By Scott Roberts
Date: 20 Aug. 2012
Location: Plan C
Attendees: Baggsie, Dangerous, Daniel, Liz and TDF.
Thanks for the help yesterday.
Daniel and Liz gave a damn good polishing to the bushes along Plan C. The branches, ferns and lalang were getting long in the tooth and were trying to push us over the edge into the school. No longer. Our two cohorts even plucked the weeds out of the ground!
Baggsie, Dangerous and TDF spent their time putting two waterbars in on the climb to Plan C+ and then using that EXCELLENT dirt to fill in the climb around the tree. It was a bit** lugging the 18 or so bags of dirt from Plan C+ to the entrance, but it was well worth the effort. The handles of the Ikea bags held, which was incredible! There were some trips that I thought my arms were going to rip out of my shoulder sockets before the straps did! Hopefully the rain that afternoon didn’t wash away all of our work.
The next thing to do is:
I’ll tackle the first two items, but if anyone has time in the coming weeks, please tackle filling in the roots. I left changkuls hanging in the trees right above the gutter and another by the roots/ rocky section. If you do tackle this, please put the changkuls back where you found them afterwards.
The next step will be to move the changkuls over the Plan C+ and work on the boulder section. Some of you like the little tricky slip past the boulder, but the problem is that people have been creating a shortcut to the downslope side of the tree. That’s not good which destabilizes the tree in front of the boulder, so what I’d like to do is to put a tree branch on the pegged to the ground and then fill in the area above the tree. It won’t make it too much easier to get by, and will hopefully make that section like it used to be when Plan C+ was first built four or so years ago.
And lastly, we’re now working on Plan C/ C+ because of a number of reasons. First and foremost, the construction has stopped (for now) on the Great Wall of Kiara. The second reason is that if they do ultimately continue the fence, a hole will appear at the exit from Plan C+, by hook or by crook! I hear rumor that there is now an “official” gap in the fence going to Janie’s; not the temporary one that a running hasher put in.
Thanks again to those of you who helped out yesterday.
January 22, 2011
Looking for some two-wheel action? You should join the mountain bike hashers on their monthly jaunts.
Darn! I’m toasted,” I said , staring at the steep, muddy incline ahead.
I downshifted to the lowest gear and grimly cranked the pedals. Midway up the hill, my wheels churned in the mud like a mixer whipping cake batter. The bike stopped dead in its tracks.
A mountain bike hash can serve up the thrills in spades
Huffing and puffing, I hopped off and started pushing the bike. Just then, eight-year-old Finley Young pedalled gingerly past.
Two weeks earlier when I told hubby I was joining a bike hash for the first time, he had cocked an eyebrow.
“Er, aren’t you a little out of shape?” he said.
Since our baby arrived five months ago, I hadn’t sat on a saddle for almost a year. But then Kuala Lumpur Mountain Bike Hash (KLMBH), a fat tyre group, had described the upcoming “Scenic Ride” on their website as “a short scenic, 13-km ride through rolling terrain with no steep climbs or technical sections, suitable for wife and kids”, so no probs.
Yeah, right …
It was a lovely Sunday morning when I joined up with some 160 KLMBH members in Lenggeng, Negri Sembilan. Located south of Broga town and an hour’s drive from Kuala Lumpur, Lenggeng is a sleepy place surrounded by tranquil villages and rubber and oil palm estates.
Our trailhead started at an oil palm plantation, two minutes’ drive from Lenggeng. Riders had the option of joining the short “Scenic Ride” or the “Long Ride” (read: hardcore!), which was more than twice the distance with sheer climbs.
“It’s not a ride for those who’ve only ridden short rides or have laid off riding for a while,” the organising committee cautioned.
The fat-tyre buffs are usually a hodgepodge crowd — the age ranging from six to over 60. All riders have to register their names and contact numbers and grab a tag number each. Non-members pay RM15, while members ride free for all 12 hashes in a year upon paying the RM70 fee. At the end of each ride, you need to sign off.
The roster ensures every rider is accounted for.
Modelled after the hash run, the KL bike hash (bash) was started by expatriates Richard Aubry and Mark Chatterton in 1994. Before a bash, “hares” (volunteers from the organising committee) explore and then map out two routes, “Long Ride” and “Scenic Ride”, and mark the trails with paper, flour and other clues.
