Sunday, October 7, 2012

Bridging the Barelang Highway of Batam - Pt 2

At the end of a long day on a tired bicycle, a good hot meal and a comfortable place to rest is worth a million dollars. We could not ask for more as we cycled down 100m through a dirt path at the end of the Barelang Highway. In front of us, was a big house with attap leaf roofing, on stilts in the sea.

We were welcomed warmly by Awang and his family and when we told him we needed something to eat and a place to sleep, his bright and friendly smile was something I will always remember. They fussed over us like we were important guests and showed us the warmest of hospitality.

Their signage outside promised seafood and it certainly did not disappoint. The steamed fish and fried prawns were as fresh as it could get.

We tucked in heartily under the twinkling stars, with the sounds of lapping waves feeling so contended. A white Kitty took an immediately liking for KC and hung around him, knowing that this kind man would feed her, and she was not disappointed.

We enjoyed a nice bath the old fashioned way where you scoop water onto a small bucket and just pour it over you. The ice cold water was so refreshing and invigorating!

Awang's daughter told us to bring our dirty bikes inside her clean restaurant in case it rained and I was touched by her thoughtfulness, even though she was clearly not a cyclist. Bed time was rustic. 3 mattresses were presented to us with pillows and we plonked them on the restaurant floor, just beside our bikes. Awang kept asking us if we preferred a room with a fan, but we couldn't leave our bikes alone, could we?

After a bit of clowning around and after dinner coffee/tea, we drifted slowly into dreamland. It was so special sleeping like this, and what was interesting was the rest of Awang's family plonking themselves all over the place just like us. Communal sleeping at its best!

I was the last to get up and missed the sunrise. Truth be told, I was quite exhausted the night before but got up reasonably fresh. It was nice to just take a quiet walk alone to the end of the long jetty, giving thanks to God for this beautiful place, my wonderful ride buddies and the lovely time.

Awang came later to serve us a sumptous breakfast of fried rice noodles and egg, washed down with strong, sweet coffee.

It was nice for him to take some time out of his busy schedule to spend time with us. I learned that his father came here from China some 50 years ago and landed on this obscure island of Pulau Galang, to make a living as a fisherman. Life was obviously difficult and he soon developed health problems at 40 years of age. Then one day, a German pastor happened to pay him a visit and invited him to put his faith in Jesus Christ.

He took that step and was blessed with a full and healthy life till 82 years old. His grandson told us later that the family was with the patriach when he went to glory, and he died full of happiness and peace. At Awang's daughter's wedding a few months ago, this German family friend, now on wheelchair and frail, made it a point to attend the happy occasion. I felt very privileged to hear their personal story of faith and friendship, and my heart was lifted up. What a beautiful family they are and it was a high honour to be their guest.

We had a 1pm spa appointment at Tempat Senang back in Batam and wondered how we were going to make it in time. There was no way we could ride 80km over those 66 hills! Fortunately, Awang had a van and offered to take us halfway for a most reasonable fee, and we were so grateful as it started to drizzle. We folded our bikes and packed into the spacious van and his son Timothy gave a running commentary on the area while driving us to Bridge 3. One highlight was a story of a how a huge ship broke anchor and crashed in to Bridge #6, shifting it one meter! We got all excited and took lots of pics, and marvelled at the damage.

There was a dragon fruit farm at Bridge #3 and we stopped there to try the delicious shake and to thank Timothy for his kindess. Apart from being bitten by a thousand mosquitoes, it was a pleasant experience with scenic views.

Saying goodbye to Timothy was hard. We unfolded our bikes and waterproofed our stuff as a light rain had descended upon us. It was nice and cool riding in the drizzle and somehow, going back seemed shorter. We only had 32km to do but we somehow cycled at a good pace. Perhaps our legs got stronger after yesterday's work out but I think we all wanted to hit the spa early.

The flooded portion of the road yesterday was still there but we knew the short cut. Only this time, even the cars went through the little muddy side lane and made it even more difficult for us to ride.

I nearly fell off my bike as it slide through the soft mud. Note to self - slick tires are NOT suitable for touring! I felt sorry for KC & YC who had earlier in the morning washed their bikes.

It was quite a challenge to find the spa as it was not sign posted to maintain its discreteness. Good thing YC's GPS came in useful and we managed to locate it after getting a little lost. We found out from the friendly manager that we were the first among their exclusive guests to arrive on bicycles and we felt rather honoured. Tempat Senang, after all, was voted best spa in Batam!

True to its name which means Place of Rest, we felt we deserve to pamper our tired muscles and get some quality rest. KC wasted no time changing out of his sweat-filled lycra into a lovely batik kimono, and we could not stop laughing at how classy he looked!

For US$75 plus taxes, we had a choice of 3 treatments lasting 3 hours. I opted for a Lavendar scrub, a Balinese massage and a Hot Herbal Compress. It was the compress that send me to the heavens!

Getting sore muscles skillfully deeply rubbed with heated natural herbs in a hot pack is something I have never experienced before, and this must be the mother of all massages for tired cyclists.

Our 3 hours passed too soon and it was time to catch our 510pm ferry back to Singapore. The spa's complimentary SUV could swallow our 3 foldies and 4 adults and it was a mere 7 mins drive to Sekupang Ferry Terminal.

Though our trip was just a short overnighter, we left feeling we had accomplished much. Whether we were in a simple fishing village or a top end spa, I could not but smile at the interesting places our foldies can take us. Add in great mates, all the pain we suffered is quickly forgotten. A big cycle trip in Dec is already in the pipeline with a dream team of tourers put together.

Can't wait to be back!

Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” Acts 16:30,31


omegaforest said...

The story telling part is definitely a bonus. As the saying, the more remote the places, the nicer the people. That's a good experience to remember in the Riau Island.

Oldyonfoldy said...

Please be advised that as at Dec 2012, 3 of our friends have been infected with Malaria after cycling in this area. Do not cycle here unless you are prepared with the necessary anti-Malaria drugs.