Thursday 4 August 2016

Clocking up the Kilometres

Current Location: Kota Bharu, Kelantan, Malaysia.

Today felt significant for one reason - the odometer reached 25,000 km. It happened on a very ordinary stretch of road about 20 km south of Kuala Besut.

We stopped to recognise this momentous occasion but didn't know what to do, or if in fact we should do anything. In the end we took a selfie, shook hands quite formally and got back on the bike and rode off.

25,000 km is of no particular significance - it's only kilometres and not miles, and plenty of other cyclists have pedalled far further than us. But if you say it quickly, it sounds quite a lot and just think, it's a quarter of the way to 100,000 km. Now that would be an achievement.

Clocking up 25,000 km cycling together on the tandem.

We took a selfie, shook hands and rode off. Our destination was still 20 km up the road.

A few tandoids:
* We have owned the tandem for four and a quarter years.
* We have travelled on it for more than half that time, two and a half years, camping or staying in cheap accommodation.
* We have cycled in 25 countries (several of them more than once) in Europe, SE Asia and North America.
* We have worn out five pairs of tyres, 10 sets of chains and lost count of the punctures - mostly at the beginning when we were using the wrong tyres.
* Both wheels have had to be rebuilt.
* Judy is on her second saddle and has a third waiting for her at home. I am persisting with my Brooks leather saddle which harks back to an age when cyclists wore cycle clips on their trouser bottoms and never had helmets.

A Day on the Road - 1 August 2016, Kuala Terengganu to Merang, 45 km.

      A small cheer went up from a big restaurant, and we could see a few arms waving in our direction - encouraging us to enter.  It was the staff - there was only one customer, a bad sign at a restaurant.

But it was 4 pm - in the dead hours between lunch and dinner - so maybe the lack of customers was understandable. Anyway, we were hungry.

We slowed, swung the bike around and doubled back.

Five people including a toddler welcomed us, rushed at us with menus, squabbled over us and insisted on posing with us for photos before allowing us to order.

"Chicken chop" someone asked, then a bit later "chicken rice - Malaysian recipe." Whatever it was, when it arrived it was good. We drank iced coffee, sat back, relaxed and explained where we are from and where we are going for the umpteenth time.

It is hard to have a bad day cycling in Malaysia. 

It began with a ferry ride across the river at Kuala Terengganu. Finding the right jetty was the trickiest part, but when we caught the eye of the skipper he looked at the tandem and gave the briefest of nods indicating the bow of his boat. At the other end our hearts sank. There was no ramp, only steep steps. It took four of us to manhandle the bike up, while the rest of the passengers waited patiently to disembark.

A short ferry ride across the Terengganu River. It took four of us to lift the bike off the boat when we reached the other side.

The ride north was perfect. "Just keep to the coast, go right," Judy instructed as she studied George the GPS on her handlebars. We rode past miles of deserted beach, casuarina trees, coconut palms and kampungs where hens pecked at the dirt and everyone waved. The road was flat and there was no traffic. 

Above and below: Coastal scenes as we ride north to Kota Bharu.

We skirted the airport and at Batu Rakit stopped for drinks of 100Plus poured over ice. "Would you like something to eat, roti canai?" the young man asked us hopefully. He was so polite it was impossible to say no, despite the huge Chinese breakfast we were still digesting. The drinks and the roti canai came to RM6 (NZ$2.06). It's hard to see a profit margin in that.

Back on the road we stopped to take photos of what looked like cotton, exploding from pods on a couple of trees. There was no-one to ask so we moved on none the wiser. 

At Merang - one of the jumping off points to popular Redang Island - we stopped to look for somewhere to stay. The bike fell heavily against a concrete post and now has a bad dent in the crossbar. Somehow it doesn't seem to matter. The bike still goes. 

A quiet backroad that went on for kilometres on the last leg to Kota Bharu.

Coconut gathering team. This man had two monkeys on long leads. This one was the star performer. With a few quick twists he would dislodge a coconut and send it plunging to earth. 

We found a "chalet". Why after all these weeks does the word still remind us of Swiss mountains and cuckoo clocks? Our chalet and the others alongside it is rundown and badly in need of more than a coat of paint. They stand in a delightfully overgrown garden. There appears to be no other guests. Our chalet has a squat loo and air con but no tv, wifi or hot water and the mosquitoes are already lining up to invade through the gaps around the door.

But the bed looks comfortable enough, we have eaten, washed off the sweat  and put up the mosquito net.  

It's hard to have a bad day cycling in Malaysia.

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Kuantan to Cherating 47 km

Cherating to Kerteh 52 km

Kerteh to Kampung Kelulat 92 km

Kampung Kelulut to Kuala Terengganu 25 km

Kuala Terengganu to Merang 38 km

Merang to Kuala Besut 69 km

Kuala Besut to Kota Bharu - approximate route only, about 70 km. We stayed closer to the coast on the D11, then carried on through Bachok and Kampung Tawang before cutting inland to Kota Bharu.

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