Tuesday, January 5, 2010


DAY 2 (2 Jan 2010)

Mornings in lush vegetations are always cold, very cold. No difference at this Rajan Jone's Guest house. Going to the shower is always a challenge. The first bucket of cold water is the toughest. But once over, you feel good, fresh and ready to tackle the day ahead of you.

On this day 2, we would leave Tasek Chini and head for Tasek Bera. Alauddin had with him the map of Pahang, bought sometimes in the 90's! We had relied on this map and got us to Tasek Chini. Today, we planned to detour through a Felda scheme. Alauddin argued that there should be roads within the maze of the Felda scheme that would lead us to Tasek Bera. Yesterday, Alauddin had asked some locals who confirmed of such route through Felda Terapai.

Everyone was ready at 7:30 and our first stop was at Rajan Jones canteen for breakfast. The view of the lake is visible from here. But what a view. Let me rephrase, what a sad view.

The jetty was the focal point of this part of Tasek Chini. It showed signs of neglect. Parts of the ballustrades were gone and some of the timber walkways were rotting or totally missing.

This is Kg Gumum, a tiny village largely inherited by the orang asli. A signboard by the lake edge erected by Pengarah Perikanan Negeri Pahang promised attractive activities for feeding the fish and to see various species of fishes.

But what we saw were various species of floating debris. Forget about the species of fishes. We had fish for dinner last night, but it was the specie from the sea!

And where are the lotus flowers that Tasek Chini is famous for?

To give some credit, the air was fresh. One do feel a sense of peace in this place. This would be a good place to laze, relax and unwind. But the 16 of us had another mission this day and we hoped for something better in Tasek Bera.

We made our way back for breakfast at Rajan Jone's Canteen. Perhaps I could fondly address RJ as Indiana Jones for he is actually an Indian who hailed from Seremban. He left what he termed as busy Seremban 3o years ago to settle down in the interior where I supposed he found his peace.

RJ is an example of someone who had adapted well to this environment. He spoke fluent English which would be an asset to his foreign tourists. He himself act as a guide for the jungle walks which includes overnight camping in the wild.

Here he was narrating his experience and his activities over our breakfast. He moaned the near death of the lotus due to the invasion of weeds and the construction of the dam. Several years ago, Ford Foundation granted him some grants to clean up the rivers that fed into the lake to increase the flow. I supposed one man could only do so much.

While we had breakfast, our very own strongman Puzi had a puncture. No Puzi did not puncture, his bike did. Puzi is a marathoner-cum-triathlete. He only had lean meat on his body, much to my envy! He rode his MTB (mountain bike) and on knobby tires and yet he is kilometres ahead. He is that strong!

Breakfast over, we posed for a group photo and then continued on for Tasek Bera. We bade our Rajan Jones goodbye and silently, I wished him all the best for Tasek Chini

Our first task was to tackle the rolling uphill. On our last leg here yesterday, we were enjoying the generous downhill to Rajan Jone's guest house. Today, we would be in the opposite direction. With breakfast and with hardly anytime to warm up, our hearts had to work on overdrive mode the moment we started pedalling.

This is the view looking down to Tasek Chini, down there in the background, and we rode from there.

We cycled to the main-road which was about 8kms away. Along the road lived the local orang asli, scattered along the stretch of the road. The children were aware of this foreign group of cyclists and were happy for this small distraction. They waved us through
and even offered a high 5 which some of us obliged.

We decided to relax at the junction leading to the main road. A clean warong was pretty inviting and some desired a "refill" of the earlier breakfast. We were also waiting for our marathon man Puzi who had a second puncture. We left Tasek Chini at 8:30 and we only left this junction at 10:30. There was no sense of urgency and there was really no reason to hurry.

Our next destination was to reach the junction at Felda Terapai, which we did about 2 hours later. By then we had clocked 31kms.

From here we would branched off into Felda Terapai.

Permission was granted to ride through the Felda scheme.

This section of the ride offers a fresh change of scenery. We could not expect good roads within the scheme and for most of us on comparatively fat tyres, it would pose little problem. We did expect some shades as we meandered through the matured oil palms.

We did come across several laterite stretches and we put our focus literally on the tracks and roads as we negotiated the cowdungs. Yes, they were aplenty in this Felda scheme.

Regretfully though, I missed the chance of capturing a stampede of cows which cut across the road from the oilpalms. Aliyah was ahead of me. There were about 80 - 100 cows which stampeded across. We were both transfixed and neither of us had the photgrapher's instinct of a great moment.

We cycled through Felda Terapai I and Felda Terapai III. At the border exiting Terapai III, a warong was our answer for a well-deserved lunch break. Though it drizzled on and off earlier, the sun was already out and it was a welcome stop. Don had a puncture just a short distance from the warong. How lucky could he be. First thing first, Don filled his stomach and later proceeded to replace his tube.

Exiting Felda Terapai III, we were back on the Federal road and there were rolling hills too. By now, we were accustomed to the rolls of the roads.

