Untitled Journal

What's the story, morning glory?

Transcendental for The Sundial



The Sundial at The Remarkables, Queenstown, New Zealand | 26th Sept 2015.

Fakhrul. Only you and I know the yearn for the crag of our dreams.

I still remember that day sometime 2 years ago when we saw a picture of this magnificent monolith at the back cover of Rock & Ice magazine. We were blown away by it. At that time this all felt so out of reach. We could only dream.

Today after Renan, everything else in between and 4 hours of yet another traumatic hike of my life, there I was and there you were. Even while writing this in the comfort of my bed, I still pinch myself.. Can’t really quite believe it.

We really made it. I love you.


Where do you begin?

When only upon getting there that you realized the 2 hours solid hike you read about was not exactly as you had in mind?¬†We could see it from the car park. We just had to follow our nose. Except that you’re only human, or might as well be an ant – and that is a mountain range laying in front of you.

I guess at this point for me it was just a question of how bad I wanted it.

At the moment this picture was taken, I guess it was pretty bad. So we kept going, kept walking whilst deep inside I raged with my mind for suggesting this in the first place. And also for packing way too much for the shoulders to bear.

Then I remembered the first emotion I had when I first saw it – just like great architecture, as an architect, you gotta see it. I remembered back how the flare of an idea of exploration and adventure burned in my heart. That kinda idea is always a good idea to have at the comfort of your office chair.

Until you’re not in your office chair.


“It’s just there.”

We need a new word for “just”

Oftentimes it is underestimation that gets me to the base of places that I wanted to go. And then the not wanting to hear Fakhrul say “I told you so” that actually made me arrive.


We only had this paper

“From the first cattle stop from the Remarkable Road, walk down the private road going south. Then along a deer fence and traverse to the base of the ridge. From here scale the vague path up the ridge line and onto the spur with The Sundial on.”

I probably memorized this that day like it was some kind of effing fairytale.


That damn deer fencing

I have mixed feelings about my husband’s stiffness towards bending the rules. If I were to follow my nose to The Sundial, we needed to cross those fencing but we wasted a lot of time deciding about crossing over. My logic said the fencing didn’t look like its meant to keep humans away, but someone was too worried we might get caught, or worst, get shot ūüė≥ūüĒę

From where we were standing, the fencing looked endless uphill and way off the supposedly the right direction. We did walked along it anyway.

Until we made the wrong turn.


Checking with the locals

Whilst contemplating about crossing over the fencing, I called a bunch of numbers posted in the Queenstown Climbing Club page hoping to be pointed out at the right direction.

Turned out that everybody I called had never been. Even a person from a rock climbing company that offers guide services hasn’t!

Even the locals don’t go. Fear started creeping in. Doubt popped like fireworks. Very little information. Just a lot of intuitions.

There’s a saying. Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement.

What a hell of an experience it was.


Crossing over

15-16 years ago, when we were teenagers (and I’m not particularly proud of it), I used to sneak out in the middle of the night with Ewa¬†to go out when I was left with my maid and parents weren’t at home. We would climb over our house gates just for few hours of freedom during night time. We didn’t do anything dramatic, just drove to KL town to see what night life was like, to feel every little bit like a grown person unattached to school, exams and routine. Then quietly sneaked back in. We were pretty good at it for few times, until we were caught.

We were just a couple of curious kids.

Curiosity. Its the lust of the mind. And its the cure for boredom.


Into the woods

Winter was just over. Spring was only unfolding. The land we stepped in was pretty much barren. Mostly twigs, barbed shrubs and thorn bushes to get through. It wasn’t pleasant. I covered my face the whole time and still came out with cuts

After half an hour of unclear paths and drained off from being paranoid over strange sounds, we were desperate to get out. Suddenly walking uphill along the endless fencing didn’t seem like such a bad idea, even though it might take you elsewhere.

There was a peculiar sense that we were being watched. Not a malevolent presence, just something keeping an eye on things. I wasn’t particularly scared, just the idea of not knowing felt suffocating.

John Muir promised, that in every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks. You never know how tolerable and strong you are – until being tolerant and strong is the only choice you had

Its a great thing when you realize you still have the ability to surprise yourself.


“When the going gets tough, the tough gets going”

Nothing could prepare me from the consequence of underestimation and overconfidence. As soon as we got out of the woods and shortly after I breathed a sigh of relief, I just kept checking my watch in disbelief of how long this hike had taken. Yet it just kept getting further, taller and harder.

