Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Pahang: The Raub Diaries Pt.1 - Cycling Cameron Highlands To Raub

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Pahang: The Raub Diaries Pt.1 - Cycling Cameron Highlands To Raub
Day 1 - Cycling from Cameron Highlands to Cheroh - 31st March 2018:
Distance: 129.40 km.          |          Level: Very Hard
Cycling Time : 7:30 am to 4:45pm
Cycling Time Taken : 9 hrs 15 mins. (including stops for lunch, tea, viewing tea plantations, dam, rests & regrouping and lots of photo opps.

This is blog comes in two parts, part one here is on our ride from Tanah Rata to Cheroh. Part two is on our ride from Cheroh to and around Raub Click the following to go to the second part:

Route Recommendations :
1. - The road from Tanah Rata to Ringlet is steep with many sharp bends, do ride with care.
    - From there the route continues on Federal Route 102 up till Sungai Koyan.
    - From Ringlet to the Cameron Dam the road is fairly steep with smoother bends.
    - It is after the dam that the route becomes hard with many mini dragonbacks.
2. Places of interest:
    - The Cameron Highlands tea valleys, good view point is near the Cameron Valley Tea House 2 at a rest shade loaction (GPS: 4.45704, 101.36653).
    - The Cameron Dam (GPS: 4.43057, 101.5403).
3. We drove to Tanah Rata the previous day and stayed at the Cameron Hillview Inn (GPS: 4.46871, 101.37517), a twin-sharing room at RM106 per night.
    Address: 17 Jalan Mentigi, Tanah Rata, 39000 Tanah Rata, Pahang.
    Tel: +605-491 2915
    Website: www.hillview-inn.com.
On ride day itself we stayed at Laman Pesona (GPS: 3.90276, 101.81684) in Cheroh.
    Address: Lot 3 & 4, Seksyen 4, Kampung Baru Cheroh, 27620 Raub, Pahang.
    Tel: +609-369 7892
    Website: lamanpesona.com.my.
4. Weather
    - Morning temperatures at Cameron Highlands can be cold at 12-15°C.
    - Afternoon temperatures at the lowlands can get hot, averaging at 34°C.
    There are hardly any shade along Federal Route 102, so do cover up or apply sun block solution. To avoid the hot afternoons, I would recommend starting riding earlier as soon as dawn breaks in.
5. Food
    Important Note; before and after Pos Betau, there are no food or drinks shops, so do stock up enough water and bring along some power bars, buns, etc.
   - Breakfast was chicken curry rice at Yong Teng Cafe (GPS: 4.46971, 101.3761).
   - Lunch was nasi lemak at the Pos Betau R&R (GPS: 4.24969, 101.70424).
   - Afternoon tea at Petron Felda Sg Koyan (GPS: 4.08632, 101.7784).
   - Dinner was at Restoran Sentosa Cheroh (GPS: 3.9033, 101.81429).

Riding with Wong KT is always interesting; often his routes are eye-openers that reveal to us the wonders of our Malaysian country side, of the little villages off the beaten track, of glorious natural sights. He will take us to places that we have seldom heard off before, this time it's places like Pos BetauSungai Koyan and Cheroh!
That's us at the quaint Cameron Hillview Inn. It's a small hotel which used to have a good view before other developments blocked its vista.
First a clarification, my "Raub Diaries" here does not start in Raub, but rather started at Tanah Rata in the scenic Cameron Highlands. AND it does not even end in Raub but at Cheroh, a small seldom heard of village about ten kilometers from Raub. It's just that the words "Raub Diaries" have a nice ring to it.
Our tour starts a day earlier when we each respectively drove from Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya, Ipoh, and Taiping to Tanah Rata where we stayed a night at the Cameron Hillview Inn before starting our cycling to Cheroh the next day. Wong had days earlier took a drive to recce the route, it's about 130 kilometres and "should be" downhill most of the way.

It had rained in the afternoon and the evening here was a comfortably chilly 14°C. But after a while the cold did get to us and so we opted for body warming steamboat dinner at Restoran Ferm Nyonya (GPS: 4.46987, 101.37556). The steamboat was quite good with generous proportions of healthy greens of which Cameron Highlands is renown for. The meal was reasonably cheap at RM20 per head; I would advise to order for less one or two pax as the quantities are generous - i.e. for 10pax order for eight.
While we were dining, suddenly we heard some Indian music and a procession with a colourfully lit chariot went pass. It's Lord Murugam's birthday, and the locals celebrated with this nice procession that went around the town and ended at the Sri Subramaniya Alayam.

Outside the restaurant, a van stopped by and a local man opened up his goodies to hawk and for others to gawk - Durians!
The main durian season was over, but this man still manage to get tail-end season durians from Kampung Batu 14,near a village near the Lata Iskandar Waterfalls. These were Durian Kampung, which means that they are from wild durian trees, where there was no cross-breeding and more importantly no pesticides used.


