Yeow, Weng Yin, Jugjit (back row) Andrew and Taharim

Image:4 Farewell, Just Before Leaving, From Left: ( front row) OPs Andrew, Raja Aman ( Datuk) Pathma,Jalal,Zawawi (Datuk) Middle Row: Hank, Zubir, Jugjit, Bachik,Taharim, Rahman (Maj Gen Datuk)and Weng Yin
Back Row: Eng Lay, Choon Yeow, Megat (Datuk Dr) ,Ronald,Saifuddin and Mansor (Datuk Dr)

( Eng Lay, Megat and Saifuddin were in civilian clothes as they had to break journey before reaching Sg Besi. The rest proceeded to Sg Besi first and then home for the rest of the term break)

Image:5 Present Day Brinchang Camp: From Left Hank and my 2 cucus Norman and Kimie. ( notice in the background the new structures of a few storeys up)

Image:6 Strawberry Farm showing Strawberries Grown on the Racks and Hanging above.

Image:7 Strawberry Goodies ( my cucus enjoying Strawberry Ice Cream ) From Left: Kimie and Norman
( Credits : Photos and text in collaboration with my buddy Weng Yin who was also there when it happened)

The Annual Camp 1961 ( from Aug 08 – 20, 1961) was at the Brinchang Camp in Cameron Highlands. At most of our annual camps we had to construct our own tents using materials that we brought along with and improvised with what’s available on the ground.

In Brinchang however we were housed in barracks just as we were in Port Dickson with all the basic amenities. While it was convenient to just unpack our ‘barangs’ when we arrived, it deprived us of the joy of constructing our very own shelters.

At the Annual Camp in Kuala Kubu Bharu ( KKB ) in 1960, the architect, the builder and the materials provider would huddle together before anything else to discuss on how best to go about building a shelter. The architect determined the design (sometimes just in his head ) the materials provider scoured around for wood and branches and the builder ( upon consultations with the 2 ) and a parang in his hand, chopped away.

The end result was fascinating! Some of these tents were just 2 ft above the ground, and you could sit up when resting while some were nearly 4ft above ( to avoid wild animals, so it seemed ) and they needed to crawl in and remain in a lying position. Whatever it was it had better work as otherwise we would be subject to the vagaries of the weather the next 12 days.

A peculiarity with Brinchang was the cold. At 5000ft above sea level where Brinchang was it was pretty chilly especially in the wee hours of the morning. For me and most others as well this was the first experience of such weather conditions.

We had warm water showers at least, with compliments of the big boiler shed that sent hot, warm water through a network of pipings to the bathing and toilet areas.

Something hilarious , which could have been a calamity (near enough) happened at the boiler shed. It was after our map-reading exercise when we came back all wet because of the extreme cold and rain the night before. The jungle boots were muddy, socks and the PD Green uniforms were all soiled and sweaty. There was no prospects of drying them out in the sun because there was no sun – just mist and light rain.

A smart Aleck placed all his wet things nicely arranged in the boiler shed next to the furnace ( with the hope that these would dry up fast) Others followed. After an hour the smart Aleck went to check on how dry were his boots, socks and uniforms.

He came running back and that was when the alarm was raised. Those who had placed their things in the boiler shed scrambled to retrieve their belongings. Even though the things were placed quite a fair distance from the furnace, the heat within the shed was enough to melt the rubber materials of the jungle boots, given time, while some clothing materials were singed. Those nearer the furnace got more of it.

The Q ( Quartermaster) alleviated the woes of the more serious ones, with replacements ( that we heard) However luckily nothing serious came of it eventually, except for some burnt out socks or burnt out holes in some PD Green shirts ( as though they had been sprayed with shot-gun pellets)

On the 3-day expedition, another round of stories were heard again relating to the Orang Asli, this time regarding distance. Capt Bradley besides his haversack and water bottle had also a .303 rifle slung by his shoulders this time. It must have been pretty tiring to carry around.

On a few occasions, he had to restrain OP Megat ( later Datuk, Dr) who was then leading the pack, to slow down. OP Megat would be in front in the single file when we moved and Capt Bradley would shout out loud from the back, sounding like, 'May Guard, May Guard’ calling for OP Megat to stop for a breather every now and then. Capt Bradley would then just ‘plonk’ by the embankment and we all got some time to rest awhile. It was very sporting of Capt Bradley to accompany us during our Annual Camps both in 1960 and 1961. I’m not so sure about the other Company Commanders if ever they did.

While proceeding towards the confluence of a stream which was in the map but still not seen on the ground we bumped into an Orang Asli and enquired about it from him. After some seemingly serious discussions and gesticulations we were told it was just about ten minutes in front. That boosted our morale and we got up and proceeded on. There were smiles all round.

