My teen years were a period of growing pains; many times I would just take my mountain bike and ride aimlessly, regardless of day or night, rain or shine, in a bid to quell my anger (mostly when me and my mum get into a disagreement), frustration (mostly when my dad doesn’t accede to a request I make), sadness (mostly when I break up with a girlfriend) or depression (a precursor for a much more serious emotional problem). From my home in Ang Mo Kio, I have ended up in places as far as Changi Village or Jurong Point by sheer pedaling power and hours of determination, but of the many places I have been to, I find myself returning to one particular place on more than one occasion; Upper Pierce Reservoir.
It begins with a long winding hilly road surrounded by trees – lots and lots of trees. It is a peaceful, secluded stretch of road, though sometimes its serenity is disturbed with the passing of a car. The air is always crisp, and the sounds of nature constantly surrounding you.
The woods surrounding the road is also home to 2 varieties of monkeys; the native long-tailed macaques that form family units more aggressive than Italian mafia, and horny lunchtime lovers steaming up the windows of their Honda Jazzes, falsely thinking this stretch of road was quiet enough for them not to get caught having a quickie (hence the peeping-tom term “liak gao” or “catching monkeys”); I’d slow down and smile into the window every time I see one of those parked cars, making sure the driver realises I’m right outside before I ride off.
The road dips and rises with the concentration of hills that make up the Thomson area; on a bicycle, the journey into the reservoir is challenging and calming at the same time. And though maintained quite well by the National Parks Board, the lush greenery gives you a sense that it is really nature taking care of itself, apart from the road itself and the odd barrier post to keep sleepy drivers from driving off the asphalt.
A few downhill dips and gear-churning climbs permeated with a couple of turns later, and the reservoir finally comes into view. It is a simple place. Park benches strewn here and there, a path leading round the edge of the reservoir water, chain-linked concrete posts to remind your children not to jump into the water and pollute our precious drinking source, but most importantly, the quiet. I pick a bench, sit down, look into the farther reaches of the water, and let the quiet consume me. I try to contemplate my life, but somehow the lake won’t let me. The serenity of the surroundings soak into my mind, sweeping away any notion of life’s realities. Granted, being here won’t necessarily solve any of my problems in life, but the lake doesn’t care about my problems, or anyone else’s for that matter. It cares only that you’re there looking at it, and it is looking back at you, and nothing else matters.