road riding in Penang | Malaysia

Big heart little feet - Camp Cameron 2006 Part I
June 2006 | by Jimmy Tan | photos by Finian Lee and Teoh Ween Sze


Go out they said. Go out to battle, to crucify the demon in us. Come back battered, bloody and cleansed. Cleanse, cleanse yourselves off the grim of your daily grind. Soak yourself in your personal triumph. Come out, like a warrior, clean and ready for battle of a new day.

That's us, the whole CR gang on our annual trip to Camp Cameron. To the experienced and initiated ones in our group, Cameron is just another battle stimulation… a run in the park. For someone like me, wide-eyed with "WOW!" written all over my forehead, packing and getting some sleep the night before is a challenge by itself.

Waking up just a few winks before the sunrise to grab breakfast and haul my butt over to Samseng Sekolah 1's place (i.e. Edwin's house). The plan was to meet up there and organise ourselves for the drive down to Simpang Pulai. Like busy bees we were, at Samseng Sekolah 1's place, loading our bikes and gears, and hitting the loo before the journey. Off course our precious babies have to be checked and rechecked numerous times with delicate and trustworthy hands before we even move a single inch. All foams, bits and pieces of straps in place… good, finally we are ready to go.

Ready to go.


And now, we take a moment to break for our sponsor/thanks: Thanks to Ee Pheng we got some walkies to keep us company and awake for the drive.

Ee Pheng with "Madame Le Tulippe", Hooi Kiang.

Like all Champions, we need to have our breakfast. As agreed, we stopped at Bukit Merah rest area. Food at rest area was never something to hu-ha about, but it gets the job done… unless you have Dunkin' Donuts. But not this morning, it's nasi lemak, mee and coffee for us.

Back on the road again, some of us we trying to catch some much needed Zzzzs. I know I was in lalaland all the way till the next stop at Simpang Pulai. The circus has hit the town. Like a caravan we stroll into Simpang Pulai Toll stop area. All the riders were getting into their bibs and jerseys…....I call mine Superhero costumes (am sure it looks like one if you wear your speedo over it). Ta da…my super name is Samseng Sekolah 2. My super powers are invisibility when no one is around. Putting on the war paint a.k.a sunblock and going about getting our food ration and bikes ready. Wait-wait, wait a minute, can't start riding yet without group photos. Got to look good… smile, one for the album. Damn, where's my comb?

It is almost 10:00am when we started our ride. Enthusiastic and positive vibes have put us in the right frame of mind. Never mind the sun, we were going to feel cold soon enough.

5 km into the ride, the question of "Are we there yet?" kept popping up in my mind. How's that for epic? It was an easy rolling start with jokes and laughter thrown in. Good, keep it that way and we will be all good. And you got one pair of happy legs in Brinchang. But noooo..what looks like a calm easy ride will have the whole gang blown to bits.


Now for some word of our sponsors before we get back in to action: Try le Tulippe's oatmeal cookies for your post ride munchies… yummy!!

Yes..a big No..No!.. the IronBoy/Budak, the instigator picked up the pace a notch. Soon the rest of us responded by hitting the accelerator on Kilometer 10 about a good 20 minutes into the ride. Edwin was the first to back off. At the pace, and the gradient of the terrain I couldn't agree with him more. I can see the suffering faces. Finian was hurting too but he soldiered on. Tenacity, my friend. So was I, until the 'ikan bilis' I had earlier at breakfast suddenly came alive and started swimming upstream in my throat. If suffering is cleansing, this isn't one of them. "Back off the steam, boy", I tell myself. Won't want to blow it , and it's just only first round.

