Three best buddies set forth into the depths of Macritchie in search for Syonan Jinja, the long lost shrine the Japanese erected and destroyed when Singapore was under Japanese rule during World War 2.
This article serves as a warning to all future adventurers to never decide on a foolish attempt.
Heart pumping with pure excitement and bodies all ready for the little adventure we were all very much looking forward to. Little did we know that in the bid to taste cheap thrills, we staked everything we had, all just to visit a dumb shrine that we weren’t sure was still going to be there after all these years. There were a thousand ways that we could have died in the forested areas of Macritchie, thankfully the Almighty watched over me and my buddies as we managed to head out in one piece.
Unprepared, and Complacent
Before the day of the hike arrived, we just like everyone attempted to research on the location of interest, we searched for the location of where the shrine would be, photos of it and reviews from previous trekkers who attempted to find the shrine. All sounded good aye? We were dead wrong. What's even more complacent on my end was that I felt reassured that both my buddies were army trained back in their National Service days. We were doomed to fail even before we started.
D-Day @ 11.30AM
We parked our vehicle via the Venus Road entrance and made our way in via the man-man boardwalks that Nparks had built for the park tourists. We were debating that it was a desecration of nature that man has done unto Nature as we were led by Nick who had some experience attempting to find the shrine two years ago.
We took the path past a PUB facility, made a quick water break at the rest point and shortly after that, we reached a certain point of the tarmac where Nick recalled was a boulder that demarcated the start of the trek into depths only to our Japanese warlords before our Independence.
Start of the actual Trekking.
@1159 hours - We couldn't see any boulders, but Lim being adamant that it was the right place, we decided to dispatch Teo out to scout ahead. Not long after, Teo confirmed the sighting of a boulder and we then ventured in with my first experience of jungle bashing.
@1204 hours - We were getting deeper and deeper into the forest, we decided to mark our route with tapes that we brought along. Notice the smiley, fresh faces we still had at this juncture.
We even found a flag, draped onto a thin rope containing words in Japanese, obviously, the previous team of trekkers wanted to have their share of thrills along their route, most probably taking pictures with it too.
The Excitement Factor Begins to Wane
The lactic build-up in my muscles, the soreness of my throat during the first 30-45 minutes of the journey showed little glimpses that this trek wasn't going to be easy.
Half an hour into our trek and after countless of marking tree trunks and branches with our flags, there was still no sign of the fallen shrine. Lim got what he wanted- to relive his experience of jungle bashing, but he too grew tired of it.
@1300 hours - We reached the spot on Google Maps where the fallen shrine was supposed to be. And this was where we felt resigned to the fact that, most probably the shrine was either demolished or cannot be discovered due to shrubs covering it completely. And so we decided to head back, the easy way out- or so we thought. We couldn't stand to go through jungle bashing again as the route we carved for ourselves were quite demanding.
@1310 hours - And sooo, we decided to follow the previous team markers which were following quite closely to the outskirts of the forested area.
A Forest That Teases With Little Joys and Desperation.
We eventually followed the flags from the previous team, and finally, we were rewarded for our hard work. But alas, it wasn't the shrine, it was the pump room to the shrine. bloody hell.
After gawking and admiring at how ruined the pump room was, and how medieval it looked- we decided to continue on our journey back out following the tips from the previous blogs we researched on.
Things were going pretty much smoothly until we reached a roadblock, only that in our case, it was a huge ass tree trunk that felled across a wide distance flanked by super think shrubs and bushes. The trail was blocked.
A detour that almost spelled our Doom.
We all decided to make a detour back to the pump room, and waltz across to the trails that was made by Nparks next to the SICC club, it would be less adventurous, but it would be the road traveled safer and surer.
@1345 hours - We arrived at a little clearing. And oh boy, we were SUPER relieved that we had managed to reach here, but we weren't out of the woods yet(so they say huh)!!! Our little triumph was shortlived, because the little bridge that would have taken us to freedom was in ruins!!! Yeah sure we were looking for the ruins of a shrine or ruins of an old historic building, but not a ruin MODERN DAY bridge!!!
So again, we had two choices, three actually, with the third being to call for help from the rangers. The two was:-
1) Swim across the little channel(channel seh, more like it was a stream) and risk leeches, crocs, and whatever lurked below the murky waters.
2) Go back the same route we used to reach the riverbanks, following our own flags as reference. Super sian.
This point henceforth, NONE of us were taking pictures any more, we're not planting anymore flags, and none of us were talking. We were just saving our breaths and power walking through.
Bashed all the way
@1430 hours - We reached the last point where our flags were. And for some reason, we decided not to follow it through, but to head towards the other known checkpoint according to the other blogs, which was going around to the west side of the forested area.
Resigned to Our Failure Until...
We were following the trails until i noticed stone steps on the left side. Lim was taking point, and I think he was having tunnel vision like " i wanna get the f*ck out of here, I wanna get the f*ck out here " mode, that he didn't see the steps on to his left.
And if you guessed it right, yes, it was the steps that led to the shrine.
The Stupid Ass Shrine Found, and in complete Ruins
We hiked upward for about 4-5 minutes and reached the last remnants of the shrine, all that was left was a place were we believed was to purify the dead? It was a rectangular piece of man made structure for water catchment. I saw it more as a place that mimicked the Muslims to take their ablution sort of structure.
We didn't take any photos at this point as we were far too dead of exhaustion.
We used our GPS from Lim's phone, and we decided to just follow his lead and take the shortest route back out, bashing, little detours, as long as the GPS transponder indicated that we on the right path.
3 and a half hours laters...
After three hours of bashing, and skipping branches, twigs, vines, thorn leaves and exasperated and frustrated moans from each of us, we reached the tarmac trails of Macritchie. Wth, this sentence does not even DESCRIBE what we went through. I literally laid down flat on my back thanking God that we made it out safely.
We dragged out feet to the waterpoint we were at before the start of our hike, and ohh boy, how relieved was I to see signs of civilisation and humans. We drank to our hearts content, and rested up before heading back.