Unlike rock climbing, when it comes to hiking I think there are only two grades; either you can do it, or you can’t. I turned my head to my back and saw the unpaved private road where we started in distance and thought, we’ve come this far. It is JUST there (refer #2)

Well, that’s nature for you. It has a way of dealing with your ego.


Breaking point

We lost the sight of The Sundial. It was confusing, because it was JUST there. Fakhrul sat us down and said if we wanted to go home, might as well now, considering how long it had taken us. I really didn’t want to get stuck out there in the dark especially when we were poorly equipped for it.

Fakhrul left his bag and ran up to scout as I tried to catch whatever breath I could. I was giving up, there was no point acsending as it got steeper that I was gonna topple backward and without knowing the direction to go.

Whenever Fakhrul emerged and shook his head, I was in total disbelief. Where had it disappeared to?! I looked at Ewa and felt so guilty for talking her into this. I just couldn’t believe it, it wasn’t going to happen for us. If I had a breaking point, this was it.

“Elly, sorry weh. Kita fail. Aku nak balik..” She didn’t say anything but knowing her, she would’ve been OK with anything. But still I felt sorry for everything and tried to console myself that the hike itself was well worth it. Except that I still couldn’t believe it.

“Check that side!!” I yelled at Fakhrul and pointed to my right. My mind roamed to the kids we left in Queenstown with his mom. I promised to call her every 3 hours only to realize half way hike that she didn’t have her line on roaming. I had no means to contact her so staying on the safe side that day was vital.

I heard Fakhrul called out in distance and turned. I thought I saw thumbs up, which I actually did! He rushed down for his bag and excitedly said, “It’s there. It’s amazing!”

I am not ashamed to tell you guys. I cried.


“Every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible to be homesick for a place you’ve never been to, perhaps even more homesick for a familiar ground.”

It didn’t disappear, it was just hidden on the other side of one of the ridges.

I kept thinking of how many pictures I dug on this magnificent monolith. The awe could never beat seeing it standing in front of me. This was our summit, our destination, and alhamdulillah, we arrived!

I was homesicked. And then I was at home.


Shit happened

Tere was not much time to waste, we only had about an hour or so to feast on whatever food we carried, put on our gears and get cracking on the climb. We were rushing for the 3pm cut off time for descend.
Fakhrul went first and setup all the runners and Ewa belayed. And very quickly I volunteered to go second and Fakhrul asked whether I wanted to top rope or lead climb it. I’ll be damned if I put myself into that hell hike and not lead climb it.

Just the thought of lead climbing can make me sick to my stomach. Everytime actually. It will be hypocritical of me if I pretend like I’m immuned to the scare of falling, the heights and paranoia that gears or my knots might not be working. The fear multiplied on a foreign crag and its weather – especially it was crazy windy on that side of the ridge it felt like I was gonna be blown off. The belayer was not on a flat ground either and it was rocky everywhere at the bottom. So the first move going to second runner had to be flawless or it was gonna be an ugly fall.

I kept telling Ewa the day before that I hadn’t taken a dump since we flew from KL. And just like that, all the collective fears of lead climbing triggered that undesired sensation.

“Korang. Sorry, aku kena berak!” I was so angry at myself. People usually had to be in peace to feel the urge to shit, yet there I was, in the most intense situation and not much time either, I had to have a go at The Sundial! That was the first time I took a dump in “wilderness”, so hey, yay for me! ūüėĎ

I could go on about how long it took until I was finally finished and the texture of my shit that day but to cut short, everything about it was unideal.

One business after another, it was time to climb. There was no time to think, so I just went. The rock quality was awesome, I didn’t feel like I needed the chalk. Handholds were crimpy and pinchy but footholds were almost everywhere.

Suffice to say, I had the climb of my life.



“It’s a round trip. Summit is halfway point.”

Getting up was optional, getting down was mandatory. Shortly after I came down from the climb, I saw Fakhrul moving suspiciously like he was in pain and asked if he was OK. He didn’t reply. It was silent for awhile, just the sound of wind gushed over the uneven ledge we were standing. I looked at Ewa and we shared the same worry.

I asked again and he said, “Cramp! Kaki tak boleh straight!!” Ah sudah, I thought. We probably barely had enough time to get down before dark, crippling down was the last thing we needed.

After Ewa came down for her climb and rubbing hot oil, his legs thankfully improved and it was time for descent. I wasn’t kidding when I said how steep it was – I was on my ass and sliding most of the times. It was pretty easy to mess up and roll ourselves down.

I didn’t want to stop, I just kept going. Just wanted to get home to the kids. My toes were blistering so I changed to flip flops. Bad idea – the minute I started walking with my foot exposed and without gripped soles, I slipped and got cuts everywhere from the thorned grass. And then back in my trail shoes. It wasn’t the climb that wore me out, its the grain of sand in my shoes. At this point, exhaustion would be an understatement.

