Friday, March 1, 2013

Cameron Highlands with JoyRiders.. A tour of courageous naiveness.

A cycling trip to the mountains... 1-3 March 2013

Francis made a birthday cake to belatedly celebrate
Gerard's birthday on board the coach!
Photo: Joyce Leong's camera

Serene and I are total newbies when it comes to road bikes, having only been cycling on the road bikes for a few months.  And certainly, attempting to cycle up mountains like Cameron Highlands was not within our radars.  But we both signed up after urging from some of our 'good' friends. It was really a blind leap of faith.
Serene at Galang Patah.
Photo: Joyce's camera

For the three days of cycling, we both only saw the backs of most riders, and we also saw the seats of the coach.

Thus this small account is merely from our points of view from the posterior.
"How tough is this Cameron Highland climb going to be?"
This question hung in our minds for weeks.
But very soon it would be answered.

Day One

Francis's muffins were
the saviour for the day
Photo: Joyce's camera
On the morning of 1st March 2013 we hauled our bikes onto the waiting coach at 5am somewhere in the heart of Newton.  Eyes half-opened. Stomachs almost empty.  Ah Yeo the driver was experienced. We have never seen 18 bikes placed side by side so nicely in a bus before.  We were really honoured to have Francis our Master Chef prepare a delightful box of muffins for us, and the lucky Birthday boy Gerard a birthday cake.  This was our first time going overseas for a cycling trip and we all really didn't know what to expect.  But the excitement was certainly palpable. 
Thomas, Marcus, Gerard, Francis,
Richard, Serene, myself, Rama
at the Nasi Lemak stall, Petaling
The coach ride up to Simpang Pulai was nice and smooth, broken only by toilet breaks, and delicious Sarawak Mee and Dim Sum at Gelang Patah, and of course the out-of-this-
world Nasi Lemak Biasa at Petaling Jaya.
Seng Keong, Richard, Francis, Serene, myself, David,
Gerard & Patrick enjoying breakfast 6am
at Kedai Kai Sing, Gelang Patah.
Photo: Joyce's camera

David, Patrick, Seng Keong & the 2 Commando Ironmen.
Forgot their name already. Photo: Joyce.

Personally I was amazed at the turn out for this cycling trips. People whom I have never seen before, different people of various shapes and sizes.  And an Ang Moh called Thomas who I heard has made this trip countless times and is one of the champion mountain climbers on bike.

Simpang Pulai

"We are going to arrive soon," announced Teh-O, our Malaysian guide for the trip.
Indeed we arrived punctually at around 2:30pm at the petrol station at Simpang Pulai.  Ah Yeo pulled up at the side and what followed was a flurry of activities.  Wah lau eh...
Serene and I really blur blur.. didn't
really know what to do.. quite at a lost.
Photo: Joyce's camera
Joyce & Serene.. LOL, at this point in time
Serene still didn't know what was to come.
Photo: Joyce's camera

Before the onslaught... LOL..
Photo: Joyce's camera

Joyce was very fast in getting everyone to fall in line and to take a group picture at the petrol station.

Yes, so it came down to this.
Patrick, me, Seng Keong & Gerard setting off.
Photo: Joyce's camera
Day one, 3pm. The sun was beating down at the 18 of us as we hurried ourselves pumping tyres, filling water bottles. Everything happened so fast.  Serene and I didn't really have time to prepare ourselves.. not that we didn't attempt to prepare ourselves mentally on the bus trip.  But being truly newbies, we didn't know where, nor how, nor what, and definitely nor why. 
"Ok OK, come! Let's move out!" shouted Joyce.  And Ah Yeo waved us off with the white Joyriders flag.  Just like that.  No fanfare, no nothing.

