26 January 2010

CYCLING MALAYSIA - Kuala Taha to Mersing (and Tiomand Island)

15 January 2010
Kuala Tahan (Taman Negara National Park)

I was rather tempted to do the 3-day trek into the inner jungle, but decided against it. Instead I packed my little day-pack with my peanut butter sandwiches, some water, and a raincoat, and set off map in hand to hand explore the jungle on my own.

I followed the touristy walkway for a while, but soon found myself alone heading up the mountain on a much less traveled route. The forest was dead quiet with just the occasional chirp if a cricket or the call of the colorful pheasants to remind me that I was not all alone. Needless to say it was extremely hot and humid but I continued up the mountain till I reached the top and had some lovely views of the surrounding forests.

I spent most of the day wandering around the dense forest until it was time to head back, catch the ferry back across the river, and find some food.

16 January 2010
Kuala Tahan (Taman Negara National Park)

I managed to do absolutely nothing the entire day. What a pleasure. I played around with my photos (just to discover there was absolutely nothing good at all), ate, at sat around. In the process I came up with the idea to take the ferry boat back to Jerantut instead of cycling back the same way, and therefore still have a chance of doing the river trip. I booked the boat for 9am the next morning and was fairly happy that I did not have to back track the 70km to Jerantut, which is always such a drag.

17 January 2010
Kuala Tahan (Taman Negara National Park) – Jerantut
By boat (+20km from the boat jetty to town)

After a breakfast of fried noodles I was on the boat with loads of other traveler back to Jerantut. It was a most scenic ride through the dense forest back to the Tembeling boat jetty. Once there everyone around helped with the bike and bags to get it off the boat and up the stairs. People are just so nice, and then it was back on the hilly road to Jerantut.

In Jerantut I stocked up with some essentials i.e. coffee, noodles and soup. My stinginess made me buy the cheapest 3-in-1 coffee sachets they had. Back in my room, however, I discovered that it was not coffee at all but, wait for this……. tea! Have you ever heard of such a thing? Instant tea???? How much more instant can one get than a tea bag?? Well there I had it, powdered tea with milk and sugar!

18 January 2010
Jerantut – Maran

After a cup of instant tea, I followed the road due east and what a fantastic day it was. Flat, scenic, hardly any cars, and perfect weather. There is not much more any cyclist can ask for.

I must have looked quite a sight, as even the village dogs took to their heels. One poor dog ran for its life and never looked back once until it was safely under the gate at its home.

It was a relatively short ride to Maran where I wanted to see a famous Hindu temple. Threatening clouds made me opt for accommodation in Maran (very expensive) on the golf course. What a view I had. Nothing came of the threatening clouds but it was still a good excuse for spending that much money on accommodation! At least there was a cheap Roti Canai shop around the corner where I could gorge myself.

19 January 2010
Maran – Pekan
110 km

I packed at leisure and tried to take some pictures of the birdlife on the golf course. People taking wildlife pictures must surely have Job’s patience, as after 5 min I gave up and rather stuck to what I’m used to.

Again the lush vegetation continued and I spotted a lot more life along the road that day, monkeys, ducks, birds etc, - even a few resorts, all looking very nice with wooden chalets and some even offer camping.

Malaysia is such a multi-cultural country, the day before was a distinctly Indian day with loads of Hindu temples and Indian food along the day. This day, however, was more a Chinese day with Chinese temples and Chinese food. I could not cycle past the steamed buns without stopping and bagging some for the road.

By the time I reached the east coast at Pekan I called it a day, as I could not see anything on my map in close proximity to Pekan. (The map is rather useless so that did not mean that there was nothing else in the area).

20 January 2010
Pekan – Rompin
117 km

The road hugged the coastline and from time to time I cycled along the coast and at other times through the forest. Again it was a day I felt that it was just me and the many troops of monkeys in the wet and watery jungle. I just love Malaysia.

I turned off the road to explore the beaches and found the most fantastic Beach and Golf Resort, beautiful, just a bit pricy for me. So it was back to the main road and on to Rompin, where I found cheaper accommodation. I was absolutely starving by the time I got there and went shopping. I was so hungry I could eat the spices and came away with a bag filled with foodstuff that no human being could possibly eat in one day. Apparently I thought I needed all that for supper!

21 January 2010
Rompin – Mersing
62 km

I knew it was going to be a short ride to Mersing, so I packed up slowly and lazily cycled south to Mersing. I stopped along the road for a bite to eat at a roadside eatery. I was quite sure that there was meat in that dish, but as Ernest was not there to eat it on my behalf I finished it off.

I soon reached Mersing but was too late for the ferry to Tioman Island, so I look a room, bought my ferry ticket (RM 35 one way) for the next day and relaxed.

22/23/24 January 2010
Mersing – Tioman Island
By ferry

The ferry was not until 11h30, so it was a lazy start to the day. I got on the ferry (paid 10RM extra for the bike) and in less than 2 hours I was on the most idyllic island I could wish for. The ferry stopped at various locations on the island but I got off at Tekek, the main village. In no time I had a bungalow on the beach and could just sit and watch the waves roll up right to my doorstep.

It was out of season so I could negotiate a good rate for the room. It was rather quiet with very few visitors and therefore just me, the beach and my hammock - glorious.

I stayed on the next day and did as little as possible, except for sipping a tax free beer and watching the ocean. By the 24th I got off my backside and walked (with Niklas and Benedikte whom I met on the ferry to Tioman) over the mountain to the other side of the island where we had a light lunch. It was a lovely walk through dense forests and past waterfalls - we even spotted a monkey or two.

25 January 2010
Tiomand Island – Mersing (return ferry trip)

It was time to leave the island and get back to business. I’d e-mailed Ernest that I would be in Mersing on the 25th (he never got the message) so I thought I’d better get back there. Once again the ferry was to leave at 11h00 but it was much later by the time we left.

Arriving at Mersing I found Ernest at the ferry terminal (it was pure co-incidence that he was there at that time, saw the ferry arriving, and decided to wait and see if I was not perhaps one of the passengers). He was looking a bit worse for wear after a month traveling around Malaysia with hardly any money. I took pity and invited him to share a room where he could have a shower, do some laundry, and sleep on a bed. I went to get some t/a food (he ate like a horse), and I also got him a new saddle and a rear tyre for his bike (after the 3rd blow-out in as many weeks he couldn’t afford another tyre and had been cycling for 4 days on a tyre sewn up with fishing line).

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