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Leaving KL

Leaving KL

Heft your baggy gym shorts a little higher—you’re showing us more than we care to see. Is one example of the word HEFT. Another would be: ” He attached all four heavy panniers to the bike and immediately what was light, now had a considerable heft “. And I think Websters would be much better using my example.

On the KTM train.

On the KTM train.

The internet suggested, quite clearly, that bikes were not allowed on the KTM train out of KL. Discussions from potential commuting cyclists proposed sneaking a folding bike on in a bag. For safety, and all round happiness and life expectancy, it was better if we could get out of the city by train. We decided to ask the station master, ” No problem at all, just pay for the bikes “. Was he just being nice because he knew that was what we wanted to hear, – you have to be careful with this from lovely Malaysians. We would find out in the morning when we turned up with two touring bikes with more than a little heft between them.

All went well. Remarkably well, if you chose not to moan too much about being charged 4x the fare to take the bikes with you. We did not moan. Looking out of the window of the train as it went past rough packing case homes and glimpses of hard lives lived in dust and heat just a meter or so from the line, you can find little to reasonably moan about.

3%. looks nothing.

3%. looks nothing.

We got of at Kuala Kubu Baru, more than half a dozen stops out of the city. We had waited for rush hour to pass, so it was 12 noon and 33’c when we did. Not the best circumstances to turn a pedal for the first time in 8 weeks, with over 40 Km of uphill ahead.

Esther set off. ” On the left Esther!” For the first time in more than 20,000 Km we were riding on the correct side of the road. Particularly, if you are on a horse and carrying your sword in your right hand.

Birds calls that from a child you had associated with pet shops and school visits to a zoo, filled the hot air. There were blasts on horns, from most passing cars and trucks. But the thing is, and this is wonderful, the horns were for us, along with shouts and waves. Children carried on the front of mopeds beamed big smiles and waved from between fathers arms.

Towards the top.

Towards the top.

Cooling.

Cooling.

About 15 Km into the climb we came across the first troop of Monkeys of our travels. As I pass, the smallest one snarls at me. It is always the short one, so human. We now have thick jungle all around us. It is all deep and very verdant green. It is also very much alive and from every direction comes a high-pitched whine. Somewhere, at the very far end of a basketball court there is a dentists drill being used. I have never heard a forest making this sound.

The meter on my bars shows a steady 3% climb. Not much, but after the first 25 Km and with 33’C showing on the same meter, it started to hurt. 500 meters of climbing and you start to get some views for your troubles and effort.

The view opens up at 500m.

The view opens up at 500m.

Another troop of monkeys. They stand their ground until, like most animals, they scatter when you try to take a photo. We have both 800 ml bottles full at the start, but they are going down and I am onto my second with 10 Km to go. There are many streams, but it would be a pain to have to stop and get out the filter.

Nice of you to ask.

Nice of you to ask.

That will be 6x large cups of tea, please.

That will be 6x large cups of tea, please.

8 Km and a left turn. Just beyond the turn there is the most wonderful of sights, a food stall. We order a lemon and Earl Grey tea and a third and fourth before we can muster the intellect to order any food. The fifth and sixth are on the table even before the food has reached us.

It is a minor and very sharp turn. 8 Km to go and the road pitches upwards, starts to bend more and does absolutely nothing to lift your moral. It is now 5% average and the heat and humidity have taken the best part of 3 L of liquid from your heaving body. A few dozen tight turns and I have to sit in the shade and try to get my core temperature under control. How can 5% be hard beyond words?

It is a beautiful climb.

It is a beautiful climb.

For the last 15 Km we have been repeating, whenever feels appropriate, ” we have had worse “. It may even be true and it seems to help. There are distant rumbles of what must be that afternoons thunder-storm. It never comes, but it is something to worry about.

Reduced to walking.

Reduced to walking.

For the first time since the first hill in Spain, I am now going so slow that walking is preferable. It gives my screaming legs a change of loading. Signs count down the distance to the village. It is now 1166 m and we started at 50. The road opens out a little and the first abandoned shack and soon signs for hotels. Within 400 meters there is the village center and hotels climbing the hills overlooking.

Afternoon Tea at the Ye Olde Smokehouse.

Afternoon Tea at the Ye Olde Smokehouse.

Some fern.

Some fern.

It is informal enough not too look cripplingly expensive, but smart enough to be welcoming. This is the resort of Fraser’s Hill and for more than a hundred years, it is where anyone with enough inclination and money has come to escape the heat and humidity of the lowlands.

King of the Fruits, the dreaded Durian.

King of the Fruits, the dreaded Durian.

View of jungle and hills

View of jungle and hills

Jungle stretches off to the horizon still despite the logging trucks we met on the way up. This is a place for nature, tourism and exotic bird life in huge numbers. It has been a hard day.

jungle trail

jungle trail

Fraser's Hill

Fraser’s Hill

I lost my hearing in the last 5Km and for two hours I can not hear. I think I picked up a cold and now my sinuses refuse to even out the pressure. We plan to stay for a day of bike tinkering, but end up staying for two. We meet so many friendly people all keen for a chat about what we are doing. The first day back on the bike could have been worse I guess. When you go up the longest climb around you learn quite a lot about heft, which is a lovely word, don’t you think?

Ye Olde Smoke House sketch.

Ye Olde Smokehouse sketch.

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