Yesterday in CARDIFF: Ms.Malaysia Tourism Ms.Shin Ying & the curry supper that Mr.James managed to get delivered to us in the hotel!
My Dato Michael Tio Study Tour Experience Part 2 takes us to the exciting part of the trip because Day 8 is where we hike up Mount Snowdon! I struggled with Part 1, having to crack my head trying to recall every moment of the trip whilst reading through my notes (mind you, my hand writing can rival a doctor’s!). Part 2 is even tougher to pen down because we travelled through mountain routes and stopped in towns whose names i can’t even pronounce. Plus i drove half the route and was co-driver the other half. Had the honour of Dato Tony Looi (DTL) being our driver, who by the way hasn’t driven in a long while because he usually gets chauffeured around in a Bentley. Pretty scary as this was the most dangerous part of our entire trip! But DTL not only drove the big MPV through the narrow winding country roads, he did it whilst discussing leadership and business strategies with the rest of us.
On to our trip!
Cardiff – Black Mountain Pass – Abergwesyn Pass – Tregaron – Pen y Pass
This map shows you the route we took to get from Cardiff to Snowdon. Selected by Dato Michael Tio (DMT), this route took us off the beaten path and we were rewarded with some amazing views.
We bid farewell to Cardiff and make our way to Black Mountain Pass, twisty roads that take us up into the mountain range. We stop at Black Mountain Quarries, where we were treated to gorgeous panoramic views and a history lesson on how limestone used to be burnt in massive in-ground furnaces to produce lime. The long abandoned quarries can be seen at the top of the mountains with a few informative panels showing the history.
“we need a toilet stop!” came over the radio as we were driving down and we made a quick coffee and toilet stop at a quaint cafe/Inn built in the 1800’s in Llangadog, The Telegraph Inn Cafe. We get our coffee fix and we are back on the road heading towards The Abergwesyn Pass.
The Abergwesyn Pass is a narrow single lane old road that twist and turns through the hills. Its a nice drive that took us through roads lined with high hedges, dense forest, and wide open valleys. The road is so narrow that if there is an oncoming vehicle, it would be nearly impossible to find a spot to let each other pass! Luckily for us hardly anyone drives through The Abergwesyn Pass and we only came across a couple of vehicles throughout the journey. Plenty of sheep, no cars. Strangely though, there was a single red telephone booth in the middle of nowhere with a group of backpackers seated by the side of the road. I wonder where they came from and what were they waiting for?
We exit The Abergwesyn Pass into a small town called Tregaron where we park at The Talbot Hotel and grab lunch from the SPAR across the road. Lovely weather as we dine on the benches in what appears to be the centre of Tregaron.
From Tregaron we drive towards Llanberis. A long scenic drive as i recall. Snaking up the mountains it feels as though we have stepped back in time. The road is dotted with numerous little villages and towns, streams and bridges. All having stood the test of time, a picturesque sight that makes me wonder about the amazing stories we’d hear if the walls could talk. Judging from the old buildings, bridges and the size of the road, i believe this would have been the exact same routes that traders and maybe even knights on horses galloped through. Imagine what life would have been like back then.
Somewhere along the route we create a traffic congestion on the narrow road as due to a combination of the twisty roads and ‘congratulatory news’, one of our group members leaves most of her lunch on the side of the road. We arrive at Llanberis, the closest town to Mount Snowdon and head to a supermarket to pick up necessities for our hike tomorrow. As we are going round and round the mart grabbing snacks, bread, water, DMT shoves me a bottle of Lucozade and says ‘nah, take this you are going to need it’. (Thanks DMT! I’m glad i did because while up on Mount Snowdon the sweet fizzy taste was a welcome relief for some of us). We arrive at YHA Pen-Y-Pass, our home for the next two nights just as the sun is disappearing behind the mountains. A strong cold wind greets us as we unload and drop off our bags in the games room. We make a beeline to the diner for our dinner. The YHA serves up a carbo charged dinner to get us loaded for our ascent tomorrow. A quick briefing on the house rules and room allocation, and everyone heads off to their rooms. Being the only accommodation during our trip that has a free-to-use kitchen (because its a hostel), some of our friends whipped up some Malaysian delicacies for supper and also prepared food for our lunch up at the summit. DTL had brought along heaps of herbs and spices from home and grabbed more ingredients from the supermarket earlier too. Craving Malaysian flavour, almost everyone packed into the kitchen and dining area.
