Friday, 20 October 2017

LTF BKT Melaka to Klang (30/9 to 1/10/2017), Day 1 : 3 States and 2 Borders

The complete team
The pre-dawn breakfast team
Kampung route
Waterworks department
Pipes drawing raw water from the nearby ponds
Part of the old railway route, 1905
Muddy off road
River crossings
Off the beaten path
Entering the abyss
Make your own way!
Booby traps
Arriving at Sg Pelek jetty
The ferry to cross the river
Boat fare
Monkeys at the other side of the jetty
One minute you are in Negeri Sembilan, the next minute you are in Selangor
Sg Pelek's FooChow biscuits
Earthen pot
Charcoal fuel
Seafood dinner

We left Three Little Birds home stay while it was still pitch dark. Past 6 in the morning, it wasn’t cold but the strong breeze kept us worried as rain had been forecasted for the morning.

The corner food court and Hajjah Mona Assam Pedas from last night were devoid of activities. Both places saw a good flow of customers last night with the latter serving a peculiar beef rendang that came with salted egg, stir fried cabbage and white rice...a dish which was on everyone’s table!

Leaving Hotel Casa Del Rio, we joined the narrow lane of Jalan Hang Kasturi, marveling at the shop houses that extends more than 100 meters in length!!! These centuries old buildings usually incorporates family dwellings, servant quarters and a stable as well!

Turning right onto Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, the old street, built for horse drawn carriages is today, a one way street. Flanked by old shop houses with narrow five foot ways on both sides, we almost travelled back in time until an approaching car brought us back to reality. Unless, we want to meet Tun Tan Cheng Lock in person, we’d better be more alert traveling against the traffic flow!!!

At the end of the street, we turned left onto Lorong Hang Jebat, cruising alongside the river. Modern assaults began with the police station and H&M’s megastore on our right. Continuing on with the garish centerpiece at the roundabout, the onslaught went on and on until the old world charm was totally lost!

Stopping at the first mamak shop at Jalan Bunga Raya, we packed ourselves with the standard Malaysian staples of roti canai, mee goreng and teh tarik. After that, the real ride began! Henceforth, our real taste of local life began as well !!!

Riding on the main arteries of Melaka, the city was beginning to stir. We fought heavy traffic at Batu Berendam, finally picking up KC Tay outside Infineon Technologies.

Throngs of people were rushing to get to work around the industrial area. Exhaust fumes from buses, cars and motorcycles were choking the very air we breathe! Cough*

Traffic quietened down a notch outside the Melaka Airport. When we finally turned into Taman Seri Bayan to meet up with Kim Chai and CS Lim, our ears were still ringing from the noise of the traffic!

United as a complete team, Kim Chai led us through Taman Seri Bayan, weaving past the homes of the locals. Passing through, we even witnessed a Chinese wedding in motion!

Exiting at the edge of the housing estate, we rolled past a school, treaded on dirt road, went under a flyover, finally connecting with a kampung route flanked by 2 large ponds. Faraway, a sawmill is visible on our right while right next to us was Syarikat Air Melaka, the waterworks department with its looming watergates and pumps!

Beyond, the old railway route began! Once, part of the railway line from Tampin to Melaka, the tracks were removed by the Japanese in World War 2 for reuse on the Death Railway in Burma! The line was not rebuilt after the war and is today a narrow paved road.

The picturesque route runs past paddy fields flanked by a backdrop of hills and village homes. Cranes were spotted in the middle of the paddy fields, their long legs half submerged in mud, waiting to snare a fish.

Running parallel to the road is an aqueduct. Built above the ground to irrigate the paddy crops, it draws water from a nearby river.

As we travelled further down the old railway tracks, the road became more narrow. Hardly disturbed by passing vehicles, the vegetation creeps closer to the road with tree branches offering arched shades.

Soon, even the tarmac disappeared as well, leaving us a dirt path with muddy pools of water left by the rain! At one point, we were rolling alongside a brook.

Coming out from one hurdle, we passed an Indian village by the edge of an oil palm estate. A couple were tending to a plot of flowering plants as flowers are popular at Hindu prayers. On another side, a man was spraying a herd of cows in a barn. Goats and their kids were walking in a hurry to get out of our paths!

On roads again, we barely travelled 50 m before steering off road again! This time, there were no visible paths but a grassy patch of booby traps. The sure footed rolled their way through the mud. The careful ones preferred to push, some even sinking their feet in mud!

Alas, our off road adventure came to an end. Joining the trunk road, the climbs began within minutes! One set of hills continued on to another set without reprieve.

