Sunday, October 12, 2008
One with Nature
Just where is this island?
Christmas Island is a dot in the vast Indian Ocean, an Australian territory and its closest neighbour is Java which is 360km away.
It is an island with steep limestone cliffs, a rugged coastline and a plateau that supports rich rainforests. On mostly calm days, coral reef is visible beneath metres of clear turquoise water. When the water swell is up, blowholes spout impressively.
63% of it is national park containing species of flora found nowhere else in the world. The island 80km coastline is an almost continuous sea shift of up to 20 metres in height. In a few places, the cliff gives way to shallow bays with small sand and coral shingles beaches. The largest of these bays forms the island's only port, Flying Fish Cove.
The island was named on Christmas Day 1643 as a British merchant seaman sailed past. But it wasn't settled until 1888 following the discovery of high quality phosphate.
Weird and wonderful structures - buildings, train tracks, and odd locomotive are feats of engineering in this remote place, marking its industrial heritage of phosphate mining.
People who live here are mainly from Australia, Malaysia and Singapore. Thus, a mix of culture. All islanders are permenant Australian residents. While English remain the official language, Malay, Mandarin and other Chinese dialects are widely spoken.
Christmas Island is in the tropics with an average temperature of 25C. The island is green, cool and lush when it rains; hot and steamy when the sun is out.
Crabs - The most noticeable local is the Red Crab with over 100million of these vivid red creatures living on the forest floor. However, no one is allowed to eat or catch these crabs (else, a heavy fine will be imposed if caught. they will also be banned from entering the island for life!) During the crab season (Nov/Dec), the traffic has to stop for crab crossing!
Birds - Birds of the rarest found nowhere else in the world flirts on the updrafts. You don't even need to leave the settled areas to get good sightings at close range of endemic CI Frigatebirds wheeling overhead and the graceful undulating flight of the Golden Bosun, an elegant CI form of tropicbird.
Nature Wonders - lush rainforest, underwater paradise, idyllic beaches and awe-inspiring sea and landscapes...so untouched, pristine and beautiful.
We touched down on the island via MH8484, a catered flight which carried 140 passengers (abt. 36 runners and 104 line dancers). After the immigration clearance (which took ages!) we got up the bus which took us for a brief tour around the island.
We learned that the island's population is only 800 residents. There are 7 policemen, 2 taxis, 1 supermarket, 1 hospital, 1 school, 1 Community Center, 1 Visitor Center and a few restaurants in the island. Supply of food is air-freighted on a weekly basis. Therefore, whenever there's a group of visitors coming in, the villagers must be informed or otherwise, the island will experience a shortage of food.
After the introductory tour, we were taken to CI Lodge for check-in. The lodge is clean and as simple as can be. There's no lobby whatsoever. Yet, they made an effort to welcome us with a decent tea reception served with an array of local pastries and coffee.
Later, we freshened up and rested before dinner at Poon Saan Park nearby. It was a dinner and dance with the theme ‘Red Crab’ and as the theme suggests – the dress code was RED. Line dancers were dancing while runners were carbo-loading for the next day’s marathon! There was a dance performance put up by Chris Watson and the girls. After that, most of us (runners) went back to our rooms to retire, leaving line dancers to dance the night away! This brought us to the end of day 1.
Flora & Fauna Run
The theme of this run is initiated by a runner Julie together with the locals. The running course took us a loop into the woods, then out to the open road into the woods again and then back to the road and into the woods to complete the 21km route.
We gathered outside our lodge at 6am and waited to be chauffeured to our starting point which was at the Christmas Island Cricket & Sporting Club. The weather was extremely windy and the race didn’t start until 8am (9am M’sian time). As everyone was in holiday mood, no one made a fuss about the delay in time. We mingled around and get to know one other. Fun Run started an hour earlier than Competitive Run and by the time, we finally got started – it was getting warm.
At first, I found it rather difficult getting my feet to adjust to running the uneven paths in the woods. However after awhile, I got used to it and soon gained momentum. I was actually enjoying my run and when I was out to the open road, I increased my pace and ran comfortably.
Lost in the woods...in reverie
Next, I returned to an easy mode again when I entered the woods. It was then I got diverted and lost! It was own carelessness. I was admiring the beauty of Nature and day-dreaming, trying to make poetries that I missed the turning at 8km marker. When I finally ‘woke up’ from my fond reverie…oh my god! I realized that I was all alone and there weren’t any distance markers. I turned and ran all the way back to locate the last marker which wrote 8km.
Aiyoh! By then, everyone else was ahead of me and I knew I was way behind…needless to say, I was the last runner! Still, I was in high spirit and being mentally strong I told myself to continue running the best I could. So I ran with absolute abandon and finally managed to catch up with Gail, Julie and Wai Keen who were walking then. Slowly, I ran passed other runners and overtook them one by one, the last one being Teresa. They were all surprised to see me coming from behind. But the last 7km proved to be rather painful as the sun was already high up and shinning mercilessly on us. The open road was hard, hot and a bit hilly. I stopped at the last water station and gulped half a bottle of water, which was so unlike me as I normally don’t stop when running a half marathon.
The last 4km was running in the woods again…not long, I was so relieved when I sighted John, who waited anxiously for my return. He was also relieved to see me! I told him that I lost my way but I didn’t give up. Then I realized that I’ve ran an extra 6km. The clock read 2hr 27mins (yeah, for 27km!). Despite that, it was a good run and I still managed to secure third placing.
to be continued...