We later passed Felda Mayam and then we passed Felda Kumai. This huge "dragon fruit" caught my attention at the entrance of Felda Kumai. I supposed it symbolised the growing of this additional cash crop in this Felda scheme. We did not ride through these two Felda schemes as we were on the Federal road leading towards Bera town.

By my own reckoning, Tasek Bera would have been pretty close by now, perhaps 10kms away. However, as I turned into the junction pointing towards Tasek Bera, the signboard showed a cool 24kms to Tasek Bera. Everyone decided to stop for ice kacang and ice cendol at the warong at this junction. Some went for double helping.

Ride leader Alauddin called the Tasek Bera resort to confirm our arrival and more importantly, to pre-book dinner with main menu of GULAI IKAN PATIN MASAK TEMPOYAK. Everyone was within hearing distance of his conversation and it was a great motivating statement to put our butts back onto the saddles.

This we did with much gutso but it was still a cool 20plus kilometres of rolling hills. The very last stretch of 4 kms were some short killer hills before we finally arrived.
Overall there were more rolling hills on this Day 2 compared to Day 1 though less steep except for the very last leg.

Waiting for us at the resort were 2 other cyclists, Loke and Pauline who rode from Temerloh a day earlier. This was their second night at Tasek Bera.

This resort complex provides far greater comfort and have good facilities. Rooms are air-conditioned, it has a proper dining hall and we took the opportunity to spoil ourselves in some comfort.

I arrived at about 5:15pm and the odometer clocked 94kms.
Everyone was looking forward to the most important program for the night. After a generous washup, we were ready to do justice to the food laid down on the table.

Lucky thing I took this shot before the dinner. The moment we sat down, no one thought of capturing ourselves enjoying the Ikan Patin and several other fresh water species that were prepared in the gulai tempoyak. We were too immersed in our food!

To wrap up a really fantastic riding day and a really sumptous dinner, we had our very own karaoke kings to entertain us.

I was literally shocked when veteran Boh belted A. Rahman Hassan's "TAK MENGAPA" and A. Halim's "SALAM MESRA". Where on earth did he master lagu-lagu 60an. If he is a Kelantanese Chinese, I would be less terkejut. His dictions were perfect.

Don told me Boh was a favorite during PCC outings in the pasts. I agreed whole-heartedly.

I must not forget the evergreen ride leader Alauddin, who sang the evergreens of P. Ramlee and Broery Marantika.

The rest of the riders were just happy listening to our own talents. However, later Pauline came forward and did a duet with Boh of that famous Celine Dion's Titanic song.

And for the sake of my name, I had to lend a few songs too. Unfortunately the collection of cd's were very melancholic and slow numbers and we did have a tough time flipping the covers to find some faster numbers to prevent our colleagues from dozing off.

Nearing 10pm, I bade those still at the hall good-night as I made my way back to my 3-bedded room. Boh was still serenading in the background.


31st Dec 2009

We expected the Karak highway to be jammed up on the evening of Friday 31st Dec 2009. We expected lots of cars to be heading out of KL for the extended weekend. We expected to crawl into Temerloh on the eve of 2010. All our expectations were wrong. We were happy we were wrong. We were 3 from a group of 16 who had made plans to celebrate 2010 somewhere in the interior of Pahang. We planned to get to the interior via the eco-friendly way - on pedal power and will park our non-eco friendly vehicles in Temerloh.

We are a mixed group of 1Malaysians, with a common love for burning calories on wheels while exploring the countrysides of Malaysia and neighboring countries. Here are some of us prior to the start on day 1.

While Malaysians in large cities celebrated 2010 with a bang, we did it on the quiet, at the Green Park hotel in Temerloh where we stayed. No fireworks, not even sparklers. We had a cake and candles. We forbid booze but had sparkling juices. And we had durians!! What a combo.

Almost all did not wait till the clock past midnight to welcome the new year. We turned in early to bed for we would have an early day to Tasek Chini on the first day of 2010. It would be a 130km ride.

1st Jan 2010

I posed for this shot for my cycling buddies from Bukit Jelutong Cycling Club. I promised to don the newly-acquired own-designed cycling jersey on Day 1 of my ride. The size L fitted just right, not restricting too much of my bulging biceps and no requirement to hold my breath in the middle anatomy.

We left the hotel minus breakfast. Ride leader Alauddin suggested we take our breakfast stop after about 10kms of cycling.

But within less than 5 kms, we came to a warong. We quickly forgot our 10km agreement. And I certainly have more reasons to stop at this particular warong.

Even our 1Malaysian buddies were happily ordering the Nasi Kerabu and Nasi Dagang. I justified myself for two helpings of Nasi Kerabu in the name of carbo-loading.

Fully satisfied with our breakfast, we began our ride and started tackling the corners and some gradients. There were not many vehicles so early on a weekend. Occasionally though, a lorry would pass us fully laden with rubber scrap and leaving foul-smelling trails. Moments like these, you try to take short light breaths and that would be fine on the flats when the cycling is light. It was a different story when foul-smelling lorries overtook you on the hills and you would be breathing heavily to conquer the terrain.