'The rhythm of my heart is beating like drummer' (Rod Stewart) - somehow that tune just started playing over and over in my head. And the situation I'm in now couldn't be more agreeable with that song. Here we are, about an hour plus into the ride, Melvin and Ian were way up front, battling it out mano-a-mano. Budak has dropped back a bit and is now riding on his own with the main "group", (myself, Darren and Finian), right in the middle. Edwin was off the back. He might be at the back but definitely not alone as somewhere along the way were 3 beautiful 'tifosi' cheering us on, taking photos, and replenishing our 'bidons'. This has definitely lifted our spirits. It's definitely a better sight than the granite we faced on our right as we grind up the gradient. I could have sworn our name was shouted all over the mountain top. Now I would have been in skinny wheels and thigh pants' heaven, if I were to see my name painted on the road.

Ian "The Terrible" (left) and Melvin putting on the gas.

As we ascend higher into the clouds, cold breeze started to caress our skin. Mild and gentle. Now, that's a reassuring sense as we hit a tempo we can sustain individually. The very feeling that Kampung Raja is looming near also helped. The small town at the edge of Cameron range, the first actually if we came from Simpang Pulai. It is kind of a trading post for the farmers up in Cameron range. Yes, Kampung Raja, where we will have our first proper break and some hot food after 3 hours odd in the saddle. It was a relief as we hit the junction and take a turn to descend down to Kampung Raja. Odd-looking people with space-like helmets and funny attires have invaded this town. Couldn't help but attracted few stares here and there as we entered the restaurant. The restaurant was packed to the brim as well. The food we ordered were finished as fast as they hit our table. Did I mention cyclist has a common middle name - 'piranhas'.

Bikes of the rich and famous... or maybe not.

In our eagerness to fill our stomachs, we have, at the back of our minds, thoughts of our lone gang member still out there, grinding every inch of the way. Man, it's hard, being the lone one out there against the elements and your physical self which seems to diminish by the minutes. This engine is running on sheer determination and mental grit. I mean it's not easy being out there alone, even the 'broom wagon' driver is already enjoying her lunch with the rest of us. To you, my friend, we salute.

After lunch, the sky didn't look too promising. Looks like Mother Nature was about to lift her skirt and show her ugly side. Most of us were in our arm warmers and 'gilets' before we started rolling again. Indeed, about 10 minutes into the ride it was pouring. The wetness, the altitude and the wind blowing have given us a new definition of freezing. It was like having small little pins hitting your body a zillion times all over, draining you energy bit by bit every time. I can speak for myself, my body was shivering in shock, and I was sure my bald head has turned purple like Barney. The only refuge was to get behind some 4Runners or buses for shield. I must say this is the only time I'm grateful for the bus fumes as it brings much needed warmth and shelter from the raging wind. Further up as we neared the Brinchang area, the warmth coming from food stalls by the road side and the traffic congestion leading up to the town were a blessing.

Coming into Brinchang, we pulled over for a pit-stop for some warm hot lemon tea. While waiting for our support crew to check in to the apartment (they at this point were stuck in the traffic jam because of the crowd visiting Cameron over the long weekend). Somehow, hot lemon tea never tasted so good…and this is coming from a guy who has sworn by coffee only.


Now a break, To say thanks to Ween Sze for getting us the wonderful apartment, what's more, at a bargain price.

Another 2 kilometres to some hot shower and some much needed food. We got a nice size apartment, Desa Anthurium, with the help of Ween Sze. As soon as we got into the apartment, we were rushing out of our cycling gears. Let me remind you that wearing wet chamois is like having wet diapers in between your legs, and when you are all grown up that doesn't feel too good. A good hot shower indeed and some time to relax and hang up our legs. From burning as much as 4,000 calories on average, most of us were scavenging for food and hot drinks as well. And that's like 2 hours more to go before dinner time.

Laundry of the rich and famous...

What is dinner in Cameron if not steamboat, off we go in search for the numero uno of steamboat up there - we ended up at the same restaurant we had last year as most places were fully booked for the evening. The portion is decent enough for 7 hungry cyclists and 4 support crew.

Thanks for reading, and Part II will be coming soon.

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