We are now on the Island of Pangkor, a tropical paradise about 10 kms in length, dotted with white sandy beaches and a handful of settlements with large exclusive gated resorts and the usual modest chalets and small guest houses, where we are staying and endless stalls offering quick foods, blow up beach toys and a gamut of rides and snorkeling opportunities to nearby islets with even more remote beaches and coves.
Our journey to date has been about 750 kms in about 12 riding days, and thankfully, after a near absence of riding for two years, each day has been progressively easier as we get fitter as we steam along. The first few days were the hardest, as I suffered from the “princess and the pea syndrome” with each white stripe on the road feeling like a ride over a washboard; the slightest increase in elevations and/or headwind, akin to the steepest part of Rogers Pass; in the heat of the afternoon, with temperatures approaching 40 C, the passing of a bus or a large truck, provided a welcome breeze and momentary cooling shade; cell towers in the distance, usually on a height of land, were like a mirage, looming large, seemingly never to be reached. And of course, there never seemed to be enough reasons to stop for a momentary rest, whether to take photographs or consume drinks from pristine air-conditioned service stations, where we would down 1.5 liter bottles of water and/or sparkling energy drinks, as if sipping the last mouthful of an ordinary beverage. I think of patenting "Hot spinning" a la hot yoga, who aspire to do four or five consecutive spinning classes on the road each day. Early on, eating was not a culinary choice, but forced feeding to fuel the leg engines as they seemed always running on near empty. The mental strain showed, as I struggled to calculate the distance remaining by subtracting the distance traveled, as indicated on my cycling computer and the highway mileage signs, signalling the kilometers left to our destination.
Each day has become progressively easier, so much so that two days ago, having already covered 60kms, we opted to go onto to the next town, where a hotel with more creature comforts awaited. There is of course nothing more pleasurable, then a cold shower, a good meal and a solid nights sleep after a long days ride. And each day is more memorable for the heightened awareness of the landscape changing from palm oil plantations to rice fields to coconut palms, the variations in size and colours of mosques, and Chinese and Hindu temples, and the people on the road around us who offer friendly honks or thumbs up. Still, the meal stops are the most enjoyable not only for the respite and nourishment, which is always tasty and very inexpensive but rarely predictable, but for the curious looks and questions we elicit as we explain to an amazed audience, that we are cycling from Singapore to Bangkok, a statement that each day, with each reiteration becomes less incredulous and more real and pleasurable to us.