Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Day 12 - 14 Oct 26 - 28 Petaling Jaya Part 2

We got in to PJ in the late afternoon and it was good to be back home. I had not told my mother about the ride - somehow the opportunity to tell her and explain it to her never arose. She was not surprised to see me, but was surprised I came in Gan's car, not my own. When I took the bike out, she didn't express any surprise or make her usual exclamation when confronting any of the Cheong boys' latest adventures or misadventures 'You're mad!'.

She just smiled and said 'Oh.' I was home.

That night I finally met Ong Jin Joo, whose blog is linked here and another Asean scholar whose name I shall not attempt to spell here... I can probably find it out from Jin Joo's blog, but will not now, not with the slow connection I'm having.

Gan had arranged the getogether and we had teh tarik in SS2. The conversation was, as to be expected when one engages brilliant minds, exciting and invigorating.

In the morning, I cycled down to Gan's for a chat and then on to PJ Old Town to get the bike attended to. It was weird cycling with such a light bicycle! I made it through the mad traffic that is Jalan Templer and on to old town, to the shop I used to go to when I was 16 and regularly doing 50 kms a day. Instead of studying...

The chaps who run the place are still there, though they didn't recognise me. The bike had been getting a little rough and a spot of oil here and there and on the gear cables cured the reluctance to change gears I had been experiencing.

A little trip down memory lane here to recall an old friend I have been trying to trace for years: Ng Kien Hoon. We were the best of friends and were both into cycling when we were 16 or 17. One afternoon, I got a call from him saying he'd had an accident and was in hospital and needed my help. He was fine - he'd been looking away when some lady stuck her car out too far at a junction and he hit the front wing of the car and took flight over her bonnet.

The help he needed was was for me to go to 'our' bike shop in Old Town and tell the owner he'd be coming soon with the lady (who'd offered to pay for all the damage to the bike) and could the owner please quote her a higher price so he could get a new and better bike? Geee... even in those days, there were things my friends knew that I could simply never get an instinctual grasp of. I believe he eventually became an accountant...

In the afternoon, I went shopping for a replacement front light. While climbing Bukit Pelanduk, my front light which I hadn't properly pushed into place, had fallen off and broken. I eventually found one at a bike shop in SS2 which stocked some very good parts. I picked up an LED Cateye for just under RM100. Small and light, it can be used as a torch or attached to a helmet too. Great stuff.

Some of the Lasobans met up on Saturday night at my old haunt, Rennie's House of Oxtail. Replete from a dinner with Patsy and Gan at a Thai place in Petaling Gardens, I had to forego the pleasure of an Oxtail Soup. I did note that the price had gone up from about RM4.50 to RM18 though! OK so it's been 20 years...

It was great to catch up with Jo, Prasad, Tchi Yu and wife, Pam. Why is it that the conversations I have in PJ are invariably exciting, involving, passionate, demanding, opinionated...? I do enjoy getting together with these guys - the passion stays with me for a long time.

The next morning, I had breakfast with Tchi Yu and Pam - thanks, guys for changing your Sunday routine and making the effort to meet up - and Tchi Yu was telling me of his problems at his internet cafe. It makes me quite angry that an honest person trying to make a go at a business is being thwarted by corrupt officers. More downer...

The afternoon was spent shopping for books _ I'd finished the two that I'd brought along and needed something to while the nights away. My last few hours in PJ were spent having Hokkien Mee (mmmmm..... yummy) and adding to the blog. WHo knows when I'd get broadband again?
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Day 12 - 14 Oct 26 - 28 Petaling Jaya Part 1

I've not written for awhile. PJ turned out to be most comfortable, and very busy indeed. I will fill you in shortly...

Another reason is that I got a little weary, tired, even a trifle down. And it all started at Morib. Years ago, Morib was a nice, easy place to get to when we could not afford the time to go all the way to PD. Now, it is sad, tired, slowly disintegrating. Walking out from the Impian Morib the morning of Oct 14, the dream quickly fell apart.

The grounds behind the Impian Morib, and between it and the sea were unkempt. A sea wall had been built, so there really was no beach where I was and although the tide was on its way out, there was no way to go down.

I walked down a well-trodden path, behind the Seri Morib which I had dropped in yesterday thinking it was a hotel only to find the building I walked into was also falling apart, with missing ceiling boards and damp on the walls. From the back I realised parts of the building were still in use but I had not notice the day before.

