Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Beach

The short version ...
  • attempt to carry bike over boulders to beach
  • decide to leave bike on boulder and continue without it
  • find path on beach up hill to road
  • take road back to where I started on boulders
  • climb over boulders to get bike
  • get idea to take bike apart and take it to beach
  • take front wheel to beach
  • take rear wheel to beach
  • no water, get dehydrated, ask fisherman food and water
  • take frame to beach
  • assemble bike
  • return home
Map to go with story. Open this image in new window or tab so you can refer to it.

The long version ...

I told Kelly's sister #9 (Ping) that I was planning to go to the top of the highest mountain in Penang and ride my mt. bike down. She advised against it. She said that it is their custom to take it easy the month before the wedding. I'm trying to do my best to follow their customs so I tried taking it easy.

For the next two weeks I did nothing and I got very bored. Then one day I checked the tide tables online and I noticed that there was an extremely low tide at 11:30 AM. I had been waiting for such a day to make my third attempt to reach this remote beach. The plan was to leave at 9:30 AM and get there about 11 AM while the tide was still going out.

Many weeks ago I made two failed attempts to reach this beach because I went late in the day and ran out of sunlight. I waited for a day when there would be a very low tide in the morning and Dec 7, 2005 was that day.

I need exercise and I look forward to these adventures where I can push myself hard. I look for activities where I can use my entire body and run, jump, climb, lift, roll, stretch, bend, throw, catch, kick, punch and so on. I want to improve my cardio endurance as well as flexibility. Activities should involve balance and reflexes. This adventure would certainly involve strength and endurance as well as overcoming fear so I would be tested both mentally and physically.

This trip would also be a mind game. A puzzle to solve. I had a goal and a constantly changing environment (rising tide) and rain. It was a race against the clock as well as a chance to work smart, not hard. Intelligence and muscle as well as the will to push oneself and take risks with as much safety as can be expected. This is my kind of adventure!

I got off to a late start at 10 AM. I decided to buy some energy drink instead of water for energy. I bought 4 bottles of 100 Plus energy drink and poured it into my Thermos to keep it cold. I obviously wasn't thinking clearly because 100 Plus is carbonated and after a few minutes of riding, it blew the top off my thermos and all of it spilled into my bag.

So I had to go back and this time I bought two large bottles of water. More than enough ... or so I thought. The energy drink was my substitute for food but now that I was just bringing water, I needed to bring some food too ... but I forgot.

When I got to the end of the road I attempted to ride up the large hill. I had done it once before a month ago with great difficulty. Last time required 100% effort but this time only required 80% effort! This shows me that I'm getting in shape. Click on the pic to see the big pic and check out the large boulders.

Once to the top I rode down the other side. It's a cement path that winds back and forth thru a fruit tree plantation on the side of the hill.

the path leads to some boulders next to the sea. I arrived at 11:45 right at low-tide so the tide was starting to rise. I wasn't happy about that since I'd have less options for boulder hopping. There were some fisherman there. They were very curious to see me. They don't see someone like me very often and they had lots of questions.

In the distance I can see some remote beautiful sandy beaches. I've attempted to find paths down to them from atop the hill but failed so I figured the only way to reach them was over the boulders.

My plan was to carry my bike over the boulders to get to the beach. Then I was going to continue on around the southern tip of the island climbing over boulders with my bike until I reached the path on the other side, then I could ride home.

Carrying my bike turned out to be a lot more work than I expected. The boulders were covered in barnacles which were perfect for no slip grip. I continued to wear my bicycle gloves to protect my hands from the barnacles. It's a good thing because I ended up tearing up my left glove. Better my glove than my hand.

Moving from rock to rock sometimes required total commitment. A half attempt would simply fail and you'd fall down a large hole. These boulders are quite huge and the space between them is very deep. It is much safer to scramble over the smaller flatter boulders that get exposed at low tide. But as the tide came in, my options disappeared and I was forced to climb over the much bigger boulders.

I'm grateful for all of those days I spent doing indoor rock climbing. The techniques I learned climbing rocks definitely helped me because this was definitely rock climbing.

Cats get stuck up trees because it is easy for them to climb up a tree but hard to climb down. The same can be said for these boulders. Going up a boulder is often easier than going down a boulder and I often had to go both ways.

Often times there was no way to step from one boulder to another. You simply had to leap which meant full commitment. If I was climbing up a boulder the only way to get up it was full commitment. You had to lunge up. Momentum is your friend. If you do not fully commit to the lunge or leap, then you fail and fall which could lead to serious injury or even death. This was not a place for fear or self doubt. Hesitation in the middle of a lunge or leap would end in painful failure.

Sometimes it took me as long as 2 or 3 minutes to get up the nerve to lunge up or leap down. I had to make sure that in my mind I would be fully committed to going for it.

I was almost to the first beach when I decided to scout ahead and find the best path. I quickly realized there was no possible way I could carry my bike since there was only one route and it involved leaping over a large hole about 10 feet deep (305 cm). The space was tight and there was no way for me to fit me and my bike so I left it there and continued onto beach 1 without it.

