Clement and I have been pretty relaxed Penang, ok, more like totally relaxed. The first night we were here we went for a beer, not something I do that often when traveling alone, but we were both tired and pretty much lost track of what we were trying to do and arrived back at the guest house without having had a beer. The 2nd night was more successful, somewhat too successful and every night there after has pretty much taken the same course and all this after my initial reluctance to go out. We generally head out at 10pm, have something to eat, head for a bar, stay there until it closes, then head for a cafe that shows the Euro 2008 matches on a big screen which start at 2:45, where we are joined by Parsi a German. Yesterday we got back to the guest house at 5am and my first thought was "Gosh, we are back early tonight!". Having had another late night we still managed to get out on the bike a cycle around the very hilly island. The west side is much more rural and the road through the hills were a delight. The local fruit Durian was growing everywhere, Clement loves the stuff, but he was somewhat dismayed that they were always out of reach, most of the them very high up in the tall trees. Some of the north coast was also fantastic, with really nice deserted beaches but we were soon back in the built up area.
After yet another late night it was time to move on, not that we went far, due to a late start, a ferry crossing and our paths splitting as Clement was heading back to Thailand and I was taking the long route to Kuala Lumpur. We only covered about 30k, then turned off the main road into a palm plantation and camped there for out final night together. The two weeks together has gone so quickly, it's been good fun and Clement has been a good companion to ride with, I did my best to persuade him to continue south. We talked about everything, even about our lives and emotions, the sort of subjects men don't normally talk about, though as Clement doesn't like football we had to talk about something. Whilst we were in Penang France got knocked out of Euro 2008 and every time somebody asked where he was from he was all too quickly reminded. Thankfully England didn't even get there.
The following day we rode for the last few k together into Sugai Petani, where we had breakfast and just 200m further on we split up, though I am sure we will one day meet again, but who knows where? Once on my own again the kilometers slipped easily by as my mind was deep in thought. I had covered another 50k and hardly noticed it but decided to stop at the next cafe, but the road then climbed up through the mountains and I didn't see another cafe for a further 40km, though thankfully I still felt good, though I was now on a road not marked on my map and with no distance signs so I had no idea how far I had to go. So that was 90km without a break, probably the longest unbroken stretch of the entire trip. I found a restuarant at Gerik just as it started to rain, good timing. I bought a bit extra and continued a little further before again pulling off the road into another palm plantation for the night.
Yesterday was a tough, the road just seemed to go on up forever. There were one or two long descents, but they just whizzed by and I was once again climbing. I learned my lesson from the previous day and stopped at every cafe just in case, had at least a drink, filled the water bottles and a water bag, just what I need for a long climb, a bit of extra weight. Added to the climbing I wasn't going particularly well either and to make things even worse during the night I had been bitten on the backside by something with big teeth, hard enough to wake me up, but now it was really causing me a problem, it wasn't just uncomfortable, it was painful and no matter how I sat it hurt. My backside was screaming at me to stop and I screamed back "ok, ok, as soon as I find a suitable place", but by their definition mountains tend to be hilly, so there were very few places flat enough to even pitch a tent on. I then saw a little old wooden bridge going over the roadside gully and the overgrown track had one little spot big enough to camp on. Unfortunately there were leeches about and they seem to like my feet more than the mossies did, though I preferred the mosquitos for a change. Down at the bottom of the track was a crystal clear river, the perfect place for a skinny dip shower, just wonderful and it felt or so good to be clean again. Nights camping in the wild/bush/jungle are just great, each night has different sounds, there is not a moments peace from the life going on outside, but it is a joy to listen to. I passed a number of monkeys through the mountains, but thankfully my spot was free of them.
After I packed up this morning and walked back to the road, I had to once again take off my sandals and de-leech my feet, how on earth do they latch on so quickly. The road to Jeli was pretty much downhill and after a nights rest and a bit of Savlon, my bitten backside seems to be back to normal. So here I am in Jeli, what a great name. I always love the name of places when you can eat them, talking of which I am feeling hungry. It's only just gone midday, so I am not stopping here for the night, I shall carry on for a few hours yet and then find another place to camp in the bush. Guest houses seem to be few and far between around here, but I am really enjoying being back to basics again. Once the tent is up and I have washed, the sound of the stove heating up that first brew if coffee is just bliss.
I don't seem to be able to upload photos at this cafe, but attached is a piece that appeared in the Malay Mail last Friday, it's mainly about blogging, but it may be of interest.