The fastest riders during a hash usually lead the pack, keeping sight of the markers until they get to intersections or forks where the markers disappear. Called “checks,” these gaps challenge the front riders to find where the trail picks up next, and this allows slower riders to catch up. (See The job of hatching below.)
“Usually, the trail continues within 200-300m, but there are ‘false’ trails to trick the riders,” explained outgoing KLMBH president, Chee Yih Tzuen. “The longer the rider gets stuck and tears his hair out figuring it out, the more the hares have done their job.”
KLMBH is run by volunteers. Each year, a new committee organises the activities. Aside from monthly rides, the group has clinics on bike maintenance, riding skills and First Aid. Membership fees fund the annual Epic Ride and annual dinner and also subsidise the various clinics.
Sticking together is best
Know your limits
Bash guidelines suggest riding in a group so nobody gets lost. A repair kit is also advisable.
“You need to be self-sufficient and not expect people to bail you out if something happens on the trail,” advised Chee, 44, a basher for seven years. “You also need a minimum level of fitness, some technical skills and know how to ride correctly.”
If you ride alone, get lost or have problems with your bike, you’re on your own, he added.
“We provide a trail for you, and we have sweepers to wait for the last and slowest riders but we provide support only if there’s an emergency medical situation,” Chee explained. “You have to be prepared to push your bike to the nearest access road or wait for the sweeper or stop the next guy that comes along and ask for help.”
I was just happy to follow the pack. The bashers are a friendly lot. Someone is always offering to ride with you or offer assistance. Our trail meandered through kampung roads, rubber estate, oil palm plantation and secondary jungle. Kids waved and yelled “Hello” each time we whizzed past a village.
I was so engrossed in it all, I forgot to look out for the paper trail and followed some riders blindly. Not surprisingly, we got lost a few times before backtracking and finding the way again. The highlight: Barrelling down the hill with the wind in my face. That was sheer bliss.
For the most part, I rode with Chee Zhou-Chen and his mum, Janet, who sort of looked out for me since I didn’t really know anyone at the bash. Junior Chee had been riding since he was four and started mountain biking when he turned eight.
“I love the adrenaline rush when you’re speeding downhill and the feeling of pride you get when you conquer a massive steep hill without having to push the bike and to finish a ride,” the 11-year-old said.
“It’s also nice to be outdoors, breathing fresh air in the midst of nature. I enjoy the company, too, especially on rides with family friends who have other kids,” he added.
Veteran rider, Eric Teo, 60, is proof that age is no barrier when it comes to riding. Teo, also a hash runner for the last 30 years, joined the bike hash in the mid-1990s.
“Mountain biking is addictive! It’s the speed and excitement,” gushed Teo. “Also the bike hash has a bigger crowd so I get to meet all kinds of people. God willing, I hope to continue mountain biking for another 10 years or for as long as my body can handle it.”
One week after the ride at KLMBH’s annual dinner, members voted the Lenggeng ride as the best for the entire year. Stoked by my first hash, I’m all psyched up to get back into mountain biking again.
It’s time to start cranking those wheels regularly and shedding the excess “baggage”.
Twelve times a year, a bunch of Kuala Lumpur Mountain Bike Hash (KLMBH) members volunteer their time to hatch different routes for the monthly rides. The goal is to ensure everyone, regardless of riding skill or fitness level, enjoys a safe, fun ride.
Lead Hare for the Lenggeng ride, Chee Yih Tzuen, shows how he cleared the undergrowth during his recce
“Each time we go for a hash, it feels like we’re going on an exciting adventure or school trip,” says regular basher Evanna Phoon who joins the monthly hashes with her husband, Michael.
“We get excited about these new found or remote places, and the organising committee always surprises us with the varied terrains and scenic trails.”
At the end of each year, the committee lines up a 12-month ride roster for the following year. One person, known as the Lead Hare, is responsible for each month, rounding up a team to help him recce the area.
“First, you decide which area you want to ride in, then you explore and find a way to stitch together a network of trails to create a loop each for the ‘Long Ride’ and the ‘Scenic Ride’,” says Chee Yih Tzuen, the 2010 KLMBH president (Head Basher) and Lead Hare for the Lenggeng bash.
Piece of cake, right? Hardly!
