Friday, October 29, 2010
Today is a "free and easy" day according to my schedule. I got up early to go "trekking" up Bukit Timah - the highest natural point in Singapore (but not the highest point - several buildings in downtown are higher than this 164 m hill). This reserve is the last remaining bit of primary jungle in Singapore and home to a wider variety of flora than is found in all of North America. And to reticulated pythons, macaques, monitor lizards and flying lemurs. To my disappointment, despite all of the "don't feed the monkeys" signs, I encountered no macaques. I saw one lemur high in the trees, but couldn't get a photo.
I did get up close and personal with several monitor lizards, including this guy. Walking on the dirt trails in the back half of the preserve, this one came right out in front of me. I turned another corner to find one sauntering down the trail ahead of me. These lizards are low-slung and stocky, but they don't waddle, they have a walk so liquid it's almost a slither. And they have incredibly long tongues.
There are a lot of be a good citizen campaigns in Singapore. In the student canteen not far from where I'm staying, the sign at the drinks and fruit station pointedly asks "Taking two straws? You don't have two mouths, do you?" I took one straw.
I'm not in Kansas anymore. The ambient soundscape is different. I can close my eyes and be certain I'm not in Pennsylvania any more. It was particularly evident at the nature reserve, where the cicadas were decidedly higher in pitch than Pennsylvanian cicadas. But it can be more subtle as well. At the top of a ridge, alone on the trail (hard to do in crowded Singapore), I could hear the wind rustling the top of the trees. The rustle was not quite the same rustle I hear through the oaks outside my window, or when walking the hedgerows at Wernersville.
Everyone always carries an umbrella. In the vans that drove me around campus and out to Jurong Island, there was always a rack of matching umbrellas behind the driver. Just in case. Even on the trail this morning, hikers had not a poncho tucked into a pack, but bumbershoots. I can see why. You really don't want an extra layer in this weather (note the latitude on the marker at the summit — one degree off the equator). I was completely drenched after the hike today!