Sunday, December 10, 2006

ROAD & RAIL TO KOTA BHARU

Wrapping up 2006 with a ride back home to Kota Bharu seems just right for the itching bottom. It was a hasty plan hatched during the fasting month, too fool-hardy to attempt in Ramadzan but equally crazy to do in the monsoon month of December. But Mahmud, my younger brother from Kota Bharu was just as crazy. It was to be a "brotherly" ride for two, me born 8 years earlier and therefore in position of authority!!

Original plan was to do the 400kms journey from Bentong to Kota Bharu via Kuala Lipis-Gua Musang-Krai. However, consideration was given to the impending monsoon, the no-shoulder mountainous roads from Kuala Lipis to Gua Musang and the huge lorries that shuttles between these two towns carrying anything from logs to gas tanks. The "adult" in these 2 kids saw a revision of the plan, equally exciting but lesser cycling.

The revised plan was to cycle from Bentong to Kuala Lipis and then catch the slow Mail Train to Dabong for an overnight stop. Day 2 cycle from Dabong via the internal road to Jeli and swing to the East-West Highway to Tanah Merah. Day 3 a leisurely ride to the capital town of Cik Siti Wan Kembang-- Kota Bharu.

DAY 1 - 4th Dec 2006 (BENTONG - KUALA LIPIS - DABONG (by train))

Left home in Subang Jaya in the wee hours, transported to Bentong. 0715 in Bentong, all systems go. Typhoon Durian though was reported to be encroaching the East Coast. Bade farewell to Ila, my ever faithful daughter (driver) and the 2 brothers were off in the misty and cold morning of Bentong. The initial part was already a gradual climb. My borrowed GPS was showing an ascent from 70 m where we started to peak at a 222 m, roughly 20 kms out of Bentong town. The cold sweat gets warm very fast and we were dehydrating well. Journey was smooth, good road shoulders and traffic was not a bother. Rear view mirrors were permanent fixtures on both bikes.

Stopped at a "Baulu" store as Mahmood was feeling "gedebar"(fidgety). We later coined a new word "gedepar", an acronym from "gedebar" and "lapar"! It was a mini carbo-loading stop which I too welcomed. By lunch, we were resting nicely in a mosque and only 15kms to Kuala Lipis. The timing was in our favor as the train was scheduled to arrive at 1430 hrs. Did our jamak prayers and cycled to the Kuala Lipis Railway station for a hearty lunch and the wait. Ticket to Dabong was RM6.50 each and each bike costs RM3.50.















The train arrived on time but departed over-time. The bikes were neatly stored in the goods coach while we settled in the only working air-cond coach. The train stopped at ALL stations, big and small. Unhurried and laid back, village folks await the train arrival at the stops, probably the only activity and excitement. Children play on abandoned wagon, waving as I snapped their happy faces

I noted a huge river down a valley with a passenger boat at berth, somewhere between Bertam and Kemubu. I have made a mental note to explore this area in 2007. This time the bike will be on a river boat and a train!



There were 10 stops before we arrived Dabong. As the train rolled into the station, the sun was settling. Our original plan to overnight at the Stong Resort to view the Jelawang waterfall early morning has to be scrapped. The road to Stong would be in total darkness and fringed by jungles both sides. Guess we weren't too strong for Stong. We settled in a mosque after some Thai fried rice.



DAY 2 - 5th Dec 2006 (DABONG - JELI - TANAH MERAH)








We were ready to roll out of the mosque by 0700. Bade farewell to Dabong (I'll be back), and after carbo-loading of Nasi Berlauk and hot Milo, we rode into another cool misty morning.


















We crossed the newly built bridge across the river and headed towards Jeli, the Tiger country. We saw no tigers but adequate signage to keep us aware of the danger.


Rolling hills welcomed us with very few vehicles on the road. Passed Jelawang but couldn't catch a glimpse of the Jelawang waterfall from the road. We passed Kuala Balah (KB), once one of the "uluest" place where teachers once shudder to be transferred to. With good road connection, piped water and electricity, this KB can rival the capital KB - though on a much smaller scale.


Our leisurely ride saw us arriving at a Dataran Makan in Jeli around noon, and having covered 50 kms of rolling road. I faintly heard Mahmud ordered an ice-kacang and I boldly ordered one too. No guilty feeling of overdosing the calories. It was most welcome on a hot sunny day. It's supposed to be monsoon and Typhoon Durian. Yet, not even a rambutan or langsat.


Next on the menu was chicken rice of the right portion. Dessert was a tough decision between two local delicacies - "Jump and Spear" or the Pengat Ubi. Being of warrior heritage, my choice has to be Jump and Spear (Lompat Tikam).


We jamak our prayers at the Jeli mosque and soon headed towards Tanah Merah, another 50 km ride for the overnight stop. I spotted this surau along the Jeli - Tanah Merah road. One needs no guessing as to who owns this. But I suppose, everyone is welcomed!


Weather was continously hot but the rolling road was in our favor. The downhills were generous and we got into Tanah Merah about 1700 hrs. Kota Bharu was a mere 40 kms away but we decided to overnight here. Had Satay for early dinner together with Mahmud's family and my sister's family (Su) who travelled from KL this morning. We took 2 days to reach Tanah Merah and they took 8 hours in cool comfort. So boring for them!

Checked into a RM60 a night hotel and settled in for the night.


Day 3 - 6th Dec (TANAH MERAH - KOTA BHARU)


We were ready to roll by 0700 and was soon heading towards Pasir Mas. Our noses were all up sniffing for the best breakfast stall that abounds along this trunk road. We were not disappointed. Though the nose didn't do its job, the eyes did. A sign board Nasi Kerabu Daging Bakar was all we needed. We added ayam kampong to the menu and was soon carbo-loading for the journey to Kota Bharu.

A slight drizzle welcomed us as we rolled into busy Kota Bharu. it was too light to even think that it's Typhoon Durian's tail-end. The Durian didn't hit Malaysia's East Coast after all.


Can't help but regretted missing the Dikir Barat, a cultural performance I enjoyed as a teenager...oooh...so long ago.



I also missed going fishing. My late father was a fisherman. Thank god, the beautiful Perahu Kolek is still available.

All in, we cycled 240 kms over the 3 days. Jointly we spent less than RM200.00 for the entire trip. Air Asia can't beat our price for a interesting 3-day holiday.

Now Everyone Can Cycle











Till we meet again

3 comments:

Mustafa said...

Great journey! I believe you've snapped more photos along the long green route. Put it up somewhere pal, photos of Bentong jungle, Lipis, en-route Dabong. Include those gertak keretai and teksi gateh with multi-lampus that can easily be spotted in KB. The picture of kepala keretapi etc...

euphoria said...

haha!! I enjoyed reading your most recent tale :-)) Glad both of you completed the adventure safely. I was in KB in Nov attending wedding invitations. Went back to KL (car, not bicycle hehe) via Gua Musang - Cameron Highland. Subhanallah.. the view was fantastic!

Btw, do you plan to write about your Bali excursion?

Did I just say that? said...

Now everyone can cycle...very original huh??