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Chamang Waterfall with the R@SKLs

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Chamang Banner odysseyonline com

Photograph courtesy of odysseyonline.com

My body clock usually wakes me up before the alarm clock goes off.  I was awake before the alarm clock buzzed this morning, but this time it was thunder and lightning at 4.30am which stirred me.  Not a good omen for a ride that thirty people had signed up for.

It was still raining in most of Kuala Lumpur at 6.00am.  The last time this happened, I stayed in bed.  Only to later see R@SKLs smiling in group photographs taken on dry roads.

This time I took the chance that it would be dry in Bukit Tinggi.  Kedai Makan dan Minum Zheng Ji (literally translated as Zheng Ji Eat and Drink Shop) in Bukit Tinggi was the designated meeting point for the start of the ride.

Depending on where you live in Kuala Lumpur, Bukit Tinggi is 40km to 50km / 25mi to 31mi away.  The rain put some people off from driving that far.  I started to have my own doubts as I drove through the rain at Genting Sempah, which is 5km / 3mi from Zheng Ji.

I needn’t have worried.  The rain had stopped by the time I parked my car.  Half a dozen buddies were already sitting over hot drinks at Zheng Ji, and more were arriving by the minute.  Twenty-eight riders were ready to roll at 7.20am.  The roads were wet, but the rain had stopped.

Chamang Start 01 Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

Chamang Start Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

Our destination was the Chamang waterfall, with a stop in Bentong on the way for breakfast.

Chamang Route

It is about 28km / 17.4mi from Bukit Tinggi to Bentong.  Almost all of it downhill.  We were on the old road between Kuala Lumpur and Bentong.  The old road runs alongside the Kuala Lumpur – Karak Highway, which was opened in the 1970s to provide a faster and safer link between Kuala Lumpur and the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia.

There is usually very little traffic on the old road.  Add the overcast skies and you have very pleasant conditions for a ride.  Despite the short flooded section and the occasional rutted patch of tarmac.

Chamang On The Road 03 Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Chamang On The Road 01 Khoo Bin Soo

Photograph courtesy of Khoo Bin Soo

Among us were some cyclists who had never ridden this route before.  We stopped after 11km / 7mi at Bentong Hot Spring to regroup.

Chamang Bentong Hot Spring gobentong com

Photograph courtesy of gobentong.com

All smiles at this point.

Chamang Hot Springs 03 Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Chamang Hot Springs 01 Arthur Ang

Photograph courtesy of Arthur Ang

The next regrouping location was the Shell station on the edge of Bentong town.  Clearly some fiddling was going on here.

Chamang Bentong Shell Station 02 Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Chamang Bentong Shell Station 03 Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Then it was on to breakfast at Kedai Kopi dan Makanan Kow Hing (Kow Hing Coffee and Food Shop).

Chamang Bentong Breakfast Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Napoleon Bonaparte said Une armée marche sur son ventre (An army marches on its stomach).

In the case of the R@SKLs, Le peloton monte sur son ventre (The peloton rides on its stomach).

Stomachs ready for more cycling, it was on to Chamang waterfall.  The ride to the waterfall requires about 200 metres / 655 feet of climbing.  Which is even more of a challenge when you are on a touring bike, as Marco was.

Chamang Entrance Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

The work was worth it.  The waterfall was in full flow.  The heavy rain the night before meant that there was a greater volume of water than usual tumbling down the rock face.

Chamang Waterfall 03

Group photo time.

Chamang Waterfall Group Hsing C Pai

Photograph courtesy of Hsing C Pai

Those darned photobombers!

Chamang Waterfall 01 Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

The first time I rode to Chamang waterfall was in 2013 with the Flipsiders.  It was very nice to be still riding with some of that group.

Chamang Flipside Marco Lai 02

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Usually, where hills are involved, our rides end with a descent.  This time the last part of our ride was the 550 meter / 1,800 foot climb from Bentong to Bukit Tinggi.

Still smiling!

Chamang On The Road 02 Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

We made the obligatory stop in Bentong to take photos in front of the big sign.

Chamang Bentong Sign 01 Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

Paul deserves a solo photo for smiling through the longest ride he has done for some time.  Despite getting a puncture.

