These pre-dawn starts to bike rides are getting to be a habit. The latest Dave Ern-organised ride was scheduled to start from Bandar Sri Sendayan. About 70km from home. At 7.30 am. Chon, Chris, Mark, Marvin, Shahfiq and I were among the thirty five or so bleary-eyed souls who convoyed to the Sendayan Galleria for the start of the “Let’s Get Wild Ride.”
This ride would take us to Raptor Watch 2013 in Tanjung Tuan, Port Dickson. Regular readers of my blog will recall that Dickson is apparently one of a number of Scotsmen who have given their names to places in Malaysia.
For the last fourteen years the Malaysian Nature Society has organised a Raptor Watch event around the migration of birds of prey like the Oriental Honey-buzzard , Black Baza, Chinese Goshawk and Japanese Sparrowhawk. These hunting birds migrate north between mid-February and mid-April to their breeding grounds in Mongolia, China, Russia, Siberia, the Korean Peninsula and Japan after a taking refuge from the harsh winter in the south.
Tanjung Tuan is the nearest landfall across the Straits of Malacca from Pulau Rupat in Sumatra, Indonesia. The birds have to traverse just 10 nautical miles / 18.5 km of open water to catch the thermals at Tanjung Tuan to help them on their way back to their habitats in the northern hemisphere. If the weather is right it is not unusual to see a hundred or more raptors swirling overhead in the updrafts.
The usual mix of road bikes, mountain bikes, folding bikes were joined by a tandem-like bike ridden by Dave Ern with his young daughter on a tag-along.
Our 40 km or so route to Tanjung Tuan along the old trunk road took us southward through rolling countryside and under the Seremban – Port Dickson Highway. This highway now carries the bulk of traffic between Seremban and Port Dickson. We then went south-west, under the highway once more and through the town of Lukut to Port Dickson, or PD as it is commonly called. From there is was about 15 km to Tanjung Tuan.
It was relatively cool when we started riding. So we were presentable enough to be photographed. This is Marvin and I.
We were less presentable by the time we got to Tanjung Tuan. The sun had come out at it had warmed up considerably. It was definitely arm-cooler and Sweat Gutr conditions.
Migrating raptors not withstanding, Tanjung Tuan, or Cape Rachado as it was once known, is perhaps best known for it’s lighthouse. Local folklore states there has been a lighthouse at that location since the Portuguese colonization of Malacca in the sixteenth century.
There is a paved path from the entrance to the Tanjung Tuan Recreational Forest up to the base of the steps leading to the lighthouse. It is a stiff climb on a bike. 75 meters / 250 feet of elevation in 900 meters / 3,000 feet of path. We all needed a bit of a rest before we tramped up the steps to the lighthouse.
The area inside the balustrade is not normally open to the public. However the keepers of the lighthouse agreed to open the area to the public for this weekend. So we joined everyone else on the courtyard facing the sea, hoping to spot a raptor or two. It had rained the day before, which kept the birds away. It has to be a hot day to generate the thermal updrafts that the raptors depend upon. It was certainly hot when we were there. We were perhaps a bit too early though. All we saw were a pair of native White-Bellied Sea Eagles.
It had been some time since I was last in PD. I lived in the Sunggala army camp in PD for a couple of years from when I was seven. My memories include the barber who arrived at our home on a bicycle, the neighbors who had one of the few televisions in the camp, the friend of my mother who would visit bearing a packet of ginger biscuits for a sweet-toothed little boy, the Officers’ Mess where my parents played tennis in the evenings and then watched Shindig on perhaps the only other television in the camp, and of course the long stretches of almost empty beach.
When I was nine or ten we moved to KL. PD became a regular weekend destination. The Sri Rusa Inn was a favorite spot. We also spent a lot of time at the Port Dickson Yacht Club, especially after my father acquired a speed boat. We would often fortify ourselves for the drive home with excellent Cantonese style fried noodles from a stall along the seafront in town.
Things are a little different today. The army camp must be at least four times the size it was when I lived there. It even houses an Army Museum. The Si Rusa Inn is sadly derelict. The Yacht Club has a Royal designation. And much of the beach frontage is built-up. Unfortunately the hotel and resort boom of the 1990s was curtailed by the Asian Financial crisis. So amongst the resorts, hotels, villas and bungalows are many unfinished and abandoned projects.
I had to be back at my car by about 2pm. The other five were happy to head back before the day got really hot. Before we got going again we replenished our potassium reserves with coconut water. As fresh as can be, straight out of a green coconut that had been opened to order. The stall also sold cold canned drinks. My bidons were almost empty so I topped them up with two cans of 100 Plus.
We made our way down from the lighthouse at about 11am. Lunch somewhere in PD was the plan. We made a photo stop about half way between Tanjung Tuan and PD town. The road runs along a rise right alongside the beach at that point, so nothing has been built on the beach side of the road. Which preserves views of the beach and the sea that I remember from many years ago.
Shahfiq, Chris, Mark and Marvin. Chon was behind me taking photographs of the views
We rode into town in the vicinity of the noodle stall that I remember so fondly. Except the area is now covered with rows of shops and restaurants. Including the McDonalds that we patronized. Obviously ‘fast,’ ‘predictable.’ and ‘air-conditioned’ were qualities that appealed to us. The restaurant was surprisingly crowded. It turned out that the locals knew something that we didn’t.
It wasn’t yet noon when we got to the counter. Our server told us we would have to wait a few minutes before she would take our order. Something about a special offer. Promptly at noon the menu boards were flipped to reveal all. 25% off double cheeseburger meals!
It was 12.45 pm and broiling when we left McDonalds. We had been smart to take advantage of the free refills to recharge our bidons. In no time I was sweating buckets and dipping into my bottles. To the relief of all, it started to rain. Patchy at first, but pretty heavily for the last 7 km. We all got soaked to the skin but were thankful for the respitefrom the heat the rain provided. The final 15 km of rolling hills were challenging despite the cooling rain. That final section might have been just a bit too wild in the full heat of the day.