Ride day! Desmond called around 9:30 am and came by at about 10:00. We rode to a Malay breadfast of fried rice and then we were on the road to Damai, the site of the annual Rainforest Cup, Malaysia's roughest mountain bike race.
Easy road riding. About 30 km which I entertained myself by repeatedly figuring out as about 18 miles. Long stretches of road and the traffic tapered off the further out of town we got. Desmond kept whining about the wind and how strong it was, but it wasn't really more that a light breeze and I pulled most of the way. The worst wind is the smoke-filled one he breathes in all the time. He claimes it's the replacement for the Power Bar that is not available in Malaysia. His "power stick." Right.
Big bridge over the Sungai Santubong and then the village of Santubong (at the base of mount Santubong). Desmond was dying for a coke (and a power stick) so we stopped. Village kids kept yelling hello at the orang putih ("white person" --me). Then off to the resort and beach.
I had no interest in getting into the muddy brown ocean water with a full-on convoluted set of sloppy and dangerous looking waves. So we didn't. I explored the end of the beach with its resident courting Malay couple (they're everywhere you go) and Desmond smoked. Then off to the actual race course.
Closed. Not open to the public. Desmond had to tell the guy that I was a reporter from a prominant American mountain bike magazine so we could ride it. Or sort of ride it. Desmond seemed to push more than he rode. And we were supposed to walk through the populated areas of boardwalk and cement path. And then I tried to ride it. Whoo! Fun and hard. Some steep sections and lots of rocks and roots and moss and slippery leaves and slipperier mud. And this was a dry day. Would fall somewhere in between sucking bad and impossible on a wet day. We did parts of it backwards, so I didn't get a real good feel for the race, but a good feel for the terrain. Sort of a Kulani Forest meets Koloko Trails meets sauna. Wet AND steep and friggin' hot. With a few Vancouver North Shore tidbits thrown in--stick bridges and rock drop-offs. My kind of fun. Tried about everything (skipped a couple drops). Missed lots. Fell a couple times. Was able to grind up a whole bunch of crap that should have amazed Desmond, since he wasn't even trying. And given the bike I was riding: a completely rigid, cantalever braked, heavy-assed old Gary Fisher "Fassajara" with a kickstand and no more help than a 26x30. I know the master doesn't blame his tools, but Tamn! I think I dun good, considering.
Best of all, I had a great time. Wanted to stay and practice it all again and again. But no. I didn't. Because it was too friggin' hot and no breeze to be felt down in the jungle understory.
Desmond showed me the rest of the non-jungle-singletrack course and then we got drinks and food. I was all set to ride back, but he called his brother to come pick us up in a landcruiser and I only went along because he got a call on his handphone from some other friends in Kuching who were riding later in the afternoon and we could join in. Which we did.
Just riding around town, putting in some mountainbike miles and trying to out sprint each other. I won. Every time. Bad manners maybe, but darn fun. Of course I cheated by drafting every chance I got, but that's the game isn't it? I don't think anyone else got it. Road biking is not real big here.
Stopped for drinks (again), which in Malaysia is more likely to be tea than beer, and rode home in the evening light. 10:00am to 7:00pm for a full day of riding (and eating)(and drinking).