Serene & myself were among the last few cyclist.
Photo: Joyce's camera
I really needed to say this again - I didn't know what exactly to expect.
It was a pleasant surprise to find the condition of this new road far better than what I had expected.  Wide road shoulders, smooth road surfaces and a nice holiday-feel made the initial ride quite enjoyable actually.  Serene rode slightly ahead of me at this point.  Naively she and I each carried a walkie talkie, thinking that we could communicate like this.  But somehow after a while, the walkie talkies either didn't work or we were too tired to use them. Haha..
Very soon after the start, those fitter and faster riders were already cadencing themselves way ahead. A few turns of the road, and we have lost sight of them.  Even Gerard, with whom I vow to ride, also disappeared from my sight after a sharp turn round a bend.
Joyce was one heck of a fast rider.. her experience
shone through.  Our highest respect.
Photo: Joyce's camera
I walkie-talkies to Serene: "Hey, let's do it steadily at our own pace."  I was hoping to keep her morale up.
When we hit the 7.5km mark, the slope became an unrelenting zig-zag of uphill. I remembered looking at a gradient map of this part before the trip and saw around 2.5km
of upslope climb.  Both of us were quite breathless shortly into this rise.  Although we reminded ourselves not to, in our anxiety, we ended up trying to chase and hopefully to catch up with some of the riders ahead of us.  I looked back and could see Beverly and Rama behind.  They were clever.  They kept their own paces and really conserved their energy.
"My heart rate is at 170/min!" cried out Serene over the walkie talkie.
"I cannot. I cannot any more." She said, totally breathless.

Me struggling on the uphill climb.
Photo: Joyce's camera
It was a tough job for me. I had to battle the slope myself, and yet had to encourage her along, despite myself being not so sure if I could make it.  
David & the two Ironmen John & Alan battling the rain.
Photo: Joyce's camera.
My memory took us back a couple of months ago, not long after Serene and I bought our road bikes, and crazily signed up to cycle up Cameron Highlands with The JoyRiders.  The boss of the bike shop looked at us with a funny look and nodded. 'Cameron is tough," his kiwi accent coming through thick and strong. "But I'm sure you both can do it."
And we thought we could. We joined JoyRiders for the morning rides, we rode on our own, we cycled with our friends.  We gradually increased our distance.  And we changed our rear cassettes to a mountain-climbing one, strongly advocated by Joyce.  But little did we know, compared to those who trained intensively for this trip, we we did was really insignificant.  But perhaps it was good that we didn't know before hand, for our ignorant carried us thus far.  The sun was still scorching hot. 

Richard just cheong-ed in the heavy rain.
Photo: Joyce's camera
But as if by magic, at around 3:45pm dark clouds gathered and the sky opened on us.  I wasn't sure if it was a better thing to cycle in the hot sun, or in the heavy rain. Both was just as demoralizing for a couple of new riders.  Serene and I were totally drenched.  And I believed her spirit was too.  The constant upslope finally took a toll on both of us. We burst our Lactate Threshold heart rate all the way. Despite that we still managed to grind the pedals on our lightest gears up to the 12km mark where the coach was waiting.  

Ah Yeo the driver was eyeing us.
"Hey, you all better come up the coach," he cried out. " This is only the 10km mark. The rate at which you are going you won't make it up in time."

Patrick really steady. At this point he
was totally jovial.
Photo: Joyce's camera
Francis never say give up.
Photo: Joyce's camera
"Ah Yeo," I said. "Please give us one more chance. We will try out best. If later on in front we still cannot make it, we will go up the bus."  Reluctantly he agreed.  I was not sure if his odometer was correct. Mine said 12km but he said it was 10km. Heck lah, whatever. We just struggled on.
The rain pelted down on the wet road, and on the drenched riders. And the gradient gave 
little respite. Serene and I had to stop two times in the middle of a couple of upslopes just so to take some breather, take some gel, and drink some water.  She was suffering, I could see it. And times like this I wondered why on earth had I gotten her into. 
"Come. Let's go on. Pedal by pedal. Sure can make it one," I encouraged her, as if by doing so I could gain some encouragement for myself.
By now, everyone was ahead of us. We were the last two in the team.  The nice trees and vegetation and lovely scenery at the side held no attraction for us two. The lightest of gears helped little for thighs filled to the brim with lactic acid.  At the 20km mark, we were so relieved to see the coach waiting at the side of the road.
This time, we willingly gave ourselves in.  Sitting in the coach slowly moving up is a total relief, finally, from the wet outside.

And as the driver drove, we looked down and saw our teammates all working their hearts out.  One by one we could make them out- Rama, Beverly, Francis, Alan, John, Patrick, Thomas, Richard, David, Gerard..  The poor fellows must be suffering down there, we thought to ourselves. 

