So today wasn’t a great day. You can blame Fraser Hill.
I was quite excited this morning. I’d already gorged on some pork soup and sweet coffee and my trip plan was mapped out. KKB to Ruab, pass the Sungai Chilling Waterfalls and Fraser Hill – sounds delightful.
Everything started well, nice cool breeze, shady jungle surroundings, only a scattering of cars on the road, most of which contained enthusiastic drivers who gave me thumbs up, waved or said ‘power!’ (that was only one guy in a truck). Sometime and 14km of up-hill later I was at the falls –
Cock up number 1; the falls were closed. What kind of waterfall closes?Is it actually a dam? Does the Malaysian government have some kind of cosmic control of jungle waterflows? I thought about squeezing my bike under the boom gate and going in anyway but I got suddenly paranoid about getting fined or getting bitten by some rabies infested monkey/man/dog.
Anyway it was probably good I had a break (stopping to think about why a waterfall would only be open three days a week?) because, seeing as this was only my second day touring, I had found 14km of hill quite taxing.
Cock up number 2; I had another 29km of up hill to go. A man in KKB told me that Fraser Hill was ‘very hilly’ but I assumed he was exaggerating out of astonishment. Everyone here is astonished that I am riding a bike, riding on my own and riding long distances. Unfortunately he was the only warning I got.
I went through four main thoughts during the hill climb:
1. What a breezy day, isn’t this nice. All my friends are fools for not going me.
2. Finally I’m going to be exhausted enough to eat whatever I want.
3. OH MY GOD I JUST REMEMBERED I HAVE A MANGO IN MY BAG! I NEED THAT ENERGY NOW
4. What the fuck?! Fuck I’m tired, when the fuck does this hill end?
When I finally got to the top hill there were two signs. One pointing to Raub and another pointing to Fraser Hill. I stopped and had a long think about this, I was already buggered and I wasn’t sure if I could handle it. I decided to go to Fraser hill because I needed to eat. I was so low on energy I felt like my legs were in danger of dropping off protest to find some other less belligerent master.
Cock up number 3; Fraser Hill was another 8km, including an extremely steep 2km finale. This was an extremely hard ride. It’s the tallest and longest hill I have ever ridden up. 43km climbing up to a peak of 1.5km above sea level. I did something similar to this near the end of my trip in Tasmania but that was after almost a month of training, this was on my second day of riding. I was so exhausted by the last 2km I honestly considered skipping lunch and riding the 30km down hill onto Raub. I didn’t, I just took a lot of breaks, drank a lot of water and said fuck a lot.
Cock up number 4: If you can’t speak Malaysian Fraser Hill is a labyrinth. None of the signs have you are here markers, all of the employees give shit directions and it’s absolutely massive. I spent about an hour pumping it up and down hills until someone was able to point me in the direction of a restaurant that didn’t sell steak and chips for $30.
Cock up number 5: Fraser Hill is shite. It’s full of middle aged obese British tourists without the witt to realise they’re being ripped off. Their all out in their linen tops, khaki pants and silly hats – playing golf, watching birds and reading crime/war novels (gender dependant). What this means for me is there is absolutely fuck all to eat on Fraser Hill. There’s a bunch of hotels which look like 18th century sugar plantation mansions, a kiosk and a food court where all the local workers each. I obviously wasn’t going to pay between $7-30 for some defrosted fish and chips, lettuce salad or a stringy steak. I scoured the food court for any good deal I could find but half the stalls were closed what was left was just a hand full of bain maries with the moisture content of an Egyptian tomb. I ended up with a skimpy Nasi Lemak, a hot lemon ais (who wants hot lemonade when it’s hot?!) and some day old fish and ayam goreng. I was pretty annoyed at this stage so I thought I better go to wherever the view is here and get the fuck out.
Cock up number 6: Fraser Hill is easily the highest point in the area yet the best view you can get without paying money is this:
Thank you power line for your enduring beauty and unravelled grace. You have taught me what real beauty is.
I still kind of enjoyed it the whole ordeal a weird way. I guess that’s just a strange thing about who I am.
Some good stuff that happened:
I saw monkeys, nine of them and two were babies. I think they were macaques. They had the funniest reaction to seeing me. They didn’t seem to care about cars but when I rode up they all froze as if we were suddenly embroiled in a life a death game of red, light green light. I parked my bike and looked at them for a while. All three times the little ones would scamper off leaving just one monkey standing completely still, moving only when I did.
When I was riding up the hill a car stopped and a young couple asked if I had enough water, I thanked them for their kindness and kept going. I bumped into them on my way out of Fraser Hill and we had a nice chat before they insisted on taking a photo.
I hope to see Hock and Sheryll again.
I’m in Raub now. It’s not much of a place – heaps of cars, dirt and phone stores. The best things are my Chinese/Malay hotel owner and the roti store across the road. I spent most of the afternoon relaxing on the couch in my hotel owners living room talking about race politics (although Malaysia is ethnically diverse the Malaysian government is dominated by Islamic Malays and many socio-economic policies reflect that, with Indian and Chinese citizens particularly missing out on public benefits). At first I thought he was just a really brash guy that yells a lot but turns out he just really cares about his country and hates conservatism. He was a fascinating guy, he’s lived in like 5 different countries, he’s got two degrees but he thinks Raub is the best place so he always comes back.
Unfortunately besides the roti stall, I couldn’t find much to eat for dinner, so I just ordered a nasi goreng wrapped in egg and a milo ais from some friendly young guys running a stall. We tried to chat to each other over the meal but all that was communicated was I’m Australian and I ride a bike, he loves women shaped like lifting weights and neither of us like Robin van Persie.