Right after the right turn between M132 and M153, we were all bent forward, attacking yet another slope when a fluttering on the road caught both Berenda’s and Claudine’s eye! While B ignored the blue winged butterfly, only pointing to it as she rolled past; C could not ignore fortune when it is delivered right to her foot! She screeched to a stop right after a hasty hand gesture, startling George who was following behind!

It was a quick stop but by then most riders had overtook her and disappeared up the slope. Scaling a hill with the late Tuanku Abdul Rahman in one hand hand was not easy. He also protested badly when she tried to push him into her back pockets.

It was another ten minutes or so before she finally caught up with the rest at the roadside stall, our first break for the morning!!! Set at the corner junction between M153 and M10, this makeshift stall is built around the canopy of a few trees. Famous for their lempeng sambal tumis Ikan bilis, VT was quick to identify their signature dish while the rest went for the standard lontong which mostly went untouched, possibly because of the “tongsan” nature in our chilies please!!!

Over breakfast, the first Yang Di-Pertuan Agong changed hands and went into the group’s coffer. Within minutes, He was passed on to the stall owner together with Claudine’s sweat and grime! Observe the velocity of the RM1 banknote and it will tire you out immediately!

Riding on, we continued our roller coaster ride, cutting through the mountain ranges. Judging by the endless rubber trees we passed by, rubber must be a cash crop for the state. Along the way, we zipped past the border into Negeri Sembilan.

The state crossing only dawned on us when name of places started to have a new ring. Minangkabau names, started appearing on signboards. The final deal was when we sat down for wantan mee at a Chinese coffee shop in Linggi. The stall owner and all hands spoke Cantonese, a common mother tongue in the area.

After lunch which came with complimentary bananas, we started on another set of hills. Past noon, the weather became unbearably hot. The good cloud cover we enjoyed the whole morning was only good up to the Melaka border!

Coming down a slope, dear Kim Chai was waiting at the junction under the hot sun to give directions. Meanwhile, CS Lim was spending extra hours under the sun, patiently sweeping the last riders to each regrouping point.

Turning left onto N6, everyone made a break for the only shelter in an otherwise barren road; a bus stop! While everyone were trying to make light on an otherwise hot day, Alvin arrived with a troubled look. His old knee injury from his last Wuling climb was beginning to act up.

Acknowledging his pain, Siew Wan offered to administer essential oil therapy on him. While she was playing nurse, Uncle KC wanted the same attention as well!!! Returning her deeds, Alvin began a physiotherapy session on her to help loosen a frozen shoulder!

Still not himself, we decided to stop at a family run eatery just down the road to allow him more rests. A roadside stall that sprouted next to a housing estate, it was conveniently located right opposite the family’s home. As we were only thirsty, we all had watered down liang teh whilst Alvin and Uncle KC packed their knees with ice.

It was also at this juncture that the news of Desaru 113 race began to pop up on WhatsApp media. While some friends made it to Top 10 categories, Claudine was sad to find out Dr Chu had an accident which ruptured the tendon on his knee! Resulting from this injury, he will be out of active sports for at least 3 months.

We did not make it far after our liang teh stop either. Stopping at a junction for regrouping, Alvin requested for the Arcoxia initially offered by Siew Wan. While nurse was going through her medical pack, Kim Chai offered his less potent “candies” as well. It seems our dear friend had come equipped with pain killers after seeking medical treatment for a migraine just the day before!

Jokes of using Uber service had surfaced since our last liang teh stop. However, based on the assurance that the next 12 km will be completely flat, Alvin pressed on with one good leg.

When we finally hit Port Dickson, the sights of falcons hovering in the sky did little to lift Alvin’s spirits. Stopping for drinks and another ice treatment, he began a deep discussion with the team on how to complete the ride. Grab app was flicked open when Claudine decided to hail an approaching taxi. Haggling with the driver, we finally agreed on the RM15 fare to Bukit Pelanduk.
When the ice pack grow from a small bag... a big bag... is time to call for a taxi!!!
The extra room in the cab soon gave rise to temptations. Siew Wan succumbed to the air conditioned comfort, leaving Gary to ride on alone....carrying her panniers as well!!!

Waving them off, the rest of the group resumed their journey through grueling hills and scorching sun. Even the dead at the looming Chinese cemetery must have been tickled to their bones when they saw us huffed and puffed our up the steep slopes!

The geography of Negeri Sembilan is different from Melaka. While the latter state thrives on rubber, we only sighted palm oil trees in Negeri Sembilan. These palm fronds offers little shades as we treaded past.