Cycling Route: Tanah Rata (Cameron Highlands)>Ringlet>Cameron Dam>Pos Betau>Sungai Koyan>Cheroh (Raub).
Distance: 129.40 km.          |          Level: Very Hard
The route starts from Tanah Rata goes downwards about 12 km. along Federal Route 59 (the Tapah-Cameron Highlands Road) to Ringlet. This stretch is steep with many sharp bends. From there its continues on the new Federal Route 102 (the Ringlet-Sungai Koyan Road) to Sungai Koyan before making a right to Federal Route 1504 to end at Cheroh.

Route elevation drops from 1,500 masl (meters above sea level) at Tanah Rata to 1,000 masl at Ringlet a drop of 500 metres; then it's another drop of 500 metres to the dam. Fifty-three kilometres from Tanah Rata it levels off to what looks like smooth gradual slopes.

We woke up to a beautiful sunrise of blueish skies with clouds tinged in red. It looked like a scene from the temperate lands; in fact at 12°C with a cool breeze blowing it DID feel like we were somewhere in Europe!
After a good, jolting cold shower, we rode to the Yong Teng Cafe to have a hearty breakfast of Chicken Curry Rice with some good, hot local coffee. Wong had advised us that along the way there will be no food OR drinks stalls, so the previous evening we had bought some buns and simple snacks, and a large bottle of water for consumption along the way. Thomas took one step further and bought took away packets of nasi lemak from this restaurant; later on we could only envy him as he dug into those delicious packets.

We kicked of with a short ride along the quieter Jalan Mentigi Utama to connect to the  Tapah-Cameron Highlands Road. From there it was steep slopes and sharp bends all the way down to Ringlet. In fact we hardly cycled and instead used our brakes more often as we coasted downhill!

At a viewpoint near the Cameron Valley Tea House 2, we stopped to take in the scenery. It's a beautiful ones of bright tea bushes that stretches all through the valley. From close by, the bushes formed a pattern of patchy green tiers that hugged the contours. From afar they looked like mossy green clinging onto the slopes. We took turns for selfies with this lush greenery background.

In this early morning, traffic was light. With shrouds of mist hanging over the roads, our ride had a mysterious feel; it was like riding into a twilight zone.

On and off Tudor style houses reminded us of the colonial past of the Cameron Highlands. It was surveyed by and named after William Cameron, British explorer and geologist in 1885. In the 1930's, the tableland was developed into one of the oldest tourist spots in Malaysia. Apart from its tea estates; the plateau is also noted for its cool weather, its natural environment of orchardsnurseriesfarmlandswaterfallsriverslakeswildlifemossy forest, and its aborigines (Orang Asli).

8:00am - after the exhilarating, cool, downhill ride we reached Ringlet; here we made a left turn to Federal Route 102 (the Ringlet-Sungai Koyan Road). It's a fairly new highway that has been built as part of the road system connecting to Gua Musang (in Kelantan), Simpang Pulai & Tapah (in Perak) and Raub (in Pahang) to make the highlands more accessible to visitors. Here too, we met a bus which was off-loading a group of Singaporean cyclists and their racing road bikes; they will be riding partway along the same route as us. That's their tour leader on the left of the above photo.

Along the initial part of this road we passed by many farmlands that were growing temperate vegetables like cauliflowers, cabbages and fruits. Most of these will be destined to be exported to Singapore.

9:00am - The weather got slightly warmer but was still in the twenties as we road towards the Cameron Dam. And the steep slopes had tapered off to gentler ones going down hill most of the way. Richard here is in his element as he sped down hill; he will be the hero of our ride as will be seen later on.
We were also fortunate that we had two support cars, one a pick-up driven by Richard's son; and the other a 4-WD driven by Ms. Ong. All our luggage, food and heavy bottles of water were put into these vehicles... Thank goodness!

Slowly development tapered off, farmlands became fewer in between, and once in a while we could see shanty dwellings on the hill slopes nearer the road. Also it was not continuously downhill anymore as the landscaped turned to one of gentle undulating slopes. Despite more slopes appearing, the cool weather made our ride still comfortable.

Now slopes did start getting harder with a short stretch of climb towards the dam. The younger Singaporeans zoomed passed us, their bright jerseys standing out against the tall, green embankments.

A slightly dim and surrealistic view of half submerged, petrified trees in the narrow lake formed by the Cameron Dam.

A group photo of us at the roadside just before above the dam. Take note of the narrow sloping road on the right.
This was probably the last photo of the day in which we all appeared smiling, as later on our smiles will fade away to be replaced by grimaces .....

And here's a view of Tan with the dam in the background. He was my roommate; being a soft-spoken fellow with a gentle demeanor, he makes an excellent roommate... meaning he did not complain about my loud snoring.... 😅

Richard's up to his antics again; riding down to the lake's edge just to get the perfect photo. He really made efforts along the way to get just the right angle, just the right lighting for his excellent photos.