Pain is the weakness leaving the body. Or so I kept convincing myself.


“What is above knows what is below. But what is below does not know what is above. Above is the place for closure, and below is for knowledge. Knowledge that everything is going to be OK..”

We were astounded by how fast it took us descending. That was what Fakhrul promised me up there anyway. “Getting down is going to be easy..” He kept repeating to motivate me before we reached up. We were low on water so we stopped by the glacier stream we found. I looked up at the ridges as I drank from it and shook my head thinking, it was pretty high up that we were actually pretty close with the snow caps. How the hell did we managed that was beyond me.

We were down so quick there was enough time to work out another route up on The Sundial, but there you have it. No point of dwelling on the coulda woulda shoulda. It was fast because we finally found the right route without getting into the woods. But everything happened the way they are meant to. And I for one wouldn’t have it any other way as long as we’re all safe in one piece on the road home.

Sometimes I think success is not counted by how high you have climbed, but actually how many people you have brought with you. And for that I will forever be thankful for the people who were with me. The ones that I brought and this overconfident silly woman that they brought.

Whatever that is hard to endure is sweet to remember.



“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are more great hills to climb”

My face is still recovering from the burn from the exposure that day. The cuts courtesy of the woods are drying up too. More than a week passed, I’m still feeling a funny pain on my soles sometimes when I walk.. Really can’t make out what it is but I’m keeping faith it’ll go away. I know its no Everest and they are no frostbites and I still have all my limbs, but that day was as far as I stretched myself to.

My sweet mother in law said we were out cari penyakit. True, we did. We didn’t have to do it and between the moment we parked our caravan to the breaking point thinking we’ve lost the crag was a mystery to why we did all this.

This is what I know: for me, its my curiosity to see outside my comfort zone. True mountain /climbing hardcores would’ve smirked at my experience but not every man dreams equally. I may avoid suffering and sorrow, but I cannot feel, change, grow or live that way. It felt that I was wholly alive and no matter what transpires from here on in, I have truly lived. Something pretty hard to feel at the comfort of my office chair.

Tomorrow I will probably be back on ground involved with other struggles more dangerous and demanding. Why? Because a mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimension.

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; and the realist adjusts the sail.” So who am I going to be? I’ll only know when I’m being put in the corner of great nature and about to give up on my own optimistic dream.

Just like in that song; with every broken bone, I swear I lived.

Syawal 1436


Somehow this Syawal felt way lot happier than the few previous (but also happy) years for all the obvious reason – Renan.

There’s nothing more that you want as a mother than to see your child growing so healthily, so healthy that I feel his weight is surpassing any average 6 months old. The first of Syawal also is when he actually turned a half year old and masyAllah did I felt so relieved and lucky to be bestowed this happy boy.

I also felt really gembira lah, when this year I managed to convince Fakhrul to go back to Kedah on the next morning of second Raya. Usually when it is my turn to Raya in Kajang, we would rush off for the congestions on the highways pretty much right after the salam-salam, yes, I’m mithali like that! :P so maybe we’re going to implement this Raya turn thingy the proper way next time! Heh!

Sometimes I still can’t believe there are actually the four of us. Selamat hari Raya Aildilfitri everyone. Hope your Eid recurred happiness as it should and meant to be. Mine surely was, alhamdulillah!

s1 s2 s8 s5 s9 s4 s6 s10 s11

It Wasn’t Just Running

I was on¬†the dishes at the sink when Fakhrul mentioned about that thing Cedar Wright wrote about ultrarunning. “Read it up, seriously hilarious..” he said. I did saw the headline but never gave a second thought to click it. But when I thought about the coming Sunday’s¬†Great Eastern Live Great Run the BFF¬†made me sign up few months back,¬†and the fact that it will be 12 km, it might do me¬†something good. As I scrolled down and read, I couldn’t help but relate.

I just wasn‚Äôt that impressed. I mean‚Ķ it was ‚Äújust running.‚ÄĚ

Watching someone run was at best boring, and I just didn’t think it was all that rad.

I accepted that even if I had to crawl in on bloody knees, my main goal was to finish.

Secretly, I wished that I never had entered the race.

My pace slowed and I entered the realm of type-two fun: when fun isn’t fun anymore. I went into my pain cave.

Prior to the race (I’m chuckling as I’m typing the word. Race lah sangat!) I was told off in a serious manner by the usual goofy BFF that I needed to practice running. Practice running – sounded so out of this world because how do you practice something that you know how to do since you learned you have legs, really? I was totally underestimating this whole new sport until I ran, like really ran my first 2 km.

