67 km, 5h, max temp 41
After a nice rest day we headed off Pulau Banding; fortified after a big breakfast at the resort. We knew we would have some more climbing today, so were mentally prepared. The first big hill hit right after the bridge and we spent the first 10 km (9.9 km to be exact) climbing. The promised 15 km downhill wasn’t really as downhill as we had hoped – but it did make for a faster 15 km.
We arrived at the Indian restaurant recommended by Kat and Mike (at the intersection of highway 76 and Baling-Gerik Highway) and enjoyed a wonderful lunch. The selection of food was great and everyone was very friendly. We hung around there for a couple of hours waiting for the temperature to cool a little, which turned out to be a good choice. Shortly after Becky got up from a 30 minute nap, the heavens opened up and anything not under cover was soaked.
We were hoping that the rain would cool things off a bit, but in the end all it did was raise the humidity levels. We headed onto the uncharted (by blogging cyclists and Google Maps anyway) Baling-Gerik Highway at 2:30. The sun beat down on us as we climbed the hills, and with no wind and high humidity we began to fry. We were soon too hot and needed to seek shelter under our tarp. We sat there for half an hour until the sun went behind a cloud bank. Much more pleasant!
The road turned into one long 10 km climb that was pretty brutal at times. It was nothing when you compare it to the 38 km climb two days ago, but there were a few pretty steep pitches and we were mentally prepared for rolling hills not long climbs. Fortunately, the long climb changed into a long descent as we began searching for a place to camp for the night.
Shortly after 5 pm, we happened across a logging camp, with what appeared to be a small restaurant. The weather was looking rather threatening and we could hear thunder every few minutes, so we decided to stop and check it out. As we arrived at the stall, Mohamed-Shafiq came talk to us, and offered to check with the camp supervisor if we could camp here. Just after we got approval to set up our tent at the restaurant, the heavens opened. We raced back to the shelter of the restaurant, and Mohamed-Shafiq and his mother prepared a wonderful dinner – meat soup, fried noodles (mee goreng), Milo (hot chocolate) and a coffee for Scott.
The cover of the restaurant roof, a clean toilet and a dry concrete pad made for a much more comfortable night than we had planned. Not quite the muddy jungle floor we had been prepared for. The rain continued until almost 3 am, and Scott unfortunately stayed awake with it. Perhaps it was the traffic on the nearby highway or the rain, but most likely it was the coffee he drank. No more coffee for Scott after noon!