As I walked along this path that snaked between Casuarina trees and tall grass, I came upon two breaks in the wall where steps had been built to allow access to the beach that formed at low tide. The steps were broken, the ground caved in. I walked on.

A few hundred metres on, the path opened up into a well kept area with a broad grassy verge with benches and shelters. Sticking up tall at regular intervals I saw wooden towers which would give a panoramic view of the sea. Over here, there were steps down to the sea too. My hopes raised a little I strolled on and as I got closer, yet again I saw signs of neglect. Some of the shelters had missing roof pieces, the towers had broken steps and railings and were clearly unsafe.

The same sad story continued on up the beach to the hawker centre. A couple of pavilions sat forlornly in pools of rain water.

At the hawker centre, some stalls were just beginning to open and I had a hopeful look, but no food was to be had yet as it was too early. I gather this centre comes alive in the evenings at night.

In the end I walked back and had lunch at the hotel, a dish of Nasi Goreng Kampung which promised much but which ultimately failed to deliver - from dry slices of cucumber to soggy crackers.

Gan had offered to pick me up shortly after lunch and I couldn't get away quick enough.

From the moment I'd entered my home state, the welcome had been muted, weary. From bad roads with no shoulders to ride on right to the sorry state of Morib, I was hitting a particularly down patch in my ride and I was looking forward to meeting friends and family to scrub the bad feelings I had out of my awareness. At least for a few days.

After a few hundred kilometres of some very nice roads, great scenery, fantastic people, my home state was turning out to be the counterpoint to all that.
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Sunday, 28 October 2007

Day 11 Oct 25 PD - Morib Part 3

Some time after the hills, I'd finished off the three slices of pizza I'd brought along. It helped restore some energy but I still needed a proper breakfast stop at Sungai Pelek, a little distance after Sepang, and after the third state boundary had been crossed. Unlike the previous two, the entry to Selangor was without adornment nor fuss. I would later conclude it was a portent of things to come.

The little coffeeshop I stopped at was an Indian shop and I enjoyed my Teh-O and a Roti Telur Bawang. The old man doing the cooking was an earnest, energetic chap who flipped the rotis on the hot plate by hand and was constantly on the move. His keyed up demeanour and the fast-tempo Hindi music blaring from the little stereo on a shelf lent a frenetic air to proceedings completely in contrast to the laid back small-town look of Sg Pelek.

Still, I was feeling quite relaxed, no doubt due in part to being suitably replete with my carbo-laden meal.

The guys in the shop asked where I was headed and seemed impressed when I told them of my plans. As with all my encounters in smaller towns, they wished me well and gave me an encouraging smile as I left.

Just out of Sg Pelek, I took a wrong turn and ended up in a brand new housing estate. The roads were smooth and flat, the houses mostly with manicured gardens. It all looked very middle class and I found it a little incongruous. I wonder who lives here.

I reached Tanjung Sepat just about 11 and decided to stop here until it was cool enough to ride on. The coffeeshop I was in was yet another Indian shop and I was treated to more Hindi music which I did enjoy. The shop sat just off the main trunk road and at a junction with a minor road which went in to the Chinese town that is Tg Sepat. I suddenly became aware of the sheer numbers of little motorbikes and scooters whizzing in, out and along the main road. I thought I'd discovered the small-bike capital of the world and here is a set of pictures I took, all within one minute, while seated looking at traffic going by. It fails to show the sheer variety as well - I saw mothers with kids on the way to school, men delivering large canisters of cooking gas (3 or 4 at a time!), even a bike towing a cart!

At one point an African looking chap, quite well-dressed and carrying a large shoulder bag, crossed the road and strode up to the shop. He sat at a table a little behind me so I didn't pay him much attention until I heard him talking loudly. I turned around and found he'd laid out the contents of his bag on the table - fake Timberland belts, fake G-Shock watches, fake perfumes, the works. He was loudly bargaining with one of the shop staff and I wandered over to have a look. I had no wish to add anymore weight to my panniers so didn't buy anything. He eventually packed up and left after about an hour or so, after having done some business. With his bag once more on a strap around his shoulder, he strode off down the main road.