The Lenggeng ride, for instance, took 12 weekends of exploring and hacking before Chee and his volunteers cobbled together a good trail. Using Google Earth, Chee looks out for existing dirt roads. Then armed with GPS and parang, the riders hit the trails to find out if the tracks still exist and whether they are linked.
In the early days …
Before the GPS and Google Earth days, long-time KLMBH members like Azizul Adnan @ Joe, set up bashes using a compass, intuition, good memory and great sense of direction.
“We looked at the direction of the sun, and anytime before 10am, you know where East lies. So you ride north, south, east and west for an hour each and hope you find your way back,” says Joe who with Pat Brunsdon hold the record for the most number of bashes set: 25.
“Once you get the basic loop, you have to recognise the trail features and landmarks so you can backtrack and lay the paper trails,” says Joe, 42, who set his first bash in July 1995.
In the old days, the Native Americans used to sing songs as they walked and the song lyrics corresponded with the trail features they saw along the way, and this helped them to navigate the route again, Joe explained.
“I didn’t sing but I talked about the trail and described its features to help me remember. These recce experiences equipped me with the skills to find my way in the forest today,” he added.
Over the years, Joe has seen many biking trails squeezed out by urban development. His first bike hash in 1994 in Ladang Sedgeley is now the Cyberjaya sprawl.
“But I think riding trails are inexhaustible if we venture farther out and explore,” says the optimist who used to ride the 100km off-road journey from Damansara Heights to Meru, Klang.
What keeps these trailblazing hares going?
“If nobody steps up and contributes to the club, nothing happens. If you want to ride, you have to ‘sacrifice’ one year of your time and volunteer to do the work,” says Chee.
“Going into a place you’ve never been before and (encountering) the uncertainties make it challenging,” adds Joe.
“Who knows, I may just one day find that elusive single-track or the Shangri-la of mountain biking.”
From the time his two kids were old enough to hop on trail-worthy bicycles, Kuala Lumpur-based expatriate Victor Young has made the monthly hash rides a fun, family outing.
Here are a few pointers from Young regarding young riders:
KLMBH doesn’t impose a minimum age for participants, but Young figures six years old or so should be the limit. Even for short rides, a kid needs to be able to ride and control a bike with 20-inch wheels — the minimum size for bumpy trails.
“Finley, who just turned nine last weekend, has been doing hashes for about two years, while Rebecca, six, has only been doing it for the past six months or so,” says Young from the UK.
Kid has to say yes!
Some parents can get a tad overzealous and want their kids to join the rides badly. Time-out.
“Never force the kids to ride. We ask them the week before if they want to ride, and sometimes they do and sometimes not. It needs to be fun,” Young stresses.
Make sure your kids are confident on their bikes, can operate the brakes properly and are able to get on and off the bike. They should also know to ride on the left hand side (in case there are any road sections) and be able to ride in a straight line without weaving around too much.
Feed them well
Stuff your kids with a good, healthy breakfast at least one hour prior to the ride to make sure the food’s well digested. Young and his wife, Juliet, always pack snacks like raisins, bananas and cereal bars and equip the kids with small, one-litre hydration pack.
“Children often forget to drink so they need regular encouragement!” Young says.
Safety gear and precautions
Padded gloves, helmets and sunglasses are compulsory. The Youngs also have a back-up plan in case anyone gets lost or separated. Both Rebecca and Finley know their parents’ mobile numbers and they have been told to stop and wait in an obvious place if they lose sight of their parents.
“The hash is a very safe environment for kids to go exploring because there is a sweep rider, whose job is to ride at the back and make sure everyone gets home. We haven’t lost anyone yet, and in fact, Finley and I often take the role of sweep riders because we ride slowly, and he responds well to the responsibility,” Young reveals.
Make sure to also slap on some sunscreen and mozzie repellent.
Savour the ride
Kids will inevitably get tired and may want to give up. Young cheers his kids on and makes sure they make plenty of stops, relish the view and try to spot wildlife.
“I have a strong left arm from pushing them both up hills, and so do some of the other hash regulars who love to lend a hand to tired, young riders,” sums up the 43-year-old father. – Stories by Louisa Lim
For more information on Kuala Lumpur Mountain Bike Hash and to sign up for membership, visit www.klmbh.org. The next hash ride will be on Jan 30, 2011.
by LEONG SIOK HUI, June 20, 2009
Trekking in Malaysian forests usually involves tricky manoeuvres or acrobatic moves. You skirt around ankle-deep mud, claw up near-vertical slopes, duck under fallen logs, squeeze through narrow openings between giant boulders and sometimes totter precariously on pencil-slim ridges.