At the 35km mark, Ah Yeo stopped the coach at one side.
Seng Keong & I happily got down to
continue our final leg.
Photo: Joyce's camera

"Ok, you can continue the rest of the journey from here," he said. For what it was worth, I was going to give my all to complete this last leg of day one. But for Serene, this day has taken everything out of her and she was spent. Ok lah, let's just let her rest on the coach.
Hopping onto my bike for the second time today, I spied Gerard in the distance.  The knowledge that I could not make it alone, and had to draft behind someone provided me the push to hasten my cadence to come close to him.  And followed him tight I did. And boy, was this last 18km enjoyable!

It was a whole stretch of rolling hills. What went up would come down. I was glad to have Gerard as my pacer. This fellow's cadence was as constant as clockwork. I kept at his rear wheels. Although my heart rate was never below 150/min this last 18km, it was so much more pleasant because we had many chances to hurl ourselves downslope at 40-50km/hr. More so as I had him take the brunt of the air resistance in front of me.
Strangely, I did not feel as tired as the first 20km of the ride. And for the first time I could even 
enjoy the scene around me.

We passed by strawberry and vegetable farms, and small restaurants as we climbed higher and higher. 

The odometer read 53km. The end point must be near already. Then suddenly we heard voices calling at us from the left. It was Marc, Erik, Remus and Peter who have arrived much earlier and were having a cuppa in one of the restaurants.

Gerard and I sat down on the varanda on the second floor.  I was really really tired, and could hardly talk.  But those Ang Mohs and Peter Li they were having a good chat.. as though it was a ride in the park.  I took a good look at them, and I didn't know just how on earth these powerful riders do it with such ease.  Cameron Highlands leh!! Not Mount Faber, for goodness sake!

[Courtesy of Joyce's camera: Remus, Erik, Marc, Gerard (distracted for some unknown reasons), Peter, Thomas and yours truly.]

[Courtesy of Joyce's camera: David the Oltre.]
Dishing medicine at dinner, Brinchang.
Photo: Joyce's camera

Restoran where we had our dinner.
Brinchang. Photo: Joyce's camera

Lesson learned for the day?

Do not chase the fast riders from the word go. Do it at your own pace.
But if your own pace is still not good enough, then go home and train some more before you take on Cameron Highlands again. Whatever suffering we had melted into nothing when Joyce brought us to Brinchang for our steam boat dinner. But aching thighs were aplenty, and the drug pusher dished out their usual round of anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants.

Well deserved dinner.
"Wah lau eh.." lamented Richard. "I was just short of the distance by a little bit only. Nah.. the fellow refuse to let me go. Die die also must pull me up into the bus..."
Yeah.. that was what happened to quite a number of us.  But in hindsight we could understand why because we have a timeline to hit.  Once it turned dark, we couldn't be still cycling on the roads.

The night ended pretty early at our hotel at Titiwangsa Hotel, some where between Tanah Rata and Brinchang.  I discovered to my horror that in such climate, heart rate straps and gloves don't dry.  Man, I just had to don all these still damp, the next day. 

Day Two

Photo: Joyce's camera

Another early day. We set off at 5:30am on the coach to our start point somewhere below. Why wasn't I surprised - It was another petrol station! On the bus-ride down, Joyce gave instructions on how to make our way back to Ringlet, and which turn to take to head towards Tanah Rata, which would be the end point of the day. Outside the coach, everything was in darkness. We munched our dry buns and whatever bars we had for breakfast as the coach descended. The teammates were muttering how steep it felt going downhill on the bus, indirectly implying how tough it was going to be cycling back up later. Today was supposed to be a 92km of gruelling ride.  

7:30am. Misty misty dark dark.. We couldn't see the road, not to mention
even our own selves.  Photo: Joyce's camera

"Dar, I don't know if I can make it or not leh," quivered the young lady.

I looked at her: "Hey, Dar. Today will be tough ride. Never mind.  Riding in the mountains is very different from riding our flat Eastern Loop back home.  You try your best and see how far you can go. I would be very happy if you can complete 20km of the ride. That would be good enough for me."

Richard, David, Francis, me, Serene..
led by Patrick, setting off.
Photo: Joyce's camera

Francis reassuring me & Patrick that
this day will be an Epic one...
Photo: Joyce's camera

So at 7:30am, with mist hanging in the air and the first light streaming through the clouds, we gingerly pedalled from the petrol station that Ah Yeo dropped us.  Funny thing was, this day felt different from the day before. The weather was nice and cool. And that mist shrouding everything around us kind of made the ride more pleasant, as if we were riding in dreamland.