After the dam, the route became torturous, with many, many mini dragon backs. Just after surmounting one slope another would appear; just after one round a corner hoping that that's the end of the slopes more would appear to dash one's hopes. Sure there was a drop of overall the elevation from 550 meters to 130 meters above sea level from the dam to Cheroh, sure there was drop of more than four hundred meters over the route ninety-eight kilometers. But as we rode along, it seemed more uphill than downhill.
The highway is new one, very well constructed with tall piers holding up the road platform spanning between hills. For most of the way, traffic was very light and it was only once a while that a car zoomed passed us.

Here we are, still going strong, with Lilian leading the pack followed closely by Tan. Slightly father behind is Wong in blue, Thomas in yellow and then Richard. Our support vehicles followed patiently behind.

And the views were fantastic; one of a "On Top of the World" feeling with mountains faraway but which looked almost touchable.

11:30am - Now this is where our story starts getting more interesting. The noon sun has raised temperatures to around 34°C, and the heat was slowly getting to us, slowly zapping our energy away. About sixty kilometers from Tanah Rata, a long, steep slope appeared; one look at that slope and Tan quickly jumped into the supporting car. From here on we would slowly drop of like flies 😥.

It was the little pleasure of going down the few long slopes just before Pos Betau that egged the rest of us on. But these long slopes were rare in between, most were just short slopes and then after that a climb. Wong jokingly stated, the slopes are so misleading when one drives - they appeared to be going down hill all the way... haha the joke's on us but it will be an experience that we forever be etched in our minds.
The worst part is that there was hardly any shaded area to stop for a rest, so we just pushed on and on until the next shady spot. It got so bad that at one point I just switched on Google Maps to see how many hills were still ahead!

1:00pm - A signboard showing Pos Betau R&R, with no other highway rest stops along the route, it's the only haven along this road. Yet.... it's still another hard 2 km. climb ahead!

At Pos Betau, this was our simple yet delicious nasi lemak meal, the sunny-side egg was an add on. Needing to cool down we requested for more sliced cucumbers. We went for this stall that stood independently away from the main food court, one that's nearer the road entrance. It's run by a local lady; her sambal which she made herself was heavenly, slightly sweet with an underlying taste of ikan bilis (anchovies). Her husband who helped her was a tall, handsome Bangladeshi, a former migrant estate worker who had assimilated well into the local community. The toilets here charges fifty cents per use; we paid up happily as they are run by the local Orang Asli children and it goes to their community fund.
Here too a few of the others dropped off (or more aptly put drop on to the support car), leaving Richard and me to continue on to tackle more dragon backs ahead.

3:15pm - Finally, signs of civilization; a petrol pump two kilometres ahead. That will be at Sungai Koyan.

Here we are at the rest stop next to the Petron Felda Sungai Koyan, having some light meals and looking more depleted (except for Richard who is still smiling widely).
This is a place that I will always remember - I had thought that Cheroh was just another seventeen kilometres away. Sorry, the heat had got to me and it was some wrong cuckoo-lation calculation on my part - Cheroh, my buddies told me was still thirty-seven kilometres away. That revelation drained me, and it was up the support car for me too!
Sorry Richard, you will have to proceed on without me.

The last leg of the journey for him was the same, more dragon backs, no shade and an even hotter angry sun shining down. At the end of the ride, he had turned red as a lobster. He was the only one among us that managed to complete the whole route of 129 kilometers; and from then onwards we would call him Mr. 129! Yeah!

This is our stay for the night, Laman Pesona Cheroh, with it's chalets nestled up on a steep, green hill. Four wheel drives ferry patrons up the steep slopes to their chalet.

After a badly needed cold shower and a short nap, we walked out to the nearby village to have our dinner at Restoran Sentosa Cheroh. The community here is Hakka and naturally the dishes serve here are of Hakka fare; we had several dishes including very good tofu; and this free-range chicken soup, one of the best ones that I have ever had, sweet, flavorful and with only a hint of Chinese rice wine.

But that was not the end of our day yet. A bonus had dropped down from the sky in the form of a durian which Thomas found at the road side on our walk back.
I don't like durians and their awful stench turns me off even more (click here to see why); Tan loved these and took several. The thing about durians is that their smell remains in the eater's breathe for hours after consumption. So for tonight I will have to bear with the odor while Tan bear with my snoring 😂; all is fair and square in life.

BURP...... SNORE..... BURP..... SNORE
(Good Night!)

This is blog comes in two parts, part one here is on our ride from Tanah Rata to Cheroh. Part two is on our ride from Cheroh to and around RaubClick the following to go to the second part:
Raub Diaries Pt. 2: Cycling In Raub.

 (For more photos of the day, click here)

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