Chamang Bentong Sign 02 Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

Everyone finished the ride safely, albeit sweatily because the sun had come out and the humidity had soared over the last 20km / 12.5mi.  Just what we didn’t need on the uphill road.

Stomachs needed refilling in Bukit Tinggi.

I’m sure the R@SKLs will do this ride again soon.  Those who slept in are demanding it!

Independence Day Ride

BCG Bentong Merdeka

Malaysia was born on 31st August 1957.  That day Tunku Abdul Rahman, the first Prime Minister of Malaysia, read the official declaration granting the Federation of Malaya independence from the British Empire.

Most years friends and I have marked Merdeka Day (Independence Day) with a bicycle ride.  This year it was the BCG Merdeka Ride to Bentong.

About fifteen of us met at the Orang Asli Hospital for a 7.15am start.  I got there early, hoping to have a hot drink at the small restaurant near the hospital.  The restaurant was closed.

I had forgotten that it was a five-day weekend.  Thursday was Merdeka Day.  Friday and Saturday were public holidays for Hari Raya Haji (Eid al-Adha)  And Monday had been declared a public holiday to commemorate Malaysia winning 145 gold medals out of the 225 gold medals competed for at the 2017 SEA Games, which had come to an end on 30th August.

Traditionally Malays celebrate both Hari Raya Puasa (Eid al-Fitr) and Hari Raya Haji with family in their home towns and villages.

Which means a mass exodus from Kuala Lumpur the day before those festivals.  The Karak Highway is the main road link between Kuala Lumpur and the cities and towns on the east coast of the peninsula.

We stopped near the summit of the Genting Sempah to look at the traffic on the Karak Highway.

BCG Bentong Bridge Danial Marzuki

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

This was the view of the eastbound lanes of the Karak Highway from Genting Sempah.

BCG Bentong Jam Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

The volume of traffic on the Karak Highway prompted many to take the old road to Bentong.  Jalan Gombak is usually very quiet.  We cyclists typically share the road with the odd lorry, a few learner drivers, and some motorcycles.  On this day there was a steady stream of cars, vans and buses heading up the road with us.

We had a nice surprise at the Genting Sempah flyover.  The couple who, on weekends, set up a makeshift drinks and snacks stall out of the boot of their car, were there.  Hooray!

BCG Bentong Genting Sempah 2 Vince Chan

Photograph courtesy of Vincent Chan

If you are wondering, I couldn’t find a red hibiscus, which is the national flower of Malaysia.

BCG Bentong Genting Sempah 1 Vince Chan

Photograph courtesy of Vincent Chan

We continued to share the road with a stream of vehicles on the 35km / 22mi run from Genting Sempah to Bentong.  There is a section between Bukit Tinggi and Bentong where the road is badly potholed.  That caused traffic to be backed up for a few kilometers.

Once past the potholes, those vehicles that we had overtaken roared past us.  Only for us to overtake them again as they waited in a long queue for the traffic lights at the T-junction of Jalan Gombak and Jalan Lama Bentong – Karak.  It was definitely faster by bike over the last 25km / 15.5mi to Bentong.

We had planned to eat at Lemang To’ki, home of the best lemang in Bentong.  We weren’t surprised to find that Lemang To’ki was closed.  So we settled for the next-best option.  Roti canai, half-boiled eggs, and kaya toast.

And peanut ice cream at Kow Po Coffeeshop.

BCG Bentong Ice Cream Daniel Ng

Photograph courtesy of Daniel Ng

That was the easy part over and done with.  It was all uphill from Bentong back to Genting Sempah.  1,000 meters / 3,280 feet of elevation gain.

We were smiling as we rode through Bentong.

BCG Bentong Sign Danial Marzuki

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

The climbing, and the 34° to 36° C / 93° to 97° F temperatures, wiped those smiles off our faces.  By the time we got back to Genting Sempah we were gagging for cold drinks.

We gave the McDonald’s there a miss, assuming, no doubt correctly, that it would be packed with travelers taking a break from the traffic jams.  The roadside stall we stopped at had run out of canned drinks, but fortunately they still had lots of ice and Sunquick.

