TRACK­ING SELANGOR’S FOR­GOT­TEN RAIL­ROAD

We cruise from Klang to Kuala Selangor and back

Cycling Plus (Malaysia) - - THE HUB - Words & Pho­tos: Eka­pu­tra Ab­dul Jabar

yclists liv­ing in the Klang Val­ley know it’s not easy to get a nice train­ing route to work on their ca­dence and pac­ing. Sure, there are some high­ways where the road cy­clists like to put in their mileage, but let’s be hon­est, there’s re­ally noth­ing much to see along these stretches.

With this in mind, I’m al­ways on the hunt for off the beaten path rides that win equal points both in terms of scenic views and good qual­ity roads for train­ing.

Selangor’s ru­ral coun­try­side is play­ground for many out­door en­thu­si­asts and not just cy­clists, thanks to an abun­dance of green­ery, a rich her­itage, and the fact that it is in fairly close prox­im­ity to the city. The key to find­ing hid­den gems in the state that is an ex­tremely un­der­rated tourist des­ti­na­tion, is to find a good guide with knowl­edge of the lo­cal his­tory as well as the best routes and food stops.

COur mas­ter­mind for the day was none other than Radzi Ja­maludin from the Malaysian Her­itage and His­tory Club, who pre­vi­ously took us on a shorter ride through Pu­lau Carey. Easy­go­ing and equipped with a wicked sense of hu­mour, he is def­i­nitely one of our favourite ride bud­dies out of the Cy­cling Plus Malaysia reg­u­lar cir­cle.

For the day, he’d planned a route along the old rail­road from Klang to Kuala Selangor, which ran for 50km. “99% flat,” grins Radzi, with the cus­tom­ary twin­kle in his eye.

We set off bright and early from in front of Restoran New Har­vest in Klang, where there is plenty of park­ing, a small Chi­nese ko­pi­tiam that opens early if you need a bite be­fore­hand, and a ma­mak down the street for a cool down drink af­ter the ride.

The location is also right at the edge of the city, mean­ing you don’t need to

cross the busy ar­eas of Klang at any stage of the ride. From our start­ing point, we headed north­west along an in­ner road called Jalan Kere­tapi Lama, the first sign of the route’s his­tor­i­cal value. The road runs roughly par­al­lel to Jalan Ka­par or Route 5, but with sig­nif­i­cantly less traf­fic.

We crossed through kam­pung ter­ri­tory for 10 kilo­me­tres un­til we reached our first check­point, the rem­nants of a rail­way bridge at Sun­gai Pu­loh Batu 5. If you do a bit of cy­ber­sleuthing on­line, you’ll find pic­tures that show the wheels on the post of the bridge are essen­tially the water­gate to con­trol the wa­ter level in the river that comes in from the sea.

The other por­tion of the bridge is hid­den un­der a big tree. You can see how much the ground level has risen when re­fer­ring to old, grainy, black and white pho­tos from the col­lec­tion of Ge­orge Dearie Rus­sell, who was an as­sis­tant, en­gi­neer and later Man­ag­ing Direc­tor of the Fed­er­ated En­gi­neer­ing Com­pany in Malaya in the early 1900s.

The com­pany was the first to bring cars into Malaya, and to build the first road bridge over the Klang River.

I was some­what dis­ap­pointed to find that the tracks are nowhere to be seen and there are no signs that they were once there, save the road­signs mark­ing Jalan Kere­tapi Lama. Un­for­tu­nately, the tracks were re­moved in the 1930s once the rail­road was not needed af­ter coal ship­ments ceased.

This means that for most of the sites, any­one walk­ing past could miss them com­pletely if not told about their his­tor­i­cal value. Af­ter the cus­tom­ary doc­u­men­ta­tion snapshots, we con­tin­ued on for an­other 15 kilo­me­tres to our first ma­jor pit­stop of the day, the small town of Ka­par.

While the town it­self is noth­ing to shout about and has no real at­trac­tions be­sides small busi­nesses and a wet mar­ket, it pro­vided a good place for our group of five to grab a small break­fast. Our choice of wa­ter­ing hole was Restoran Haji Wafiy, which had a great spread of scrump­tious Malay dishes.

Rice and the ac­com­pa­ny­ing side dishes are pre­pared early, so you can have a de­cent power up even be­fore hit­ting the brunch hours. It’s a wise idea too, be­cause the re­turn trip from Klang to Kuala Selangor would be slightly over 100km.

Be­fore long we were on our way once again, push­ing fur­ther past Ka­par to Jeram, specif­i­cally Kam­pung Sim­pang Tiga. Hav­ing grown up there him­self, our guide Radzi had some her­itage spots that he wanted to show us.

Af­ter zigzag­ging through the small roads we reached a school, which Radzi proudly de­clared was where he and his mother both had their pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion. Right in front, were big blocks of red clay bricks sand­wiched to­gether with ce­ment, but strewn hap­haz­ardly on what ap­peared to be an empty lot.