I continued on my way at about 3 as the sky was not too clear and the weather not too hot. The way in to Morib was flat, long and straight for much of the way. While the hills of Negri Sembilan were tough physically, these plains were harder mentally - it's no fun being able to see for 3 or 4 kilometres ahead of you at a time, at a horizon that seems never to get any closer. On some occasions I found it easier to just look down a few feet ahead and let my mind wander onto other thoughts.

I finally got in to Morib and to my horror discovered a number of closed-down resorts and chalets. So I carried on, all the way to the beach and turned onto the road to Banting, thinking there might be something there. In what suddenly seemed to echo my PD adventure, I realised I was heading out of town and turned around to go past the beach area again. I eventually asked someone at a Government house and he told me to go back up the road for about one and a half km which I did, only to find the bungalow units they rented out all booked out. Eventually I turned back and headed back to the beach yet again and decided to check in at the more expensive looking place I'd seen earlier but had wanted to avoid - the Impian Morib.

The place was new, and horrors! was full of teachers from Melaka on a course seemingly run by relatives of the booming-voiced instructor I'd seen in PD! Still, the room was clean and neat and had everything I could ask for. Except, as it turned out later, a good internet connection.

Dinner was room service and I could hardly eat it. Someone explain how it is possible to eat dry French Fries without any Ketchup or Chilli sauce... grrrr...

Morib was to throw up more depressing things later...

Day 11 Oct 25 PD - Morib Part 2

I cleaned up, did some writing out on the balcony, and explored the development a little only to discover two things: first, the development really didn't have that much beyond the chalets. Besides a games room and business centre, the usual pool and restaurant, it was essentially like any other hotel. What did I expect? I don't know, perhaps some sort of kayaking activity or something like that. After all, the water was all around us. As we were quite far from town or any decent stretch of beach, I would have thought activities would have been a good thing to have around the hotel.

The second thing I discovered was a group of people on a course. These were trooped out to the front of the hotel by a stentorian programme leader full of himself and apparently not much else. I walked quickly past them as the booming leader quickly began to grate on my nerves.

The rest of my stay was spent writing out on the balcony (very nice), trying unsuccessfully to get on to the net (not nice at all) and then late at night I decided, what the heck, and ran a hot bath, threw some bath salts I found into it and had a good soak (very very nice)... I'm not normally a bath person, preferring the practicality and economy of a good hot shower to the waste and sloth of a soak. But... I might just be on the edge of changing my mind here... I actually dozed off, such was the calming quality of the hot water and bath salt combination.

Later still, I rang for dinner and for some reason, assumed the burger I ordered would be small and I would need something else for my morning so I also ordered a pizza. RM 40 and a half an hour later they were delivered to me and then I realised I'd perhaps been a tad ambitious... The burger tasted bloody marvellous though. I kept the pizza for morning. Heck what have you got against cold pizza?

The second memory I shall keep of PD came after I'd left the hotel early the next morning. The temptation to stay was strong, but the thought of another frustrating time with dropped internet connections and a nice hotel room sans wifey was just too much so I headed out at a little past 6, to Morib.

Going out of town was not a problem even with the heavier school-going traffic. It wasn't raining and for some reason I found myself perspiring quite a bit more than I had been used to. I had a brief thought that maybe the soak in the bath (just what was in the bath salts?) was the culprit, but then realised I hadn't cycled out in dry weather in some days.

I got out of town and into the oil palm estate region with their long rolling hills. Now, I have been through this area a number of times - when I used to follow the local motor rallying scene, the Tanah Merah, PD-Lukut and Bukit Pelandok estates were invariably on the route. I didn't recall, however, that these places are this HILLY! Bukit ('Hill') Pelandok is a misnomer. It should be Gunung ('Mountain') Pelandok instead! And it's an insidious, evil, despicable mountain too.

You ride along these smooth roads following the contours of the oil palm covered slopes, admiring the beautiful, lush rolling hills, made even more verdant in the soft morning light, then you hit what appears to be a short slope upwards. You get up this short stretch, go around the corner and see... another couple of hundred metres of hill. So you struggle up this one, your breath becoming ever louder, your efforts becoming a little more strained. You run a mantra in your mind 'I can make it. I can make it' and visions of the Little Engine That Could flit briefly through your consciousness. You turn yet another corner, and see yet another hill, the road snaking up for a couple of hundred more metres.