Thomas really King of
the Mountain ~ No lasa!
Photo: Joyce's camera

Thomas Heed, our five-times Cameron Highland veteran, said earlier: "This second day is easy.. The first 75km would be rolling hills, easier than the first day. Only the last 15km would be tougher." With that reassurance, we pedalled off.
For some strange reason, Serene went like a rocket. As though overnight some transformation had taken place. Indeed, it was a rolling terrain. A little bit of ups, and a little bit of downs. 
At some parts the downs were very nice slope and we could simply let go and let the speedometer hit 50+km/hr.   The weather was really classic-Cameron-cool and the breeze tore through our helmet vents.  I was floating in the blue mist of Never-land, with cliffs and mountains in the distance.  So this was what cycling tour overseas was about!
For once, I was telling myself: "Hey, if this is what is going to be for the great majority of the ride, I bet Serene could complete it."

Gerard opened fire right from the beginning. Joyce
kind of had to chase him for a certain distance..
Photo: Joyce's camera

As usual, right from the word go, the fast cyclists were gone. Poof! Just like that. Marc, Erik, Remus, Peter, Thomas, Gerard ~ all raring to grab the first bite of the famous steak at Jasmine Restaurant up at Tanah Rata.  Well, I would gladly let them enjoy their spoils of the race first while we slowly engage the hills. 

The 20km mark came 

Ah Yeo and Ah Teo were waiting with the coach at the side, cheerfully distributing bottles of 100 Plus, generously contributed by Richard. 

Serene asked Ah Yeo: "Can I stop now?" 
Ah Yeo: "What? Now? No lah! You are doing very well. You are not the last. Keep going!!" Serene: "You sure?" 
Ah Yeo: "Yes lah! Keep going! I will be in front waiting for you."
Today the lady was in high spirit!
Photo: Joyce's camera
So off we went again. The terrain wasn't much different for the second 20km. Also lots of ups and down. A totally enjoyable roller-coaster of roads. David, Patrick, Serene and I took turns over taking and going in front. At certain parts the down-slope was pretty steep and we had to apply quite an amount of braking force to slow ourselves down.  Serene hates zooming down slope for she fears that she would not be able to stop in time.   So each time all four of us sped down, she would be screaming her lungs out calling for her Mother.  Pretty entertaining for us.

A distance ahead, we could see John and Alan powering themselves side by side, hill after hill. These two fellows were power horses.  Indeed, unfazed by whatever terrain, they would just keep their paces constant.

I found myself almost catching up with them before I lost them again as they mounted a peak, rolled down the hill and disappeared out of sight.  As the four of us rode, I suddenly felt myself overwhelmed by emotion.  I couldn't explain it. 

Good weather, good form, good condition - this Serene pushed on.
Photo: Joyce's camera
But I could feel as if my bicycle and myself were connected to Mother Cameron the mountain.  It was a weird sensation. Here I was, cycling and pushing my pedals on the roads of Cameron. And the mountain herself was like a Mother, smiling down at me.  Every kilometre I gained on her road was a kilometre she yielded  willingly  to me.
If was as though she was telling me to work hard to earn them, every single inch of the road I would need to earn them myself.  And when we mounted the top of a peak, she would reward us with a effortless roll down the slope.  It was as though she was watching us, encouraging us, protecting us. Like a stern Mother, she kept us close to her bosom, but at the same time, kept us in line. I have never had such feeing of connection with a mountain. Seeing Patrick right in front of me, and Serene and David a short distance ahead, it was as if we were all small little toddlers climbing up onto the arms of Mother Cameron.  Such a funny feeling that would have be ridiculed by all my teammates, I felt ashamed to even express it.  To me, we were not here to conquer the mountain, for she was unconquerable. We were but mere ants, given a chance by her generosity, to reach where she willingly yielded us.

But this sudden realization was enough to gave me a renewed strength to cycle on, for the closeness with the mountain was perhaps something that I had been seeking all these while.
David rode close to me: "Wah, your Serene is quite inspiring the way she rode today, isn't she?"
I replied: "Yeah, David. She is not too bad today huh? I think a good night of rest and a good dose of encouragement have really done wonders."  