Tonight my room mates are DTL, William, Jeff Chin, Edison, and Darren. Before we go to bed we carefully pack our backpacks and layout our layers of hiking gear. Off to bed! Because tomorrow, we take on the challenge of hiking Mount Snowdon and setting the Malaysian record for ‘the most number of Malaysians on the summit of Mount Snowdon’.
Mount Snowdon! (up PYG-Track, down Miners Track)
Weather looks good and after breakfast we gather in the games room for our final ascent briefing. Walkie talkies are distributed, roles are assigned and we head out into the early morning cold. DTL heads the warm-up exercise to get everyone loosened up for the estimated 3 hour hike up. Of course with the usual DTL flair, we warm up our cheeks with laughter too.
We begin our hike and the group as anticipated quickly splits into multiple groups based on our hiking speed. We have a lanky guy in our ranks who sprints off and within the first 20 minutes, the first group has already lost sight of him. We continued to talk about what a show-off he (Darren!) is as we wince, whine and pant our way up. DMT does a great job of checking in on all the teams via walkie talkie throughout the hike, accompanied by DTL’s voice broadcasting a dirty joke over the airwaves or shouting words of encouragement.
I haven’t walked up a hill let alone hiked up a mountain in over 20-years, and here i am hiking up the tallest mountain in England and Wales. But as DMT has reminded us many times, thats the whole reason why we have to do it. So we moved at a rather quick pace (we believe the rest are held up by photo taking opportunities!) and have splintered from the main pack. We keep ourselves unintentionally distracted from our sore muscles and tiredness by talking about life, entrepreneurship, DTL’s jokes, and discussing the relation between climbing a mountain to life and business. Stopping every now and then to admire the views, grab a quick bite and catch our breath. We keep our breaks short so we don’t lose momentum and our muscles don’t go into a restive state.
While the hike isn’t entirely difficult, there were parts of the trail where we had to literally climb. Some parts were hair raising as we came close to the edge, a fall could see you slide a rather long way down. Somewhere closer to the summit the trail isn’t so clearly visible (or more like everywhere looks like a trail!) and we were grateful to have a couple of hikers up front who took the wrong trail and had to double back down, and we followed them on to the right path. The last 1 and a half hours before we reached the summit, every 15-minutes or so Dato Tony Looi would be ahead of the group and he’d yell at us saying we are only 15-minutes away from the summit. And every 15-minutes and a thigh crunching climb later we would be yelling back at him. (follow my blog to read about the importance of great leadership qualities we discovered on the mountain in Part 3) As we get closer to the summit, we pass many hikers making their way back down, everyone giving us encouragement and telling us how close we are to the top.
Before we knew it, we scramble up a steep portion and come onto a flat opening with a single large stone marker… “we’re here!” we thought, only to have a passing hiker tell us that the summit is a good 200 meters or so away. We walk slowly in the cold, made colder by the extremely strong winds. Winds so strong my ski cap felt like it was gonna fly off! and attempts to take a picture with your phone was a harrowing experience! As we look up, lo and behold a lone cylindrical structure can be seen through the fog (or clouds), an iconic Snowdonia landmark on the highest point in England and Wales. We made it.
“We have lost DEK!” “DEK is missing” came blaring over the radio as we were waiting for the last group to reach us.
The bulk of the team had already joined us at the summit and there was a group of 4 stragglers still somewhere on the track. There was frequent chatter over the radio as sweeper Mr. bensonwong.com was broadcasting his location and also continuously double checking with Dato Michael Tio (DMT) on directions. Then, we lose communication with the team… For what felt like eternity, DMT tried in vain to reach the 4 team members. Studying the printed out map we had and a giant one on the wall in an attempt to determine their exact location on the mountain. He made numerous trips out of the summit station into the cold and walked around attempting to see if he could get in touch with the missing team. His efforts were futile until radio silence was suddenly broken and the team was within radio communication distance. We had learnt that the team had found DEK and they had met a couple of hikers who came to their aid and were leading them to the summit… but…
Crib Goch, the most dangerous route up Snowdon was where the team was. They had veered off our initial route and were probably closer to Crib Goch. The seasoned hikers who spotted them were on their way up to the summit via Crib Goch and led them up that route.
“Get off that route! you must not enter that Crib Goch!!” Screamed DMT into the radio. DMT moves to a more private spot to communicate with Benson, and reappears looking rather worried. They were on Crib Goch and were inching their way to the summit. No turning back now.