Some of us would think: “Yeah, it’s fun!” But really, does this mean these trails are good?
A good trail is defined as sustainable (read: lasts forever!) if it can handle stomping feet, protects the environment, requires little maintenance and meets users’ needs. Sliding helplessly down muddy slopes and tearing out tree branches and roots doesn’t seem like a fun trail experience.
And most of us go tra-la-la on the trails without thinking about what it takes to create and maintain the trails. Who is doing all the hard work?
Mountain bike buff Joe @ Azizul Azmi Adnan is one of the main guys responsible for creating the Kota Damansara trail
So when I met the trail-makers behind the new Kota Damansara Community Forest (KDCF) trail, I picked up some tips on trail design. Their story first unravelled in Klang Valley’s Bukit Kiara, where pointers were picked up from the biking trails there.
Kiara’s mountain biking trails are synonymous with one name: Patrick Brunsdon. The Canadian expatriate has been instrumental in creating the 20km network of biking and hiking trails that zigzag Bukit Kiara.
When he first moved to Kuala Lumpur in 1995, Brunsdon was raring to hit the trails. He was told about Kiara, the lush green hill that straddles Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Sri Hartamas, Kg Sg Penchala and Segambut. But Brunsdon found there were few trails and no riding map.
“I joined the hash runs and found out more about the area. Others also told me about the different biking trails,” says Brunsdon.
The existing topography map, a 30-year old map created when the area was a rubber plantation with trails created by the planters, was a bit outdated.
“When you look at the map, you see a stub of the trail here and another one there. I thought why not find a way to join them and get a loop?” says Brunsdon who makes a living maintaining editing, post-production, and computer animation equipment.
“Nothing like getting in there with a cangkul (hoe), seeing what works and what doesn’t,” recalls Brunsdon grinning.
“You build something and see it a year later and realise, oh, there’s more to this …”
With the help of eager volunteers cum mountain biking zealots, Brunsdon improved on the existing trails, cut out new ones and created the Kiara mountain biking map.
A good trail should use boulders and trees to its advantage; Patrick Brunsdon
“I went through a big learning curve over 13 years. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago when I looked up references from the US-based IMBA (International Mountain Bicycling Association) trail design guide, that I was like, ‘Oh ya, I learned it the hard way!’ ” says Brunsdon.
“You pit your wits against nature and very quickly you’re humbled because it’s relentless! You get 100mm of rain here in one afternoon, and if the trail’s problematic, you’re in trouble.”
The gist of trail design is: get water off the trail!
Water that funnels down the trail erodes it, and water that collects on the trail creates a muddy puddle (see sidebar). A case in point was a trail built by downhill riders about six years ago for a mountain biking race in Kiara.
“Most of the trails were done well except a few spots that turned out to be a perpetual problem like this heavily used and steep trail,” says Brunsdon.
“The hillside leaks water for months on end so the trail is always wet and muddy.
“Some 10,000 bicycles have been up here, coupled with walkers, so the high volume of users keeps breaking the soil surface. Finally, I had to place rocks on it to prevent the trail from eroding.
“Also, the trick is to come here when it’s raining. You can see instantly if you have a problem!”
Some people may associate sheer slopes with adrenaline shots.
“It’s a misconception! The trail doesn’t last! The best trails are rolling, contoured trails,” says Brunsdon, who learned by looking at old plantations to see how the roads were built 50 to 60 years ago.
“They didn’t have vehicles with enough horsepower to sustain steep grades so they built 2%-3% grade slopes that are good roads and don’t take much upkeep.
“You can do this by snaking the trail back and forth, narrowing it at sections or changing direction a lot more with tight switchbacks,” points out Brunsdon.
But a trail that’s too flat is also a no-no.
“The water can’t drain off and you need to cut the outside for the water to flow away. If you build with a slight perpetual grade of 1%-2% up and down, the water will not collect on the trail.
“The idea is to have maximum fun and challenge, minimum impact, minimum amount of work to build and time to sustain.”
