Yesterday was one of the hottest days in weeks. I woke up early at 5.30am to get ready for the CTSS PSG nature walk. Peter Ng, our guide, was taking us to Botanical Gardens and the Singapore Quarry. We were to take the bus at CTSS at 7.15am.
After a rush of wonton noodle at our favourite stall, we made it just in time. However, like typical Singaporeans, we had to wait for one person until 7.45am. I think the organizers were too lenient, or were afraid to offend the parents. I hope this person has the grace to be shameful to keep two busload of people waiting.
I have not been to Botanical Gardens (BG) for many years. It’s great to see the park packed with groups of people doing exercises, qigong, jogging and families bonding. Peter gave us a rundown of the history of BG. It’s celebrating its 150 years. BG was established by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1821. He was a keen naturalist. The original site of the garden was at Fort Canning and it moved to this site in 1860.
As we walked along the path, Peter Ng pointed out the local fruit trees, asking us to guess the fruits. He would also tell us how the plants propergate, what the locals use the leaves for, or how the fruits should be eaten, which plant is anti-cancer, or can cure rheumatism etc. He was a walking encyclopedia. I tried to learn as much as possible but gave up after a while, as most of the trees look similar to me. Do you know there is a plant with different coloured flowers on the same plant? Its name- Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow. Interesting name, right?
He also pointed to us the Heritage Trees, trees which are old, huge and tall. These trees are protected by lightning rods and most are sponsored by individuals and companies. Among them the famous Tambusu tree, which is featured at the back of the Singapore $5 note.
As we passed an open field next to Swan Lake, workers were busy re-turfing a field. The turf had been damaged by the crowd during the recent free concert by Andre Bocelli.
The next destination was Singapore Quarry @ Dairy Farm. We tracked about 2km to reach the quarry. Along the way, Peter pointed out the various wild fruit trees.
Can you smell durians? He asked. Indeed, there were a few.
The scenary ahead was worth the heat and the sweat. We enroached on the serenity of a lone bird-watcher with our excitement. He did not look amused as 78 of us descended upon his turf and must be glad when we left soon after, since we had already exceeded our time.
After yesterday’s excursion, I have a new appreciation to the diversity of nature. The shapes, hues, colours, not to mention the benefits humans can extract from them. I also gain a new appreciation for what Singaporean can do at their doorsteps. Why lament about nothing to do in Singapore when we have a whole backyard for us to explore.
Where next, Peter?
(FYI, Peter’s family used to own a farm in Clementi. As a boy, he helped his father pluck rumbutans and other fruit trees. Plants were his toys in his childhood as he taught the kids to twirl a twig round his fingers without dropping. Then he showed how the shape of the seedpod from the African Tuilips can be used as boats in longkang races.)