[d15] singapore-perth-melbourne

QF72 from Singapore to Perth, a four-hour stopover, then QF776 to Melbourne.

July 29 | 6,618 kilometres | 8:30 | 778.6 km/h average

[d14] singapore

A day of coming back down to earth, for dealing with the prosaic end-of-holiday realities.

I dissemble the bike, packing it in the box the hotel stored while I was away. I shop for gifts for my family, wander through Little India and Chinatown, and enjoy good Singaporean hawker food.

Taxi booked for the early trip to the airport the next morning, I'm in bed and asleep by midnight.

July 28

[d13] tanjung kapal beach resort-singapore

Leaving Tanjung Kapal in the cool, clear air of the early morning, I cycle slowly along the coast road towards Pengerang. Near the ferry terminal, I stop to while some time away until the bum boat leaves for Changi Point. Behind me are overgrown World War II pillboxes, part of the decaying Pengerang Battery that overlooks the entrance to the Singapore Straits; in front, over the South China Sea, a rapidly darkening sky heralds an approaching storm.

I sit watching the clouds roll in, then make my way to the terminal to shelter as the heavens open. When the storm has passed, the bum boat departs with its silent passengers.

At Changi Point, immigration officers pore over the contents of my bike pack and, satisfied there's no contraband, turn their attention to my GPS — apparently intrigued by how it works and how I use it — and warn me to be careful of Singaporean thieves. I acknowledge with gratitude their concern, and equally gratefully depart their company.

The Changi Coast Road and East Coast Park bike path take me back into Singapore. Navigating through the afternoon grid lock, I'm back in the Perak Hotel in Little India in time for dinner.

My shonky wheel went the distance!

July 27 | 73.05 kilometres | 4:25 | 16.5 km/h average

[d12] kota tinggi waterfalls-tanjung kapal beach resort

I have no particular destination in mind today, other than to head south-east towards Pengerang.

After breakfast and a short walk to the waterfalls (links to the waterfalls resort in this post), I meander back down the road through the rubber plantations to Kota Tinggi. From there, I find my way to Jalan Raya Pengerang (Federal Route 9) and settle into an undistinguished ride to Desaru — the highlight being a stop for teh tarik.

Desaru seems largely deserted, I suppose because it is a weekday in the off-season. The road so far has been in reasonable condition and the weather mild and dry, but from Desaru (on Jalan Desaru and Jalan Teluk Ramunia, or Federal Route 90) the road surface deteriorates, with many potholes and areas of broken seal, and the looming clouds bring intermittent showers. I'm concerned my wheel might collapse under the extra strain from the rough road, but it continues running reasonably true despite the pounding.

By mid-afternoon I'm in Kampung Sungai Rengit and stop for a drink and snack at a small roadside park by the sea. The showers haven't cleared and I'm now quite wet and looking forward to stopping for the night. On the way from Desaru, I've been passing occasional billboards advertising a resort at Tanjung Kapal — a few kilometres from Kampung Sungai Rengit — and decide to head there. Tanjung Kapal Beach Resort (1.342081N 104.164010E) has chalets fronting the South China Sea, one of which I rent. It also has a beach-side restaurant and my evening meal there of tom yum-based seafood soup is one of the most pleasurable I've had since coming to Malaysia. (Two other memorable meals are a pineapple prawn curry at a small restaurant in a Melaka side street, and rice, vegetables and fish at an open-air restaurant by the Malacca Straits in Pontian Kechil.)

July 26 | 106.79 kilometres | 6:02 | 17.7 km/h average

[d11] pontian kechil-kota tinggi waterfalls

From daybreak, I sit for a while with a waking tea at the drowsy all-night restaurant overlooking the Straits and then, more alert than asleep, start spinning the cranks on the road to Johor Bahru — the Pontian-Skudai Highway.

Midday traffic approaching Johor Bahru is noisy and congested and the roads hot, but the route skirting the city is well marked and before long I'm through the conurbation and well on the way to Kota Tinggi.

The country is open and gently undulating and I get to Kota Tinggi sooner than I expect. I see no signs pointing the way to the waterfalls, but locals help me when I'm wondering which way to turn. By late afternoon, I've checked in at the Kota Tinggi Waterfalls Resort (1.829275N 103.834101E), have had a cooling swim in the pool and am sitting on the verandah of my small chalet drinking tea, watching monkeys scour the trees for food, and marvelling at the fleeting ferocity of an afternoon downpour.