Then it was just Hamburger Hill between us and the 16km / 10mi descent to the Orang Asli Hospital.  We had to be careful.  The traffic was still streaming up the hill, with some drivers cutting corners.  The bus drivers were the worst culprits.

We all got down the hill safely.  Tired, but glad to have done the ride in great company.  I wonder where we will be riding to when Malaysia turns 61.

BP_31%_Facebk_2017

R@SKLs do Bentong

Bentong Sign gobentong com

Photograph courtesy of gobentong.com

Before 1977, all traffic across the Titiwangsa range used the winding, narrow Federal Route 68, which runs from Gombak in Kuala Lumpur to Bentong, Pahang.  Everyone going to Kuantan, Kuala Terengganu, Kota Bharu, and other points east of Kuala Lumpur drove through Bentong.

The Kuala Lumpur – Karak Highway, opened in 1977 and upgraded to a full expressway in 1997, bypasses Bentong.  Today, the majority of traffic uses the Kuala Lumpur – Karak Expressway, leaving Federal Route 68 to learner drivers and cyclists.

Regular readers will know that the climb up to Genting Sempah is popular with cyclists from the Klang Valley.  A more ambitious ride continues to Janda Baik.  Even more ambitious is a ride to Bentong.

The R@SKLs are nothing if not ambitious.  About twenty of us turned up at the Hospital Orang Asli Gombak car park for a 7am start toward Bentong.

Bentong 2

Photograph courtesy of Daniel Lim

The first 16km / 10mi is uphill to Genting Sempah.

Bentong 7 Kiat Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Khoo Yit Kiat

This was early on in the ride.  Clockwise from top left, Luanne, Tomoe and Daniel, Arthur, and Kelin.

 

We regrouped under the flyover at Genting Sempah.  Behind us is our support vehicle.  Leonard very kindly provided his pickup and driver.  Plus coolers of ice and drinks.  Top man Leonard!

Bentong 6 TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

From the flyover we let gravity take over for the 20km / 12.5mi run downhill to the Suria Hot Spring Resort.  We regrouped there before riding the flatter 17km /  10.5mi to Bentong town.

Bentong 12 Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

Some of us had the dubious pleasure of being dragged along from the hot spring at up to 44kph / 27mph by Daniel, as he waved his hand in the air, urging us forward.  I for one was glad to see the outskirts of Bentong.

Once in Bentong the only thought on everyone’s mind was food.  We rode into the streets where the Sunday morning market is held, and stopped at Po Lai Kam kopitiam.  We queued to fill our bowls . . .

Bentong 10 Kiat Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Khoo Yit Kiat

. . . and then filled our stomachs.

Bentong 11 Kiat Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Khoo Yit Kiat

There had been some talk of riding on to the Chamang waterfall.  The consensus on the day was that it was too hot for extra kilometers.

So we rolled back toward the hot spring.  At a much more sedate pace.  Well, some of us rode at a more sedate pace.  About half the group had shot off ahead.  We all stopped at the hot spring for a rest in the shade, and something cold to drink.

If it hadn’t been a hot spring I might have jumped in.

Bentong 8 Kiat Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Khoo Yit Kiat

We had all enjoyed the 20km / 12.5mi downhill roll to the hot spring on the way to Bentong.  Now it was time to pay the piper.

After 10km / 6mi and 270 meters / 885 feet of elevation we were ready for another rest.  This time outside the Bukit Tinggi secondary school.

Bentong 4 TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

We weren’t yet halfway through the grind back up to Genting Sempah.  There was another 8.5km / 5.3mi and 405 meters / 1,330 feet to climb before we got to the Genting Sempah R&R.

We all got to the Genting Sempah R&R – eventually.  But we couldn’t celebrate yet.  There was still the not insignificant obstacle of Hamburger Hill to surmount.  Exhilarating to descend, but a lung-burning, leg-breaking 81 meters / 266 feet, 6.4% average grade climb over 1.1km / 0.7mi, especially after the kilometers ridden and meters climbed to that point.