A clean slate
The lessons learnt from Kiara were applied to the Kota Damansara forest last year.
“Pat (Brunsdon) took part in the initial recces, map-out of the place and design of the trail,” says Joe @ Azizul Azmi Adnan, the founding member of TRAKS (Trails Association of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor).
The trail was a collaborative effort between TRAKS, Friends of Kota Damansara Community Forest Park and the Bukit Bintang Scouting District.
“It took about 480 to 600 man-hours with a work crew of 20 people over six months to create that 2km trail,” says Joe, who checks the trail weekly.
The KDCF trail makes for a pleasant stroll — with its meandering route, shady foliage and short steep sections flanked by the occasional towering trees. The hiking cum mountain biking trail has fun features for riders like switchbacks, climbs and dips.
“A switchback uphill reduces the overall gradient and prevents trail erosion,” explains Joe, a mountain biking aficionado and lawyer.
“Water always finds the path of least resistance. If there’s no water diversion, puddles form and create a mud hole. Trail users will skirt around the mud hole, creating a wider trail and damage the plants around it.”
The current trail was designed more for casual walkers while successive trails will be more challenging for mountain bikers, adds Joe.
For the love of it
A well-designed trail needs less maintenance and provides a great experience for users. But it takes a lot of dedication and hard work from the trail users (with the exception of national/state parks).
“If the trails are not designed well, I’m back every two to three months for simple stuff like building up water bars (a small hump) so water doesn’t get trapped or run down the trail,” says Brunsdon who spends an average 500 hours a year, unpaid, maintaining Kiara.
“For a good trail, you only come once a year, cut back the foliage to keep it open,”
Brunsdon’s zeal is infectious. Today, more volunteers are chipping in to help maintain Kiara. Some riders have adopted a 1km stretch of trail each, which they maintain regularly.
“Most trails will end up being maintained by mountain bikers because for us, it’s all about the trail — the whole riding experience is about how you interact with the trail,” adds Brunsdon.
When he’s not on an overseas business trip, Brunsdon spends five to six days a week in Kiara — three days for riding and the rest for maintaining the trails.
“I do this so I have a place to ride; it is entirely selfish. If it weren’t for this, I wouldn’t stay in Kuala Lumpur,” says Brunsdon who lives in Bangsar, a 15-minute ride to the trails.
“If you want guaranteed fun, this is it. I know something good’s going to happen every day I hit the trail. We are so lucky to have it here in the city!”
The Expert: Mark Hendershot (Santa Cruz Syndicate) is a man of many talents: organic farmer, floor-covering expert, pedicab business owner. But where the 44-year-old Grand Rapids, Michigan, native truly excels is on the racecourse—especially the 24-hour kind. Over the past nine years, Hendershot’s been a consistent podium finisher in the World and National Solo 24 Hour Championships, effectively scratching out a place among the elite of the endurance world. His secrets? Confidence—and quality lights.
“When I first started, the equipment was junk,” he says. “It was a common occurrence for your lights to go out on the trail.” Today’s high-end lights have all but relegated sudden darkness to the history books. The key to successful night rides now, Hendershot says, is knowing how to use your lights—and your head. We caught up with Hendershot before the national championships to hear how he does it.
Set Your Light Right
The ideal light setup combines a helmet-mounted spotlight and a bar-mounted unit with a broad-coverage beam. But if you can afford only one, a helmet-mounted light is better because it directs the light where you are looking. Mount it close to the center-top of your helmet. “The higher you put it, the more stable it’s going to be,” says Hendershot, “which means it won’t fatigue your neck as much over the course of the ride.”
Look Where You Want to Go
Your light—like your bike—is going to follow your eyes, so look ahead, not down. “Your helmet light should be aimed at least eight feet ahead,” says Hendershot. The final adjustments depend on the condition of the trail you’re riding—which you should plan for well in advance. A first-timer? Stick to a trail you know like the back of your hand so you can test your night vision on known obstacles and corners.
Keep Your Perspective
Artificial light sources create shadows that skew your perspective on obstacles. Two keys to success in technical situations: knowing about the weird shadows, and saving your highest light-output setting for when things get rough. “The switch to high will give you more confidence,” says Hendershot. “You’ll think, ‘This is great!’ even if the difference is minimal.”
