Cunning linguists and the loss of innocence

Cunning linguists and the loss of innocence
KUALA LUMPUR: A TRIP up Cameron Highlands opened up new insights offering an object lesson in life for four neophyte Awanian treasure hunters. They voluntarily exposed themselves to all manner of mental gymnastics and physical travails on their 700 km weekend round trip up the one-time colonial hill top vacation station. Hilal, Hakim, Nash and Firdaus joined me with two others for this “sorry-out-of-office” ruse, making up what THEY thought was a formidable two-car team.

I am sorry to report that Hilal fell at the first hurdle. He broke the first law of treasure hunting – that one needs firstly, to get out of bed! In the event, this bit of tardiness did not turn out to be so capital an offense. Somehow, punctuality and keeping to the clock; was a vice that afflicted even the organizers. Two lates therefore made everyone ready on time for one perfect flag-off.

In the event, the hunt started some 45 minutes behind schedule when it eventually got under way. In the front Hakim took over the role of pilot while Hilal took on the role of navigator. I sat at the back ready to look out for answers when the time came to answer the route questions. Firdaus and Nash was with another team member in the following car.

Off we went in a convoy of 40 cars, as we headed out towards Gombak. Hardly had we driven 3 km past the Genting Klang police station it was time to put our hunting skills to the test. The hunting juices started flowing as it was time to answer the first of six questions. The first was easy enough, provided you knew your MU (that’s Manchester United to all you MU-haters out there; sorry, but you simply cannot get away from the world’s most popular club even in this hunt); and a bit of recollection or general knowledge about Nigerian tribes.

The question read: Kumpulan etnik Nigeria bekerjasama dengan kelab bolasepak England.

To answer, you need to think BPL teams; 90% of the time, trust me, almost always involves MU. The Nigerian tribe bit? Here’s where you had to be guided by the Tulip which tells you in which “sector” the answers to the questions can be found. In this case, it was within a 200 meter sector between a tyre shop and a massage parlour – serious ya’all! Bekerjasama suggests combining one element in the solution with another to give the desired answer. I quickly spied a shop signage that read: Klinik Veterinar Muezza and immediately plumped for that as my SPOT ON correct answer. Of course being newbies, I had to explain how that became the answer but with both of them quite familiar with football, the first portion was easy. The second was just a matter of adding to their knowledge of population geography to their store of useless trivia just in case either of them get sent to Africa on some future Awani assignment.
Question (2) : Banyaknya pesawat jenis besar; was a bit of a gentle challenge. It would help if you knew your jumbos – be it Airbus A380s or 747 Boeing Jumbos. The answer? A signboard by the side of the road that screamed; Lot 747.

Follow so far?

Now here’s one that’s really tasty and widely considered a good question in the treasure hunt fraternity.

Q6: It can be made genuine without the chief of staff.

To answer, one first needs to break the clue individually. Made genuine can refer to an anagram of letters that when unscrambled, would give rise to the synonym showing real, true or words with similar meaning. The second part needs you to handle the portion that says – without the chief of staff. Followers of the morning crosswords would immediately understand that this requires you to remove the first letter “s” in the word STAFF. That done, look at all the available signboards and there, staring at you is Jalan Sentul. The solution lies in the word SENTUL- remove the S to give ENTUL; which is an anagram of TULEN that in Bahasa Malaysia means genuine. Yep, you need to think in both BM and English to work this one out.
Now did that get tickle your creative mind a bit? If it did, then I can say you are on the way to join this tribe.

Who in their right mind would subject body and soul to spend a weekend cooped up eight hours in a car for a trip that would normally take half the time?

Who would have the constitution to take bits of dry bread and bite at a banana doing without lunch as there is simply no time for a big lunch break while out on a hunt?

Who would not curse at the driver who stops without much advance warning in busy Jalan Genting Klang on a Saturday morning simply because the team thinks they spotted an answer?

Yes, before I was bitten by the bug, I was that driver behind the car that had the bumper sticker : Hunter On The Prowl!. Now, I am that prowler – I offer an open apology to those long-suffering road users who had to hit the emergency brakes on the occasion that I got a bit careless in my hunting/driving.

Apart from the questions, the journey itself is part of the joy of hunting. The tulips took us to Bentong, Raub and Sungai Koyan at the foot of the Bintang Range before we reached Tanah Rata, Ringlet and Brinchang where we reached the finish point in the Equatorial Hotel.

Some of you might be thoroughly “underwhelmed’ by all this – you’d rather take the highway to Tapah, and drive up quickly all the way to Brinchang to sip tea and take in the highlands sights in half the time.

This longer, scenic route took us through some of the “hotspots” where one could see sights of the main range being badly scarred through development. Cameron Highlands is known for its prodigious vegetable farming and intensive farming methods you say. At what cost, I ask? You see plenty of  strawberry farms and indeed you taken home Made-in-China strawberry whoopee cushions by the sackful. I say, why must we produce something which the law of comparative advantage suggest it is better if we imported those large juicy berries from Korea or Japan instead?

The bank which sponsored this hunt made us detour to their pet CSR (corporate social responsibility project). We were required to perform various tasks at the Kempung Leryar Orang Asli Village in exchange for points. As one approached the settlement, the first thing one notices is the uniform, box-like single storey timber homes not unlike the homes reminiscent of Felda. Their kids run around in uniform blue tee shirts handed out for the event. The adults gathered under a tent on a stage to put on a sewang dance performance for our benefit.

My melancholia evaporated when I eavesdropped the conversation at the front as Hakim and Hilal jousted rather intellectually. In between the driving and navigating duties, they debated the wisdom of corralling the orang asli in controlled communities whilst timber extraction goes on rampantly all around.

I was tempted to interrupt to ask if we what we are doing amounts to no more that an exercise in social engineering to impose our big city values on an ancient community who would be perfectly able to live their lives if we just; leave them be!

We completed our hunt quite successfully, with both our teams finishing in the top ten. (That picture that went viral showing the gang posing with the winners’ cheque was the team’s cheeky signal for the guys back at the office).

It might take a few hunts more before this team is able to take on bigger challenges in the world of treasure hunting. By then, they would be have picked up enough tactical nous to master the art of the anagram, picking out a palindrome or juggle an acrostic to arrive at an answer.

For some, the route might be long, all the greater the opportunity for them to sop up a living lesson in life along the way.

RAZAK Chik’s first treasure hunt was to Cherating more than a decade ago, when the top prize used to be a large screen television that was sometimes bigger than the Kancil some of the competitors drove.