Right at that moment, the woman herself came zooming past us and cheong-ed down the slope, and David went chasing after her, leaving me cycling behind Patrick.  Suddenly a funny noise came out of Patrick's rear cassette. We stopped to examine the problem. It seemed that he had difficulty engaging the largest two rear cassettes,  because the chain kept slipping off.
"Hmm.. must be something to do with tuning?" I asked.
"But I just tuned it before coming to Cameron ah," replied Patrick.
"Never mind lah. We can't do anything about it at this point in time. Let's just try to go on."

40km mark
So the nice, cool weather on this morning of our second day saw us through to the 40km mark where again Ah Yeo and Ah Teo were waiting with 100 Plus in hands at the  side of the road.
Serene asked: "How? Can I stop now?"
Ah Yeo: "No lah! Go go go.. Keep going!"
Serene: "Really?"
Ah Yeo: "Yes.. Just go.  I will be in front."
Serene: "Ok ok."

Ah Yeo the driver at one of the few stops to monitor
the riders. Photo: Joyce's camera
But here's the catch. Ah Yeo then revealed: 
"Ok guys, from this point onwards it is going to be upslope and upslope. Be prepared."  Hearing this, my heart sank. Aiyah.. I was just beginning to enjoy myself.  Ah Yeo was right. This third 20km was getting to be tougher. We rode through longer stretches of winding upslopes. These stretches were not that steep in terms of gradients., but were longer, offering lesser chances of recovery.  We rode through fallen big tree, landslides, freshly killed monitor lizards (victim of motor vehicles), and bits and pieces of birds and smaller reptiles stuck to the road surfaces.  And we rode through long bridges that were upslopes themselves (crazy!) and as the kilometres went on, we found ourselves spreading out.  David was way ahead already, his lean body taking him to greater heights faster. Patrick was in front. And Serene and I were behind.

John and Alan were nowhere to be found. We only managed to see them much later when they took a long long rest at the side of the road, smiling, chit-chatting to each other and taking pictures of the place.  The terrain got tougher for both Serene and I. I was about 50 metros ahead of her, panting like crazy.  I could remember again and again, talking to her over the walkie talkie: "Ok, there is another slope ahead. Just do it slowly at your own pace. Don't chase. Just do it slowly. You are doing good."  I knew well

"My heart rate is 160!" Serene cried over the walkie talkie. "I got to stop for a while."
"Ok, let's look for a flatter ground to stop and have a bite."

This Richard was a power horse going up the
slopes of day 2. Couldn't see him at all.
Photo: Joyce's camera
This third 20km was indeed more difficult. Serene and I took small breaks every perhaps half an hour, and pushed off again, only to find ourselves winded merely a few hundred metres down the road. We tried keeping a steady pace. But the steady pace simply wouldn't come.  There were construction workers at the side of the road, and villagers and children. We were very encouraged for almost every one we passed gave us a smile and a wave.  There was one Indian construction gentleman who called out to me: "Keep it up! Keep going!" in perfect English. My goodness. I don't think any cyclist would ever receive such heart-warming support back home.

65km mark
We were both pushing at our Lactate Threshold already. And it was more than a few times that Serene complained of cramps in her legs.  We cycled past a small town where a group of school-going children were waiting by the road side.  A long winding right turn loomed ahead, another slope up. The gradient was picking up once again and I was getting prepared for another session of teeth-gritting grind.  Far away, half way up that slope I could see a black dot. That was Patrick taking a breather and having a sip.  Then I heard from behind me, Serene calling.

"Dar, I cannot make it already. My legs are cramping up!"
"Ok, you have done well. Don't worry. Let us wait for the coach."

As if by magic, at that very instance, Ah Yeo and his coach came right behind us and stopped as i waved him down.  Serene got up and I continued my suffering.  Slowly i made my way to Patrick.  "Patrick," I said. "It's now only you and I. Let's make this last part together ok?"
And indeed we stuck together for the last stretch up. In retrospect, I consider myself very lucky to have Patrick leading me. For at this point it was purely mental already.  Lactate acid clogged thighs and burning lungs were what we both had left.  And the unrelenting winding of the 15km to the final petrol station was awful. Turn after turn, Patrick and I would look down and grind our largest rear cog to hope that the next stretch would be a downslope. But time and again we were disappointing for what met us was flat road, some even with some upward gradients.  At times, when the road appears to be a downward slope, we were surprised to find that we were still cycling at speed of 7-8km/hr. So downward slopes were not downward slopes in these parts of Cameron Highlands.