As we have been on the summit for close to 3-hours, heavy fog has rolled in and we run the risk of descending in darkness. DMT suggests we head down via Llanberis Path, the easiest trail on Snowdon and the same one DMTST5 used on the last trip. I speak to the team members in our group and decided (or more like informed them) that we had set our minds to complete the hike as intended and we were going to finish it. I suggest to DMT that some of us who want to go down via Miners Track can depart earlier so that there is enough time to complete the descent. As some are visibly tired from the hike up, DMT makes an announcement and puts 3 options of descent on the table. Miner’s Track, Llanberis or via train. After some deliberation, the majority decide to head down via Miners Track and a handful have opted to go down with the train. We push off and make our way down Snowdon.
We make it back into the hotel just before sunset. My fellow Vistage buddy William and i plonk ourselves on the nearest bench, kick off our shoes and just let our body fall into a restive state. The short break is interrupted as the members of the team who came down via train had made it back to the hostel and informed us that DMT and Jeff Chin had remained on the summit as the station had closed and the missing team had yet to reach! DMT informed the “train team” that they would descend via Llanberis track and we were to bring the cars round to pick them up. The information is cross checked by Mr.James (this dude is amazing, stoked to have him as my friend) and we get cleaned up and head out to LLanberis town.
I was driving down into town and suddenly over the radio “DTL car just passed us on the main road! turn back!”. We make a U-turn and DMT and a couple of team members are standing by the side of the road. We unload some of our passengers and they walk to our dinner location to make room for DMT, Edison and Jeff. DMT points us to where he left the rest of the team and we drive as close to the path’s exit as possible and wait for them. From the darkness we see one, then two, three and finally a flashing light as sweeper Mr.Benson appears. Covered in dirt and exhausted, everyone squeezes into the car and we make our way to the restaurant. The 4 missing members had been hiking on Snowdon non-stop for over 8-hours. Needless to say, dinner was filled with exciting near death stories. We were just relieved that everyone made it back safely.
Tonight a special supper of Bak Kut Teh and fried rice was prepared by DTL and gang before we all hit the sack. Needless to say, it was a symphony orchestra in our room and probably all the other rooms.
The following people deserve a special mention.
Ms.DEK who was the only female in the lost group, normally has perfectly manicured nails and is always in heels made it almost unassisted. Mr.Edison who most thought would turn back midway conquered Snowdon. Mr.Christopher and Mr.Benson deserve a round of applause for encouraging and pushing a team member up the mountain – if not for them, the mountain rescue may have been called into action. The details of the entire adventure will be etched in the memories of the 4 DMTST6 members, and they definitely have an amazing story to tell the grandkids. DMT for staying back on the summit out in the freezing cold to wait for the 4 team members then greeting them with hugs and smiles and making sure they got their picture taken on the summit. Testament that The Captain never leaves anyone behind. Mr. Jeff Chin who was suffering a knee injury for volunteering to stay behind with DMT on the summit. Amazing people on this trip and i am blessed to have made their acquaintance.
Snowdonia – Manchester
The morning atmosphere in our room was filled with moans and groans as the effects of Snowdon have set in through the night. From the corner of my eye i see DTL stumble out of his upper bunk shouting profanities as he tries to stretch his back. We freshen up and don our cool new Malaysian Book Of Record jumpers by The Morning After (thanks Darren!), grab breakfast and head out to snap a group picture. We had broken the Malaysian Record for having the most number of Malaysians on the summit of Mount Snowdon, and it was an honour to have the COO of Malaysia Book Of Records on site to officially document and witness it. The previous record was set by our fellow DMT ST5 members merely a few months back.
We load up the cars and head to Manchester. First port of call is the most well known landmark in Manchester, home of UNITED, OLD TRAFFORD! I’m no football fan but hey! it was a pretty cool to be in the home of one of the world’s most famous clubs. We eat some crummy football food (I’m assuming UNITED fans eat this too), visit the Red Store, and snap a lot of pictures. With some time on our hands, Captain DMT decides to take us for some shopping and we head to Lowry Outlet Manchester. Once all the women (and some of the men) had bought all they could carry, we make our way to Chinatown for some scrumptious Chinese food at Yang Sing. As we were a big group and DMT had made reservations much earlier, we had an entire floor to ourselves. We were so noisy and loud that the manager had to come up and tell us to keep it down as they had other guests in the restaurant on the level below! I blame the Tsing Tao. Good laughs all night long thanks to the Tsing Tao version of Mr.William and the never ending stream of jokes from Dato Tony Looi.
