Sunday, May 01, 2011
Peak performance vs crestfallen
Cameron Highlands, 282 km.
I've cycled up Cameron Highlands before but this is the first time I'm: taking a train with my bicycle to Malaysia; cycling from Gua Musang to Cameron ie going up Cameron from the hard side; and sitting on my Brooks saddle abroad.
Day 1 and 2, Thu 28 Apr-Fri 29 Apr, Singapore-Gua Musang-Cameron Highlands (Kelantan), 137 km. I cycle to Tanjong Pagar Station to board the overnight sleeper train. I spend the night half asleep, but there's no half fare. Bicycle stands in the aisle, strapped in the hope that it will not sidle down or be molested. We arrive at Gua Musang before dawn, where I breakfast on cold rice and chicken. And carry as much water as there is space for: 2.5 litres. There's no food or water for about 90 km before we reach the outskirts of Cameron Highlands; streams and road kill don't count.
Dry rations don't serve me well. I cycle so slowly, houseflies fly circles around me like I'm a carcass. I wave them away when they land; carry your own weight! Google Maps shows the terrain to be like crumpled paper initially, then the road keeps going up and up. The long climbs are tough, as I cycle only 50 km per week, plus training for a marathon in four weeks' time.
VC surges ahead on his Surly, complete with racks, fenders, fat tyres and a 10-litre water bag. I bake in the sun, sweat drips like rain. Then it rains. At that altitude, the rain is piercing cold. Cold, wet and hungry. What more can a cyclo-tourist ask for? A fly-infested shack, where I eat nine fried bananas.
At the hotel, we're told to put the bicycles outside, and to bring it in at night. It is already evening. I say aloud, let's go somewhere else, and the proprietress allows us to put them indoors. Our last climb of the day is up steep steps, four stories high.
Epilogue: when I near the crest of hill, my spirit may rise, until I see another long climb beyond the crest, and I know there's more to come, just out of sight. What keeps me going? A "no quit" policy, no ignominy of going up a broom wagon or hitching a ride. VC says we climbed 3,250m (Cameron Highlands itself is 1,500m). I'm glad I didn't know this earlier. If I'd known the future, I wouldn't have started and I wouldn't have lasted till the end. A heavy heart is a heavy load. The other thing that kept me going: songs in my head, specifically Puffy Ami Yumi. I don't know what the Japanese duo sing, but I've not heard a sad melody from them.