26 – 27 Jan 2008
It is always challenging to write about a ride that has been an annual fixture. The child-like enthusiasm and excitement of going on a new riding experience would tend to be lost on jaded riders who has “been there, done that” and writers, like yours truly, would be scratching their heads thinking of new ways to write old stuff.
And yet, Fraser Hill has always been a top draw for Kruzer members, old and new. Statistics have shown (Yes! We keep statistics!) that the annual pilgrimage to Fraser Hill have been drawing the most number of people every year and the 2008 edition showed no signs of buckling the trend. Glancing at the participant list at the meet-up point at Gelang Patah Esso, Johor, I counted a total of 64 people, 34 bikes and 5 cars!
Which leaves me wondering: “What is the draw in riding to Fraser Hill?”
Perhaps, it’s the treacherous, adrenaline pumping twisties snaking round the contours of the hill. Or it could be the security of having an experienced team of organisers taking care of the participants’ needs, on and off the road. Whatever their reason for joining may be, it will stay true to a core Kruzer motto: There will be a new experience for all.
As an organiser of any rides, safety is of paramount importance and this ride to Fraser Hill is no different. Given the countless corners and twisties, the visual of a drop down the hill into what seems like a bottomless pit does not appeal at all but remain a possibility. A safety brief for our members is a necessity, even for our more experienced members. Experience may breed complacency and it is always better to remind than to review what had gone wrong.
After the pre-ride briefing by our trip manager and a hilarious demonstration of hand-signs by one of our members, the engines fired up and their thunderous idling pierced the cool morning air at 0130hrs. Time to move out!
Handsign Demonstration by Resident Clown
Fraser is approximately 400km from Singapore and is easily accessible from the North-South Highway, exiting from the Rawang exit. However, in my five years travelling with Kruzer, I have only used that way once. The search for alternative entries, routes and scenery is a never-ending quest for the club and this year, it is no different…
Cutting through KL in the wee hours of the morning, we entered Route 68, running parallel to the Karak Highway. Used mainly by the locals to get around paying toll fees, we managed to squeeze in another 50km worth of twisties! This really is a good place to warm up the tires for Fraser’s hairpins.
Stop Along Highway 68
As the early morning sun warms the body and the heavy fog lifts off the great tree canopies, picturesque overhead views of Bukit Tinggi and the Karak Highway begins to reveal itself. You wouldn’t want to speed too much here, as the lane is generally smaller than the average trunk roads you find elsewhere in Malaysia. Besides enjoying the ride and scenery, you could also take time to practise on your finesse in cornering at a slower speed as the corners are tighter than the ones leading to Fraser’s from Bentong.
We took the opportunity for a well deserved stop at a hot spring along Route 68 (N3 24.591 E101 53.484) and it was just as well as one of the cars experienced a problem further back with the accelerator. You sense the motorcycling gods must be looking down at you when the only 4 wheeler mechanic member in our group, happens to be travelling right behind the downed car! A quick diagnosis later, the stranded party moved off in a matter of minutes, leaving little signs of trouble at all.
The hot springs wasn’t exactly very warm and the murky waters really put people off entering the waters. It make things worse, the tiled floor of the hot springs was lined with slimy algae!
Just how some of the locals manage to dip in and swim baffles me. I guess it’s fine to dip your legs in, but diving into the hot cesspool takes the cake. With the poor quality of the springs, it was little wonder we left after half an hour of rest and begin the much anticipated climb to Fraser’s Hill.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like if the famous “South Buona Vista 99 turns” in Singapore just kept going and going? The 30.3km from Tranum to the top of Fraser Hill is a series of never ending twisties, hairpins and drops that simply keeps your adrenaline pumping and the altitude climbing. The view as one speeds skywards also astounds the first timers. Giant treetops disappearing below, barrier–free corners, a lifting fog and a general lack of vehicles all contribute to a ride with a close affinity to nature.
As you ascend, you may notice a subtle change in the surrounding temperatures, especially if it had rained the night before. Of course, with blood pumping through the veins at a higher rate, most wouldn’t have felt a thing!