I shouted out to Patrick: "Hey buddy, any time you are ready to take a rest, i am more than happy to follow you!" And Patrick nodded. I think he must have been just as tired.  We saw more and more buildings, vegetable farms, people and smoke-spewing trucks.  The landmark stones on the side of the road indicated the distance to Ringlet. I made mental count of the remaining distance.

10km to Ringlet
Gerard was real fast.  Amongst us, he was the first to arrive
at the petrol station at Ringlet. Photo: Joyce's camera
Patrick and I took a rest in the middle of a slope. We gulped down a gel each, and I finished the last drop of water on my Camelbak. Having one more 700ml bottle of water on my bike was such a consoling thought. We looked at each other and agreed that this last 10km would probably take another 1 hour or so at the rate we were climbing. Inside my heart, I already decided that once I reach Ringlet, I was going to stop. The last 12km of killer gradient up to Tanah Rata can wait for another trip when I am in a better shape.
The distance got closer and closer. We stuck our necks out to search for the coach but still could not find it.  6km became 4km, which became 3km and finally 1km. We came to a bus stop and stopped for a rest. Far ahead we could make out a black dot. It was Richard.
"That's Richard!" I exclaimed to Patrick.
"Yah. But where is the coach?"
"Must be somewhere in front. Not far already."
Joyce arrived at the station.  And she was already
getting ready to attack the last 12km.
Photo: Joyce's camera
Richard was really quite something.  Right from the start of day two a few of us had already lost him to the front riders.  He was apparently right up with the front peloton cycling with Joyce and the fast riders.  And it took Patrick and I almost 80km before we finally saw him again.  Man, the fellow rides like a bull on steroid.  Hats off!

Patrick & I crossing the last junction to arrive at the petrol
station, both of us having no more juices left to squeeze.
Photo: Joyce's camera

This last long stretch of climb was, I later realized, a Hors Categorie climb. Patrick and I had to push our bikes up to the top of the hill, before we mounted it and started cycling again.  And true enough, way ahead sitting comfortably in the shades of the petrol station in Ringlet, was our coach.  A pair of very relieved cyclists we were as we pumped out thighs the final few times to close the gap.  Honestly at this stage, I was really fatigue. 
My thighs and calves were about to go on strike, and I believe my energy level was also very low.  I still had several mars bars with me, but I was too tired during the last stretch to even reach for them and eat them.
80km was our distance done today.  But in all respect, it was good enough for a group of Cameron Highlands virgins.  We still owed Cameron another 12km on this day. But that can come another day.  Meanwhile we needed water, food and plenty of rest.  By the time we arrived at the 80km mark, the fastest 6 riders were probably already up at Tanah Rata's Jasmine Restaurant enjoying their steaks, lamb chops and smoked ducks.  Those guys were fantastic. 
Serene giving Richard the thumbsup as he finished his
last metres to the petrol station.
Photo: Joyce's camera
Here at Ringlet, we continued to be encouraged by our guys arriving one by one, each as determined as the one before and after him.  These fellows are made of solid stuff, I remembered making a note to myself.  They never say give up.
Lesson learned today for myself ~  Really got to pace ourselves. Recover on the downslope.  Nutrition and hydration were very very important for long rides of several hours like these.
Peter Li & Rama at Jasmine.
Photo: Joyce's camera.

Lunch @ Jasmine
For lunch, we were ushered to a quaint little restaurant called Jasmine restaurant where they served nice western meals and steaks.  Spirits were high, as all the riders accomplished what they set off to.  The fast Ang Moh Marc was the first one up to
For the motion blur & all.. this shot really captured the mood of the day with job (completely or partially) accomplished.
Photo: Joyce's camera

Jasmine Restaurant.  And David and Gerard were in obvious euphoria for they were among the front riders.  Gerard just couldn't get enough of sending images after images of his meal, his drink, his selfie at the restaurant up to Facebook.  Of course, he had every bragging right.  David was deserving of that right too, but he was so enjoying the relief of completion that his brain temporarily shut down, albeit for only a few tens of minutes.  The boys and girls just ordered and ate.  And for an hour or so, the fatigue of the day was forgotten.

All showed & changed and ready for a good meal. Photo: Joyce's camera
That evening we were treated to a dinner of steamboat in the hotel.  It was nice warm food and fresh Cameron Highlands vegetables, several dishes of which were free flow.  The temperature on this evening was certainly colder.  And we gave each other pats on the shoulders for a job well done.  At the beginning of Day 2 we weren't really sure how much we could complete.  But the fact that most of us did all the way up to Ringlet was a great consolation, especially for newbies like us.

