Saturday, October 6, 2012

Sungkai Bikepacking Adventure - Part 1

A last-minute outing..
I had a weekend to burn.
And nearly half the day was used to send my wife's luggage to the airport.
She came back from India and had a flight to catch to Brunei.
Co-incidentally, there was two rides over the weekend and a camping trip in Sungkai, Perak, organized by the Malaysia Knife Forums.
I've attended their camp-outs and really loved the idea of cycling into the campsite.
As a matter of fact, at their first outing in 2010, I actually drove there with my bike.

At the Federal Highway motorcycle lane
The plan
I put up a post on the Malaysian Foldies forum as well as their Facebook page.
No takers.
The only reliable bikepacking buddy I had was Roger Teoh. 
This man can rough it out and is in no hurry to get anywhere, which makes him the perfect bikepacking partner.
My plan was to meet him at KL Sentral, board an intercity train or ETS to Sungkai in Perak and continue another 15km to the campsite. 
Sungai Klah, as it seems, is paved with hills from 2 - 9% in gradient. 
And when you are fully loaded, the challenge is to ride all the way without any breakdown.

Waiting to board the ETS at KL Sentral
Murphy's Law
Some things don't necessarily work out the way you plan it.
In this case, I rode out all the way to the Asia Jaya LRT station. Time spent on the road was nearly an hour.
Riding with another 20kgs of load in the rear means more drag and a 'back heavy' feeling. The ride took about an hour and as mentioned earlier, I made the rendezvous with Roger at the McDonalds at 12:45pm.
On a Saturday, the KL Sentral looks like a Zoo.
There were no more train tickets to Sungkai. What was left was a ride to Slim River, one stop away from our intended destination. 
Ticket for this ride costs RM26 one-way.
On the ETS, I don't have to worry about luggage space (always get the seat right in front, which is also the nearest to the door).
We took the 2pm train which is scheduled to arrive in Slim River at 4pm. 
From there, we have two more hours to cover the distance from the train station to Sungkai and make a turn towards Sungai Klah.

Arrival at Slim River

My ride, with the Ortlieb Backroller and Trunkbag
 A station too far..
There is no reason for me to go to Slim River.
Except when we had to get out of the train and begin our ride from this town.
In a nutshell, this is a dying town. 
There's not much activity here except for people getting in and out of the train and making a trip down to the Klang Valley using the town's bus service.
From Slim River, the next town is Trolak.
Sungkai is roughly about 25km away via the KL-Ipoh trunk road.
With a gloomy sky that loomed ahead, we tried to move as fast as we can.
Roger and I had a meal at a hawker stall before proceeding towards Trolak.
From there, there is a series of undulating terrain (between 3 - 7% grade) to cover before the Sungai Klah junction.
We slowly rode out towards our destination and took about one and a-half hours to reach the turning towards the Felda Sg Klah resort.

Slim River train station
The KL-Ipoh trunk road
Sungai Klah junction
Not for beginners..
The KL-Ipoh trunk road is a normal route for touring bicyclists to access Cameron Highlands and other cities up North.
You either suck it all up and ride, or whine all the way.
My choice is door number one, endure and take it as it is.
I know that some cyclists would complain about the dangers of cycling on a busy road. But hey, you always have a choice: cycle or stay at home and whine.
As for me, the route was really smooth. We had no issues cycling all the way from Slim River to Sungkai.
As a matter of fact, I get to see many things I won't when I am driving.
While maintaining a average speed of 15km/h, we observed the traffic which is constantly busy.
Even on a trunk road, people drive fast.
The road was wide enough for bicycles to move without taking too much space on the motorists' path.

The ride towards campsite
From the junction, there's another 15km to cover.
We took the undulating terrain with ease and slowly covered the distance.
For on the horizon was the Sungai Klah homestay.
This hilly village is the last checkpoint before reaching campsite.
We continued towards the Felda Sg Klah residence which is about 1km away from campsite.

Arrival at campsite
MKF hospitality: One of the old hands offering me a cold can of beer
Calling it a day..
We reached campsite before dark.
With the bikes parked, I introduced Roger to the Malaysia Knife Forums members and their organizing committee.
Dinner was served, we had a few beers, exchanged in conversation and called it a night before the long ride to Tanjung Malim to catch our train.
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