My Pangkor cycling adventure
Hi, I am Naz, 36 years old, mom of two munchkins: Johan 8, Johanna 4 (2006). I live in Penang, Malaysia. My cycling activities started 3 months ago when I ditched my car and got a cool 21 speed mountain bike instead.
Everyday, I ride on average 20 km (not in one shot) on busy roads in Penang. Mostly to get to work, run errands and send the kids to school. So, my fitness level reached a plateau when I realized my daily cycling did not even made me sweat anymore. My friend Jijan suggested I started cycling the inclines, I tried the hills at USM, boy, don’t they make you sweat!
However, I am still clueless about how to use the gear system properly and have been trying to find an expert who can guide me. I chanced upon a web site (this site) about Pangkor island ran by Peter van der Lans, who has been cycling extensively across Asia for the last eight years. I contacted him and he was more than willing to help whenever I have the chance to get to his base in Sitiawan.
Finally, I managed to get away for three days. It was time for my Pangkor cycling adventure. I cycled from my home to Penang jetty at the crack of the dawn (17 km), took me 50 mins. Then, went on the ferry, then went to the Butterworth bus station, when I encountered my first hiccup.
The ticket seller did not allow me to buy the bus ticket until I talked to the bus driver whether I could take the bike on board. Hrmmpph! I persisted, saying if I could not take the bike, I would leave it there and then and still got on the bus! So, I got my ticket to Sitiawan. Very cheap – RM 12.50 one way (about $3.00).
When the bus arrived, I let everyone on board first before talking to the driver, he was clearly not happy I wanted to stow the bike in his cargo space, saying there would be no space for other people luggage. Oh come on, there were hardly three bags under that bus. I ignored him, and even though had to remove the front wheel (another first – luckily my front wheel had an easy to remove latch), I managed to squeeze the bike in.
Three hours journey, arrived around noon and Peter was waiting. We planned to cycle to Lumut the next day (10 km), then take a ferry to Pangkor. Subsequently, took a round trip tour around the island on bike. Supposed to be only 17 km but what a trip it would be! Nevertheless, I was ready for my Pangkor cycling adventure and I would learn to use my bicycle in a more proper way.
It was a balmy day but I liked it because extensive heat would sap my energy faster. I loved the boat ride, it’s been a while since I took a proper holiday. As soon as we reached the island, we wasted no time hitting the road. Peter showed me the basic principle on how the gear system worked. It did not take much time for me to get the hang of it. It was like driving a car, cars only had 5 speed mostly but the bike definitely had more (even though I hardly used the big gest ones because we aim for distance and not speed).
Our first stop was the old Dutch fortress. Took some pictures. I’d seen it on tourist guide book before and quite happy finally I made it there. Then we visited the Tiger of Pangkor where Peter told me the legend behind the etched words on the rock. Interesting story. It was ironic a foreigner was guiding a local (Peter is Dutch, by the way).
We took a leisure ride into Pasir Bogak, a popular beach. We went on a Tuesday and there was hardly any soul around. Very quiet and serene. Hmm, I should recommend Tuesdays for a great Pangkor cycling adventure! * grin*. Next stop would be Teluk Nipah, now, this is when hard work was about to start.
Whoa, the first challenge, but I made it! It was a steep hill, but the reward at the end was a fantastic view of the sea. I gasped in short breaths; I cringed at the thought that this was only the starter. The main course would deter even the most seasoned of cyclists, inclines of up to 20%!
When we sailed down through Teluk Nipah (Peter cautioning me to use the brakes carefully), I was pretty wasted already. However, we stopped at one of the chalets and refreshed ourselves with drinks. I declined lunch because I know a full stomach would only kill me if I were to attempt the monstrous hill after the airport at Teluk Dalam.
We did not straight away cycle on, but went to the beach for a swim instead. I really missed the sea. I hadn’t dived for almost two years and the need to do so was enormous. Did I mention that I am a scuba diver too? It was Peter’s favourite beach. I could understand why. Very nice and clean. A bay with gentle slope but we had freak waves that day, I was thrown several times to the beach and came up with hippy hair full of sand. What a blast!
The swim definitely invigorated me. I had extra energy, now I felt I could do anything. Bring it on, Pangkor hills!
After several small ups and downs of the road, we reached the airport at Teluk Dalam, there was an abandoned resort there, complete with a floating restaurant. Then I saw the Everest. My oh my, it was intimidating.
First challenge was the steepest ever. I pushed on, using the smallest gear, did not dare to look up, just looked down on the road and pedaled. Left and right, left and right. Find the rhythm”, Peter told me.
However, I had to stop because I wanted to conserve my energy. We rested for a while to catch our breaths. I was sweating buckets. I looked down and saw the path I took. Never in my dreams had I thought I would be able to do that but I did it.
We stopped two more times before the road started to go downhill. It’s a very treacherous route. There were U-bend turns, making the use of brakes and balance really necessary.
Peter was really impressed with my achievement. He said he saw my determination and most of it was not just pure physical strength also internal strength “Cycling is mostly mental”, he said. I managed to do it because I wanted to. The feel was exhilarating, I was in ecstasy.
We arrived at Pangkor town around 3 pm. We stopped at Mr. Beh’s dried seafood (great ikan bilis!) shop to buy some for my mother. The family is a good friend of Peter’s. Mrs. Beh was having lunch and invited us to join them.
We tucked in happily. What a day. I knew I would pay for my exertion that night. Never in my whole life I have been so tired.
We took the 4 pm boat back to Lumut. Another 10 km back to Sitiawan. In total we did 42 km that day. I know what I had to do when I got to Penang. I will train more at the hills at USM and be ready to take Pangkor hills clockwise (even more difficult) next time.
If you want to contact Naz to find out more about her Pangkor cycling adventure, please fill in the following form:
Nazlina Hussin is mom of two children and writer of two great websites: www.pickles-and-spices.com and www.penangheritagecity.com. Naz lives in Penang and has a huge knowledge about Malay(sian) food and about Penang and its heritage. Since 2009 she has her own Penang Cooking Class, now available at the 5 star E&O hotel and at her own Nazlina Spice Station.