Counting down the milestones to Bukit Pelanduk, the road transport department played a sinister joke on road users like us. The distance to Chaah reduced and increased with each passing stone!!!!

Spotting the guys standing by the junction to Bukit Pelanduk brought real relief! While we whooped with joy, the old folks at the village wasn’t too thrilled to see our boisterous bunch. We were disrupting the thoughts of 2 men bent over a game of Chinese chess while their friends looked on silently.

Just next door, a wooden coffee shop was serving afternoon tea while its equally old patrons threw us cursory looks. Nope, we were not worth their attention as the shopkeeper had mentioned earlier that this was a popular route with cyclists enroute to Klang!!!!

Leaving the “retirement village”, we rolled along the side lane, right next to the Kedai Runcit. This small lane cuts through a mangrove swamp.

Just a few hundred meters later, our faces broke into smiles as we sighted Sungai Pelek and the ferry that serves the narrow river. A popular route with the locals, it cuts short travel time by more than 20 minutes! Only RM0.80 per person inclusive of bicycles, greetings by wild monkeys were thrown in as part of the deal!

The one minute ride across the river saved us 17 km of leg power. Right out of the boat, we stepped on Selangor soil. Rolling through a small plot of palm oil trees, we came out at the edge of a housing estate. Within minutes, we had arrived in the town center.

As pre requested by Berenda, Kim Chai led us to the home industry of the famous FooChow biscuit. Unfortunately, by 4 pm, production had ceased but the owner was kind enough to point us to the coffee shop where we could still buy the strange delicacy for consumption.

It was at this juncture that things started to slide southwards. Starting from Gary’s puncture, Alvin soon received news of his friend’s passing!! Regrouped for FooChow biscuits after the tube change, they tasted like hard buns filled with red bean paste!

Our final 20 km ride was a dull one. Rolling on flat terrain, passing coconut plantations, the evening sun bore its way through our skin, nanometers by nanometers!

The few of us behind made countless stops. Once for Alvin to call Mike. Then for Mike to return the call, cancelling dinner plans with us! Later, for George to take a puff!!!

Along the way, Alvin made attempts to return to Singapore but God already had other plans for him. He reflected on Life!

Right before Hocks House, the sceneries began to change. Riding alongside the Straits of Melaka, the sea was shimmering at sunset. The town became visible and cyclists were spotted on the road.

Labouring on, a most pleasant sight appeared at the far corner of Claudine’s eye. A movement...waving arms...a grinning man! It was CS signaling the end of the ride. Hurrah!!!!

Arriving at Hocks House, it took us quite a while to check in as Kenneth was flustered over an electronic key system that had gone awry. The 130 km ride on small wheels with a 1100m elevation gain did not deter the bike lovers from giving their bikes a good wash. It was a well deserved wash as the wheels had treaded through 3 states in a day!!!

That night, we rode out for a sumptuous seafood dinner. Continuing on with a bubur caca dessert, we went back to Hock House passing off gas the whole night.

One of the 3 men that saved planet earth!

Unwittingly, 3 men saved the planet that night. Skipping the abdominal bloating dessert in favour of their laundry, they did not contribute to air pollution! Meanwhile, riding out to the Tg Sepat jetty while the OCD’s were incessantly washing their bikes earlier, they helped to conserve water as well!

Photo Credits :
1. KC Tay
2. KC Au Yeong
3. Ped Al

Monday, 16 October 2017

A Taste of Johor X - Kg Sg Jeram (7 October 2017)

The team, minus quite a few hungry riders buying buns from Pan Kobo!!!
Dabbing in Kg Sg Jeram
Our photographer went to great lengths to capture a great shot
Honoured guests from KL and Singapore!!!
Our treasured riders
Our treasured riders
Our treasured riders
Rolling out, FR Riders on mtb
Rolling out...Chiam managed to get back to base even though there was a tear on his tyre wall!
Bicycle lanes give riders a safe distance from moving traffic
Sometimes, you don't need a drone! All you need is a creative photographer!
Team IRC, at Kg Sg Jeram
Rickety wooden jetty
Before : No overcrowding
After : The boat moved!!!
Arriving at concrete jetty
Enjoying tea and 3 for RM1 curry puffs
"After the curry puffs"
"That house"
At the concrete jetty
Breakfast at Pekan Nanas
Breakfast at Pekan Nanas
Heading back, Pekan Nanas
Heading back, Kg Jelutong Tengah

The panic button sounded as early as 6.43am. Almost in sync with Frankie, Kee Chai sounded the alarm as well. Both men were caught in the early hour causeway jam from Singapore.