Be Confident—and Day Dream
Night-riding success comes down to confidence and a good attitude. “If you think you can do it, then you’ll do it,” says Hendershot. “That’s the most important thing. You need to stay positive and think about fun things. I think about sex and tattoo designs. For me, that just works.”
Enough theory, see it in action !
By Pat “Pigpen” Brunsdon
Disclaimer: The information here is a combination of stuff drawn from other peoples’ knowledge, a bit of personal experience, and a bit of hearsay, all run through the filter of my personal opinion. Hey, I could be wrong. But there’s a lot of non-knowledge on the subject out there, so if by presenting this article I get some people thinking about the subject, good. However, if you get bitten by a snake, follow the instructions presented herewith, and die, don’t sue me. Even if you figure out how to.
Acknowledgement: Francis Lim Leong Keng and Monty Lee Tat-Mong have written a book called “Fascinating Snakes of South East Asia” (1989) that provides some pretty good stuff on local snakes, but may be less than up to date on first aid. Australian Geographic publishes a terrific book called “Australia’s Most Dangerous” that is geared specifically toward creatures you might encounter in Australia, but the snakebite first aid section should be very applicable to Malaysia as the most dangerous snakes in both countries are of the Elapid variety. Plus, there is lots of stuff available on the web, but of course anything taken from there must be taken with a grain of salt as it’s accuracy is as open to question as mine.
The venomous snakes to be concerned about come in two varieties in Malaysia: Vipers and Elapids. Vipers have large moveable fangs and inject a hemotoxic venom, one that attacks your muscles directly. This venom can cause swelling and hemorrhaging and is rumored to hurt like f**k, but is rarely fatal in the quantities delivered by the local species. (If you were from the Americas, you would be much more interested in Vipers. They have big ones.) Of the 8 varieties reputed to inhabit South East Asia, the only one I’ve seen for sure is the Wagler’s Pit viper, and the representatives I’ve seen were either in the Snake Temple in Penang or on the road, dead. (Very pretty snake. Even when flat.)
The other family is the Elapids. The fangs of these are fixed and inject a highly toxic venom that attacks the central nervous system. Around these parts, they can be roughly separated into five families: Sea Snakes (22 species), Coral Snakes (4 species), Kraits (3 species), Cobras (3 species) and the King Cobra. If you wonder about the distinction between the last two families, the King Cobra is a totally separate beast from all other cobras, only sharing with the others the exciting habit of flaring it’s hood to scare you and the fact that it’s an elapid.
Unless you ride your mountain bike in the ocean, you need not be worried about sea snakes, even though some of them have the most potent venom of all snakes. So kiss that category off. Kraits and Coral Snakes are apparently highly venomous as well but are docile and nocturnal, so no worries there, unless you’re clumsy and also ride at night. I may have seen one of these once, but I can’t be sure whether it was a Blue Coral Snake or a Red Headed Krait in the half second or so I had to notice it when it crossed my line on a rather terrific downhill. “Wow. Whuzzunthatta… Oh, never mind. Gone now.”
King Cobras have a reputation bordering on mythic. (Actually, for several religions they ARE mythic). Biggest, up to six meters long and as big around as a fire hose. When they stand up to get a better view of things or just to scare the pooh out of you, they can look you in the eye. Mostest, at least in these here parts, able to deliver enough highly toxic venom to kill an elephant. However, the only one I know who may have seen a King Cobra in the wild was my friend Simon. When we got to the bottom of a long downhill in the foothills of the main range, he said “Didja see it? Didja see it? You must have, you almost ran over it. It was huge!” Apparently I may have disturbed it while it was snoozing on the trail, causing it to wake up just as Simon zoomed by. What he went on to describe matched a King Cobra more than anything else, but we’ll never know for sure. Whew! Cool thought, anyway.
It’s those Black Cobras that get all the attention. And why not, they ask for it. There’s lots of them around, (I’ve seen dead ones on the streets of Bangsar and Sri Hartamas and a live one tooling down the road in Taman Tun), they aren’t as shy as all the others, they have extremely toxic venom, (potentially able to kill a human within an hour) and they put on a great show when aroused. For a Mountain Biker in Malaysia, if there is to be an encounter, it’s more likely to be with one of these than anything else. What pops up out of nowhere, can be up to 7 or 8 feet long, have a head/hood the size of a badminton racket and sounds like you stepped on Darth Vader’s foot? Hufffff! Hufffff! Black Cobra! Wow. About enough to produce spontaneous urination.
