OK, we can retire now. We made it through our first day of cycling successfully, cycling eighty-five kilometers, from KL to Seramban, and are now safely ensconced at the Royal Bintang Resort in town. I was quite nervous about today’s outing, since this is my first self-guided bicycle tour. I have been on a long tour before (Vietnam and Cambodia), but on that one, there was a guide cycling with us throughout, and a van following. On this one though, it is just Partha, myself, our bicycles, and our gear. Huge difference.
So, having the first day turn out to be successful is really a big deal, and I am grateful that it turned out that way. This cycling under your own wits is not a trivial thing at all, all sorts of things can go wrong. But even if the trip is all downhill from here (in a figurative sense: you will see later what I mean), it would not matter: we cycled one day successfully!
We set out from KL about an hour and a half beyond schedule, but that is the way these things go. Besides, we were spending time with family. Partha’s family, but by now, mine too. (Really! I’d just met Partha’s brother Ramu and his wife Jayshree and their son Mani about forty-eight hours ago, but already this morning, I was going: Jayshree, I want another Dosai, and then, Jayshree, I want some chutney, and finally, to add insult to injury, Jayshree, where did you put that laundry? It is a wonder she didn’t throw me out on my ear within twenty-four hours itself.)
Getting out of KL was a nightmare. I can’t describe it any other way. We had done a small practice run by going ten kilometers out on the previous day, and this mitigated our anxieties some. Partha had mapped out a route that appeared to mostly avoid all freeways and only go by what in California we call “surface streets,” but these surface streets turned out to be no different from freeways, only with more exits. Cycles were allowed on these (or so we thought–it turned out that they were only allowed up to a point). But to be a cyclist on these was to compete with cars and trucks going at sixty to eighty kilometers per hour for the same lanes. For instance, an exit would appear, and the left two lanes would wander off to that exit. But we would want to go straight, so we would have to move two lanes to the right to continue. But this meant that we would be cutting across two lanes of cars going at at least sixty kilometers per hour. YIKES! The good news is that unlike the US, cars here are used to slower moving traffic, and while they do not necessarily give way to them, they are not aghast if you gradually pull into their lanes and slow them down. But needless to say, all this was terrifying.
Along the way we got lost, of course, and took some wrong turns. But this was providential: we ended up right at the central train station in KL. A very pretty structure, here it is (with Partha in the foreground):
Our route included a twelve kilometer ride through an actual freeway called Lebuhraya Cheras-Kajan (Leburaya is freeway in Malay, this is now burned deeply somewhere in our skulls). This freeway was actually easier to ride on, since there was a shoulder most of the way, and there were fewer exits. But imagine our surprise when in about three or four kilometers, we came across a sign that clearly told us to get off and take an alternative route, no bicycles beyond this point.
Partha got his phone out and mapped out an alternative route. (He is a genius with google maps. BTW Google maps ) This is where it got interesting! The route consisted of taking a series of small roads for about twenty kilometers until we hit a road called E1. This involved getting lost every five minutes, since the roads were not always marked clearly, and when marked clearly, did not always correspond to Google maps. Our first lost-point was a coconut water stand, where we topped our fluid levels with fresh coconut water. Partha must have posted this picture to FB.
The route eventually led through an industrial street that seemed to stretch forever. At one point, Google pointed us one way, but everybody else, and the signs, pointed another. We went with the signs. It was a straight shot from there to Seramban, about 40 kilometers away. We had done forty till then.
Things got interesting around Beranang. We left much of the traffic behind, and it became more green. Also, it started to climb. The area was very lush, and I enjoyed the ride immensely. The climb got very steep around Mintan, but we did it! I must say that my Bike Friday’s gears are superb. Of course, I had ordered gears that would be very low, sufficient to climb decent sized hills, but I didn’t expect them to work this well.
I leave with you various other photos:
The scenery around Beranang
Street vendors of petai, first time I’d heard of it. Thought it was tamarind.