On the way up to the resort, I noticed a warp in my back wheel. Inspection revealed a spoke broken at its elbow. Thinking back, I recall a metallic ping earlier in the day on the ride to Johor Bahru. At the time I thought nothing of it, but now guess it was when the break occurred. I don't have a spare spoke, so re-tension and true the wheel as best I can and hope that in its weakened state it will get me back to Singapore.

July 25 | 102.63 kilometres | 5:20 | 19.2 km/h average

[d10] batu pahat-pontian kechil

Rising at dawn, I have every intention of departing early but I'm on holiday and the pleasures of dawdling overwhelm an innate urge to move on.

It has rained overnight, but when I finally leave Batu Pahat the last vestiges of showers have cleared. The stand of remnant natural vegetation covering the hill south of the town provide a welcome tropical backdrop for the ride to the coast.

Apart from stopping at a kampung for my standard-fare nasi lemak breakfast, I ride through to Pontian Kechil by early afternoon, reserve a Travel Hotel room — overlooking the Straits again — and while away the remaining daylight hours wandering the town, catching up with email at an internet cafe, and sitting quietly by the water.

July 24 | 73.7 kilometres | 3:42 | 19.9 km/h average

[d9] melaka-batu pahat

Dawn light and gentle rain welcome me to the day.

Leaving Melaka I filter through single-minded school-day traffic near the cluster of colleges just east of Dutch Square. I reach the city outskirts soon after and — with the rain eased — settle into a steady rhythm and pace along the coast road towards Muar. After a few hours I stop at a roadside stall for nasi lemak and teh tarik (hot sweet tea), then continue on, bypassing Muar on the road that partly rings the town to its north and east.

By mid-afternoon, after another stop for a rest and drink, I'm back in Batu Pahat and find a room for the night at Hotel Novo Park.

July 23 | 105 km | 5:20 | 19.8 km/h average

[d7 & d8] melaka

Some days off the bike, wandering around Melaka, visiting the UMNO Museum, exploring the lanes of Chinatown and the historic precinct around Dutch Square, discovering Nonya cuisine (pineapple prawn curry a favourite!) and people-watching.

July 21 and 22

[d6] batu pahat-melaka

A crisp, clear morning.

Refreshed, I'm happy and on the road again by 8 am. Federal Route 5 — the coastal road between Pontian Kechil and Melaka — gets me to Muar (about 50 km from Batu Pahat) by late morning. In the shade by Sungai Muar, I chat with the Indian woman who serves me roti snacks and lime juice from her riverside stall.

It's early afternoon when I leave Muar and the midday heat has arrived. I want to keep riding the coastal road, but I miss a turnoff not far from Muar (later, I learn it's a nondescript junction about 10 kilometres west of Muar) and I end up on a newly built dual-carriageway highway — Federal Route 19 — that arcs inland and takes me a long way from the cooler coast. It's exposed, hot riding — no dappled shade from roadside trees, no stalls or kampungs with cooling drinks, just endless oil palms and some traffic. I'm out of water and dehydrated when I reach the outskirts of Melaka and stop at a service station to replenish and drink ice-cold soy milk.

A few kilometres later I'm in central Melaka and, armed with directions from a Dutch Square tourist policeman, cross Sungai Melaka and roll down old-town Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock to my hotel for the next few days — The Baba House.

July 20 | 97.6 kilometres | 4:53 | 19.9 km/h average

[d5] pontian kechil-batu pahat

Rising early, I'm on the road well before local work-day traffic. The tide in the Straits is at full ebb, exposing expanses of mudflats to the south and baring roots of mangroves lining the shore. The sky is mottled with clouds, the air cool and still.

Barely a kilometre into the ride, I pass a restaurant serving breakfast so I double back and fill my belly with nasi lemak and tea. Fortified, I begin riding again and settle easily into a comfortable rhythm and pace. The road, loosely following the coast, is flat, in good condition and has wide shoulders. It passes through somnolent kampungs and crosses tidal creeks with fishing boats clustered around makeshift jetties.

Nearing Batu Pahat, the coastal flats give way to low hills. The road turns inland, away from the coast and the cooler air. A stand of native forest clads the flanks of the hills, a welcome change from the otherwise ubiquitous oil palms. It's becoming decidely warm and humid as I arrive in the centre of Batu Pahat and look for accommodation for the night.

