Monday, December 5, 2011

Batu Gajah - Ipoh recce ride part 1

The long-awaited message
I received an email a week ago from TT Siang, one of the country's most respectable bike-packers. 
He made mention of an exploratory ride of Batu Gajah, historically and significantly known for its tin-mining activities at the turn of the century.
The plan is to ride a trail along the Kinta River towards Ipoh, Perak's state capital.
I knew for a fact that Siang is a meticulous guy. 
He plans his trips very well and seeks to avoid busy roads and highways.
A circular was sent out to a group of folding bicycle enthusiasts. Only a few responded. 
At first, I wasn't sure. 
But I managed to get some days off especially on the weekend of Dec 3 & 4. 
After getting clearance from my wife, I was given the go-ahead.
Following the release, I purchased my train ticket. 
The agenda was to catch an intercity train from KL Sentral to Batu Gajah at 08:45am.

The new guys
Gone were the days when you see a large list of people on such a ride.
People whom I knew back in time were now under the radar.
I met Tan Kim Hwa, a retired bank employee and Chris Wong, a businessman at the train station.
These are the new guys. 
I've heard of Tan, whom I met briefly at the OCBC Cycle Malaysia Ride back in October.
Wong, on the other hand, was an acquaintance from the Rodalink bicycle shop in Desa Sri Hartamas. 
I hooked him up with Siang on a ride in Hulu Langat and they've been cycling ever since.

Tan (L) and Wong (R) at the train station
We met up at KL Sentral and started chatting. 
Later, Siang turned up, just in time to board the train to Batu Gajah.
It was a two-hour ride and along the way, I walked back and forth to the second-class coach where Tan, Wong and Siang were seated.
The conductor told me that Batu Gajah is the next stop after Kampar.
While I was waiting at the back of the coach, I spoke to a young man who was going back to his hometown in Taiping, Perak.
We chat a little bit and since that bought plenty of time, I finally caught a glimpse of the last stop before we hit Batu Gajah...

Arrival at Batu Gajah station

The exploration team
A good head-start..
We took our time setting up the bikes. 
My stomach was already rumbling. With the sun above our heads, the only thing in my mind was to get a good place for a fill.
I don't know much about Batu Gajah. But I did pass by this town a couple of times during my excursions to the North.
We rode towards the town centre and traffic was not that heavy.
I punched the 'where to?' feature on my Garmin EDGE800 GPS and found a coffee shop.
But when we rode towards this place, it was not open.
Another option was to head down towards the old train station.
There, I spotted 'Public' restaurant and my hunch told me that this might be a good place to have our lunch.
Later, we ordered four dishes with the steamed kampung chicken with ginger as the highly recommended specialty.
Lunch was good as we pushed on. 
The ride to the Kinta river trail was a breeze. 
We found a paved track which was not heavy with vehicular traffic at all.
This was a smooth ride until a bad section along the path...

Cycling along the Kinta river

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