Sunday, March 24, 2013

Journey to Land's End II - Part 2

The route to Pengerang 
The moment of truth...

I heard the phone alarm ringing at 04:45am in the morning.
Once that kicked-in, I changed into my riding wear and prepared my Ortlieb trunk bag to carry everything that is essential for the trip.
The first thing that came into mind is move all my gear back into the car and prep the bike for the long haul.
Mohd Radzi said he will be ready after performing his prayers.
While he was at it, I checked out from the hotel and asked if they offer day-use for their rooms.
This is so that we could freshen up after the ride.
"Its RM50 to use the room..," said the front office guy.
I told him that its okay and that we have decided to take a shower along the way back.

Ten kilometres of terror

Our plan was to set out at 06:00am. 
We did just that by heading from town towards the Sg Rengit junction which is about 2km away from the hotel.
After entering the road, it was dark.
Even with a set of powerful LED headlights, it was pure guess work.
The trick was not to hit any potholes or roll over the sandy lumps on the runoff beside the road shoulder.
We did pretty okay along this route which Mohd Radzi described as "!0km of terror".
Another thing was the fact that I didn't pay attention to the details on the map when I charted the route.
Seems that the terrain is undulating all the way from Kota Tinggi to Sg Rengit.
We are looking at an averag of 3.5 - 4.8% gradient.
This is no sweat when you train and since we were riding with a minimal set-up, it wasn't a real big deal...

Rolling is such fun! Giving a thumbs-up to Radzi
A test of wits and endurance

We took full advantage of the early morning weather and progressed some 30km in two hours to reach Felda Air Tawar 5.
Spare the roadkills, dead snakes on the roadside, bumpy ride and heavy vehicle traffic, we made it as far as we could.
The first order of the day was to get something to eat.
Earlier, I bought some bananas which helped in providing energy. I hard a large Camelbak bicycle bottle which I thought, could last the entire journey. 

Authentic Johor Lontong at Felda Air Tawar 5
We caught up for a nice meal at the Felda township. The Johor Lontong was simple and good. After a fulfilling meal, we proceeded towards the Senai - Desaru Highway junction.
At this point, it was like taking a stroll down memory lane.
The last time I visited Desaru was 27 years ago.
Much of the landscape here is barely recognizable.
There are a few beach resorts in the area.
We cycled to the public beach to snap a couple of photographs and resumed the ride..

Desaru revisited
The killer part was a detour towards the end of the beach area where we had to back track towards the Desaru - Pengerang junction.
This was a long climb and a straight journey towards Batu Layar beach which is roughly about 20km away.
Here, there are no stalls or shops along the way.
Its plain and bare.

Mohd Radzi taking a break
I must admit that I am really unfit.
After laying off cycling for nearly a month, my stamina level is at rock bottom.
As usual, I was way at the back trying to pace myself.
We have about 80km to cover in order to reach Sungai Rengit.
And since we took the coastal route, the distance is much longer.
With the sun directly above our heads, the heat had proven to be overwhelming.
Radzi was right ahead and being nearly 10 years younger, I expect him to do really well.
But the heat got the best of him. He was waiting for me to catch up and just as I alighted from the bike, my left thigh was already having cramps.
So, I whipped out my pain relief spray and worked on it.
We had a critical decision to be made. The plan was to get off the road and find a stall to hydrate.

Batu Layar and beyond..

After making past the vast void, we found a construction worker flagging down vehicles.
We knew that if anything had happened, no one would stop.
This is why the recce trip was not for everyone.
Newcomers outnumber the old hands, so, I had to be selective when it comes to picking the right riding partner.
I asked the flagman for directions to the nearest stall.
Two guys who were hanging out in a makeshift shelter pointed me to junction.
They said there is a makan place some 2km away.
That was our best bet...

Chilling out in Batu Layar
Luck was on our side as we found a shop in this village.
We hydrated and pushed towards Punggai and Teluk Ramunia.
I've never been to this part of the country and was surprised to find such a beautiful place.
After passing Teluk Ramunia, we were inching closer towards Sungai Rengit.
There, a decision was made.
We've done the route and since time and weather became a factor, I terminated the ride in Sungai Rengit.
In town, we cycled to a hawker centre and had lunch there.
Later, we went to a taxi stand and boarded a car back to Kota Tinggi..

Mission accomplished: Arrival in Sungai Rengit

Packing the bikes for the journey to Kota Tinggi
Conclusion

We made good time and reached Kota Tinggi by 04:30pm.
After packing up the bikes, we were on the move.
By 07:30pm, we reached the Ayer Keroh R&R area and had dinner.
We split the cost and talked about the finer points of the journey.
In total, we rode some 93km one-way.
The road conditions were pretty crappy and I wouldn't recommend this ride for people who are inexperienced.
To make it all the way, one must have at least a year or more of experience.
Being a self-supported ride, the guys must also possess skills like recovering the bikes in case of any emergencies.
Far too often, I've been disappointed by people who expect their punctured tires to be fixed by anyone other than themselves.
For a ride like this, one must be able to take on the harsh environment and unpredictable nature of the road.
So, that said, primadonnas and wannabes are out.
As far as the journey is concerned, I conclude that one must be prepared to take on the long journey and pack extra food and water as the situation warrants it..
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