Saturday, 4 April 2015

Bicycle blitzkreig

Thai visa in hand I fled Pennang before dawn on the first free ferry to Butterworth. A quick roti chennai later, I gave the bike it's head and whistled north.

The countryside opened out into a patchwork of farms spread across lush riverland.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Trusty Steed

Two years on one thing has remained constant. 

A most faithful friend well deserving of an ode

A bicycle born near Bristol
Heard a silent starters pistol

Monday, 16 March 2015

Solvitur Velocipedo

Cocooned in my forest lair by day, by night holed up in the sequestered serenity of the campsite's riverside glade. I passed my time beneath the 1600m peaks that closet the table land. Five trails led away from my tent; four into the forest hills. The fifth, least used, led back to roads and noise and people. Occasional forays that way into the tourist hub of Tanah Rata's main drag to procure food a fleeting, grating reminder of the busy reality just a tree screen away.

The stillness couldn't last. Altitude is a a cyclists hardest won currency; the urge for a spendthrift splurge rose irresistibly. With a glorious descent promise-note burning a hole in my pocket I packed up my camp and romped through Brinchang and Kampung Raja, the tableland's northern most stations. The scale of the developments was difficult to miss. The WWF's describing land clearance as "rampant" did not seem hyperbolic looking over valleys glaring back from reflective cellophane and glass.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Return to Titti Wangsa

Leaving behind Tamra Negara before dawn I ignored the temptation of a return boat ride. Instead I took the quiet roads south along the banks of the river Tembeling. Rushing south over the hilly landscape through isolated Kampongs and Orang Asli settlements. Stopping at a banana stand a cheeky older woman helped herself to one from my bunch with the arched eyebrow, incomprehensible innuendo and insistent stare of a practiced flirt. Inevitable palm oil encroachments followed as I closed in on the main road west from Jerantut.

Heat rose, humidity cloyed, but no solace from mid day sun was sought. Gripped by a mad dog's longing I pressed onwards unwilling to stop before I had retraced the Lipis river road section I had ridden two days prior.

With sweat stung eyes noticing afternoon shadows stretching I veered into one of the small road side cafes that dot Malay roads and rewarded my westward dash with shade and a cold drink. Touching the ice filled glass first to my forehead and then rolling it across my abdomen a sharp pain fired. Muscles knotted oddly under the glass and I became dizzy. The moment passed but I resolved to take a little more time over cooling off. 

Fortunately my race was almost run and I was a mere 25k from my planned destination. Returning to my earlier strategy of scuttling from shade to shade it was not long before I rolled in the shabby chic of Kuala Lipis.
  The already colourful Chinese frontage downtown, enhanced by New Year preparations. 

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Pahang: Judge not lest ye be judged?

I left Fraiser's Hill wreathed in a thick layer of wet mist.
Ignore the spinal tap impersonator blocking the mist-obscured view fairly pulsing with highland cool 

The upland forest continued to titillate as I weaved down the hairpins.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Doolittle Fallacy

Suffice to say I didn't die.

I accelerated downwards for perhaps five feet before my heels hit ledge. Jarred forward by the impact my flailing hand clutched handful of thorns which finally brought me to a halt.

A shaky, undignified, but thankful stop.

Legs straight and rigid, both arms locked behind me from the shoulder, torso leaning forward at 45  looking straight down. I must've looked like nothing so much as a very out of place and inept ski jumper.

Tentatively I stepped back from the brink. Now feeling 100% keen to be down I carefully descended the blessedly flattening lower portion and hit the bottom.

Thank fuck. I thought eloquently.

I was shaken. Failing to follow the path to its conclusion called into question some of the qualities with which I had begun to identity: Adventurousness, stoicism, stubbornness. The confidence in my willingness to carry on regardless was suddenly in doubt. If I can't even reach a sodding waterfall... At least I could say with certainty that I didn't have a death wish. Having set out on this trip depressed that I suppose was no minor thing.

Retracing my steps looking around for turn off's missed, my certainty that this hadn't been the way evaporated. The path underfoot was undeniably there if over grown and tough going.

The phrase 'kids and oldies may find it tough' swirled. May???? Maybe I had just wimped out.

I got back the rainforest level and trudged back eyes cast down.

A beautiful Blue Necked Keelback appeared right in front of me. Delicate coils of luminous orange. The Keelback was calm, no flattening of its neck to threaten a strike with its small venomous mouth. Instead it paused and then gracefully waved its way to a sunny leaf strewn spot to bask.

I watched enraptured as he relaxed and, just like that, I felt much better.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Battle of the Bulge

Departure #2 was from a lovely spot called Hutan Lipur Sungai Sendat just north of KL.

Keen to test out his new hammock and to provide yet more unrepayable assistance Peter joined me. We reached the waterfall in the early hours of the afternoon to find it closed. Fortunately Peter, like me, is on the same wave length as Paul Theroux:  

The best sort of travel always involves a degree of trespass. The risk is both the challenge and the invitation. 

So we ducked under the police tape and were rewarded with a blissful place to camp for the evening.