It felt really off, practicing running when all I should be doing was catching up with climbing. Two strikingly different things almost on every aspects of it had me overwhelmed a bit. Unlike climbing, there was no overthinking whether 60 meters of rope is enough for this route, wiregate or straightgate quickdraws, if I have enough of them until I reach the anchor, should I wear my downturned shoes or the flatter one, did I do the double figure eight knot right, the fear of falling, will my belayer see me tremble to prepare for the fall.. to name a few worries! With running, all I needed to do was put on a shoe and lift off.

Getting into something that is all about the pace, going faster and enduring longer distance starting to become more and more alien to me as I ran. With climbing, it was all about taking your time getting into the right move and positions – as long as you get up there, who cares if you don’t get there fast enough? Suddenly I felt it, something I haven’t felt in a long time – that pain on your waist. Pancit!¬†Like any other sport, you can easily get obsessive a little about it. Once you’ve known your average pace and the distance you went, you just couldn’t help but wonder whether you can do better the next time around. And so there I was, “practicing”, on some weekdays afternoons doing my rounds at Kampung¬†Sungai Kantan.

Prior to the GE Run, I could only run 3.5 km until going down to¬†walking pace. I had only ran 5 km max and that almost floored me. So deep deep deeeep down inside, I really didn’t think I could finish 10 km, let alone 12! I was already plotting an¬†evacuation plan out of the crowd in¬†case I just couldn’t go anymore. I was like, what if I cramped? What if I fainted in the heat?¬†But with a bit of motivation from my friends and husband who are already pro runners in my eyes, I braced myself for it.

I gotta tell you, running in a crowd is a whole different feeling than running by yourself. Somewhere between the stampede of the bloody hills of Bukit Tunku, I knocked on the road cat’s eye and scrapped my knees. The other runners were so concerned I got so many people asking me whether I was alright. Yeah, I was alright with scars, especially the one that will mark my firsts. I was not alright about tearing my brand new running tights though…

Most of the people I went to the race with are the girls I’d known most of my life and the two that stuck running with me were¬†both the best of friends of 19 years, Ewa and Shareena. At about KM seven, totally drained in sweat, trying to catch whatever breath I could, possibly already hallucinating, I suddenly had an incredibly sentimental moment.¬†Watching Shareena struggling the same, not answering any of our questions “saving” up her energy and Ewa jumping around trying to keep the pace whilst throwing motivational short speeches at us, I was happy. I truly was. Most people would pick some fancy hipster cafe, eating fancy food, all dressed up smelling nice to play¬†catch up with old friends. Instead there we were, running,¬†enduring and making an experience that will sum up who we are. In pain and one of the most tiring condition I had ever been in my life, I laughed a little. Suddenly there were flashback¬†of memories in my head¬†of what these two looked like when they were pimpled-faced teenagers who had very little idea about anything. The¬†people who make me feel like I am already at my best self, challenge me by their example and who¬†I genuinely enjoy. The ones that I take time every week to be in touch. The ones that contribute to my survival and enjoyment in life.

Had Musmarlina been there with us instead in cold Sheffield, I would’ve cried in the middle of the race having this epiphany.

At KM 10 I was totally bummed that my phone was¬†running out of battery and¬†had to turn off the Nike+. I was sure Fakhrul had finished by then and wanted to save up in case for phone calls. I glimpsed at my time and was happy enough I did a 10k with¬†170 meters elevated route under 90 minutes. At this stage I could already feel my legs getting all wobbly, it hurts just to even step on the feet. It didn’t feel like it was just 2 km more and I was ready¬†for it to be done with. “We have to finish it in style. Resuming run¬†at the roundabout!” jerked Ewa¬†as¬†my eyes were¬†already half closed. And by God did we ran at the roundabout. I suddenly found a bit of energy to just ran the hell up to the finish line. Either that or I was totally struck by her voice shouting “Come on! Come on! Come on!!!” as we did. My eyes wandered for le husband. He better have¬†his phone ready for picture and thankfully,¬†he did.

I did it. 12 freakin’ km. 12.5 actually according to my have-to-be-accurate friend, Yeen. Who cares what my time is (actually after seeing the official result I cared a little haha), I was a 12 km finisher! At this point we didn’t know where Shareena was but after few pictures taken and ready to retreat, I looked back and there she was! I don’t know but it was as if we were all welcomed back and survived from a horrid war. We cheered, laughed hysterically, ate our bananas, paraded my wound and torn up tights, and that was it.

