Thursday, 21 January 2010
I decided to head East from Pangkor Island, but the day didn't start well with heavy rain early AM, and broken tent poles which I had to replace. Not long after I eventually got on the road I stopped to use the toilet at a petrol station, and while inside I heard a gunshot (at first I thought it was a robbery, but then I remembered that I wasn't in SA). Gingerly emerging from the toilet I saw what I'd suspected - Old Saartjie resting on the rim, brand new front tyre blown to shreds. Fortunately things took a turn for the better after that. The following day I started the long climb up the backbone of the Malaysian peninsula, through lush indigenous forest towards Cameron Highlands. Late that PM, just when I thought there was no space on those slopes for a tent, I found a wonderful camping spot at a waterfall high above the road. From the high point I found an undulating road (not indicated on the map) via part of the Taman Negara (Nat. Park) and the shores of Lake Kenyir. During that time I camped in some wierd and wonderful places (oil palm plantations; abandoned road camp; with workers at a fairground under construction; and a perfect isolated spot on the lake). Since arriving at the East Coast I've discovered that there are many quiet beaches, so now I'm traveling at a snail's pace so I don't miss any good spots. I've also met a lot of friendly people around here, fishermen have given me fresh fish, and one morning the police brought me a t/a breakfast (I know some places where they would have told me to "move on" the pevious evening already). The other evening an old man from the nearby kampong (village) came to chat, and he gave me whatever small change he had on him (he didn't look particularly well-off, but the following am he returned and gave me more - hope he didn't rob his "piggy-bank"). Yesterday I turned down to see the beach at Kampong Kalong, close to the town of Cukai. There I met TM, who insisted that I camp in the shade on the beach opposite his "retirement cottage". The whole time I was there I received the "royal treatment". After a nice swim I could shower and do my long overdue laundry at TM's outside "bathroom". He gave me some fresh fish, and in the evening I got some rice which his wife cooked. I had a continuous supply of sweet perfumed tea, and last night a friend came around with a special type of sweet coconut which we consumed before bed-time. I could charge my camera batteries in TM's house and this morning I not only awoke to a pot of tea, but he'd been to town and brought back a whole plate full of tasty Malay food for breakfast. Here on the East Coast it is now supposed to be the rainy season, but fortunately I've had hardly any rain thus far. Incidently, last night when it started to drizzle TM's daughter came out with an umbrella for me. Daily distances cycled since Pangkor Island have been:- Teronoh 65 km; Cameron Highlands 65 km; Pos Mering 73 km; Gua Musang 64 km; Aning 60 km; Tasik Kenyir 81 km; Kuala Terrenganu 103 km; Dungun 91 km; Kemasik 50 km; and Kampong Kalong (Cukai) 27 km. Total distance cycled so far on this trip is 53 566 km. (Note - the pictures here of of sunrise, as opposed to sunset on the West coast).
Sunday, 10 January 2010
The day after my previous report from Langkawi Island, I took the rather expensive ferry back to the mainland while I still had some money in my pocket. Traveling solo again meant that I'd have to camp, as accommodation in Malaysia is quite costly. Once again I found that petrol stations make a handy camping site, especially if there is a covered carport for shelter from the frequent rain. For New Year celebrations I had my own little fireworks display, as on the pm of 31 Dec Old Saartjie's back tyre had a spectacular blow-out. After some makeshift repairs I was fortunate to find a bike shop just a few k's down the road, where I could pick up a set of relatively cheap tyres. Next stop was the famous Penang Island, and I reached it by one of the double-decker car ferries (the huge bridge is not for bicycles). I was a bit disappointed to find the island so urban, with traffic congestion and skyscrapers all over the show. The main tourist beach is lined with fancy hotels, and even the simple budget guesthouses aren't dirt-cheap. However, fortunately I found a derelict covered fishing platform above the rocks at the end of the beach, and it made such a nice sheltered camping place that I stayed four days. (My joy was almost short-lived as on the 2nd day there I fell through the floor - fortunately no broken bones and I'm on the mend). Arriving at a deserted beach the other day, I set up camp and went off for a cleansing dip in the warm tropical waters. I returned just in time to interrupt a troop of monkeys raiding my tent - they didn't cause much damage but they made off with some nice local cakes which I'd been saving for breakfast. I write this report from Pangkor Island, where I've been for a couple of days now. I'm becoming critically relaxed here, camping under shady trees practically on the beach. Pangkor, more so than the previous 2 islands, is the type of place one has in mind when picturing a "tropical island getaway". I haven't cycled much since my previous report, but here are the daily distances anyway:- Alor Setar 71 km; Butterworth 88 km; Penang Island 40 km; Georgetown 23 km; Bagan Berai 75 km; Pasir Panjang Beach 83 km; and Pangkor Island 50 km. Total distance cycled since leaving Cape Town is 52 887 km.