Sunday, December 23, 2012

Exploring the deep south of The Riaus - Day Two, Bintan

The start of a long ride is always a cause of celebration and great anticipation, and today we were riding the East coast to West Coast of Bintan Island, 2 times the size of Singapore. This was clear when Christoph and I, who are usually the first ones down, were the last ones to meet and we were five mins before 7am!

While the gang were busy loading up the foldies, I went for a quick recce around town and we ended up near the jetty area once more. This time at a Roti Canai (pancakes) restaurant, Suka Ramai, run by an Indonesian Indian. While the food was good, we got overcharged again at US$20! This was getting to be a bad habit as it should be half of that. Well, this made us determined to enquire before ordering the next time.

With full stomachs but with a somewhat bitter after taste, we rode out out of Tg Uban. It was delightful to see school kids going to school, some walking, some cycling and shops slowly opening one by one. It was impossible to get lost as there is only one way out and it was going to be a long 80+km ride to Trikora Beach. The cool morning air and quiet roads helped us warm up quickly and we settled into a good pace. It was a most pleasant start to the day and even the hills that came our way were just right. After an hour and 22km, we stopped for a drink break at a small sundry shop. It was timely as Darren's FD needed some adjustment and there, I had an encounter with a rather fierce native. No wonder he is in a cage!

The turnoff to the Bintan Resort section of Bintan came quickly at the 24km mark or so. The northern bit of Bintan has been segmented and used for hi-end tourists, and the locals need a special permit to cross into there. The likes of Club Med, Banyan Tree et al are here so not exactly the playground for "lowly" bicycle tourists like us. Our lunch break #1 came at 42km mark where we nibbled on Nasi Goreng and crackers but drank buckets of fresh lime juice with ice, cham (mixed) with Teh Botol (Indonesia's fav bottled tea).

At the 46km marker, we veered off the highway left towards Berakit, the northern part of Trikora Beach. This is a beautiful 16km stretch that is challenging due to its many hills but superb quiet country roads. I found myself playing sweeper, not by choice and enjoyed the momentarily solitude. As my small wheels spun quietly beneath me and the open green fields passing slowly by, it was certainly one of those moments that made me burst out in delightful praise.

The gang was waiting for me at a mosque and we bunched up again for the next 4km ride to the beach. One of the joys of touring I appreciate is the numerous opportunities to show care and concern for one another, and this is what makes any trip so meaningful.

It was fantastic to see the beautiful coastline and we stopped at our usual drink stop to say hello to Mak Chik, a motherly Malay lady who ran the small provision shop business. She greeted us ever so warmly.

Our stop here got extended when the afternoon rains started to seriously unload. I took the opportunity to do a bit of manipulation on Christoph who had some back pain due to a previous injury.

This wasn't the only problem Christoph had as when we were leaving, he discovered he had a rear puncture. So what was to be a simple change of tube so we thought turned into a tedious Sherlock Holmes drama. The newly changed tire starting getting flat again some 5km down the road. Close inspection could not reveal anything. Matt tried, Darren tried and I tried but we could not see or feel anything. Eagle eye KC however pulled out a small black sharp plastic bit that got embedded in the tire. This really slowed us down an hour or so, but with the rains, we were not in a hurry to be on the road. Even Storm Storm our little Lego friend seems to have got some bike trouble.

Sometimes, there are days when the rains just do not stop and this was one such day. So with raincoats on, we just pretended to be all weather interceptors on a most important mission and kept going. It was really great fun riding in the rain, and we really felt like naughty little boys on their bikes playing in the wet. All of us managed to climb the steepest hill of Bintan and I was not surprised. This was after all the Dream Team. However when the heavy thunderstorms proved too much, even the Dream Team had to take shelter in a Warung.

Shivering and soaked, we warmed up by drinking lots of hot coffee/tea and Mee Bakso! We must have waited for over an hour and demolished 6 bowls of Bakso, 2 plates of Mee Goreng and countless hot and cold drinks. As the rain was still relentless and it was already 4pm, we grudgingly pushed on for the last 5km to reach Ocean Bay Resort.

This would be my 3rd time in this beautiful hotel on wooden stilts out in the sea. The rooms are organised together out on the water and about 100m from the main reception/dining area. We could walk there but of course, we chose to cycle to our room.

However, I can't helped noticing it was getting rather worn out. Tracy, the excellent marketing manager, had also left so the service was rather dismal. The rooms were also looking very tired and debris from the thatched roof were found on our beds. Anyway, we were just happy to get out of the rain and change into dry clothes. One thing that did not change is the excellent view from our window.

The resident shark was still there in the enclosure and I can't help feeling sorry for that magnificent creature.

We enjoyed a nice seafood dinner and just marveled at the magic of being out in the sea, with the rain still pouring. Wary of getting overcharged again, we were careful in ordering our dinner and did very well indeed enjoying a most sumptous meal with lots of Bintang beer.

After dinner, we enjoyed just lazing in front of our 5 rooms looking at the stars as the rains cleared. It was brilliant to be able to see them sparkling, something that is not possible in the city. We enjoyed experimenting taking night shots with our cameras and I came out with this which I liked.

As there were no internet, no TV, no music but just the sound of lapping waves and a nice cool sea breeze, we were more than ready for bed. I slept with my room door wide opened to enjoy a constant flow of fresh air and dozed off in no time. This was easy as we had hit over 80km, rode through many challenging hills and were feeling pleasantly worn out.

Feeling very happy and satisfied at the wonderful day of riding with such great friends, I slept with a very grateful heart.

1 comment:

Michael Khor said...

I'm going to do this day...soon.....promise :-)