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Nightmare at Cameron Highlands

This supposedly annual event was planned 4 months before the actual date & at that time, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going for it but after much persuasion by Sandman, I finally gave in (after managing to get a few more interested parties to join in.) And that was like barely one week before the trip, so in order not to complicate matters further for our Penang hosts, we did all the necessary arrangements on our side & there was a mad rush to coordinate the logistics such as accommodation & meals etc.

We left Singapore on Thursday night and once again, were warmly put up by our Belgo host. And early next morning, after a hearty breakfast, we set off to meet the rest of the KL folks at the tollway to join a convoy up to the Tapah toll. There we were to meet the rest of the Penangnites (riders from Penang). All in all, when we reached the Tapah toll, there were like cars swarming everywhere & there were easily 80 people there. Then, our Belgo Tom had the crazy idea to cycle from the foot of Camerons to the top (Brinchang) in the hot afternoon sun. And as our convoy of the 20 or so cars started to weave their way up the roads, we all cheered him on when we passed. He finally reached the top after 4 hours and surprisingly, he didn’t look tired at all. 

Smiles before the ride. Sun is good, right? I'm tired from the drive

And while some of us decided to have a nice English afternoon tea at the Ye Olde Smokehouse, Tom still went on to join some of the other looneys (Sandman included) for a ride around the area. We ended the evening with a hearty steamboat dinner with the rest of the folks at the huge bungalow where some of them were staying. And after the dinner, we gathered around for a pre-ride briefing.

I'm too sexy for this bike

Here is a general idea of the ride. It will start of as a simple, easy 5km climb to the Boh plantation, followed by a 20km downhill, passing 3 villages along the way & thereafter a 7km extreme uphill climb and somewhere the term ‘Everest climbs’ was mentioned. I should have known then. Mistake No.1.

Early next morning at 8:30am, the United Nations contingent (from Singapore, KL & Penang, lah) gathered at the starting point. There were a total of 63 riders.

Warming up before 
the ride??!

We started out at about 9:30am & at the very start, I was already like panting & was experiencing excruciating pain down my back from the climb. And I realized too that I was wheezing very badly too, from the thin air due to high altitude and from the fact that I’d hardly recovered from my viral infection which had left me bedridden for 2 whole weeks prior to the trip (Mistake No.2). Sandman seemed to be suffering too from the thin air but Ling the Merciless was amazing at the initial 5km climb. In my mind, while going up that never-ending climb, I kept having very, very bad premonition of the 7km uphill that I was supposed to expect later. I mean, if this is meant to be easy, I really wonder what ‘Everest’ climbs meant to them. Anyway, when we finally reached the teahouse, we all stopped for a much-needed breather & a cup of tea at the famous Boh plantation. 

The view would be better if
 the climb wasn't so steep

Thereafter, it was one hellavua downhill ride. It started out pretty easy as we zoomed down the winding tea plantations tarred road. The air was fresh, the scenery breathtaking & the route was easy & yet fast. However, it was pretty dangerous as there were many hell-riders, with downhill bikes & gears zooming past me. Soon after, the trail started to get a little tricky as we descend into trails & after a while, the trails were covered with ruts all over & before I knew it, it’s got really technical & the only thing on my mind for the rest of the downhill was ‘to choose the right line’. There were a few crashes here & there but nothing major. I had to admit to causing a fellow Penang rider to crash pretty badly because of me. It was at this section whereby, in order to avoid a pretty big hole, I decided to go around it instead but without knowing it, this crazy Penang downhiller decided to do a bunny-hop over it instead & when he saw that he was going to crash into me, he veered his bike sideways & landed pretty badly on his side. I couldn’t stop in time to see how badly hurt he was so I just went on my way. It was only later at the next rest stop that I noticed that he was bleeding pretty badly at the knees from that fall which made me felt so bad & I started apologizing profusely. I went through the downhill with just a minor slip and only ended up with a slight cut. But the rest were not so lucky. People were doing endos & falling everywhere that at the end of the downhill, everybody had some blood on them. 

