September 10 – 21, 2013 – We left as early as possible the next morning just to get away from this horrible and filthy place and enjoyed our now favorite local breakfast: Roti Canai, which is a kind of a pancake filled with egg and eaten with a spicy dip. It’s delicious and kept us going on continuous undulating roads for at least three hours. And it is cheap as well. We usually pay around 1,30 EUR for four pancakes and two big cups of tea.
As I was so upset about the place we stayed last night I sent an email to the local tourist office to complain about it. And believe it or not I got a reply the following day with follow-up questions and the promise to check it out. I call this fantastic customer service!
About 10 km into that day’s ride we met four Spanish touring cyclists, they were about to cycle to the Cameron highlands. We exchanged some stories about our trips and continued on ever undulating roads. This time we ended up 50m higher than when we left despite the cyclists told us, we would only go down. Second lesson learned: don’t even trust cyclists, they also don’t know the difference….
The following two cycling days continued scenic. We often cycled through jungle or palm-oil plantations on hilly and very curvy roads which even made boring plantation landscape interesting to cycle through. On the second day we visited an elephant sanctuary, the only one of its kind in Malaysia. Thankfully we found a nice and cheap homestay about 5km before the sanctuary, as the hills became so steep, we would not have managed to cycle them with luggage. Without it was almost a piece of cake, but only almost. The sanctuary was a little disappointing as the only thing we could do was feeding a few baby elephants with bananas we had to buy. All the other elephants were in the jungle to enjoy their off time, a good thing actually. At this sanctuary they take care of injured wild elephants and orphans and prepare them to be released into the wild once they have recovered or are old enough.
The following day we had to make a tough decision. As traffic continued to be horrific on the highway without shoulder and smaller roads didn’t exist, we decided to take the toll motorway. An absolute no go in Western countries, but in Malaysia this is the only road where there are shoulders for sure. Normally cyclists are not allowed on the motorway, but we passed the toll site waving and smiling at the staff and they just let us continue.
And it was heavenly cycling. Traffic was low, we were cycling on a two-meter-wide shoulder and finally able to look at the scenery again. Unfortunately it wasn’t very exciting, kilometers of palm-oil plantations were interrupted by meters of jungle. That day we made great progress despite a short rain break.
The next day we were heading into the direction of Pekan, a former royal city. The day started very scenic through about 20km jungle and hardly any traffic. We were still cycling on hilly terrain and slightly getting back our climbing legs. Finally we could listen to the jungle noises again while riding and we even saw a few monkeys on the street and in the trees. After about 30km we hit the junction and turned east to cycle the remainder of the day along a river we hardly got to see due to the wild nature. And finally we reached the flat part of the country again. And finally there were fruit stalls again selling mangosteen, our now favorite fruit, pineapple and other delicacies. And finally we reached Pekan on time again, without rain interruption. However, we couldn’t find any accommodation and hotels wouldn’t even let us camp in their gardens so unfortunately had to check into a horrible, dirty and overpriced place, of course run by Indians. Sorry to say this, but all bad experiences we’ve had so far with people in Malaysia are the ones with Indians. The hotel manager was rude, unfriendly and not interested in anything other than getting his money. The room we got was so small, that we couldn’t stand next to each other, one always had to stand/sit on the bed. Our bags – in the meantime we have 13 in total – were piled up next to the bed, which gave the one person on the ground even less space to move.
Originally we wanted to stay a day but given this uncomfortable situation we left the next day to cycle south along the east coast. We wanted to look for a beach resort to relax a few days from heavy cycling.
But all would come different again. We once more cycled on traffic-heavy roads without shoulders. Did I already mention that Malaysians drive like idiots? What I didn’t tell you is that Johan is wearing his helmet again, a first since we left Bangkok in February. First he pretended to wear it to keep me from moaning but I am sure it’s the traffic. As from 11am traffic would always become mad and we couldn’t enjoy cycling at all any more. During our search for a beach resort – so far everything we passed was closed or looked really spooky – we made a big decision. We wouldn’t go to Indonesia anymore as traffic there is even worse and roads in a very bad condition. As we would have been there during the monsoon we thought it wasn’t safe enough for us to cycle. But what to do with all the time we suddenly had? We had already booked our flight to Melbourne for 10 November and now had plenty of time left for Malaysia and Singapore. A look into our travel guide made it easy for us, we would go to Tioman, an island that was ranked amongst the 10 most beautiful islands of the world in 1970.
With this in mind, cycling went a little easier. On the road we met Benjamin again, a cyclist from New Zealand we already met in Laos and who has been cycling for three years now. He will be back home in January and we’ll meet him there again. And we met a Canadian/British couple who started cycling home to England from Singapore just a few weeks ago. You could tell they were freshmen from their super clean panniers and still perfect outfits.
One day later following our big decision we were on an island again, in paradise actually, to rest for a full week in a nice cabin next to the beach. We relaxed, we went snorkeling, we swam in the sea, we ate, we bought and ate chocolate, we read a lot of books, I got eaten by nasty sandflies, we made new friends, we made new bracelets and necklaces for the big Sale in Singapore and we just enjoyed our freedom to do what we wanted to do.
Life is beautiful!
10 September, Kuala Medang – Raub: 70km
11 September, Raub – Kg. Sokmek: 71km
12 September, Kg. Sokmek – Sri Jaya: 111km
13 September, Sri Jaya – Pekan: 102km
14 September, Pekan – Kuala Rompis: 91km
15 September, Kuala Rompis – Pulau: 26km
16 – 21 September, Tioman: 15km
Total distance cycled: 16,410km of which 1,168km in Malaysia