Lay, Mark and I delayed the inevitable by detouring to the McDonald’s at the R&R.  I for one needed a sugar boost – in a big way.  McDonald’s delivered.

I might not have been able to get up Hamburger Hill (you see the reason for the name now) without that pie and sundae flooding into my bloodstream.

The other R@SKLs didn’t need a McDonald’s boost.  They had made their way up Hamburger Hill and down to the Hospital Orang Asli car park, and had packed up and left by the time the three of us got there.

As Leonard said, it was fun.  Painful fun at times, but fun nonetheless.

You know what they say about ambition.  It grows.

The R@SKLs have decided that Fraser’s Hill is next.

Freeze in ‘Little England’

Photograph courtesy of malaysiasite.nl

Feeling the Pinch

It was the Islamic New Year on 5th November.  Like its Gregorian calendar equivalent, the advent of the Islamic new year is marked by a holiday.  A holiday to be celebrated with a long bicycle ride.

The original plan was to ride from Bukit Tinggi to Bentong, eat beef ball noodles for breakfast, and ride back.  Bukit Tinggi is about 300 meters / 980 feet above sea level.  Bentong is 95 meters / 312 feet above sea level.  The hard work would come on the way back.  Nine of us, including birthday boy Raj,  pointed our bikes downhill and rolled through the light rain.

The wet weather soon moved on toward Kuala Lumpur, leaving us on damp roads but under overcast skies.  There would be no need for arm coolers and suntan lotion.

Photo courtesy of Mark Lim

Photo courtesy of Mark Lim

We swung into Bentong after about an hour.  Only to find that the famed beef ball noodles shop was closed.  So we embarked on a spin around the town looking for an alternative.

We ended up at the wonton noodles shop where we had stopped during the Durian Fiesta ride.  Which suited the birthday boy.

IMG_2291

Photo courtesy of Mark Lim

Everyone was so refreshed after breakfast that we decided to continue on to the Chamang waterfall.

Chamang Waterfall Route

The waterfall is very easy to get to.  Follow the sign just outside Bentong, and start climbing.  Six kilometers into the climb we got our first glimpse of the Perling River.  Accompanied by the thwack thwack thwack of cloth against rock.  Someone was doing their laundry.

IMG_2283

The waterfall was worth the 110 meter / 360 feet climb.  We all enjoyed spending twenty minutes watching the water cascading down the rock face.

IMG_2346

Raj is a relatively new roadie.  So all credit to him for coming along with us on these longer rides.  And being thrilled at the prospect of the climb to come that Griffin and I are pointing out!

Photo courtesy of Mark Lim

Photo courtesy of Mark Lim

On the way back we made a pitstop in Bentong for drinks and photos.

Photo courtesy of Mark Lim

Photo courtesy of Mark Lim

“Is this where I catch the bus to Kuala Lumpur?”

The ride back to Bukit Tinggi was interrupted by two pinch flats.  I was a bit surprised to be stopped by a pinch flat on this smooth section of road.  Here I am demonstrating my tube-changing skills to a very interested audience.

Photo courtesy of Shahfiq Abdul Manap

Photo courtesy of Shahfiq Abdul Manap

Photo courtesy of Shahfiq Abdul Manap

Photo courtesy of Shahfiq Abdul Manap

“Stop thief!!”

Twenty kilometers later I had another pinch flat.  That one was no surprise.  I was on a bridge with a lorry right beside me.  I had no choice but to ride over a gaping expansion joint.  My prayers to the guardian angel of inner tubes were not answered.

That didn’t detract from a great morning out with my riding buddies.  Great company, good food, cool weather, impressive views, lots of laughter, and when I was in a pinch, Marco had an inner tube to spare.

IMG_2281

Durian Fiesta Ride

September 2013 has turned into a month for metric century rides.  Yesterday Chris, Keat, Mark, Raj, Seow and I joined Dave Ern and about twenty-five other riders on a hunt for durians.

Durian Fiesta Banner

Photograph courtesy of Dave Ern

The durian is known as the King of Fruits in Malaysia.  Durian is a seasonal fruit, generally available  in Malaysia from June to August and from end November to January.  Its popularity has led to extensive cloning and farming, not just in Malaysia but throughout South-East Asia.  One result is that durians can now be bought all year round, although supply is limited and aficionados will tell you that the quality of the fruit in the off-season is variable.

