Inner Circle

The Gap in the Mountain

 

The Gap in the Mountain
 

In the state of Pahang in Malaysia, there is a hill which is known for its scenery and its very tranquil atmosphere. It is called Fraser’s Hill, and is popular with folks who crave a quiet place to relax, take in its postcard-worthy scenery, and enjoy a respite from the tropical heat.

Getting to the hill resorts at the top can be rather trying for the uninitiated, though. For one, due to its relatively remote location, the best way to get there is to drive. Driving there is pretty much an adventure in itself.

From the national highway, it is slightly more than an hour’s drive to the foot of the hill. That is also where the last petrol station (and the last town) is, before the ascent from ‘base camp”. After filling up the car (and emptying the bladder), it is approximately another hour’s drive along winding roads up to the top. For the unlucky drivers who get the timing wrong, the drive up can easily last twice as long.

The difference in timing is due to the final 8km stretch before one reaches the top where the resorts are located. This famous stretch is known as “The Gap”. This picture shows the entrance of this road which leads to the top.

The Gap is a very narrow and winding road which leads to the top. Being extremely narrow, there is only space for one vehicle along much of this road, and therefore traffic needs to be regulated. The way this is done is that on odd-number hours like 7am, 9am, 11am etc, the road is only open to descending vehicles. On even-numbered hours, only vehicles travelling up the hill is allowed on the road. This is why for drivers who get the timing wrong, their journeys could easily be extended up an additional hour.

On one of our family holidays when we were feeling adventurous, we decided to attempt the drive up. We began our journey in the wee hours of the morning from Singapore. It took us about eight hours to get to the foot of the mountain. There we had our lunch and waited for the right time to begin making our way to The Gap.

We arrived at the Gap ahead of time, and joined the line of cars waiting to do the climb at 3pm. After a 20-minute wait, the traffic light turned green in our favour, and everyone got their engines running to begin the ascent. It took about 20 minutes to cover the 8km stretch, and there were some nervous moments in between.

The road, as expected, was very narrow. The fact it was winding and steep made the driving more challenging. It felt like in that 20 minutes, I was constantly turning the steering wheel and looking out to make sure my wheels stayed on the road. There were some parts where the steep cliffs beside the road made our hearts beat even quicker.

At the other end of the road though, there were sights that made the challenge worth it. We were greeted by the iconic clock tower that stood like a centrepiece in the little town at the top. There were also, naturally, many spots where we could look out at the breathtaking scenery surrounding the hill. The cool weather, fresh air and the gentle breeze also quickly got me over the effort driving up. We had a fantastic break over the weekend up in Fraser’s Hill, although once in awhile, we were reminded of the challenges awaiting us on the way down at the end of our break.

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