As the 2 men waited anxiously in their cars, all was not calm on Philip’s side as well. Leading a large group of cyclist with variant speed was not easy. When the clock ticked closer to roll out time, he had no choice but to ask William to lead the advance guards all the way to meet up point!

All in all, we managed to roll out a quarter of an hour off target, giving the late comers a short allowance to gobble down their buns. Besides a group photo to commemorate the ride is always mandatory!

Finally on the move, we exited Horizon Hills, took on the butterfly interchange, rolled along Iskandar Coastal Highway before turning left for Lebuh Kota Iskandar. As soon as we hit Lebuh Kota Iskandar, Thomas had a puncture which needed attention. Kee Chai and Jolin stopped to lend a hand, rendering the group without a proper lead rider!

Rolling past the tube change department, the flat did not deflate Geraldine’s spirit. Even though many doubted her initially, doubts soon turned to admiration as everyone watched with dropped jaws, at her grit to turn the crank over and over again! Tackling slopes, she had to stand up to push the pedals down. Such was her determination!

Even Paul took pity on her, offering to take over her fixed gear bike in exchange for his road bike. Such chivalry was declined by the heroine herself!

Joe and Robert

The first regrouping point was at Restoran Amin’s at Gelang Patah. Those who spun ahead, went on a shorter but busier route to Pekan Nanas. As for those who languished behind, they were rewarded with a scenic kampung route of Kg Jelutong Tengah, passing the malay cemetery, the madrasah and the school.

Just before exiting the little hamlet, we crossed the narrow river of Sungai Pulai. As part of the smaller river tributaries of Pulai River, it is governed by the changing tides in the South China Sea. Crossing the river this morning, saw an exposed river bed but the river scene changed to one of swollen river with bobbing sampans on our return!

Arriving at Pekan Nanas’ Shell station, we had a pit stop. The earlier wandering bicyclists soon found their way there as well.

Rickety Jetty

Concrete Jetty

As a team again, TH led us into Kg Sg Jeram, stopping first at the rickety wooden jetty. Miscommunicated, Philip who had recced the route prior to today’s ride led a separate group on a different route, ending up at the concrete jetty instead! When it was time to leave, the hungry team exited the same way we entered, bypassing the village proper and some other interesting sights! But all will not be lost as many will make their way into this little hamlet again, for who can resist sipping delicious Teh Tarik by the edge of a mangrove swamp with a quiet river view???

Adrian mending with first class protein after his fall at Kg Sg Jeram

Once out of the village, we headed to Pekan Nanas for breakfast. The group split up to seek their choice eats with most riders congregating at the corner coffee shop next to Public Bank. This shop offers school house curry mee which comes with runny but tasty gravy, oily fried kueh tiau and the standard wantan mee. However, their packet nasi lemak in banana leaf is quite authentic in taste!

At the corner coffee shop
At the food court

Another failsafe choice would be the stretch of food court by the main road. A firsts for our group, the char siew that came with the wantan mee was glistening in oil and charred black but yet, still succulent while the curry mee had a slightly thicker consistency to the former!

After breakfast, those who wished to head back together met at the iconic pineapple statue. We took the same route back, passing through Kg Jelutong Tengah.
Birthday boy, William
Birthday boy, Matthew
On the last climb up the flyover, Matthew’s chain dropped while he was trying to switch to a lighter gear. He was assisted by Frankie and Sue. However, once on the move again, he raced up the hill, rolled down fast and overtook Claudine just outside the perimeters of Horizon Hills. Knowing that he was separated from the Singapore group earlier this morning, Claudine pulled his reign back, cautioning him on the approaching turn off. Thank goodness, he caught wind of her shouts for he would have missed his birthday cake; shared with William for ATOJ’s October babies!

The cake, cut at 3 C Cafe in Horizon Hills can only be appreciated by the health conscious! Their cucumber concoction was another health fad that came with a disputed price tag! Lessons to get the prices of food not on the menu sorted out before agreeing to any house specialty!!!

While many could not stay longer than the ride itself, those who could, bonded a little longer. The group at 3 C soon adjourned to Coppola, an Italian joint in Horizon Hills while the Singapore team extended their Green Themed Diet to Volcano, Bukit Indah for Hakka Thunder Tea Rice!!!! This group will soon turn green as the mother of all storms awaits them on their final leg home!!!

Photo Credits:
1. Mindy
2. Sarah
3. Lionel 
4. Anna
5. KC
6. Chung Keat
7. Andy
8. Joe
....and many more!!!