Saturday, October 31, 2009

Le tour de Ipoh

First posted at Yahoo 360 blog Oct 2007

Even though I was 'active' in sport in primary school - active here is of course relative and played rugby for a school team that won the Perak state title, I was never known for my sporting prowess. I guess the only reason I was an 'important' member of the King Edward VII-1 primary school rugby team was my sheer size when I was twelve compared to my other schoolmates and they needed someone my size to be the scrum leader.

Other than that, you are looking at a 'kaki bangku' here!

In secondary school, I didn't make it to any school team. The closest I have been to one was when I was shortlisted for goalkeeping role in 1977 and was asked to attend training. Of course Cikgu Nawi wasn't impressed at all with my display, even after I had stopped a goal-bound ball from a senior at close range. He made it clear, and in no uncertain term what he thought of my performance when he said, "Allah goalie, sedihnya." I knew then I would not be selected.

But I do enjoy a bit of sport every now and then. Then during summer holidays in Kuala Kangsar, with nothing else better to do, I got myself into cycling. I guess after failing four driving tests in Perth a couple of years earlier (yes, you read it right; 4 driving tests!), I have no choice but to turn to cycling as it didn't require a license to operate!

I guess in 1983, that was the only toy I have at our home in KK - no internet, the PS3 or the WII and no girlfriend! And of course with the results for year's exams were known, I was under no pressure at all during my yearly vacation back home.

Ah well, those simple days!

Being a full-blooded young man at the peak of determination and energy - at twenty, I could leap tall building in a single leap! , so I decided to do something which I would now consider as stupid. I mean I would never do this again in 2007, even if I am young again.

I decided to cycle from Kuala Kangsar to Ipoh and back in 24 hours - alone!

In the 80s, the journey from KK to Ipoh is a bit more convoluted than at present. You are practically going through the circumference of a half circle, rather than going to the shorter distant radius.

So armed with my brother's racing bike that bapak bought him as an encouragement for him to do well for SPM, I started from our house in Bukit Kerajaan early one morning in late 1983 or early 1984. At that time, there was no North-South Hiway yet, so I used the old trunk road that will take me through Sungai Siput and Chemor.

So I cycled past KK town heading towards the Iskandar Bridge, crossing Sg Perak, heading towards Sg Siput, it was quite an easy journey. The road was practically flat - that's the very reason I decided against a KK-Taiping-KK trip even when it was closer. I would have to climb the Bukit Berapit, quite a steep terrain to reach Taiping and it would be reasonably tough and taxing for someone without any training.

The majestic Iskandar Bridge in Kuala Kangsar was built by the Brit - majestic, minus the extravaganza. Compare the bridges built by the government (Azlan Shah Bridge at the NS Hiway near KK) - pathetically non-descript and unworthy of the name. On the other hand, the bridges at Putra Jaya are simply a waste of taxpayers' monies.

While the road was reasonably flat, the nearby terrain was not. With rolling hills cultivated with tapioca on both sides of the trunk road, it was quite a sight to enjoy. My understanding was that it has one of the biggest tapioca plantation in the world. At one spot, one would cross underneath a railway bridge that has only one lane for both north and south bound traffic, hence you have traffic light in the middle of nowhere.

As this was the main trunk road for traffic from Penang to KL, the traffic was reasonably heavy even in 1983. I had at least one near-miss when an oncoming bus decided that he has the right of way in my lane. Luckily I saw him coming, so I stopped on the road shoulder and let him pass. I guess "might is right" in this case, though to his credit, the bus driver did acknowledge my stopping for him with a thank-you wave.

I am sure drivers are no longer as courteous as they were back then.

Even tho the bicycle was powered by a young man at the peak of his physical prowess - 'peak' is of course relative, I could only average out a mere 10 km per hour for a journey of about 50 km to my auntie's house in Rapat Setia in Ipoh, of course with the help of multiple stops for some ice tea at roadside stalls in Sg Siput and Chemor.

I reached Rapat Setia at noon. Of course my auntie was surprised to see me, not expecting me of course and my 'bike'. She commented that I looked so dark from being burn in the sun; otherwise I was in one piece, which is the most of important thing.

I stayed a night at her place before embarking on the reverse journey back to KK. I guess the return journey was more uneventful; just the way I like it.

In hindsight, I thought I was stupid as I was unprepared for the journey. No drinks, and no tools were brought along with me during the journey. Should I have a puncture, or should anything happened to me, I have no mean of rectifying it or be able to call anyone for help. Worst was that I didn't actually train for the trip. Of course then there was no cell phone for me to bring along.

As I have said I was only armed with determination and a young man's energy.

In some ways, I would say that I am 'glad' to have done it and still be in one piece. I would be able to tell my grandchildren, if I live long enough, how stupid the grandad was when he was younger to embark on such journey alone without proper car escort. Or that they would be able to read it in my blog. I would not encourage Arif or Akmal or anyoen to undertake such stupid journey that saved me less than RM5 of bus tickets.

Unless they do it properly of course.


I don't think it is safe to cycle anymore. There are just too many cars; and mostly speeding without any care for others. I would like it very much if our suburbs is cycle-friendly; that we need to only cycle to go to most places as cycling is a very efficient mode of transportation.

What did I get out of this? Nothing much I guess. Only the right to brag that I have been there and done that, like what I am doing right now.

This is me a week or so before the tour. A self photo taken at our house in Bukit Kerajaan Kuala Kangsar. I was better dressed than this of course during the tour.

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