I still don’t feel like running is my thing, but funnily enough I already signed up for the next run. Sometimes I think enduring a pain like this can be a little bit addictive. Because no matter how worse it gets, after recovering from it, you’re actually OK. It was not all that bad. And then you started to think…

I wanna have a go again.


20150206-134552.jpg Now, has it been that long and all that quick at the same time? It felt like it was only days¬†ago I was scared shitless of getting into labor and now already has started worried sick waiting for my next period to be on time. Hahaha. Life indeed goes on for me, although not the exact same life, not with the same status and definitely not the same version of myself. I’m a mother of two. Can you believe it, because sometimes I still can’t. I know some women naturally envisioned themselves to be a mother, but I hardly had that when I was younger.¬†And now here I am, struggling to finish an episode of Game of Thrones, trying to get a baby to sleep and hushing a toddler not to be loud at the same time. But look at those two. As scary and daunting motherhood can be, the sight of them just makes it all worth it. Pre-labor was pretty boring obviously. The waiting game, the resting phase, the eat-all-you-can period was not particularly enjoyable. Time felt really slow and you just sort of live day by day until the moment comes. I think that also contributed my decision to be induced this time, other than not having any show at all despite being just 4 days close to due date. Very unlike when I was with Daisy. Although had a semi-natural (my version of normal with epidural) birth with Renan, surrendering myself on that day at the hospital felt all but. It felt really confusing and overwhelmed being able to know when you’re having a baby. I just wanted to move on. I also wanted to be in control as much as I could of the birthing experience and save myself from all the drama like when having Daisy. So I guess being induced was the right decision. Sometimes I kept thinking that the ways that you’re going to welcome your children into this world have already been written for you. There’s no point of overthinking it but to just go with your intuition at that moment and time. And the rest of it, you let Allah performs the magic. photo 1 (2) Life¬†resumed pretty immediately post-labor. I for one couldn’t wait to go outside and by outside I really meant trees, leaves, mushrooms on wet logs, ray of sun through the woods, fresh oxygen (you get the idea) kinda outside. I started going back to climbing gym 30 days post-partum (please don’t tell my Mama and rest assured I took it reeaaaallly easy on myself), hiked up Bukit Tabur¬†2 weeks after that¬†and just ran my first 5km 3¬†days ago. (OK, I exaggerated the last part – ran and mostly walked¬†actually). As much as I love snuggling under the duvet¬†until almost noon with Renan during confinement, pumping ma boobies and finishing off Breaking Bad while at it, I also couldn’t wait to get back being all bossy on the construction sites I left off. I missed the illuminating feeling seeing things I draw being built. I guess I’ve been catching up with my old life so much that I forgot that this blank space is also an old good life. I need to be reminded now and again the importance of writing – of putting my emotions and documenting this short, borrowed life into words. But you know, most days there are just no words. 20150428-214950.jpg This is my view from up the wall on Friday nights now. People has been¬†saying how I’m already trying¬†to start him young, but really, my reply will¬†always be “.. only if he feels like it.” Of course I would love him to be all adventurous, as Renan means fresh, invigorating and Aydeen means hands, power,strength. He got a lot of weight in his name to be the kind of guy who’s up for things¬†but truly, I won’t¬†impose anything if he doesn’t want to. As for now, I’m only bringing him in because I kinda have to if I want to climb – nobody to look after him at home! Thankfully he’s usually sound asleep when we start our session and wakes when we’re done. And whenever he did wake in the middle of things, he really enjoys¬†the attention of climbers who usually are very fond of babies. 20150428-215016.jpg

Renan’s first visit to our playground! He was about 2 months old here.



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photo 1 (1) photo 2 Oh my, them babies really don’t know how to take their time growing up. Since it has been a long time that¬†Daisy was all chubby and gomol-able, you can imagine how ecstatic I have been that I barely have any time to write. Renan is such a chilled and happy baby that his presence into our world makes¬†me feel closed-book complete. It feels like it was¬†a long way to be¬†in this place and position. Do you remember how I was when I was a student? Or before I got married? Or when I found out I was with Daisy and now that I am holding my second baby? That was such a distance.

Renan Aydeen


Alhamdulillah. All praise to Allah.

There are not a lot of words right now. Just pure gratitude and thankfulness.

I have safely delivered a 3.05kg¬†baby boy on a good day of 15th January 2015. I’m on cloud nine and don’t think I’m coming down anytime soon. Trying to live in¬†the moment now, enjoying every little coo, cuddles and not wanting to miss the occasional¬†smile he does when he sleeps.

I’ll try to have more words next time. Or at least more pictures. Until then.

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