Keat,  Raj, Seow, Mark, photographer Chris and I started from the BHP petrol station in Kampung Bukit Tinggi.

Photograph courtesy of Chris Chin

Photograph courtesy of Chris Chin

The route that Dave Ern had planned took us downhill along the old Bentong Road.  I travelled this road many many times as a child.  Then it was the only way to get from Kuala Lumpur to points east of the Titiwangsa Range, which bisects the peninsula from north to south.

Durian Fiesta Route

After about twelve kilometers the road levelled out, and it was relatively flat from the Bentong Hot Spring near Kampung Temiang to the town of Bentong.

Durian Fiesta Bentong

We made a refuelling stop at Bentong.  Kedai Kopi Phoon is famous for its wanton noodles.  Definitely finger-licking good.

Durian Fiesta Kedai Kopi Phoon

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

The plan had been to continue on to the town of Raub while a support car drove on ahead scouting for durian stalls.  Seven kilometers north of Bentong we got word that there were no durians to be found up the road toward Raub.  So we turned off the Bentong to Raub road and rode toward Kampung Baru Sang Lee instead.

We made an unscheduled stop just after that turn.  Raj and I watched as Keat replaced his punctured rear inner tube.  In case you think that I was not helpful, I did lend Keat my pump. 🙂

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Kampung Baru Sang Lee is surrounded by extensive durian orchards.  The village does not hide its claim to fame.

Durian Fiesta Kampung Baru Sang Lee

We found lots of durians at a large roadside stall in the village.

Durian Fiesta Fruit

Unfortunately these were already loaded onto a lorry, ready to be hauled away to a wholesaler somewhere.  There was precious little left to be eaten at the stall.  The durian lovers amongst us had to make do with sharing just a couple of fruit.

Durian Fiesta Eating

So the Durian Fiesta Ride was a disappointment for anyone who had hoped to feast on the fruit.  But the ride was a lot of fun nonetheless.

This was the first metric century for Chris.

Durian Fiesta Chris Return

For Raj and Seow too.  It was a very hot day, but we had shaded and quiet roads for the most part.

Durian Fiesta Turnaround

Quiet for the most part.  Every now and then we had one of these for company.

Durian Fiesta Lorry

I overtook this lorry before slowing down to take this photograph.  As the lorry swept past I saw Mark behind it, being sucked along in the slipstream.  I have never been motor-paced by an eighteen-wheeler before.  Mark and I had a blast effortlessly hitting 50kph plus behind this lorry.  Later we latched onto the back of an oil tanker for another tow.  The experience of being pulled along at speed was worth all the dust we ate.

We stopped at a Shell station in Bentong to wash the dust out of our throats.  This is now my mid-ride drink of choice.

Durian Fiesta Chocolate Milk

As I downed a half-liter of cold chocolate milk I noticed this display next to the cash register.  What first caught my eye was the collection of mini-LEGO cars and trucks.  Then I saw what the toys were sitting on.  PowerBars and PowerGels.

Durian Fiesta Shell Station

This petrol station must attract a lot of cyclists.

The day got hotter and windier.  Just as the road started tilting upward south of Bentong.  We regrouped at the Bentong Hot Spring.  Sadly the suspension bridge across the Benus River makes a more interesting photograph that the Hot Spring does.

Durian Fiesta Sungai Benus Bridge

The last photo op was the small waterfall four kilometers from the end of the ride.

Durian Fiesta Waterfall

The section of the ride between Kampung Bukit Tinggi and Kampung Rasia is the nicest.  All the traffic across the Titiwangsa Range is now carried by the Karak Highway.  What is left is a peaceful road that follows the arcs and curves of the Benus and Tanglir rivers, hemmed in by primary and secondary jungle.

Durian Fiesta Sungai Kenung

Everybody made it back to the BHP petrol station at Kampung Bukit Tinggi.  Tired and hot, but glad to have made the trip.  It was a very pleasant century ride, despite the shortage of durians.