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Went to church today, had wonderful time. Potluck!!

In the afternoon after I got back, all the other trainees were in the mess hall/dewan makan, getting a briefing. I didn’t think much of it, and headed straight to my tent.

Woke up at 4.30 pm after napping for an hour. Slightly puzzled to see campsite deserted. Played the harmonica, wrote, etc., while waiting for others to come back from hiking. 6:30 pm, went to eat dinner (nasi briyani). Then I went to bathe.

Returned to mess hall to find out those hiking were still not yet back. Talk started floating around of us who had not gone in, to go fetch them with torchlights. It was 7 pm and pitch dark, no moon in the sky.

The 600+ trainees had, instead of going uphill and back down the same way, been led by their guide (apparently with 23 years experience) to another path by the river. Instead of coming down the same way, they had been led to come out in a completely different place.

Last stragglers appeared at 2 am (and they left at 2 pm!). The administration centre was busy, and they strung ropes across, and draped IV drips from them. Plenty of people brought in on stretchers, and immediately attached to IV drips. Instructors panicking and yelling at each other.

Friends told me that in the jungle, the instructors had been yelling at each other too. “Apa ni!?” some trainees yelled. “Khidmat Negara – Khidmat Bodoh! Berpengalaman 23 tahun lah konon!”

A few of us who had been to church sat together in the mess hall, joking and waiting. Got scarier and scarier as we saw increasingly messed up people appearing, each muddier than the next. There were a few too many people coming in, unconscious, on stretchers.

Instructors did a name call of all 600+, and took about an hour. Even so, not all were there – some who had come in at 9 pm and 10 pm were already fast asleep. The hall wasn’t even half full until 2 am, when the last batch came in.

Plenty of Siti’s and Mohd’s. We call them “Barisan Muhammad” and “Barisan Siti”.

We heard that someone from KL flew in to yell at the Ovai administration. The day was a fiasco, as they actually had been supposed to go kayaking. Who knows which person decided to change the program to jungle hiking.

The trainees had been supposed to reach camp at 4:30 pm. Few brought water, and none were prepared to bring flashlights. A friend told me it was pitch black, and whether or not you closed your eyes made no difference. Even the instructors admitted they were lost.

Shocking to see so many cots laid out at the admin building, two lines strung across and IV drips hanging from them. People lying bundled up in the green blankets, feet propped up on the cushions from the pink sofa set. They were – well – lying down and pretty much motionless. Some couldn’t even move and had to be propped up and hand-fed. Many were out cold and wouldn’t wake up.

The administration is trying to keep the whole thing hush-hush by reminding us of the “no talking to outsiders or members of the press about what’s going on” rule, and also disconnecting the phones.

Some boys took off their shirts to tie the unconscious people to stretchers, and girls took off their tudungs.

Saw an anteater (with baby clinging on tail) sauntering calmly across Alpha/Bravo camp area. I imagine that snakes have equal access to the area, and our camps are NOT enclosed. Open spaces at bottom, easy to get in.

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