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four seasons in one cycle

all seasons in one day

For the first time in our cycling trip we set the alarm to go off when it was still dark. Munching on bananas as we packed our panniers we were about 5 kms out of Ipoh before we saw the sun peeking up over the horizon. A tad extreme perhaps, but we were more than a little anxious about the cycle into the Cameron Highlands that lay ahead - easily the biggest and longest climbing day of the entire trip so far. The distance wasn't too daunting - 90km in total - but half of it was a solid uphill climb and of most concern to us - it was a food and water desert. The temperature in Malaysia is so punishing it makes Vietnam seem positively arctic. It is uncomfortably hot by about 9am, unrelenting till about 4pm so we needed to get as high as we could as early as we could to escape the stifling heat.

About 12 km out of Ipoh we stopped just before the turn off to the Cameron Highlands and a small Indian eaterie and virtually ate and drank it dry. Too polite to ask, they dutifully obliged when we asked for 2 dosa and an omelette each for breakfast, 7 litres of water and 6 roti and about a litre of daal secured in a plastic bag with an elastic band around it to go. So with the smell of lentils, cardamom and hot bread wafting out of the food bag attached to the bag of the pannier we started the climb.

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Predictably by about 9am it was baking hot and with very little shade our eyes were soon burning from sweat. I studiously stared at the kilometre gauge on the GPS which inched forwards painfully slowly.

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It was only by the time we reached about 900mts above sea level that there was some reprieve from the heat. The air was noticeably cooler and we noticed with some relief that it was clouding over. This relief did not last long. The smattering of light clouds quickly turned heavy and grey. As we struggled to the 1200 metre mark the heavens open and rain lashed down with fury. Virtually unable to see and, unbelieveably, feeling cold for the first time in about 2 months we stopped for shelter in a garden centre with a little cafe among the strawberry plants for a cup of tea to warm us up. Two hours later and still no mercy. Eventually we waded out onto the road that was virtually a river but after 10 km of cycling as if we had our eyes shut with ineffective brakes as the roads were too slippery we took refuge again under a bus shelter conceding defeat that we were not going to make it without motorised assistance. We were going to need to hitch a ride.

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Happily in the typically generous malaysian way we did not have our thumb out for long before a lorry driver transporting plants to a nearby garden centre picked us up and nestled the bikes in with the flowers in the back of the truck while we thawed out in the cab. As he dropped us off only 5 km from Tanah Rata the rain had lifted and we cycled into the village with the sun peeking through the clouds about 10 hours after we started.

We spent a day relaxing in the highlands, relishing the cool climate, wearing a jumper in the evening for the first time in months. Tea is grown in abundance here, although mainly for consumption within southeast asia. We whiled away an afternoon feeling quintessentially english sipping tea overlooking the plantations and went for a (short) walk in the mossy forest which looks like something out of a Terry Pratchett novel.

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The descent out of Tanah Rata towards Kuala Lumpur was even better than the climb. The road was narrower and lined with trees sweeping down towards the coast. Initially we planned to stop at a little town called Slim River because we liked the name. However when we arrived it was clear than the name did not live up to our misplaced expectations as there was very little there with only one very run down looking guesthouse. Staying the night was not quite off the cards as Selma the waitress in our lunchstop was very excited about us coming through by bike and as she delivered our daal and roti announced that we could stay with her - but we would have to wait another 6 hours until her shift finished. As lovely as Selma was, we decided to catch the local train the rest of the way (about 60km) into Kuala Lumpur; unexpectedly and prematurally calling time on the Asia leg of our cycling tour.

Posted by mrs lewis 23:24 Archived in Malaysia

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Comments

What's with all the garden centres? Had you found Malaysia's Islington? ;) Uphill for 90k in burning sunshine - sounds like you guys are doing rides that would kill the rest of us - you must be super fit!

by rbdavis

the picture of rob on that bit of concrete says it all!

by livvyware

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