For the first half of the day, the road hugged the river and we passed several scenic spots.

Temerloh is a town famous for Ikan Patin. At intervals on the road, we noticed signboards offering fresh ikan patin and tilapia. These fishes are reared in cages in the river. As a group, we silently knew that Ikan Patin would be on the menu at one of the night stops in our journey. We would not do justice for this ride if we go home without savoring the delicacy of Ikan Patin gulai tempoyak. Don, one of the cyclists even had 1 sms in his mobile from a friend suggesting where to have the best ikan patin lunch in Temerloh.

It was also a canopy ride with trees lining up on both sides of the road which makes cycling a pleasure.

There was also a short detour off the main road, through a village where rambutans were for the picking. A few could not resist to stop and pluck and forgot that permission was not obtained for free sampling.

A packet of keropok and a container of butter cookies accompanied one cyclist. One wonders whether this would be a ride for a picnic.

"AWAS", We even had 1 lone durian on one bike.

I was very sure this Durian would be safe on the owner's bike rack if he had purchased it from this kampong that we passed through on our way to Tasek Chini.

In addition, I should tell friends of mine who are diabetics to buy their durians here if they cannot resist the king of fruits. It is the least I can do for them!!

There was also a prominent political presence along the road that caught my attention.

Towards noon, the nasi kerabu and nasi dagang began to wear off. The heat and heavy sweating added on to the need for rest and to recuperate. The durian man however was still strong and helped one other cyclist with a rather ingenious towing technique.

To recuperate, we need to go for carbo loading. We passed by one lone eatery before the group stopped for shade under a highway bridge.

A pillar greeted us with a Selamat Hari Raya. For today, I took it to mean Selamat Tahun Baru.

But food was very much on everyone's mind. The few leftover dishes at the lone eatery could not feed 16 hungry cyclists. The lady owner went to the kitchen to fry some fishes and eggs and they were all gone in a jiffy.

At this juncture, no one was exactly sure how far away was Tasek Chini. Worried that we might run out of water and tid-bits on the way, we asked the lady owner "ada lagi tak kedai-kedai di tengah jalan?". Smilingly she joked "Di tengah jalan memang tak ada, di tepi jalan ada!"

She found it very appropriate to joke with us. She must have noted our merriment and our continous laughters while having lunch, though the picture below showed full concentration on the food.

As the afternoon sun bore on us, the 16 cyclists were spread out quite far apart. The stronger ones were a few kilometres ahead and I was with Alauddin somewhere in the rear.

By now there were no more trees lining the road. The road was rolling and our cycling became heavy on the ups, followed by the joy of coasting downhill. This continued kilometers after kilometres and I was mindful to keep my average heart rate within acceptable limits.

Then I saw one killer hill up ahead. I readied myself with the granny (the lightest gears) and inched and zigzagged my way to the top, my eyes constantly on my Polar Heart Rate Monitor.
This is the altitude recording from my Polar Heart Rate Monitor. The highest altitude recorded on the right is this particular spot.

On a fully laden bike, it was pretty challenging but doable. Looking back from where we climbed, this is the view at the peak.

We rested here for a good 20 mins and took the opportunity to pose for some pics.

This is Rahim, a man nearing mid 60's and a very hardened cyclist. He rode with a bandaged left knee. It was a week earlier that he took a tumble on his racing bike and had hit the road heavily on his left knee. Mere mortals would have abandoned this trip. Not Rahim. Several more in this group are hard-core cyclists and it was a pleasure to ride alongside them.

This is the view from the top towards the direction we were going. When you have an uphill, you will have a downhill. And it is this reward that makes climbing acceptable.

Here I captured two from the group trying to minimize the wind drag while my own bike began to gather speed, reaching past 50kph.

We were closed to completing 100km when we came across this signboard. So, which of the 3 places were we supposed to end the ride today? Kompleks Pelancongan Kuala Chini would be fine. It would be only 10kms away but it would be a folly to tune the mind for that.

On my rides, I have learnt to break kilometres in palatable sections. I have always used 10km breaks as immediate goals. It worked all the time. This is especially so on my solo tours when the destination for the day cannot be established accurately.

For this ride, it turned out to be the furthest one, 34kms away. We cycled on in between drizzles and reached Kg Gumum at Tasek Chini as the sun was setting.

Our stay for the night would be at Rajan Jones hostel, a basic accomodation operated by who else if not Rajan Jones himself. RJ was there to welcome our group and he quickly pointed out that dinner would be served a short distance away from the hostel at the canteen operated by his wife. It would be about a 5 mins walk in the dark to the canteen.

Most of us took our bath prior to dinner. I welcomed the cold shower to refresh the mind and body and to ready ourself for dinner. Tonight, I look forward to the dinner, irrespective of the menu.

When we got back after dinner, the rain came. I tucked in for the night with my room-mate Don and somehow felt safe in the mosquito net, not from Don but from the huge mosquitoes. Don was harmless, he only do acceptable light snores...ha..ha..

And I look forward to capture the sight of Tasek Chini in the morning.