Next stop is the extreme South of the Asian mainland. Well, almost: so many people come here, they landscaped it and erected a toll booth. We contend ourselves with a picture in front of the entrance.
Europeans get a 90 day entry stamp for Malaysia, but Thais only get 30 days. So, it's time for a border run for Su and we stop off at the Singapore border. Taking non-Malaysian bikes into Singapore is complicated and expensive, so I stay behind while Su takes the bus. We stop for the night in Johor Bahru, then head up the East coast, veering inland at one point to admire Tasik Bera, the largest natural lake in Malaysia. It reminds me a lot of some lakes in NZ and I would like to stay and go canoeing, but Su doesn't and we continue.
At Cherating beach we break our journey for 10 days. Swimming, working on the PC, eating and feeding the wildlife are our daily activities. Wildlife? Squirrels, monkeys, ants and mossies, lots of them, 24h a day. One day we get back from the beach to find our place has been ransacked by monkeys. They have bitten through every plastic bag and container they could find.
There is no power point in our hut, the fan is hard-wired. I solve
the problem with a scrap piece of wire and two clothes pegs.
Right on arrival I spot a big white truck and meet Peter and Ulla from Bad Segeberg, living the hard life.
Soon after Ana-Laura and Hubert from Berlin turn up.
A few days later Toni arrives. He is from Sudetenland. Aged 82, he has travelled for the last 7 years through America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia, all without a carnet. He tells tall tales and proudly shows off his deck of cards, ahem, passports.
Last, but not least, Christian and Hannelore from Austria. They also intend to go to Indonesia later, so we may meet them again.
It only takes us two days to ride from Cherating to Georgetown. I had read about Malaysian motorways: there are rain shelters for bikers and bike lanes go past the toll booths, so we don't have to pay. What people didn't tell us is the other half of the story: the bike lanes continue all along the motorway, at half the width of an emergency stopping lane. At the entrance you have to dodge a steel barrier. Most bikes in Malaysia are small and slow, but it's quite dangerous to overtake them, as two bikes barely fit past one another. Either side of the lane is lined with solid crash barriers and sometimes trees. If you crash you will be chopped up by the crash barrier supports and what's left will be smashed by the trees. But it gets worse: at every exit there is a speed bump and a stop sign. Bikes must leave the motorway, stop at the lights, then ride up the ramp with the cars and enter the next section of bike lane. We ask people and apparently the cops will give us a ticket if we don't ride in the danger lane.
We have a lot to do in Georgetown: my bike gets a new steering bearing (again) and some other repairs, Su's bike gets a "service", although the Kawasaki "big bike" dealer's idea of a service doesn't go much beyond an oil change. I even have to ask them to clean the air filter. The tyre we put on in Melaka is no good, so we replace that, too. Then there are shipping, visas and ferry tickets. The shipping co. can't tell us when the next boat goes: economic downturn, they don't run to a schedule any more. Shuib visits us with one of his families (he's got two!) and we have a nice evening together. We only manage a little bit of sightseeing.
The Golden Lestari 3, which carries our bikes across the Melaka Strait.
The bikes leave on Friday, but our ferry only goes on Monday, so the bikes will spend a few days in Belawan port. We hope that nothing will get stolen during that time. For me this marks the end of about two years on the Asian mainland and tomorrow another adventure will begin. We both feel that we are about to leave civilisation.
On our last day we meet an old acquaintance: Andrew, the roving journalist and writer, whom we first met in Mae Sariang, then again in Mae Sai and Vientiane. It's a small world, it seems.