Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Exploring the deep south of The Riaus - Day Four, Rounding Singkep

We decided to wake up a little later today at 8am but at 730am, everyone was ready and fresh. The excitement of discovering a brand new island cannot be contained with this enthusiastic team. But first business of the day was to look for breakfast, and we hopped on our bikes to prowl the streets of Dabo. The first joint we spotted was a Roti Canai place but it didn't appeal. Another 5 mins we struck gold. There was a Chinese coffeeshop with an elderly lady preparing piping hot minced pork noodles, and it was packed to the gills with people.

Not only was there these great noodles that Chris Wee would instantly approve, there were other goodies in store all wrapped up invitingly in banana leaves. Nasi Lemak packed with different ingredients! I love these coconut steamed rice with a rich, fiery chilly paste. 

We managed to park our bikes on the side alley and found a table. Foodie Matt went on a recce and reported wok fresh Char Kway Teow (fried noodles) at a nearby coffeeshop but we were already too full to go for seconds. Looking back, we should have but this would mean a very good reason to visit Dabo again.

Armed with Jan Boonstra's excellent map of Singkep, our first destination was Batu Ampar where the promise of a cool natural waterfall or Air Terjun beckoned. The ride out of town was pleasant enough as we cycled past Dutch styled houses, vestiges of its colonial past. Passing through a row of shops, KC stopped to ask directions from a friendly mid-age guy who rode a brand new Hello Kitty bicycle. A most interesting combination! When he spoke very good English and said he worked in the shipyards of Singapore, he instantly became KC's adopted brother as they both were from the same industry.

This short distraction got lengthened when we discovered a delightful bicycle shop with even more delightful owners. I am one who believe in chemistry when it comes to relationships and this is one of those moments. The young owner himself is an avid MTBiker who took part in many competitions. He was fascinated at our adventure and just wanted to know more about our bikes and our journey. So we all chatted like old friends and when I wanted to buy a mosque-design bell for my Muslim friend Hardy, he very kindly gave it to me! I couldn't believe his generous nature and it sealed our newly formed friendship. 

We got to meet his parents who ran a very successful motorcycle shop next to the bicycle shop as well and met his lovely assistant Dewi. The fully stocked bike shop meant there were many things for us to buy. I ended up with a much needed brand new yellow rain jacket and Matt had a neat front fender fixed on on his KHS foldie, personally fixed by the owner.

We had to pry ourselves away from the shop and it was hard to say goodbye. Continuing on the journey on the lovely road, we came across another wonderful distraction. Due to mining activities done on Sinkep years before, the landscape that appeared before us looked so much like the Grand Canyon of Arizona. KC and Matt had fun taking pics of Storm Storm and Ollie until a freak accident saw Ollie plunged down 10m into a ravine. Our efforts to rescue him were hampered by the soft sandy walls, and Darren and KC tried their best but could not scale them to reach Ollie. Thus, we had to leave poor Ollie behind and move on. There was a tinge of sadness to leave behind one of our mates... but this would be the second reason to return.

At the 11km, the turnoff to the waterfall appeared and that lifted up the gloom we all had in our hearts. It was 1km along a small road before the magnificent sight of flowing water appeared. We wasted no time to change to our swimmers and jumped in. The icy cool water really was so heavenly!

Everyone just took the plunge and we played like little boys in the natural shower. What struck me was how clean everything was, no sight of any litter. Was this really Indonesia? We mucked around and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. Some great pics were shot here and we had our morning tea here as well. The hour past real quick and when the hordes of students came, we knew it was time to vamoose.

We continued our ride northwards and it soon started to pour - a time to test my new rain jacket. It worked very well but soon I got too hot, we all did. I rather ride soaked than get steamed up...  As the rain was easing, we all took off our rain gear and enjoyed a much cooler ride. The Pengambil T junction at about 30km appeared, and this was where we turned right. It was great to see the sea again and I was struck at the emerald green colour of the water. We cycled toward Sungei Buloh which was a very quiet road through a nice kampong. Some kids came along on their bikes to join us. The rain clouds threatened again and we soon found ourselves getting pelted, so we took shelter in a sundry shop at the Y junction.