Beach 1 was small and beautiful. I noticed concrete stairs going up the hill. I continued on over more boulders to beach 2. It was small and beautiful as well. I noticed a path leading up the hill. I continued over more boulders to beach 3. Beach 3 was much larger than beaches 1 and 2. It was also very steep. I've never seen a beach at this angle. If you went swimming, it would get very deep very fast.

This was the west coast and the water was clear. On the east coast the shorelines tend to have muddy bottoms and the water is cloudy. I was thinking about how great it would be swim here but then I started worrying about the Gila monsters that swim in these waters.

Next I continued over the boulders to head around the south side of the island and back to the west coast where I knew I could find a path back to the road and back down to the boulders to get my bike. But I didn't get far because the tide was coming in and my only route was now under water.

So I headed back to beach 3 and took the path up the hill to the road then walked back. On the road back I saw a trail which might lead to beach 1 so I took it. I knew that this trail had not been traveled in a long time because I kept getting a face full of spider web. Each time I would quickly locate the tiny spider hanging from his torn web and place it on a leaf and continue.

Then I came upon a large web with a large spider. I'm lucky that I saw it in time. This spider had legs that were about 1.5 inches (4 cm) long! It was black with a small body. It looked very poisonous. I wouldn't want that spider on my face so I picked up a stick and walked around the web and continued on waving the stick in front of me to clear my way.

I see some amazing sites when exploring these tropical forests for example this tree growing atop a giant boulder with it roots growing down on all sides.

This dirt path connected with the concrete path in the fruit tree plantation. I continued down the hill to the fisherman on the boulders. I left my bag with the fisherman and went to get my bike. The tide had come in some more and my lower easier routes were gone. I was forced to scramble over the large boulders which took more effort and of course was more dangerous.

When I finally got to my bike I realized it would be too hard to take the bike back over the larger boulders. So then I got the idea to take the wheels off my bike so that I could throw them over the hole and take them to beach 1. They would land in soft dirt on the cliff-side. I could then take my bike to beach 1. I was now regretting my decision to leave my bag with the fisherman since now I had to go back for it.

I made two trips and took the front and rear wheels to beach 1 but I bonked. It hit the wall as my energy levels fell. Every time I exerted myself my heart raced and I was breathing hard. I sat down and put my head between my legs and felt much better. Every two minutes I tried to sit up but couldn't. I just felt dizzy.

I then realized that I was dehydrated. I had run out of water on my walk back to the boulders. I brought more water than I thought I needed and I still didn't have enough. I sat for a long time gathering my strength then I headed back to the fisherman and offered to pay them money for food and water. They were kind and offered me half of their food and water and wanted nothing in return.

One guy even gave me his iced-tea with cream and sugar. The cold fluids and caffeine and sugar really picked me up. One fisherman had 5 roles and gave me 3. I took a bite of the first roll and some of it crumbled to the ground. I cursed myself because I knew I would need every crumb and here I was wasting crumbs. The next two I popped in my mouth so as not to waste a single crumb.

As I was leaving I put RM 10 (USD 2.70) into each of their bags when they weren't looking. They don't realize how much of a help they were. They were both poor and fishing for their dinner to feed their families and they gave me food for free. It was the least I could do.

I noticed they both left their bags open and walked away so I get the feeling they wanted to accept my money but Chinese etiquette did not allow it.

By the time I attempted to return to get my bike frame, the tide had risen cutting off my path completely. It was now impossible to get there over the boulders so I climbed up into the woods and found a path back to the fruit tree plantation. I remembered that I saw stairs leading down to beach 1 so I started searching and it wasn't long before I found them.

I had been hearing thunder for the past hour and large dark clouds were starting roll in. Finally the rain came. It was an incredible down pour and I sought shelter under a large boulder. I decided to wait about 20 minutes to see if the rains would slow or stop.

The path to the boulders was slowly disappearing as the tide was coming in. Eventually I would not be able to reach my bike frame without getting very wet.

As I'm sitting there relaxing I saw what looked like a large log come floating around one of the boulders. It turned out to be a Gila monster about 5 feet (150 cm) long. I was expecting it to come ashore. I had a little fear about that since they can run faster than me. This one was big enough to take me down. I'm not sure who would win in a fight but even if I did win, I would come away quite bloody since I believe they have sharp claws and teeth as well as a large tail with spines that can be used as a weapon.

The Gila monster was looking for food and he submerged a few times but finally he went under but I never saw him surface. I got a little nervous that he might be swimming under water toward me and was going to come out of no where and rush me. But then I remembered that every Gila monster I've seen regardless of size runs from me. So unless I have it cornered and its survival instinct kicks in to fight me, they are afraid of me.

Finally the rains subsided a little and I waited for the waves to withdraw so I could jump up onto the boulders but now they were wet and slippery so I went slower with more caution. The wave crashed back onto shore hitting the low boulders I was on getting my feet wet.

I continued back to my bike frame. I tossed it over the hole and jumped over and took the frame back to the beach, assembled my bike and went home.

Now that's my kind of adventure. A test of body and mind, strength, endurance and skill.


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