Round the world, Summer 2010 travel blog

Pinepple plants

On our bike ride

Tapping rubber trees


I started the day with a bit of a travel-related grump, possibly also something to do with the extra beers had watching the football the night before. Having to carry everything around, I need to travel light. So I have only two pairs of trousers. Being mostly in hot places, I chose light colours. So yesterday I changed into my second pair, the first being ready to be washed. Then I eat and have some drinks watching the football, perhaps not paying full attention to what I'm doing. So in the morning, there are a few drips of sauce / beer on my one pair of clean trousers. Being a light colour, it really shows and looks like I didn't quite make it to the toilet in time. Marvellous. Being in a bit of a grump, I decide "right - that's it!" and go off to the big shopping mall we had been staying near to buy some nice dark jeans that won't look soiled after each meal. Well, that was a bit of a fruitless exercise. Apparently a waist size of 33 inches is a bit big (28 being more typical) and anyway jeans mostly need to come with extensive "effects" applied to them which just look silly on anyone over 25. I did get some shorts in a nice BLACK colour that will do while I get both pairs of trousers washed.

So I got back to the room, feeling that I should do something, but not feeling terribly motivated towards anything much. When I passed by the tourist information centre earlier, I'd picked up a flyer for some sort of "Eco-Tour" by bike where you go out into the countryside and ride around. That sounded like it might be OK, so I called up. No answer, so I gave up and grumped onto something else. Fortunately, the tour leader picked up the missed call and called me back. There was a slot available in about an hour so I said why not. I became very glad that I did, as it was the best thing we did since arriving in Melaka. Pretty much the only thing, to be honest!

Our guide picked us up from the hotel and we drove off in his rickety van to what was clearly his house, the extension at the back of which was given over to bikes. He had quite a few there, so clearly takes fair-sized groups at times. Today it was just me and Remi. Riffat was again unwell.

We set off at once over the road and into a plantation of palm trees. These were caribbean palms grown mostly for the palm oil that's extracted from the nuts. Then for perhaps 3 hours we made our way through the local countryside, passing houses and varied scenery. There were frequent stops where our guide pointed out things to see, mostly what was growing around us. What struck me was the variety and sheer abundence of food growing everywhere. This land is originally rainforest territory, so I suppose it's only to be expected. But everywhere people were off in the land near their homes, collecting fruit. We saw all sorts of goodies being grown not generally on a commercial scale, but just by individual families for their own use. It's far beyond me to remember many of them, but we saw: rambutans (red + yellow), coconuts (green, yellow & orange), starfruit, durian, mangosteen, pineapple, lemongrass, chillies, citronella, tumeric.

The star attraction had to be the rubber trees though. We stopped by some that were being tapped with the outermost layer of bark stripped away in a downward spiral leading to a collection pot at the bottom. It comes out looking like pva glue, but if it dries a little, it's stretchy. Our guide pulled some old glue off the tree above the latest spiral (left over from previous day's collecting) and started rolling then winding it into a ball. He said he was well practised at this from childhood. It seemed he was as what we ended up with was a solid, perfectly round ball that would bounce high off the road. It'll be one of Remi's favourite souvenirs, I think. Overall, it was a great way to spend a few hours, experiencing a very different side of Malaysia to the usual town-based stuff that we'd had so far.

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