Sungei Buloh is Singapore’s nature reserve. True, there are green patches elsewhere and a whole complex around the central reservoirs but the glory birds hang out at Sungei. It is far to the north and off the public transport map so I settled for the more accessible Bukit Timah instead. This appeared to be a short walk towards the reservoirs through Bukit Batok Nature Park – an easy train ride from downtown on LRT’s North-South line.
Outside the station lifer number 855 – a blue-tailed bee-eater – hawked insects from one of the city’s immaculate tower blocks. Singapore doesn’t do slums the way we do.
Once inside the park the day nudged downhill. A ‘Closed’ sign barred the only path I could find across it, which in reality was a bloody great hill. I dithered, looking obviously lost enough that a local informed me a landslip was to blame. I knew I could skirt round to the north, which would have been fine had I not been in the Town Park. Ah yes, Nature Park, Town Park – two separate entities.
My skirting took me along the busiest roads on the equator to fetch up at Ten Mile Junction shopping centre. It felt like that was how far I’d walked but was probably closer to three. I was famished and lunched on nasi goreng. It could have been mee. No matter: I’m a big fan of the goreng family. An indecent quantity of Coke also went down to replace what I had sweated. I had only shucked my jumper off half-way through the previous day and was beginning to regret not also switching into shorts.
Another mile did get me to the edge of the reserve, where unanticipated monkeys ambled the lawns of neighbouring residences. I had been following an elevated railway since lunch and was relieved that I wouldn’t have to walk the return journey. Now I just had to find the entrance.
In quick succession a couple of birds of prey drifted over. I had no chance with the first but the second showed enough field marks for me to make a stab at changeable hawk-eagle. The name, from its variable plumage, supersedes crested hawk-eagle but frankly a great many hawks and eagles must have been in the running for the ‘changeable’ title. The raptors’ ranges of morphs make their identification such a challenge. And don’t even get started on where a hawk ends and an eagle begins, let alone a buzzard.
I walked on, expecting to find trails, sign boards, maybe a visitor centre. The latter may have been in a construction site where I crossed the ironic Dairy Farm Road. It was a double irony because it led straight back to Bukit Batok instead of the big upside-down U I had completed by then. The site bore a notice about renovations to be finished by 2009. More bad timing.