Ok so feeling much more positive today, and we are staying with Peter who is giving us heaps to think about and allowing us to have some quite frank conversations about everything, life on the road, travelling together, visas, how to make money whilst travelling, maps, routes, people… you name it!
So since leaving Melaka, we headed up the west coast where we camped on the beach and ate noodles in true cycle touring fashion.
The next day we had a very long day and ended up cycling until 9pm, over 92km and staying in a stupidly overpriced hotel because we couldn’t find a decent campspot (without zillions of biting ants and mosquitos). The wifi didn’t work, there were no tea bags and they couldn’t provide us with breakfast before 7am despite explaining that we needed an early start and the staff generally seemed to turn their nose up at us, despite taking our money! Chris was not impressed and had a bad headache to top it all off. But in cycling terms it was a good day!
We had a nice ride the next day along the coast on quiet roads and bumped into Peter, who kindly bought us lunch in Banting before heading off. I had had one puncture that morning and had to unload the bike to fix it. 10 mins down the road and the tyre went flat again. After lunch I got another puncture, unbelievable! We got as far as Klang which was our planned stop for the day, again nowhere to camp although this time because it is a city and so much harder to find somewhere. However we found a reasonable cheap place, with a lovely room, nice man running the place who gave us free bottled water and free wifi. Across the road was a great eating place with good food, so we were quite content that night (and for a third of the price).
We had a late start the next day and ended up leaving Klang about 3pm, once it was a little cooler. The rain started as we left, but that was ok. However in trying to leave Klang and get on to route 5 to Kapar we got totally lost, the road signs are there one minute and then nothing, so which way now? An hour later we headed over the bridge and i started to recognise the beautiful big mosque ahead of me, oh no, we were back where we started, literally 2 mins away!! Blimey. The rain was very heavy now, so we are standing by the side of the road trying to figure out which was to go, the mobile phone has maps on but wasn’t helping us really. But we figured it out and eventually got onto the right road.
The storm picked up and we both jumped as loud cracks of thunder broke overhead, with fork lightning striking nearby. The trucks came passed spraying us with water and all we could do was laugh at that point, we were soaked through (having just washed and dried our clothes!), but at least I feel alive. That is what I said to myself, at times like this you really feel alive. Having cycled through the storm we stopped to catch our breath and have a little rest near one of the roadside car wash places that you see. A man beckoned us over and said to have a seat, so we did. He then offered us a hot drink and as if by magic, 2 bags of sweet, hot, milky tea with straws arrived a few minutes later by scooter. The man said ‘Enjoy’ and then left! The kindness of complete strangers never ceases to amaze me.
So both relaxed now and seeing the funny side of everything, we set off and found a great little campsite in a palm field, just of the road. Very shelter and not visible from the road. We set up the tent, cooked, had a wash and sat side by side in the dark just enjoying being there in a ‘right here, right now’ kind of way. the mosquitoes were out in force and the ground was muddy form the rain and it was a hot night despite the storm. We lit a mosquito coil and fumigated the tent before getting some sleep.
The next morning we woke to a beautiful sunrise…
We hadn’t got very far in the end yesterday so we had some miles to do today! What can i say, it was a long day, we reached Sabak, our target, but through some miscommunication between us about getting water, food and finding a camp spot, we ended up cycling on, only to find that there was nothing, nothing at all for about 20km. So we arrived in Helan Melitang having cycled 106km, our longest day yet! But I was shattered, yet again – we’ve been putting in some long 80/90km days here in Malaysia and although it is flat and easy in that sense, it’s still a long time to be cycling. My shoulders, neck, wrists and legs ache after about 70km. Despite having cycled 106km, we ended up having a bit of rubbish evening and arguing about the fact we hadn’t stopped, almost run out of water, I had a headache and wasn’t making great decisions, the budget was being blown cos of the hotels and yeah just about everything. Too tired to argue much, I went to sleep.
Next day I woke up and had that feeling of despair. This isn’t fun. It’s bloody hard work and I’m hurting all over. Its hot, yet again, and I really don’t want to cycle today. I’m just counting down the kms, wishing it was the end of the day so i can sleep and not cycle. Plus we seem to be arguing loads in Malaysia, petty things but it’s a bit depressing. On closer inspection I figure that because there isn’t much in the way of pretty scenery or sights to see and the people are not that fussed on the whole, it’s not that exciting and that really just leaves us and the cycling. When you strip it back, there is nothing to distract us from each other, there is just us. But I guess after 8 months on the road, over 220 days together, solidly you are bound to get to the point that we are at. Most people in most relationships, well, you don’t spend every hour of every day together, it’s not a normal thing to do. Whilst it sounds heavenly to some, I think it also puts both of you under pressure and puts a strain on the relationship, it’s like being under a microscope. I just hope we are strong enough and won’t break.
Cycling when you are feeling so low can go one of two ways, either you snap out of it and cheer yourself up or it becomes a form of torture. Cycling is mostly a mental game anyway, your body can do anything, but if you feel that you can’t do it, or it’s too hard, or you simply just do not want to be there, then it can be the hardest thing ever. So it was a bad day, every km was hard and I spent the whole time feeling sorry for myself, worrying about us and I could hear myself being cross about everything and really just wanted to go home to England, where I could drink hot chocolate, be cold, going out dancing, wear my jeans, eat mash potato and roast lamb with mint sauce and cauliflower cheese, and see my little nephew and family, and not have to cycle anywhere ever again! It’s rubbish but some days are like that and it’s very hard to turn them around.
Chris however, is one of the kindest, most gentle, patience people I know and no matter how grumpy I get, he still does everything he can to make me smile again - he knows me so well and understands me better than I understand myself sometimes. Part of doing this trip was to get to know each other and to learn about each other, well we are doing that, but we have to be there for each other too and be kind to each other, that is so important. I think our love grows stronger every day, even on these hard days, in fact especially on days like these.
So at the end of all this, we reached Sitiawan, Peter’s place and had some good food and good company. With day of rest, cheered up and inspired with stories and ideas from Peter, we are ready for 2 more days of cycling (180km) to reach Penang, where we will climb aboard Yacht Murungaru for a whole new adventure, and sail for a month up to Krabi in Thailand.