Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Tour of East Coast - Part 5

Stage 4 - Kuala Terengganu - Dungun

Route map of stage 4
And so it begins: the toughest ride of the tour..

We woke up at 05:00am sharp. 
Didn't take up much time to pack the gear and load them onto the ground floor. We took turns to move the bikes and set them up.
I did a key drop at the hotel lobby and got down to the ground floor to rig up the bikes. The waypoint has been set for Dungun and the GPS has it's moment when it took us further inland.
We were 15km off-course by using a rural road towards Kampung Laut and eventually ending up near Bukit Payung and Marang.
I trusted the GPS to get us to our destination, but the setting was in such a way, it avoided the common route used by cars.
By using the inner roads, we bypassed Chendering which is practically flat. The long and winding kampung roads led us from one village to another and ultimately, detours to route T171 at kampung Undang. 
There was a makan stall at the junction towards Marang. We met an elderly man and asked if the path is correct. He said "yes" and told us that there's a couple of hills ahead before it tapers down to the junction leading to Marang town.
We feasted on a good selection of food and it was a good thing.

Getting ready
Rolling out from Kuala Terengganu
An excellent selection

Good food at daybreak.. 
First hill in days

We pushed on towards Marang after breakfast.
Slowly, the ascend towards Bukit Payung began. We crunched our gears to a gradient of 5% and the highest point was 10%. With a load, it's no joke. If you don't train for this, there'll be trouble.
With an 18-speed bike, spinning the bike at 60rpm was not an issue. You just need to get the rhythm right so that you don't overwork your heart. My heart rate monitor was dead, so, I relied on my breathing technique which works all the time.
I led the way up to a long climb and when I reached the plateau, I took out my Canon EOS M camera to get some video footage of Michelle ascend.
Motorists that were traveling on this route were very sporting, they gave some leeway for us to climb the steep and long hill. 
After a series of climbs, we reached the junction towards Marang and took a break at a Shell petrol station. There, I helped adjust Michelle's handlebar grips that became loose.

Climbing Bukit Payung

The Death Alley: Kg Kelulut - Kg Jambu Bongkok

When you are traveling on an average speed of 14km/h on the road, you tend to see and smell everything you roll past.
Road kills are no exception. From Kota Bharu to Kuala Terengganu, I've rolled past at least three dozens of road kills. From flattened cats to compacted animal remains lining the road, I've seen them all. The largest of the lot was a Musang or Civet Cat. The oddest road fatality was a Slow Loris that I came across near Kampung Jambu Bongkok. This is a rare and endangered animal and it was stone dead after being hit by a car. Throughout our journey, we spotted a lot of dead animals. From the house cat to birds of all sizes, the road had claimed many lives.

An animal crossing sign near Jambu Bongkok

A dead squirrel

This rare animal's life was claimed by a passing vehicle
Rantau Abang: Turtle paradise no more

We rode past a number of villages before taking a break at a wakaf (shaded shelter) near Rantau Abang.
There, I spoke to a caretaker of the wakaf who told me that Leatherback turtle sightings are very rare these days.
"In the past, there were hundreds of turtle landings here. All but a few are still found here.. It's sad," he said.
The elderly man told me that Rantau Abang is a pale shadow of its glorious past. Human intervention and light pollution were the main causes for the turtle's decline.
I remember watching videotapes about turtle conservation by the WWF officers who visited my primary school back in the 70s. Rantau Abang was "THE" place to visit when it comes to turtles. 
We rode past the Rantau Abang turtle conservation centre and as the day became hotter, I took the liberty of parking my bike to walk across to the opposite side of the road to get some coconut juice and keropok lekor from a stall.
Michelle and I sat in a hut and rehydrated. We were about 20km away from Dungun.

At the Rantau Abang Turtle Conservation Centre

Just passing through
Coconut juice for the soul

The last 20km to Dungun..

We have been cycling for more than seven hours, covering more than 75km from Kuala Terengganu.
Our goal, was to reach Dungun, settle our passage home and check-in at a hotel in the area.
The heat, as high as 45C is slowly taking it's toll on our morale and strength. We progressed slowly and as we were reaching the outskirts of Dungun, there were a series of short and long slopes. It didn't bother me much, but Michelle was slowing down drastically.
At the junction of Kuala Dungun, I checked my Google Maps and it showed the location of the bus stop in town. The map led us out of town and since we were also pretty hungry, (it was way past 2pm) I decided to make a call to pull over at a Chinese coffeeshop.
There we had our late lunch and I took the opportunity to ask the shop owner on the location of the bus stop. 
He told me that the ticketing counters and bus station had relocated to Kuala Besut. 
"It's near the Nirvana wholesale mart, you find an open area just opposite the store. They have moved there recently," he added.
The man was really helpful and told us that we could use the beach road from Jalan Melati and backtrack towards Kuala Besut.
Sensing the urgency of the matter, we rode back towards the old town area and found the bus ticketing booth.
There was a service from Dungun to Puchong Tesco, but it was only meant for the Transnasional service. I heard bad things about this company and decided that it was best to get a more reliable company.
We ended up purchasing tickets from Syarikat Adik-beradik that offers VIP seats and plenty of luggage room. 
I asked the ticketing clerk if we can fit our oversized luggage without using the word "bicycle". She said it's okay and knew that we were transporting our bikes. This was at no extra cost, so, with one down, we could focus on getting a place to bunk for the night.

Late lunch
Settling our passage home
At the UiTM hotel in Dungun

A training hotel managed by students of the hospitality industry

By doubling back, we've added more mileage to our bikes.
Along the way, I checked out a beach motel. No vacancies. So, the next course of action was to head towards the end of Jalan Pantai Sura. The Dungun I knew since my last visit in 1994, has changed drastically.
We fought the heat and fatigue and had finally reached the UiTUM hotel. I walked to the concierge's desk and asked if there are any rooms left.
A student manning the desk told me that all standard rooms were fully booked and only the deluxe rooms at RM160 including breakfast were available in limited numbers.
I was delighted with the news and went on paying for our accommodation for the night.
We pushed the bikes into the room and freshened up..

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