It was total carnage but the worst was with this lady rider from Penang who fell right in front of me onto the side of the trail. It didn’t look like a bad fall & I thought she would be fine when she picked up her bike & wanted to go on riding. However, when she looked down at the knees, she gave a gasp of horror & shouted that she’s got a very bad gash & blood was oozing out of her wound and trickling down her legs. I gave a look at the gaping wound & knew that she was in need of stitches, I immediately called for medic. Ling & Nik came along & with Ling’s first-aid expertise & Nik’s bandage, they managed to wrap her knee up pretty nicely & put her on a scrambler (our supposed sweeper) to take her out to the nearest hospital to be stitched up. Then it was Operation ‘Transport Her Bike’. She took out her 2 wheels & carried the frame with her as a pillion on the scrambler. And Tom, our crazy Beldo, biked all the way up, took her wheels, put them on each side of the handlebars & biked down the technical downhill again. Bravo!! Then, we decided to leave her bike, with one of the villagers so that some of us would be able to come down to retrieve it the next day. Therewas no way that anyone was going to climb the next 7km with any additional weight on their bike, even the scrambler.

I thought I was pretty mentally prepared for the 7km uphill climb that was to come but boy. was I wrong. The group of us, i.e. Sandman, Ling, Nik, Chee Han & myself decided to stay together to conquer this together. At the very first slope, I gave up cycling halfway & started to push instead because it was ridiculously steep. Of the group of us, only Sandman managed to climb up that first slope. And as we panted & pushed our way up the first slope, we were greeted with yet another hill to conquer and this kept happening so much so that we dare not look up anymore & just quietly pushed along. And even with pushing of bike, it was really bad as the logging trails are sandy & given the steep incline, we all have great difficulty trying not to slide backwards & to stop our bikes from rolling backwards. The blazing hot afternoon sun didn’t help things either & plus the fact that the air was still very thin, all of us are totally winded & knackered from all the pushing after like the third slope. And the funny thing was that every 50m or so, there would be riders huddling under whatever shade they could find along the trail just to take a breather & say hi to other riders pushing their bikes past them, with a ‘shitty’ look on their faces. And then we take turns to cheer one another on. After like what seemed like eternity, one rider pushed past us & we recognized him as one of the organizers of the trip. And when asked about how long more to go, we were told that we’re barely half-way through the 7km climb. Imagine the look of utter disbelief & disappointment when were were told that there is like 4km more to go. However, the slopes were a little more merciful after that & if given any other normal day, it would have been rideable but after all those pushing, we were totally left with no strength and all our legs have turned to jello. In fact, some of the guys started to develop cramps in their legs & had to stop to massage them. And to top it all off, it was like 2pm and we were starving for our lunch by now that some of them were even tempted to pluck & eat the unripe tomatoes along the way. It was indeed a sad & pathetic sight. After like pushing for another 2km, we came across another organizer & were informed that we had another 4km to go. We were in shock & didn’t know what or who to believe anymore. One thing’s for sure, our nightmare wasn’t going to end anytime soon and by now, my mind is pretty numbed beyond all emotions. For the rest of the way, you could see different riders developing cramps at different times & some tried to ride & some just had to push. Finally, while still struggling in my zombie-like state, I heard the sweetest words spoken by one of the organizers, “It’s only 500m away…………….” We stared at one another & willing each one, we all made an agreement to get off our bike for the last 500m & just finish it. Mustering the last of our strength, we pedaled & after what seemed like the longest 500m to me,  I finally heard cheering at the end of the downhill & zoomed my way down to meet the rest of the riders, but not before I had a near miss of a pretty nasty fall. One should have seen the exultations & cheers that we had which just made the whole finish looked like a celebration, which is indeed true as we survived the ride to tell the tale.

Survivor 4. Carnage in Camerons

Feeling totally exhausted but satisfied, we had a hearty lunch at 4pm & thereafter, a celebration BBQ at the bungalow again. And by the time the night ended, we had made fast friends with all the different riders as we shared our excruciating experience on the earlier ride. And it was indeed a great fellowship ride, with special thanks to our KOTRT members who made this possible & for seeing through all the details and arrangements. Kudos to them. Hope we hadn’t been too much of a pain.    

Comments or criticism can be sent to beykha@teamabsolut.net

 

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