Then your body, which until then had been quietly protesting, begins to make its voice heard above your, by now, laboured breathing. And you body says to you 'No you can't'.

You struggle on a bit. 'I can make it' 'No you can't' 'I can make it' NO you can't' I can make it' 'NO you CAN'T' 'I can..oh what the f***'... and you pull over and rest.

Trying to look as cool and unflustered as possible, you stand by the roadside as the traffic goes by, wait while your breathing slowly returns to normal - which is about 400 breaths per minute - then you climb back on your bike and with a 'JUST A LITTLE BIT MORE AND I AM THERE', you strike out again.

Up a slope, round a bend, another bleeding slope, up that one, just... then with the 'I can make it's ringing loud in your head, your body explodes with another 'Oh f*** when is this hill going to flatten out? you pull over again.

And so on it goes.

And so on it went. For what seemed like many kilometres, I struggled, stopped, struggled again... At some point I realised the road up had a slow lane too whereas the other side had just the one. I realise now you can rate the gradient of a hill by the fact it has a slow lane for the trucks to huff and puff up. Easy for them with their diesel engines...

Anyway, I survived. After that hill, the rest of the ride was easy. It had delayed me tremendously and I knew I wasn't going to make it into Morib before lunch so I pulled over at an Indian shop in Tanjung Sepat and had a drink and some lunch.
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Day 11 Oct 25 PD - Morib Part 1

Distance: 80.55 km
Max Speed: 41.0 km/h
Average while moving: 17.5 km/h

Ah, I have so many memories of PD...

I fell in love for the first time in PD, at the tender and innocent age of 10. She was destined to be one of Malaysia's most famous models, but of course we didn't know it then. And our relationship lasted all of... oh, two days until it was time to go back to PJ again.

And then there were the family school-holiday trips to PD, a few of them at an old bungalow by the sea, Sandytide, and a few at the National Union of Banking Employees centre further up the coast. Those were fun times with my cousins and I seem to remember that tracking sand in or getting wet and dirty was never a problem with our parents then.

A few years on, in my early teens, I recall roaming the beaches with my cousin, two of us armed with our home made catapults. One day some kampung kids who were similarly armed trailed us then set up two targets as a challenge. Everyone failed to hit them with their first shots. Then I took aim and shot both the tin and the small rock behind it with the one shot and suddenly the kampung kids were swarming around us and inviting us to go with them to hunt some squirrels and so on. It made me feel pretty damn good...

Half a decade later, at the end of Lower 6, a large number of us attended the annual 6th Form Leadership Training Course at the De La Salle Brothers' Bungalow in PD. The bungalow is still there today and every time I go past, I remember that week that built up some lifelong relationships.

Here we are in 2007 and here I am on a slow bicycle ride past all these places. And building up two more clear memories of PD...

The first is of the Legend Water Chalets. It would certainly not have been my first choice but for the comedy of errors which saw me avoid or miss some very nice places, much more in keeping with the spirit of the ride, and instead cycling blindly on until I ran out of choices.

I must say that after a week and a half in the saddle, the comfort was most enticing and tempting. When I swung the door to the chalet open I had a moment of confusion. The first thing I saw ahead of me was a black marble vanity standing on a stone tile floor. On this floor was inset a 3 ft square sheet of glass which gave a view of the sea directly below. To my right was a sunken shower area with a nice, large overhead shower head and beyond that was a triangular bath tub sitting on a black marble pedestal.

I thought I'd somehow ended up renting a bathroom for the night...

A slight pause and then I saw the doorway ahead of me, which led into the bedroom and a small balcony beyond. The wall between the tub and the bedroom had windows with very stylish wooden venetian blinds letting light through.

Relieved I had a bed to sleep on for the night, not just a bathtub, I pushed the bike in, unloaded it and explored a little further.

The bedroom was very nicely lit, and the queen size bed with a very firm mattress was certainly a far cry from the Batu Pahat Rest house. It looked and felt so goooooooood.... The whole atmosphere was a pampering, comforting one. The only thing missing was my wife... sob sob... well, maybe on another trip.
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Saturday, 27 October 2007

Day 10 Oct 24 Pantai Kemunting - Port Dickson

Distance: 65.58 km
Average while moving: 16.3 km/h
Max speed: 38.6 km/h

An early morning start and it gave me an altogether different perspective of Pantai Kemunting. The fisherman were out and setting off. The strong winds of the last two days had been whipping up the waves so hard they had stayed on shore but this morning brought altogether calmer seas and they were setting off just as I was.