I can't find a travel hotel like the one I stayed in at Pontian Kechil and because I'm hot, hungry and want to get off the road, I check in to the four-star Hotel Katerina. There are only a few rooms available, so I settle for an executive suite. The duty manager lets me keep my bike in the room. I shower, do my laundry and go out to explore Batu Pahat on foot and to find some good food.

As the day draws to a close, I find I'm lacking my usual energy and enthusiasm. The past few days I've been running on adrenalin and the excitement of arriving in Singapore, crossing into Malaysia and beginning the tour have taken their toll. I'm looking forward to a good sleep and reclaiming my normal sense of equilibrium.

July 19 | 76.3 kilometres | 3:40 | 20.8 km/h average

[d4] johor bahru-pontian kechil

The main road out of Larkin is quiet first thing in the morning and I'm soon at Skudai, where I turn south-east off the highway and head towards Gelang Petah.

Storm clouds gather and as I reach Gelang Petah it's beginning to drizzle. I shelter at an Indian restaurant in the town and drink hot sweet tea while watching the main shower pass.

With storm clouds still threatening, I strike out for Pontian Kechil. The weather never really clears, with steady drizzle settling in for the remainder of the ride. Home for the night is the Travel Hotel on Jalan Delima — a small hotel with the apt motto "cleanliness is our way of life". The staff are welcoming and happily let me store my bike for the night in the first-floor reception area. From my room I have a sweeping view over the Straits of Malacca, a view I subsequently bespoil by hanging wet laundry out to dry on the sills of the open windows.

July 18 | 69.1 kilometres | 3:39 | 18.9 km/h average

[d3] singapore-johor bahru

A shady Bukit Timah Road and Woodlands Road get me from Little India to within a kilometre of the Woodlands Checkpoint. The riding is easy, the traffic light (and apparently respectful of a laden bicycle).

There's no obvious bicycle path onto the causeway from Woodlands Road, so I negotiate an unconventional entry to the motorcycle lane leading up to the Checkpoint.

Singapore departure formalities completed, I ride the short distance across the causeway, clear Malaysian customs and immigration and arrive in downtown Johor Bahru well before noon.

After swapping some Singapore dollars for Malaysian ringgits at a local moneychanger, I wend through JB's back streets, onto the main roads and out to the Hotel Seri Malaysia at Larkin. The rest of the afternoon I spend wandering around Larkin and its markets.

An easy day in the saddle, but significant. Leaving Singapore marks the real beginning of a few weeks on the road and I'm elated at being here.

July 17 | 39.7 kilometres | 2:18 | 17.2 km/h average

[d2] singapore

The Perak Hotel is home for two nights. A shophouse hotel in Singapore's Little India district, the Perak is around the corner from the extraordinary Masjid Abdul Gafoor mosque.

I reassemble the bike in the hotel laundry. Partly pulled down and boxed for the flight from Australia, it has arrived undamaged. The hotel will store the box for the next two weeks.

A sealed bike track runs through East Coast Park to near the Tanah Merah ferry terminal road. I meander indolently along the track — it's a weekday and few people are about. When the track peters out, I continue on Changi Coast Road, skirting the airport, and on to Changi Beach Park and Changi Point. It's easy riding, but hot and humid. Nasi lemak and fresh lemonade from a village stall at Changi Point fix the hunger pangs and the thirst.

On the way back to Little India, an afternoon storm brews over the South China Sea. I stop for a rest by the beach, moving on before the storm hits. Eventually, when it does, I shelter in a service station off Mountbatten Road. After the storm, the Perak is welcoming, and the bike goes back in the laundry.

July 16 | 65.2 kilometres | 4:03 | 16.1 km/h average

[d1] melbourne-perth-singapore

Airline loyalty points get me indirectly to Singapore for $0, but 'taxes/charges' add $342. Cheap travel nonetheless. And, between flights, I get to while away a few hours by the Swan River at South Perth on a clear and still late-winter morning.

July 15


d1: Melbourne-Perth-Singapore
d2: Singapore
d3: Singapore-Johor Bahru
d4: Johor Bahru-Pontian Kechil
d5: Pontian Kechil-Batu Pahat
d6: Batu Pahat-Melaka
d7: Melaka
d8: Melaka
d9: Melaka-Batu Pahat
d10: Batu Pahat-Pontian Kechil
d11: Pontian Kechil-Kota Tinggi Waterfalls
d12: Kota Tinggi Waterfalls-Tanjung Kapal Beach Resort
d13: Tanjung Kapal Beach Resort-Singapore
d14: Singapore
d15: Singapore-Perth-Melbourne