These were the rem­nants of a dis­man­tled train sta­tion from the days of the rail­road, ly­ing there for­got­ten, but ac­ces­si­ble to those who know what they are. Do­ing a rough men­tal cal­cu­la­tion, I re­alised then that the blocks were in­deed a cen­tury old, since most of the Ka­par to Kuala Selangor line was built in stages in 1913 and 1914. It was some­what mind bog­gling, con­sid­er­ing these sites have been around for more than a hun­dred years.

Con­tin­u­ing fur­ther on we took a small bridge cross­ing over Sun­gai Bu­loh to avoid the large main road cross­ing. We were head­ing to As­sam Jawa, where we rode through a fair bit of plan­ta­tion land, mostly oil palm of var­i­ous years of growth.

At one point Radzi stopped and led us off course through a short di­ver­sion some­where in Kam­pung Api-api, a path of packed red earth and gravel nearby a small Hindu tem­ple. There, we found the re­mains of yet an­other bridge, its metal weath­ered and brownred from rust. This was what was left of the Pasir Tun­tung Bridge that goes over a small stream or ditch, it was hard to tell which. From then on, it was roughly 9kms left on the main road to Kuala Selangor, which was busy yet fairly safe for us cy­clists. We ar­rived at Bukit Malawati, climb­ing up the short and wind­ing road to the top, where a fortress was built in the late 18th cen­tury to de­fend Selangor from at­tacks.

The fortress was de­stroyed dur­ing the Selangor Civil War, but up top, there are still foun­da­tion stones, can­nons, a light­house, a poi­soned well and colo­nial houses. A nice re­ward was get­ting to

I was some­what dis­ap­pointed to find that the tracks are nowhere to be seen and there are no signs that they were once there, save the signs mark­ing Jalan Kere­tapi Lama.

The fortress was de­stroyed dur­ing the Selangor Civil War, but up top, there are still foun­da­tion stones, can­nons, a light­house, a poi­soned well and colo­nial houses. A nice re­ward was get­ting to en­joy the panoramic views of Sun­gai Selangor flow­ing into the Me­laka Straits.

en­joy the panoramic views of Sun­gai Selangor flow­ing into the Me­laka Straits.

Up there you can also see the per­fect ex­am­ple of the ur­ban­i­sa­tion of wildlife, where sil­ver leaf mon­keys and long tail macaques will take food from tourists and even pose for a photo or two. It’s a pleas­ant ride up, since there are 200-year-old angsana trees that pro­vide shade.

For those without bi­cy­cles or strong legs, there’s a colour­ful open air tram that can take you up for a small fee. Take note that the tram only op­er­ates on week­ends, al­though pri­vate cars are al­lowed up on week­days.

Af­ter com­ing back down we ate a re­laxed lunch at Aun­tie Ko­pi­tiam, which along­side the much more hip­ster Aun­tie Foo’s Cafe both boast a long culi­nary tra­di­tion that dates back to the 1930s. Aun­tie Ko­pi­tiam may not have wifi and the mod­ern ameni­ties its sis­ter cafe has, but it still had the old world ko­pi­tiam feel, and the Hainanese chicken chop was a favourite of Radzi’s.

Soon it was time to push off again, since we still had to cover 50km back to our start­ing point. We set off for Pan­tai Remis some 20km away, de­spite lunch and drinks slosh­ing around in our full bel­lies.

At Pan­tai Remis the wa­ter was muddy and murky, in ad­di­tion to it be­ing low tide. How­ever, Radzi tells us that you can find clear wa­ters if you make a visit to the small is­lands that can be seen from the shore­line.

There is a food court there but we opted for a qui­eter part of the beach to en­joy a dessert of Milo shaved ice topped with cho­co­late syrup and sprin­kles, with crushed peanuts hid­den within the lay­ers. It was a nice spot to sit and take ad­van­tage of the sea breeze, but we had to keep mov­ing con­sid­er­ing we still had 30km to go.

We started the ride that morn­ing in over­cast con­di­tions and a sprin­kling of rain to cool us off, but the sun had started to peek through the clouds af­ter about 10km from the beach. We were forced to pick up the pace once the ten­ta­tive rays of the sun gath­ered strength, and soon enough reached our parked cars, tired but sat­is­fied that we’d thor­oughly en­joyed our cen­tury ride for the week­end.

1 Pass­ing through Kam­pung Sim­pang Tiga. 2 Pit stop by the old Pasir Tun­tung Bridge at Kam­pung Api-api. 3 Rid­ing through Ka­par’s kam­pung roads.

1 Mon­i­tor lizard spot­ting from the Sun­gai Bu­loh bridge cross­ing.2 One of the many Jalan Kere­tapi Lama road­signs mark­ing our route. 3 Rem­nants of the train sta­tion in Jeram. 4 Old wa­ter gate at the Sun­gai Pu­loh Bridge. 5 The wind­ing road up to Bukit Malawati.

1 Colo­nial era can­nons at the Bukit Malawatii fortress wall. 2 Aban­doned post of­fice from the colo­nial era. 3 Rid­ing to lunch in Kuala Selangor. 4 Tak­ing a break at Pan­tai Remis. 5 Rid­ing through lush plan­ta­tions in Kam­pung As­sam Jawa.

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