Kuala Lumpur....wow! After a few nights camping in the bush and stopping at little villages it comes as a bit of a culture shock. It makes Penang feel like a little backwater. There are people here, lots of people.
Heading south from Jeli came as a bit of a surprise, I expected it to be hilly and tough going, but in reality it was flatish and a bit of a doddle really. I stopped for some iced tea and the sweat starting pouring. I looked back to where I had come from and it seemed I was being chased by a big black cloud, oh dear, time to make a move before it catches me. I was on a hiding to nothing really, before too long there where thick black clouds all around me. It started to rain, but there was nowhere to hide, I had to keep going. I was let off somewhat lightly as it soon stopped raining, but there was thunder and lightening all around, it was only a matter of time before I took a full on hit. Then I was cycling on very wet roads, I seemed to be timing it just right and missing the lot, but I decided not to push my luck and camp out in it, so I made my way to Dabong. When I got there I was surprised how small the place was and apparently nowhere to stay, so instead I did what comes naturally to cyclists in times of adversity, I found a cafe and had something to eat. It started to rain, again I had timed it to perfection. When it eased I reluctantly got back on the bike and stood there trying to decided what to do, I should have done that before I went out into the rain, but never mind. I was asked by a motorcyclist where I was going and I said I was going to look for somewhere to stay and a brief phonecall later I was following him to a guest house, though in reality it wasn't, but at least I had a bit of a dive to spend the night in, a big dive mind you, 3 rooms of dive, I was spoilt for choice.
The following morning was full of murk, but at least dry. I had to back track 6km and a waterfall I passed yesterday had disappeared into cloud. As the day progressed the weather got better and the roads hillier. For some reason I didn't seem to be going well, progress was slow with a lack of power. At Gua Musang I stopped for more food, that'll solve the problem. I had a relaxed break as there was not so far to go, but once I was on the move again things just seemed to be worse. I suspect my speed was ok, but it felt laboured, just hard work and not rewarding at all. I plodded on slowly then had a series of little stops as I looked for food and water for the evening. Now it's been a long time since I lowered the tone of this blog by telling you about my natural bodily functions, so it's only right that I should tell you this because it has a mildly interesting ending. Having stopped a few times as I had said I spotted a public loo. I had been needing to go for a poo for some time so this seemed the ideal opportunity, so I stopped yet again. Having been to the loo and feeling much better, I was washing my hands when the urge hit me again, but I had run out of loo paper so had to dash to the bike for more and make a quick return. So after two visits I am about to set off....wait a minute, not yet! Another dash to the loo and by the end of the third time I must have lost an alarming amount of weight, and that reminds me of other story, but later. So at last I set off again, and here's the interesting bit, I felt really good, I was riding with ease, in fact I felt so good I didn't want to stop, it was as though my body had been using all its energy in clearing out the system and once its job was done normal service could be resumed. Normally by the end of the day I am tiring, but today I felt great. It was a good job too as every time I saw a path or track leading away from the road I could see a house, I couldn't camp there. Eventually I was heading through limestone cliffs and found a track, so I went down it. I passed through a rough ford, surely that meant nobody else would be down here. Wrong! I was still looking for the best place to camp when I came across a man with a gun over his shoulder. I don't mind men with guns that are visible, it's the ones with concealed guns that are the problem and you can't tell who they are anyway. He came over to me and agressively said "Yes" in a questioning manner. In a friendly voice I said "Hello" and carried on. Hmm, I am not quite sure why I have told you that, it was hardly the most exciting conversation in the world! So I found a nice spot and put the tent up and blow me, 10 minutes later a JCB came past and 100m further on I could see tree disappearing before my eyes. Is nothing sacred? A few minutes later a truck arrived, then left full of earth and the process was repeated until the JCB left at 8pm when it got dark.
More murk the following morning, either that or the JCB had demolished the limestone cliffs while I had been asleep. I set off and ready for an early breakfast, but there was nothing, typical! I stopped at the first place I found and had rice and something washed down with milk tea. The tea here is great, normal tea with condensed milk added that sits at the bottom of the glass, so I can never resist a spoonful of the milk dragged up from the bottom, delicious. When I am home I hate sweet tea and coffee, but my body seems to want it now and I love the stuff. I stopped off in Kuala Lipis a nice little town with some colourful old colonial buildings. I used an internet cafe but the power went off 5 minutes after I had arrived, though thankfully they could still serve hot sweet tea in the cafes. I carried on a bit further to Benta, an easy flat ride after the hills of the morning. The weather looked bad again and I was undecided what to do, so I popped into the police station and asked if they knew of a homestay. A quick phonecall later and he had found a place, a small room with a television that showed just one channel that proudly stated it could only be viewed in Malaysia, I am not surprised, nobody else would want it. Later I changed my mind on that one though as they show the Euro semi final between Germany and Turkey, so I was sorry to see that Germany won 2-1.