Waiting to be served.
Photo: Joyce's camera

I settled into our room that evening, frowning at both my pairs of gloves which were moist and damp beyond description, and a heart rate strap that refused to dry.  Despite Serene's valiant efforts, both my JoyRiders jerseys were still soaking wet. Well, tomorrow I just had to start with a nemo jersey... and wet gloves.
Another lesson learned.  Always bring many many extra pairs of gloves.

Day Three

The day of downward spirals.
Early breakfast 5am
Photo: Joyce's camera

If all hill climbing were solely of downhill, it would take the fun out of cycling on hills.  For one must suffer the climbing in order to enjoy the downhill rush.  On this last day, the group was visibly much more cheerful for this was in many ways, a relaxed ride downwards all the way the 50 odd kilometres.  The brave group started right outside our hotel that wet, rainy morning, comprising of all the fast riders, and some bravehearts including Gerard, Rama, and Beverly.  We flagged them off as they nonchalantly glided down the slope.

The fast group started from just outside the hotel.
Photo: Joyce's camera.
A smaller group of us started lower down at Tanah Rata, just outside Jasmine Restaurant.
Richard said: "Come lah, you guys. Let's start at Tanah Rata. We missed that last 9km of hairpin up on the climb yesterday, but at least we could do the 9km of hairpin down today."
Very true, what Richard said.  So decided we all did. And we took off from Tanah Rata while Joyce the Snail Queen when marketing for her fresh vegetables with Serene.  
Naughty boys we were. Haha..  
David & Richard were ready to break their
own speed record spinning downhill today.
Photo: Joyce's camera
But I must say, this 9km of hairpin was very nice. Downwards all the way. The vehicles were very considerate. They would give us wide berths as they passed us, and a few would even slow down to wait until we make the turn before overtaking us on straight roads. Fantastic drivers, the Malaysians were.  
Arriving at Ringlet, we rendezvous with Joyce to head down the old road to Tapah.  It was really all about the handling of the bike for this third day's ride.  
Joyce caught up with us at Ringlet before the final cheong
downhill. Photo: Joyce's camera
Richard arriving at the end point.
Photo: Joyce's camera
The old road to Tapah wasn't in the best of conditions, although Joyce said that it was worse last time.  
Still, we encountered multiple pot holes and uneven road surfaces and the acuteness of the angle of the turns was something that we had to be very careful about as we rounded them because vehicles coming from the other side would not be able to see us until the last moment. Thus we went with our front lights and back blinkers blazing.  
Finally! Finishing car park!
Photo: Joyce's camera
Going downhill on bicycles was something in which experience in reading road conditions and adjusting speed while making turns count. I had neither. Thus I opted to follow close behind Joyce the Snail Queen and Thomas all the way. And was I glad I did because it was reassuring to see how she sat, and to follow the path she took.  One hour plus was all the time it took for us to arrive at the bottom where the coach was waiting before the Toll.  Despite my being so new, I still felt the exhilaration of wind screaming through my helmet as we sped downwards.  
Gerard went back to check on the two Ironmen, one of whom
had a punctured tyre close to finishing.  A good driver passed
by and ferried them to the end point.
Photo: Joyce's camera.
After a good shower and a change at one of the Rest stations along the Highway, we made our way to Bidor for a herbal duck soup and char siew lunch.  And from there it was a nice and relaxing coach ride all the way back home.

Cycling up Cameron is not easy.  But with sufficient training and preparation, one can certainly accomplish it.  Serene and I, and a few of us in the group, have only been cycling on road bikes for about 4 months.   But if relatively newbies like us could complete a great part of a cycling trip up Cameron Highlands, it meant that many other would be able to do so too.
A cycling trip like this was so rewarding because just in one trip, we had all learned so much about cycling techniques, about our weaknesses and our strengths.  And we have also arrived at the conclusion that no amount of cycling up Mount Faber would give us the enormous experience a real mountain like Cameron can.  Thus for any one who would want to attempt a cycling trip up Cameron, my answer is a straight yes. Prepare yourself, but prepare to suffer.  I am not a fit cyclist. But I am sure this is not the last time I will be cycling on the roads of Cameron Highlands.