We check-in to The Radisson Blu , my roommate Fai Fai and I freshen up and join the rest of the group in Little M Bar for our last night of sharing. Tonight, we go round and hear from everyone in #dmtst6 on what we learned and discovered during the trip. Everyone expressed their gratitude for being given the opportunity to be apart of this family of game changers, and we present DMT with a thank you card that was prepared by Jeff. We also hear from DMT on why he started the Study Tours and what drives him to keep doing what he does. It was an emotional sharing session that touched the hearts of many of us.
Manchester – London – KLIA
We check out and catch our connecting flight to London. Touching down in Heathrow, we immediately drop off our luggage at the storage centre and we hop onto the Heathrow Express and head to Piccadilly Circus. Making up for some lost time, we brisk walk our way to Chinatown for dim sum at Golden Dragon. The group then splits into “The Shoppers” and “The Walkers”. Shoppers are self explanatory whilst “The Walkers” are those who join The Famous DMT Walking Tour of London. We walk from Chinatown to Trafalgar Square then a straight shot to visit the queen at Buckingham Palace. From Buckingham Palace we make our way to Big Ben, getting caught in a slight London drizzle. A few pictures later amidst the throngs of tourist and we hop on the tube and head back to Heathrow to regroup with the rest.
In Heathrow we check-in, clear immigration and while some continue shopping, some head to the lounge for food and a much needed shower. Thanks to my lovely gesture to help my friend Julie, i’m stuck with 20 pounds in coins. So what is a man to do with 20 pounds in coins? He goes and buys chocolates!
Grateful that its not a full flight and most of us have empty seats next to us, awarding us good space for our long flight home. Has it come to an end already? Can’t help but feel sad, not just because this amazing trip is over but because it feels like just as we got to know each other really well, the trip comes to an end. Well… reality is it is not the end, it is only the beginning. The beginning of a lifelong adventure with new friends. While DMT ST 6 is the last tour by Dato Michael Tio, it is definitely not the last trip for the DMT ST family.
Home, nuff’ said.
Thank you for having taken the time to read my Dato Michael Tio Study Tour 6 experience, If you missed the earlier days, here is Part 1 of My DMT ST 6 Experience.
I hope that through my writing you were able to join me on my adventure, and it opened your eyes and heart to the beauty of a self drive tour through England and Wales. If you have an adventure you’d like to share, do let us know about it in the comments and if you have an interesting self-drive route/tour please do send them to us!
Follow this blog to receive instant notification when PART 3 gets published. Part 3 will be where i share some of the things i learned throughout the trip on entrepreneurship, leadership, and life.
In The Star:
#DMTST6 send off
For all the pictures of the trip:
#DMTST6 Facebook Page
“Life is not about the destination but the journey, and the journey need not be lonely. It is who you travel with that makes life worth living.”
Thank you to all my DMT ST brothers and sisters who opened their hearts and welcomed me into their lives, thank you Dato Michael Tio for seeing something in me and inviting me to be apart of this family, thank you Dato Tony Looi for the disciplined sharing sessions, the laughter, and lovely suppers. Thank you Julie for the bag of coins, Maggie Fong for teaching me how to maximise my phone’s camera potential, shout out to Christopher Wong for the repeated lessons on remembering names, Paw Paw for all the teasing and sarcastic jokes, Jack for all the laughter, and thanks Class Monitor Benson for the stories and co-ordination and management of the tour. Too much to list! grateful for the camaraderie of everyone in DMTST6: D’Elaine K, Dato Eric, Bee Yoke, Fai Fai, Elwin, Andy, Evonne, Pei Ni, Darren, Edison, Jeff, Terrence, James, Calveen, Maggie T, Estee, and Ms.Chan. Not to mention those who were instrumental in making this trip a success, Team PKT: Chloe, Justin, Sharon, and Guru Besar Edmund. Thank you to my business partner Karuna for the hiking pants, boots and power bars. Thank you my old friend Yee Lee for the hiking stick. Thank you Joo Yee for the jacket.Thanks to my aunt Eileen for making the trip to Chinatown to see me for an hour, Hugs and kisses to mum, dad, Jinn and Joey for the love and support.
A special thank you to my brother Mr.William Wong for your continuous support and advice, and most importantly for inviting me to join you on the PKT Tour which kickstarted this whole life changing experience.
Forgive me if i didn’t list your name out, you know who you are and i am grateful to have you in my life. Thank you everyone!