Saturday, April 25, 2015

Lata Kekabu - Part 2

Murphy's Law..

Things can take an unexpected turn when you think that everything will pan out fine.
So, that's the case in the early stages of this ride.
Khairul the greenhorn asked a lot of questions.
And the Malay term: "Mulut masin" (something that is unintentionally mentioned which became a reality) was pretty much the mainstay in the journey.
He asked if I have had any trips that could be considered as "worse experience" which I kinda brushed off by saying "no".
On hikes and hunts, the word "taboo" is something a seasoned trekker would observe. It's no different when you take a journey in an unfamiliar territory.
In this case, the bike-mounted GPS had a life on it's own. It's "Ghost in the machine" as I made two critical decisions that turned the course into a journey into the unknown. But I was prepared.

A rear-mounted camera shot with Khairul in the background
Set on interval shots, this was the view from the bike's cockpit
At a defunct railway station in Tg Rambutan, Ipoh
Mistake number 1

After riding past Tanjung Rambutan, Kinding and Tanah Hitam, we took a right turn towards Sg Kuang. 
This was a "turn-by-turn" navigation by my Garmin EDGE800 GPS.
Rather than shooting straight towards Chemor, we headed towards Sungai Kuang. 
This threw us off-course by 20km and led us towards Kg Ulu Kuang. 
By taking this route, we bypassed Chemor town and Sungai Siput Selatan which is laden by heavy traffic.
The route was very scenic and this leads back to Sungai Siput Utara.

The Big Country: Riding to Ulu Kuang
Mistake number 2

We reached the junction between Sungai Siput Utara and Lintang.
The GPS indicated a right-turn towards Lintang.
Seeing that it was possibly a shorter route, we made a break for it.
By the time we reached Sungai Siput, it was already late in the evening.
I received two missed calls from the hotel in Kuala Kangsar.
Once I contacted the front desk person, I told her that we might be a bit late.
From Sungai Siput Utara, there's roughly about 25km left to cycle.

Into the unknown
We rode towards the direction given and after clearing all civilization, I sensed that something had terribly gone wrong.
The GPS indicated another turn towards Jalan Lintas Lintang.
We cycled into a narrower path, and started climbing hills.
Daylight was fading fast. I checked my wristwatch and it was past 07:00pm.
My gear allows me to set up camp wherever I want, but based on the map on my GPS screen, the narrow road leads to a main passage.
We rode past a palm oil plantation and were welcomed by the cooing from jungle fowls.
As a trekker, I knew the signs weren't good.
That said, we made our way back to the main road and cycled towards a nearby village. Water supply was running low and I asked if my co-rider wanted to perform his prayers, which he had humbly declined.
We pulled over at a stall and had a couple of drinks before moving on.
A lady whom I spoke to said it was way too dangerous to cycle the loop towards Kuala Kangsar. 
My GPS indicated another 36km. This was wrong and made no sense.
She said the best thing to do, is to backtrack towards the Sungai Siput hospital and continue from there.

Journey into the heart of darkness..

We rode for five hours and the sky was completely dark.
A distant thunder welcomed us with the threat of bad weather.
It was an 8km ride and we pushed towards Sungai Siput Utara. We rode in complete darkness as vehicle zoomed by.
There were some tense moments when a motorcycle crept up towards us and across the road, a guy was walking in the opposite direction all by himself in pitch darkness.
My bike's 150-Lumen Valo 2 headlight which was powered by a dynamo on the front wheel does it's job, warning incoming vehicles.
I had a Blackburn Superflea headlight mounted on my helmet visor, the intensity of the light beam was set on "economy" mode.
If you have a weak mind, you will definitely falter in such a situation. Fatigue, pain and fear are the factors that would break a person.
Pushing beyond the breaking point was something I learned from other people's experience. I don't have such thoughts in mind and put safety before self in such a scenario.
Patience has its virtues and after braving through the undulating terrain, pitch darkness and uncertainty, hope began to show at the end of the road. 
Beams of yellow tungsten lights illuminated the Sungai Siput hospital. I signaled for Khairul to pull over to discuss about our next move..

The hotel lobby 
Arriving safely in Kuala Kangsar
A crucial judgement call..

I told Khairul that it was pointless to push on as we would only arrive in Kuala Kangsar after midnight.
The best cause of action was to bunk in at Sungai Siput, or to get a chartered car to haul us to our last destination.
He agreed and we made our way towards Sungai Siput Utara town.
We pulled over at a Petron station where I made an inquiry there.
A helpful cashier said she knew a family friend who owns a taxi service.
She asked if I could give him a call to arrange for transportation.
And the rest was history. The cab driver, Mr Sugu charged us RM30 to get to Kuala Kangsar, which is roughly about 25-minutes away by car.
We drove to some familiar landmarks and arrived in town at about 09:45pm.
I can see the sigh of relief on Khairul's face and being the person responsible for his well-being, I wouldn't want to push our luck too far. It has never been a "do or die" situation. In a situation as such, it's mind over matter.
We checked-in at the motel, dropped our gear and headed out for a warm meal.
Our accommodation facility was conveniently located at the far end of Kuala Kangsar town. There are foodstalls and grocery shop around. 
After a good meal, Khairul picked up some items for the camping trip.
The next order of the day was a hot shower and a bit of laundry. 
We hit the sack after a long day and the "real" adventure is merely hours away..
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