I rode through the quiet kampung. Where yesterday evening there were people zipping about on their bikes and scooters, and people milling about or fishing or sipping their teas and coffees at the stalls, this morning most of the kampung was still in darkness. As I rode, I could hear the insects chirping in the bushes and gardens, the occasional cockerel crowing and the muted rumble of waves on the shore to my left.

Much of the early riding was quite easy. I stopped near Tanjung Agas for breakfast. The terrain had been relatively flat and I was glad I'd stuck to the coast road. Just after the little place I had breakfast in was the Sungai Linggi, the river between Melaka and Negri Sembilan. I had crossed another state line and felt some measure of accomplishment.

The road thereon was flat for some distance then started to climb as I got nearer Tanjung Tuan. I found the turnoff to Tanjung Tuan and swung left onto the road by the army camp. The road sloped upwards and was lush and green on either side. After a short distance, I zipped down a hill and up the other side but quickly stopped when I realised there was a very steep hill immediately after. At this stage, I was a trifle weary and extremely practical. I doubted I'd make it up the other side and opted instead to turn around and head into PD instead.

Which I did. PD, as I rediscovered, has hills on either end and although I'd avoided the very steep Tanjung Tuan ones, I had to deal with the many that lead into town. I rode past a few big hotels, preferring a modest establishment. I saw a few possibilities, but decided to get further towards town, thinking it would be good to be able to observe the life of the town itself.

The last great hill was a long, fast ride into the town area and before I knew it, I had passed everything. No options except a typical town hotel was available at this end so I decided to turn around and head back again. As I did so, the whole episode began to take on the air of a comedy of errors - a drizzle started up, then turned increasingly heavy so I quickly turned in at a set of shops and decided to treat myself to a nice hot Teh-O and some lunch.

For the second major meal in a row, I had a Maggi Mee Goreng and although different from the scrumptious one at Pantai Kemunting the night before, this one was just as tasty. I don't care how much money Maggi makes, they deserve every cent. And I don't care how much money the stallholders make from frying up a packet of instant noodles - they too deserve every cent!

Once the rain abated, the comedy began anew. I turned back as planned, got about 2 km back and realised the hill I'd zipped down was really a very long climb back up so I turned around once again and decided to try my luck on the other side of town.

As I cycled along, my hopes were raised by a sign that announced the Glory Beach Resort. Now, Glory make good, decent biscuits, don't they?... It sounded like a nice small place. And there was even a sign for something else called the Legend Water Chalets. Hmmmm... promising indeed...

I cycled for mile after mile... quite some way out of town, and after a wrong turn that brought me to the refinery and the village that services it, I finally got onto the correct road, cycled about a kilometre down it... and found out the Glory Beach Resort was a humongous development with about 2000 rooms, a conference hall, 4000 slave workers pulling erect a statue of Ra the sun God... you get the idea. Appalled I muttered 'no way!' and carried on, a sliver of hope still remaining that Legend would turn out to be a nice rustic establishment over the sea.

I rolled into what seemed to be the Four Seasons. But I wasn't going anywhere else. This was it. I was whacked and I was staying here, regardless. The glass doors opened and a uniformed door man asked 'Can I help you, Sir?'

If there's one thing I do not expect in PD, it's to be called 'Sir'. Trying to look and sound as cool as possible, I said evenly, 'I think I would like a room' to which the doorman replied 'Certainly, Sir' and opened the door for me.

Acting as if a grimy bicycle was as natural a conveyance as a Mercedes or BMW, and a sweaty body in shorts and a sports shirt as natural as one dressed in a shirt, tailored pants and tie, I got off the bike, turned to the doorman and said 'Please keep an eye on my bike - it's important to me' to which he replied he would. Sir.

Inside, the service was just as polite and deferential so I found myself a willing fly to the spider's web of profit. I found myself agreeing to rent a room a few moments before I even realised I had no idea how much rooms cost here.

As things turned out, I rented a chalet for RM 280, and as I used my MasterCard, I enjoyed a 20% discount on top of that.

I rode the bike where they directed me, and found my chalet, opened the door and stepped into a world as removed from Ismah Beach Resort as was possible.