The following day was surprisingly easy through Raub to Bentong, where I stopped in a cafe. They were showing the Germany v Turkey again, so I didn't take much interest, until Turkey scored with 3 minutes to go to make it 2-2. How can that be? It was 2-1 last night! Had I been dreaming? Basically yes, because Germany scored another with seconds to go, the excitement last night was just too much I must have fallen asleep. I then had to cut through the mountains towards Kuala Lumpur, the easiest way was the expressway, to I joined that for a few kilometres to Bukit Tanggi, another cafe, more food, isn't life wonderful. But once again through the mountians it was hard to find anywhere to pitch a tent, so I followed the road through the village and by heck it was steep. People called out "Where are you going?", but I failed to answer as I was using all my effort and breath on keeping moving fast enough so that I didn't topple over, if I could have answered I probably would have said "I don't know". I felt I was on the road to nowhere but having put so much effort in to get up a very steep hill I was reluctant to go back down again and make it a wasted effort. It paid off as there was a turning signpost KL, still going up by nice and gently now. There was still nowhere to camp, lots of spots right next to the road, but it was impossible to get further back as it was just steep hillside and alot of rock. I just had to keep going, slowly and upwards. I ended up a service area and nearby were some buildings with a nice patch of grass, but security wouldn't let me stop there. A little further on more buildings and more security, but this time they let me put my tent up. Once the tent was up I sat and did a Sudoku puzzle I had stolen from the paper in the cafe, the paper had stolen it from the Daily Telegraph. Soon it started to rain lightly so I sat on a chair in the car port area and continued the puzzle. I have to say I am useless at the things, I always manage to get stuck and very frustrated with them, it ended in the bin. Then the heavens opened. It just tipped down for a couple of hours and areas at the bottom of slopes were flooded. I was offered a room inside so I made the most of it, though I think it was where the cats normally sleep judging by the noise they made outside and they continued efforts to force the window open that I had shut.
By morning everything remaining in the tent was perfectly dry, but it was a reminder not to pitch the tent anywhere that water can collect, because it collect very fast and you would soon be flooded out. I had breakfast in the services, good food the same as everywhere else and at the same price too, not like service areas in rip off Britian where they serve poor food at restaurant prices. I was surprised to find that I was just a short climb from the top of the little pass. I took the back road despite being told the motorway was best. The road was a delight, though there were a number of small landslides from the nights rain, some blocking half of the road. The mountain road continued down until I was just 14km from KL. Getting to the centre was easy as the Petronas Towers stood head and shoulders above everything else and I just aimed for them. When they were built the were the tallest buildings in the world, but now they are just the tallest twin buildings. I found a guest house that suited my pocket, though not a place to fall in love with. It very much reminds me of cabins on a ship, little corridors and lots of doors and rooms with no windows, but its home for a few days.
So Malaysia has been good so far, a sort of Muslim Thailand. The people are very friendly and more English is spoken here than any other country I have passed through on this trip. On my way into KL I stopped to look at the map, then a lorry wanted to park where I was, no horn or abuse like at home, the driver stopped, got out and asked where I wanted to go, gave me directions and parked once I had moved on.
I guess alot of money goes into education in Malaysia. As I came through the hills I would round a corner to see a massive prison like structure, which always turned out to be a school, usually far bigger than the village waranted. But there was pride in the schools with well maintained gardens, and I sensed there was competition between the schools of the area.
I mentioned my weight earlier. Whilst in the guest house in Penang they had some scales so I weighed myself for the first time since I left, I was 9st 4lbs, that can't be right. I found another set and had already put on 11lbs and weighed 10st 1lb. I would guess I am around 10st 7lbs, about 2 stone lighter than when I left, though if I keep eating like this when I return I will reach 15st pretty quickly.
So I will be in KL a few days. I have quite a few odd jobs that need to be done, but I will tell you about those in the next post, I bet you can't wait!