We found it but only after about 1hr but somehow the stream had dried up. That explained the absence of the sounds of running water which was the tell tale signs of a nearby stream in the jungle (even though not seen by the eyes).

But why the Orang Asli’s estimation was way off ? Was it because he could walk very much faster. Maybe yes but someone suggested it could be also be a case of the ‘one cigarette time frame syndrome’ An Orang Asli would say it only takes a cigarette to reach it ( meaning time to smoke a cigarette, by our standards say, 10mins) Unlike us an Orang Asli would smoke awhile then extinguish the cigarette and place it above his ear and later would light it up time and again. The idea was apparently to make one cigarette last longer. It would take about 60mins in all. We all had a good laugh!

Besides that we also reached the ‘Trig. Point’ atop the summit of Gunung Brinchang. I can’t recollect how we did it, either it was jungle bashing or running up the narrow road. My buddy Weng Yin however remembered that we were at a height of 6666ft above sea level ( The perculiar figure stuck in his mind ) So we were definitely up there.

( I remember how we did it in Taiping when we had the Annual Camp at Kamunting in 1963 - we ran up Maxwell Hill as part of our Endurance Test, but that’s another story!)

We also had the normal inter-Coy games like Volleyball. And also rather unusual at an Annual Camp, I thought, was a 7-aside hockey at the town padang, somewhere ( which was abandoned when heavy mist descended and enveloped the field)

We also made some visits, namely to the Hydro Electric Dam, some rose gardens, vegetable farms and also a strawberry farm.

I was there in Cameron Highlands during the recent school holidays (June 07 - 09, 2010). I took the opportunity to see where Brinchang Camp is now. It is there still but different from before. It is now just like the structure in Sg Besi that went a few storeys up and made of the flimsy material that we have nowadays. The surrounding areas just jungles before are now apartments and shophouses.

We also visited some farms. I notice a fundamental difference in strawberry cultivation. In 1961, strawberries were planted on the ground. The ground was covered with black plastic sheets akin to present day garbage bags. This was to protect the fruits which were left on the ground. The present day technique is to have them in pots hanging very much like dendrobium orchid growing and on racks below. We just need to pick the fruits from above our heads or from those on the racks and these are immediately edible.

So much for Cameron Highlands. It is very much worth a visit despite having Fraser’s Hill or Genting Highlands ( both nearer to K Lumpur and Gentings with its entertainment and gambling attractions) as rival hill stations.


Al-Manar said...

Dear Hank,
I agree when you say C'Highlands is worth a visit. However, a visit today spoils the nostalgic memory of that beautiful place with cold weather. I the seventies I used to visit that place with my family every August school hoildays without fail. I was lucky the company I worked for had a chalet built originally, of course, for their exopat staff. Typical English there was a fireplace inside with wood and all to burn and warm the place. How our children loved that. It is all memories ,Hank, to cherish. As for 1961, the subject year of your posting, I satrted my working career in Singapore.

kaykuala said...

Dear Pak Cik,
I can well understand the nostalgic feelings you still retain especially having an annual visit more or less apparently for many years to Camerons. You and your family were blessed to enjoy such privileges.

Who can forget the fire place and the Tudor fa├žade of the very old English little cottages typical of Camerons and Fraser’s? I could well imagine the joy of the expats who would have felt very much at home when they were up there in the hills. And when you and your family were there you too would have felt the same way like you were all in foreign lands.

In colonial India I was told, in order that the British raj could function well administratively, they shifted the capital and the whole govt machinery up to the hills to Simla during the summer months. It became the summer capital of India, while Delhi remained the capital at other times. As colonial masters such excesses would seemed so ordinary to them.

I was in Simla in 1973. It was just like Camerons, cool in the summer months. On the way to Simla along their winding roads one would have to pass the Military Academy of Dehradun which our late Prime Minister Tun Hussein attended.

Omong Mak Long..... said...

As Salam Hank,

Seronok baca entri ini, Hank mampu membawa pembaca seolah bersama-sama dalam memori itu. Jasa setiap perwira negara amat dihargai.. Mak Long baru sekali jejak kaki ke Camerons itu pun sudah banyak tahun dahulu. Tentu tanah tinggi itu telah banyak perubahan sejak 1961.

Cucu-cucu Hank mempunyai mirip datok mereka..

Unknown said...

untuk pengetahuan penulis ,haji bachik ialah ayah saya.semasa beliau bertugas saya masih kecil.sekarang saya sudah berumur 37 tahun.haji bachik telah pon meninggalkan kita semua pada 3 tahun yang lepas....al-fatihah buat ayahanda ku yang paling ku sayang.semoga rohnya di rahmati allah