27 March 2012
Something feels wrong with the day from the get go. My breakfast plans come unstuck, I can't find what I need in the shop, etc. Just got that feeling.
That said, the roll out is easy, with only a few kilometres on the highway before I turn off onto a southbound road through the jungle. This road bumps up and down a little, but there's no major challenges before it connects me to a quiet flat road alongside the Pahang River. This river is the longest in peninsular Malaysia, and the plan is to follow it to the sea in Pekan.
All goes to plan: I ride east, cross the river with 50-something kilometres on the clock, and turn left to keep heading downstream.
I'd completely forgotten that I was due to cross the 8,000km mark today. By chance, I clicked my bike computer to check the time, and it was right on target. My legs knew? I braked sharply to a halt and took a few photos.
Quite a few monkeys today. I'd seen a bunch by the roadside a couple of days ago, but that was a bit of a one-off. Today I see them crossing the road, jumping in the trees, and when I don't see them, I hear them crashing about. I'm careful when I'm snacking lest I get raided, but these guys seem to keep to their own business.
Pekan is another textbook small Malaysian town. Big market, maddening one-way system, a paucity of hotels. The first hotel I stop at is 'pool', which, following a bit of clarification, I take to mean full. Another place is frighteningly grotty, and completely devoid of staff. I turn up nothing else despite a search. For the second day in a row, I ride off into the unknown. It worked out yesterday, so it should work out today, right? Bad logic.
Highway 3 is desolate. No towns, tiny villages, next to no amenities. The road is right by the sea - if this were Thailand there'd be little resorts sprinkled everywhere. There's a sign pointing down a side road to some beach huts, but when I get there it's all closed up.
There's a bigger village called Nenasi which looks hopeful for a place to stop, but no - the 'motel' is silent and there's bags of cement and building tools around the place. It does have a petrol station, and I take on some fluids. There's time to make it to Kuala Rompin, which will mean I'm completing tomorrow's ride on top of today's, but it'll mean getting right to it to avoid darkness.
I start work on what becomes the monster of all late day pulls. Now I know how Jesse was able to do it on the way to Dali - put this many kilometres in your legs and things change. I hold a cruise in the upper 20s for the remaining 40km or so. I don't think, I just push. When it hurts, I ignore it. I ride through wisps of smoke across the road - it starts to smell like food: dim sum, barbecued pork. Then it fades my vision until I'm riding down a tunnel. Smoke, tarmac, bike, me and the road ahead.
Approaching Kuala Rompin, I catch up to a local cyclist who looks like he's flagging. He gets on my wheel and I pull him into town.
I get a hotel, clean up and head for food. I choose the biggest and busiest Chinese place and put in a big order. Just as I finish slurping it down with an accompanying beer, a large, sparsely bearded chap who seems to be the owner turns to me: "Did you cycle here today from Seri Jaya?"
Now, either that beer had something in it, the guy is psychic, or there's a perfectly terrestrial explanation. Turns out he'd had a meeting in Seri Jaya, and driven there and back during the day, spotting me both ways. He'd heard in Seri Jaya about a cyclist staying there and connected it up. He was curious how I knew about the quieter, off-highway route - made me feel my research was well up to scratch.
The 7-11 in Kuala Rompin has a spectacular selection of junky snacks. I fill a bag and sneak off to my hotel room to replace some calories.
188km, 25.0km/h, 7hr32min, 8133km