79 km, 4h 30 min, max temp 40
By the end of today, we were beat! We did not get as much sleep as we would have liked last night – Scott likely because of the coffee he had when we arrived at 5:30, and both of us because of a loud clock that sang a tune and chimed every hour. Oh well, the rain continued until 2:30 am, so we were glad for the cover, and with the heat, it was nice to not require the fly on our tent.
This morning Mohammad-Shafiq (the café manager) and his mother (the excellent cook) gave us a wonderful breakfast. It was an interesting mix of western and Malay specialties: Rendang (yes Saille, we love it too), fried eggs and toast with kaya (coconut jam). It was absolutely wonderful and exactly what we need fuel us for the climb to come.
The ride today was mostly uneventful, with a brief 3-4 km climb to warm us up. After that it was mostly downhill or undulating hills. Still, it felt like the longest 80 km we have ridden in ages. We pretty much rode straight through, wanting to get to the hotel where we could get ungrimed, dry, and cool.
We’re back in the land of palm plantations and rolling hills, which means shade was a very rare thing. Just as we were ready to sneak under a gate to rest among some of the larger trees, a fruit stand appeared. We picked up some nice cold water, and a huge watermelon. The smallest one we could find which looked good was over 4 kg, but between the two of us, we pretty much finished it off. Yummy!
We used the GPS to find the Seri Malaysia hotel in Kulim. It brought us on a side road off of highway 67, which was a nice diversion. At one point, we saw a whole bunch of white birds standing majestically in a tree and on the ground. Then when we looked closer and noticed it wasn’t the ground they were standing on, it was a herd of water buffalo in a muddy pond! Scott stopped to get out his camera, and Becky slowed down cursing that she had put hers away. As we approached, one of the buffalo got unsettled and then the whole herd climbed out of the water and started moving threateningly toward Scott. He decided his photo wasn’t that important, and started riding again. The herd paced him for a while, like a stampede on the other side of the road. Fortunately, once we got far enough away, they stopped and just glared balefully at us. Once we got further away, we were able to stop take a picture of the herd – neat, but not as impressive as earlier.
Following the GPS directions led us along some other interesting roads, through housing estates and the Kulim High Tech Park. At one point, Becky was wondering where Scott was leading us, especially when the road ended in a ramp down to a pedestrian bridge. Scott confidently led us across (having the map sure helps), and we arrived in the parking lot of the Seri Malaysia Kulim.
The Seri Malaysia in Kulim was once a nice hotel, but is showing its age. Carpeted floors also meant that we noticed a hint of cigarette smoke, despite a thorough cleaning. That being said, we were exhausted when we arrived, and were not about to search any further. Our room is clean and ant free – probably a first for all our time in Malaysia, and with a decent restaurant and wireless Internet we don’t need to venture anywhere tonight.
The Baling-Gerik highway had no services for the first 14 km today, then occasional food stalls and small stores appeared regularly until we reached Highway 67 (26 km). Highway 67 also has very few services, but towns appear regularly, so services should be available with a few km detour.
Given the lack of services on the Baling-Gerik highway, it may be a better choice to take Highway 76 up to Pengkalan Hulu or Baling, then go straight through to Butterworth or Georgetown. Highway 76 looked much busier though, with traffic heading for Thailand.