Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Rafflesia Ride: Part 1

Lure of the Big Ass Flower...

I picked up some literature from the Malaysian Nature Society's HQ in Jalan Kelantan.
One in particular, had struck my interest.
It was about a community development programme in Hulu Geroh, Gopeng, Perak.
There is a trail at this remote orang asli village that yields some spectacular natural attraction.
The said flora is the Rafflesia, which is one of the biggest flowers in the world.
I came across this during a trip to the Crocker Range in Sabah.
That was back in 1997 when I visited Keningau with some scientific officers from the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Linking a natural curiosity with a ride..

To map out a route, I worked on Google maps. 
Terrain wise, this area is pretty hilly.
Later, I contacted the country's leading Bikepacker Master TT Siang and asked of his opinion.
Siang has been to this part of the world and also agreed to co-host the ride. He later arranged for a ride and also contacted his friends in Gopeng to seek accommodation.
The plan was simple. Drive to Gopeng  in Perak, link up with a group of birdwatchers who also joined us for the stay at a private farm near Hulu Geroh.
And it was also a very straight-forward trail - some 11km ride from a deer farm where we parked our vehicles.

Patric and Michelle in Gopeng, Perak
No country for small bikes.. 

I've been drawing some flak for not inviting newbies for my rides.
This is apparent with tough trips requiring self-support and hauling your own luggage.
At this juncture, I am not keen on baby-sitting beginners. 
That's a lot of work in catering to high expectations. From previous experience, leading rides for newcomers seems to be like charity work where people expect organizers to treat them like paying customers. I got fucked by a shithead for telling him off during the World Car Free Day ride. 
So, that said, I've been really careful in selecting my ride companions. 
No issue with Michelle my wife as we are very comfortable with our own pace and timing on the road. 
For the Rafflesia ride, I invited Roger Teoh and Patric Yee, both whom I had been working with on my Perak Man Ride from Ipoh to Lenggong.
The four of us made a really tight team.
Then, there's Master Siang and his spouse Angela. Both seasoned bikepackers.
The Rafflesia ride is more of a bikecamping trip, so, in this case, most of the cyclists are well-equipped. 
Roger and Patric are pretty new to the scene, but I like their attitude and honesty.
We made plans to meet up in Gopeng, then link out with another group on their four-wheel drive vehicles. 
Then, from Gopeng town, we head towards a deer farm and ride out from there.

The paip besar Gopeng is a known landmark in this neck of the woods...
In the Big Country...

We had rigged up our Dahon Speed P8 and TR. 
Both bikes had clocked-in some impressive mileage and this is one of those occasion where we put our bikes to the test by riding offroad.
We could have rode our Jetstreams, but this time round, since there were some gear-hauling with our Ortlieb panniers, we went to our trusty Speed P8 and TR.
The packs were rigged with camping gear, cooksets and food.
Whether we liked it or not, we were going to rough it out.
Barely an hour into noon, we set out towards Hulu Geroh. The countryside ride brought back many pleasant memories and a group of seven cyclists including Mr Chung, our host, was easy to manage.
We rode towards Adeline's resort up in the hills. 
The elevation gain here is about 779-metres and I must say that the route is not for beginners.
On the average the gradient is about 6 degrees with 17 degrees as the steepest incline along the route.

Taking snapshots at Adeline's resort

Rock'n Rolla terrain: The undulating terrain from Gopeng to Hulu Geroh

Pushing the last 3km towards the private farm...

Our generous host had prepared lunch for us at his farm.
Mrs Chung is a darn good cook as she had prepared a few dishes including some fresh fish from Mr Chung's farm.
We had three more kilometres to clear after rolling down from Adeline's resort.
Siang said that although the ride is only under 11km, it felt longer because a portion of the trial is offroad.
For this, he brought his trusted Birdy Disk, while Angela rode a Pacific Reach folding trail bike.
The only guys with large bikes were Roger and Patric.
We took about one and a half hours to reach the farm and when we got there, a feast was already waiting.. 

The tasty lunch treat

Chilling out in the stream.. 
Our expectations were blown away.. 

Mr Chung our host had built a small enclave for his family and guests.
We were truly honored to stay at his property and he didn't charge a single cent for this.
In fact, he was happy to host us.
As a gesture of goodwill, I gave him a Mora knife. He was happy to receive the gift and told us that we could come and stay at his farm anytime..
After a heavy lunch, we prepared our bedding for the night.
Since we don't need to set up our tarp shelter, I chose a spot at the farm's shelter to set up our thermarest sleeping mats over a ground sheet.
As time progresses into the early part of the evening, I began to prepare dinner.
This was a simple affair as we brought our own food.
I prepared a vegetable curry dish while Patric worked on frying some kangkung leaves.
Dinner was served before nightfall and we spent the entire evening catching up with a conversation.. 

Master Siang sharing his thoughts during supper at the farm..
Round about midnight, we decided to call it a day.
I set up my sleeping quarters with Michelle and before we knew it, we were already fast asleep. Another day looms ahead as we prepare to ride back to the deer farm and later, cycle to the Rafflesia conservatory area in Kampung orang asli Hulu Geroh.
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