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Friday, 26 October 2007

Changes to the Itinerary

Well, I've decided I need more time to interact with people so will be changing my route a little to give me 2 days in some locations. On the right is a proposed itinerary - note that I shall now be sticking to the coast more and will give Kampar a miss. The last few legs have not been firmed up yet as Mei is joining me in Penang and we may take a few more days off for a proper holiday.

If anyone would like to join me on any legs of the ride, please do contact me - the company will be nice, though I can't promise I can keep up. Especially on the hilly bits! If you'd like to just meet up at any of the stops, just to talk over a teh halia or something, I'd be glad to as well.

I will be updating the Google Map below to match the new itinerary as soon as I can.

I have also changed the format of the dates in the blog archive to match our standard for writing dates. Why I didn't notice this option before I have no clue...

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Day 9 Oct 23 Pantai Kemunting Part 2

There is an enormous number of chalets along this stretch of beach. It seemed that every other residence had a number of rooms or some modest separate building set up as a chalet. There were also a handful of larger, more ostentatious establishments.

The Ismah Resort sits nicely in the middle of the two types - a low-rise development comprising two rows of chalets leading down to the beach, with an open-sided function area in the middle and a small pool set back a bit. The development stretches from the main road all the way to the parralel-running kampung road by the sea. Managed by Hajjah Rahmah and, I presume, her husband Ismail, the name of the resort is obviously derived from both theirs.

I rode down the steep slope to the main office building, and met Hajjah Rahmah who gave me a discounted rate on the chalet unit closest to the beach. The whole development looked very new and I was surprised when she said it'd been around 3 or 4 years. She smiled and said cleanliness and upkeep were very important to her - and it showed.

The unit had a small verandah where I put down my wet things, and a car park lot right in front where I washed the bike down with some water. It was full of sand and grit, as were the in-facing sides of the panniers. I washed those down with squirts from my water bottle too.

Inside was a queen-size bed with fresh and crisp floral-pattern sheets, a side table, a dresser cum desk, a TV mounted on the wall and a chair. A wardrobe in one wall was set next to the bathroom. A good-sized room, the bike rolled in with plenty to spare. I was quite impressed - everything really did look neat, tidy, even new.

Hajjah Rahmah brought me a kettle and that's when the illusion started to, not shatter, but perhaps crack a tiny bit. There were two plug points in the room, one set in the wall at the head of the bed and the other, across from it and under the TV. Both were about 4 feet off the floor. The wire attached to the kettle was about oh... a foot-and-a-half long.... I eventually adapted and moved the chair over to the wall, upon which I sat the kettle and boiled up some water. Details... details...

Still, the rest of the place was very nice and clean. I saw one of the staff walking the short stretch of beach right in front of the resort, picking up litter. Talking about the beach, the yellow sand here is nothing to shout about I guess, but the Ismah Resort did have its own 30 or 40 metre stretch, bounded on both sides by trees and bushes and on this stretch they'd put up a swing and marked out a volleyball court as well.

Grace had said there was a chance I could watch as they released some hatchlings that night and I asked her to call me, whatever the time. As things turned out, she later rang and said something had come up and so I would not be able to witness this remarkable event after all.

I walked out along the kampung road for my dinner later that evening. I walked for a couple of km, found nothing much open and eventually settled on a set of stalls just starting up for the evening. I had one of the best Maggi Mee Gorengs I've ever had - with prawns and sotong among others, and topped off with slices of red chillies for that added zing. The wind was blowing almost a gale and it was a wonder the cook could get any cooking done at all! Her husband was perched on the seawall hastily banging in some sheets of corrugated roofing to block off more of the wind.

When I later told Hajjah Rahmah of my plan to check out early, and seeing that there were no other guests on this weekday, she gave me a her mobile number and told me to call her - even at 6 am. When I did that the next morning, true enough, Ismail met me at the office and checked me out, then opened the back boom-gate so I could go out. We spoke for a few minutes about my route and what I was doing and he thanked me for staying with them, then wished me well for my journey ahead.