A quaint feature I love about Fraser Hill was the final 8km climb to the town itself, called “The Gap”. Until recently, the route up to Fraser had only been a single lane of tarmac winding up the steep slopes. Timings for vehicles were set and enforced for vehicles moving up or down. If you were to miss it, you would have to wait an hour until the coast is clear. Alas, the modernity and pace of life has caught up with Fraser Hill and an alternative route was set for the ascent while the old one was marked for descent. With a resigned hush, we know too well that the newly prosperous urbanites of the country just cannot afford to relax and wait, even in their holidays.
As luck would have favoured it, a landslide rendered the new route impassable and the road timing system of the good old days was resumed.
Moving up The Gap is such a breeze and joy. Designed and built by the British back in 1919, the banking of the road feels really right and whether you are climbing or rolling down, the ride is just as smooth.
The same cannot be said of the new road. Landslides aside, the new road was also poorly designed where a left corner can possibly have a right bank, causing us some difficulties in not getting our foot pegs scratched.
By the time we were up at Silver Park Resort, we would be on the roads for close to 12 hours. Although coupled with plenty of rest stops along the way, the lethargy was beginning to catch up and the soft beds in Silver Park resorts were beckoning.
A barbeque dinner was next but that can wait till sunset comes….
A cool chill woke me up. Stretching and peering from the balcony, an arrangement of heavy clouds, a red sun, misty surroundings and a gentle cool breeze created one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve experienced in Fraser Hill. As a stream of sunray peeked in through the clouds, it bathed the houses and mountain ranges in fiery red before it retired for the night. A minute later, dusk had fallen. Time for dinner!
Although dinner is meant to be a barbeque, it’s mostly the staff at work bbq-ing. Kruzers were in charge of eating it and eat, we did! Before the food was able to be transferred to the serving plates, the slabs of meat and fishes were snapped up by members, laying ambushes from the grill to the buffet line.
Fraser Hill is particularly popular among bird watchers and nature buffs. More often than naught, you will see people milling around the town with their binoculars or massive cameras, ready for the perfect photo opportunity. As a result, nightlife is non-existent in Fraser Hill and members were free to hold their own events and chatting sessions. It is also usually an opportunity to get to know new members better and share road stories. A few beers also don’t hurt very much and pretty much well deserved!
As we are scheduled to leave Fraser at 2pm in the afternoon, many rode around, exploring the nooks and crannies of Fraser’s Hill. Although small, Fraser Hill offers many nature and hiking trails. For those seeking gastronomical delights, well, you won’t find much here, except the very popular Ramli burger kiosk and the occasional durian sellers. Otherwise, you could warm your bones with a cup of warm coffee in the town centre or at the paddock.
As the time draws near to leave, I can sense the excitement of some of the older members. We will be leaving via Kuala Kubu Bharu (KKB) and out to the NS highway to head straight back to Singapore. For the uninitiated, the route down from Fraser to KKB (Route 55) consists of very fast twisties and wider roads, quite unlike the hairpins and extreme corners of the previous day.
Indeed, an hour later, you can almost see the silly grins behind the helmets as the riders trickle in at the foot of Fraser’s Hill to regroup. With the corners gone, we made haste to return and have dinner at Gelang Patah to round off the trip.
However, it was not to be for some as one of the bikes had an electrical problem along the North South highway. With several experienced members leading the way, the main body headed back to Singapore while some remained to fix up the bike. It is a testament to the organisers’ patience when it turned out to be a 2 hour long repair and many possibilities were readied for the worst case scenario, that is, a tow back to Singapore from Alor Gajah. Fortunately, Kruzer resident mechanic, Rosli, managed to figure out the problem in the darkening hours, did some repairs and got all back safe and sound.
With the conclusion of another ride, credit must be given to the riders for preparing themselves physically and mentally for such a ride. Big group riding is fundamentally different from a single rider or small group riding. With the enthusiasm, safety awareness of the riders and the senior riders encouraging the touring novices along, it is no wonder we don’t have to fish anyone out from that bottomless pit!
Limping on its way back, the sick bike and its minders hooked up with some of the guys having a well deserved dinner-turned-supper, tucked away at a little corner in Gelang Patah town. Laughter and chatter filled the quiet, chilled air of the late night as we reminisce the days that past and those that are to come. As it turns out, it wasn’t too hard to write about this trip. The people in the trip made it easy for me and this spoke a lot of what Kruzer really are. A family.
PS: Kruzer have embarked on another adventure in a cave in Ipoh at end March! Stay tuned….