Poor Matt was nowhere to be seen. The last we saw of him was that he told us to go ahead, as he was taking pics. We waited until we got real hungry. Meanwhile, the shopkeeper was fascinated with my Speed Pro and could not help molesting it. 

With our stomachs rumbling, we told the shopkeeper to direct Matt left at the Y as we shall be having a bite at S Buloh. Later, we learned that poor Matt realised his bungee cord holding his rain jacket came off and he backtracked 10km to see if he could find it. Unfortunately, it was not successful.

Sungei Buloh is a nice small town with a small jetty, and a sprinkle of restaurants. We enjoyed a nice Nasi Padang lunch while we waited for the rain to go away. The owner, a lovely mid-age Malay lady just took very good care of us and made a most delicious meal. We got chatting and I asked her why every Indonesian male smoked and her clever reply was that neither her father or her husband smoked. Rare as a hen's teeth! 

Matt still did not show up and Darren tried to text him with no avail. As the rains started to ease off, we decided to start riding again, 8km towards Jago. It was a very pleasant ride passing through more small villages and we stopped to take pics of very colourful houses. This one matched Darren's bike and outfit.

Then, the killer stretch began. Hill # 1 & 2 appeared and we had to muster everything we got to climb it. These 2 were the worse hills on the island, and perhaps in our adventure. There was a lot of construction going on in this area so coming downhill, the roads were bad and we had to do so gingerly.

Soon, we came to a T-junction where Jago was but we decided to wait for Matt here. After 30 mins, he finally showed up but I was really giving the mozzies there a good feed. Poor Matt was hungry and exhausted. 

We carried on to Jago just 1km away and got some much needed sustaintence for Matt. There, we were given extra special attention by the waitress, who seemed very interested in Darren "Bond". If that was not enough, another attractive waitress from the next stall joined in Darren's fan club and grabbed him to have her picture taken! 

Satisfied, we saddled up to begin the journey that we took yesterday on Roslan's taxi to Dabo some 28km away. Somehow on the bikes, the big hills were strangely not so daunting and we overcame the first section with ease. After that, the road hugged the coast and it was a sight to behold. This is probably one of the most beautiful stretches of roads I have ridden for a long time.

We soon came to a very long jetty where we rode to the end. As usual, we attracted some curious children on bikes that came to check out who these colourful strangers on small wheels were. The view was breaktaking as we soak in the amazing scenery especially the island of Lingga opposite with its cloudy peaks.

As the sun was setting, we continued on our journey south along the coast and had a drink stop at Harry's sundry shop. It was really strange to be speaking to this very friendly and helpful Chinese man in nothing but a chinese dialect, only to find out his name is none other than Harry!

I enjoyed playing with his 2 kids and the 5yo boy was obviously helping himself too often to the myriad of goodies in the shop. Saying goodbye to Harry, we proceeded on and passed by this sign which made us nearly fall off our bikes in laughter! Jual in Bahasa is "to sell"... (some of us later found out that semen is the Bahasa spelling for cement)

As the sky was turning dark, we turned the cycling dial on to warp speed and it was fun whizzing through the quiet coastal roads at 30-35km/h. Pedalling as hard as we could, strangely it felt like we took forever to hit the airport turnoff, 3km fm Dabo.

When it finally came, we breathe a sigh of relief as it was already dark. Harry had earlier told us to go eat at his friend's Zhi Char restaurant so we made our way there, delighted to find it so easily. But then again, this is Dabo, not New York city. The food was excellent and we felt very glad to have had our evening meal here. Somehow, we were all so hungry as we have done 80km and for Matt, 100+ km due to his little search and rescue adventure.

A quick return to the Armanda Hotel for a must needed shower, and we were out again for coffee. We went to Smoky Joe's once again as it seemed to be the only joint opened at night. The smoke seemed to bother me less the second night but second hand cigarette smoke is something you don't want to get used to.

As our return ferry to Tg Pinang was to leave at 730am tomorrow, we needed to turn in early as we all had to be up at 6am. Roslan our taxi man would be waiting. It had been a most fulfilling day exploring Singkep and I reckoned we could possibly be the first foldies to have circumvented this remote island at the equator. I felt like Captain Cook, the folding bike version with his merry crew, and slept with a broad grin permanently plastered on my face.

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