Another trait worth noting is the somewhat alarming (and also somewhat disgusting) ability of the Black Cobra to spit, up to 2 meters. Yuck. They aim for the eyes, the venom is rumored to burn like hell and can cause permanent blindness. Wash the victim’s eyes immediately with the cleanest fluid at hand. Normal saline is best, distilled water next best, tap water not terrific but still better than leaving the venom in.
I bet you don’t think you are carrying anything close to normal saline with you when you are riding, but you’re wrong. You might have as much as a pint on hand at any given time. Yes, what could be more appropriate to counter having something spit in your eyes than using your urine to wash it out? It’s all to disgusting too think about.
Really? Almost nil. Snakes are generally shy and don’t want anything to do with humans at all, and why should they? They can’t eat us. For a venomous snake, venom is a precious resource, and indeed their only method of securing food. Why waste it? Most of the snakes I have seen, including cobras, have been heading in the opposite direction at high speed. I’ve run over at least one and come pretty close with a couple more, and despite that, they still wanted to leave the scene. (And, chivalrous soul that I am, I let them! By the way, if you come across a small black snake with knobby tire marks on it’s tail while riding Bukit Kiara, apologize to it for me, please.) What’s to be gained with an extended encounter with one of us? Nothing.
The exception to this may occur if you threaten their nests. Or at least if they think you are. Lim and Lee suggest that egg laying season for Black Cobras is June-ish in Malaysia, but the behavior of a couple Cobras encounters recently suggests if it was hot and dry in May, that would do. I mean, do snakes have calendars? Anyway, add an 88 day brooding period and you have a period of May through September when Mr. and Mrs. Vader are potentially a bit testy.
According to Lee and Lim, in the ten years between 1960 and 1970 there were more than 50,000 snakebites of all types in Malaysia, but only 249 deaths. If you factor in as well that half of those bites occurred in Kedah (Malaysia’s rice bowl, with only 10% of the population), this would suggest the most effective way to meet the business end of a snake would be to take up a career as a rice farmer. Here’s how it goes: Rodents eat rice. Snakes eat rodents. Humans stomp around in rice paddies for a good part of the day in their bare feet and now and then get their toes caught in a link in the food chain. Ouch.
Close Encounters of the fourth kind (i.e. Bites): 0.Try these numbers to calculate the statistics: 18 weekly hashes in the Klang Valley. 50 runners per hash. That works out to 900 runners tromping about the undergrowth every week. No bites that I’ve heard of. (Well, maybe one. Kieran McDonald, if you’re out there, could you confirm? And if anyone else has heard of any, email me here and we’ll rewrite the statistics. The Malaysian Government was a little less than forthcoming on the subject). It’s just those exciting near misses that keep the interest up.
Close Encounters of the third kind (contact): Low. Five years. Thousands of kilometers on bike and on foot. I’ve run over two… oddly enough, both in the last month. (For all I know it may have been the same snake, and it’s just that he’s remarkably deaf and slow.)
Close Encounters of the second kind (sighting): Still low. I’ve seen maybe 15 or 20 cobras, and been close at hand for a few more when others came across one. This includes both Larry Chan and John McCawley playing Olympic hurdler in separate incidents. Undoubtedly exciting, but no bites.
O.K., so it’s not likely. But still. Run around on a golf course with a steel pole in your hand, you might get struck by lightning. Run (or bike) around plantations inhabited by hard of hearing, legless wonders packing a mouthful of lethal venom and sooner or later you might have an encounter. It doesn’t take much to be prepared.
Here’s what the Australians say with reference to envenomation by Elapid (reading enough scientific journals makes you start talking this way). Why the Australians? When it comes to dangerous snakes, they done got the lock hold: more species, more potent, more, more, more. Why, before they developed Antivenin for the Taipan, apparently only two people were known to have survived being bitten. Wow. So understandably they are VERY interested in this sort of thing. It shows.
Other points worth considering:
So there. Did I tell you not to sue me, it’s just hearsay and folklore, and don’t trust anything you see on the web? I’m sure I said that. Still, it makes interesting food for thought. And good parlor conversation.