A very nice couple and a very nice place indeed. I especially liked the care they put into the upkeep of the place. Sure, competition was stiff, but I saw lots of other chalets along the beach which were in a more perilous state, and whose owners and operators had not half the dedication Hajjah Rahmah and Ismail had. Perhaps next turtle season...
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Day 9 Oct 23 Melaka - Pantai Kemunting

Distance: 37.07 km
Max speed: 35.1 km/h
Average while moving: 16.7 km/h

Reading in bed last night, I heard a strange clattering noise. It took me a few seconds to realise it was the sound of rain on the roof. It sounded very heavy indeed and I thought it might mean a third day in Melaka. Not usually a bad thing, but I had made arrangements to meet Min Min's team at the Turtle Centre so I was anxious to get away.

At 6 am the rain was still quite heavy. I decided to pack anyway and by 7:40 when the rain slowed to a fine drizzle, my bike was packed, my bill settled and I was ready to go. The first couple of kms were fine, but the moment I left the shelter afforded by the seaside buildings, the full force of the sea breeze hit me. The rain also came down again and the two slowed me right down. At times, I could even feel a gentle push on the bike and had to keep a firm grip on the steering to track a straight line.

It certainly was tough going for awhile, even though the road was fairly flat. The further I got out of Melaka town though the more hilly it became. As I headed inland, at least the coastal winds were blocked. The drizzle persisted, however, and the bike was feeling a little rough with the sand getting everywhere. I eventually stopped for breakfast at Sg Udang where there is a forest reserve or nature park. The drinks stall owner brought me a very welcome Teh-O and also gave me directions to the Turtle Centre.

The route he suggested took me up some very long hills, but did cut the distance down a little from what the map had indicated. Some of the hills were a little sapping, but I think I'm getting fitter as they don't bother me as much as the Batu Pahat hills did.

Min Min was busy elsewhere so when I eventually got to Pantai Kemunting where the Centre actually is, I called Arvind, one of her team members who suggested I check in at the Ismah Beach Resort. It turns out the centre is only a couple of hundred metres up the kampung road and we met up a few minutes after I'd had a chance to get cleaned up.

Arvind is a recent graduate who has worked on this project for about a year. He's from KL and spends his weekdays in Melaka, returning home on weekends, except when it's turtle season when it's a case of all hands on deck for the very stretched team of 4.

He is tremendously passionate and energetic and for someone who professes to be much more comfortable with turtles (or painted terrapins for the matter) than people, he came across as very friendly and warm too. He showed me around the information centre and the hatchery.

There are registered egg collectors among the local residents. Due to the prevalence of poaching, this is a great help as during the nesting season, the eggs have to be collected as quickly as possible. The eggs from the nests on the nearby beaches are transported to the hatchery where they are reburied immediately.

There is an island nearby where this isn't possible as the travelling time is too great. Hence the eggs from there are kept in styrofoam boxes for the duration of the incubation period. The boxes are kept in a locked room and monitored for temperature and dampness.

Arvind gave me a sobering statistic: in a good season about 14000 eggs are collected. The hatching rate is about 50%, so maybe about 7000 eggs eventually hatch. A study recently indicated that only 1 in 1000 hatchlings actually make it to adulthood. This means that in a good season, only 7 turtles actually survive. It's no wonder the Hawksbill Turtle is so endangered - let's not even talk about the Leatherback Turtle which is not even seen in our waters anymore.

Despite the great odds stacked against the turtles, Arvind, together with Grace and Hafiz whom I met a little later, were not short of enthusiasm and passion. And as if dealing with natural issues isn't enough, the project staff have to face resistance from local fishermen who feel the eggs are a natural resource to be enjoyed by all. This resistance has been known to have a much more sinister and frightening edge.

In a way, I can understand the attitude of the locals, even if I realise the work that the WWF do here has a much longer term consideration. Enforcement is definitely needed, while the WWF try to educate as well.

I wasn't able to be there when the hatchlings were released to the sea, but the project does have a volunteer programme where people can sign up for a minimum of one week's work. I will definitely try to do that next season!

I've always been interested in wildlife conservation and have often spoken about my interest but as I left Arvind, Grace and Hafiz, I realised that here were three (and their project leader, Min Min) people who were quietly going about doing the work and in sometimes difficult conditions too. Later that evening I sent Grace an SMS to say I thought they were doing important work. She thanked me for the encouragement but deep down inside me, I just felt it was so little I'd actually done.
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Forever Falls - a day trip to Selama in Perak

Fishing in Oil Palm Estates It seems this part of Perak is all about waterfalls. We’d seen signboards for so many in our recent travel...