I was anticipating not joining the ride at all, but it's hard to say no to hundreds of kilometres of rolling hills without traffic lights. Long rides for base training!
I woke up at 4am there about, and the meeting time was 530am. I knew I would need about 1 hour for a slow ride there. I always cut through the Ulu Sembawang Park Connector when going over to Msia, there's no lights there and a little eerie but that's how I like it. You should try riding through!
Once everyone arrived, we set off promptly. Pass the checkpoint and immediately I forget to make a right turn and we waste some time backtracking, and just as we made the original right turn (now a left turn) JY gets a puncture. And I feel a little guilty, maybe he wouldn't have had the puncture if I remembered to make the right turn...
Once done, we set off again... Nice hills... Than we decided to take a break at Macdonalds!
It was relatively easy, and we didn't really need the break but a photo at the spot seemed obligatory:
Right after setting off from photo taking, ZY hit a puncture... Me and JY were up ahead and didn't know, but as we glanced back we didn't see them... So we stopped at a roadside railing with some shade and chatted for a good 15+mins before we saw them again. While waiting, many a Malaysian drivers honked at us and made gestures to ask if we were ok, so friendly!!
Off we go, reaching a right turn onto route 92. From here, JY and ZY decided to try a tactic we talked about during breakfast where you continue pedaling down a decline (instead of coasting) and put some effort on the incline to preserve the momentum and use it to finish the climb a little easier. However, I thought they were doing a little too much... As I continued riding at a comfortable pace...
As the sun comes up, ZY gets another puncture. Unsure of what the cause was, I passed him my spare tube as his spare tube didn't hold air as I tried inflating it before putting it in. Must be a faulty tube... Unlucky!
We try to be thorough on checking inside the tire for any debris, but it seems the tires are reaching their end of life... As we continue on, ZY tire seems so suffering a slow leak despite my new spare tube.... Petronas at Desaru seems so far! Hill after hill, the sun blaring just as the end didn't seem anywhere in sight we see "500m to Petronas". Halleluiah.
The Petronas petrol kiosk actually had seats inside with aircon, as we enjoyed cold drinks and some snacks for journey into a small town (Bandar Penawar) for lunch and to decide after lunch if we head for the ferries or U-turn and ride back from where we came.
Lunch at Marrybrown!
It was just awesome, fried chicken with cold fizzie drinks, right as the Sun's heat peaks! Great!
After the lunch we topped up drinks at a 24hr mart instead of at a bus terminal we stumbled upon. As we loaded up, we all decided taking the ferry was a better choice since our legs were already complaining! Without much thought about whether we had enough time to make the ferry we set off towards Sungei Rengit.
The way to Sungei Rengit was just insane! The headwind is the single biggest enemy! There were many points on the road was it was downhill and I was going at 22km/h... Downhill! Uphill was a painful crawl... some 11kms later, desperate for a rest from the Sun, (there wasn't much shade by the side of the road) we stopped at what seems like a bus stop. Finally!
As we weighed our options, it was 2.30pm, last ferry at 4pm, we probably wouldn't make... The backup plan was the more expensive commercial ferry, where we don't know the timing of the last ferry but expected it to end rather late.
We U-turned at the busstop, and headed for the commercial ferry... We went faster than usual, as the anticipation of the end of ride usually brings... We soon burnt out as the hills towards the ferry were impossibly steep despite there being no headwinds.
18km in from route 92, to the ferry... it seemed like forever... In Singapore, there distance would probably take 45mins at most, even with hills and traffic lights... But to the ferry terminal it took more than an hour, even with dogs chasing WJ. That was quite amusing...
As we neared the ferry terminal, I saw a car from the opposite direction flashing his lights at me... As I think back... He was trying to tell me something... There were less and less cars as we approached... And once we reached the terminal, we were very reliefed.
Only to find out that we have missed the last ferry that departed a 4pm. The same timing the smaller boats operate! Oh my... god.
The backup plan has failed.
After coming to terms with reality, some of us bought ice cream... (perhaps as a pick me up) and thought the best plan was the head for the small town earlier with had a bus terminal and take a bus closer to Singapore, or we would be look at a total distance of 330+km (including the distance thus far) to home.
We didn't have enough money for taxi home (since we probably can only fit 1 guy on one taxi, at most 2), so bus terminal it is! 5+pm.... when we get out... 6pm... and probably around 7pm at the town.
Alright! Let's do it!
Back to those torturous hills, and out to route 92. Where we had a short break and some sugary treats (that was a life saver btw, ZY! Thank you!!)
And we reached Bandar Penawar just before sky dark, the worse dawned upon us... The bus bay was empty and instead, stood two taxis...We had to ride back.
We had to.
We decided to take a longer break, get some fresh batteries and exchange some spare SGD into RM. We pooled our remaining money together and figured it would be enough if we spent most money on food. As long as there were no more punctures.
Just as we were about to leave, I spotted a bus... And I was like.. Damn wouldn't it be good if we could take a bus... WAIT A MIN. A BUS!!!
JY and WJ rushed forward to ask the bus driver where it was headed.... As they went ahead, the driver flipped the sign from initially "Bandar Penawar" to "Kota Tinggi". And he came down the bus.
The ride back was a blur, from Kota Tinggi to Johor there were only sparse streets lights are traffic junctions, of which i only counted 2. We were riding in the dark with one JY leading the way with his brighter lights and me using my blinkers (surprisingly bight btw, blackburn flea. shall do a review).
Riding with the road lit only with blinkers, is like walking with only the moonlight (there was no moonlight). With a lot of faith and trying my best to concentrate and avoid potholes with <1 sec reaction time we finally hit Johor, where we took a break and agreed that was one scary ride.
I even hit a pothole so deep, my water bottle flew out and I had to stop to retrieve it. Right after I picked it up, i realized how riding with my mates made me psychologically calmer... And so put extra effort to catch up.
Once in Johor, traffic increased and there were many lanes changes required... Somewhere along, ZY had a puncture on a flyover... With zero patches and zero spare tubes... He decided to ride down, and unfortunately warped his wheel. JY passed ZY some money to get a cab back.
We regrouped at bus stop before checkpoint, and just as we cleared customs, JY had a slow leak. Talk about dramatic... Oh btw, JY rides a mountain bike, so he had his own tube.
And after the change, JY clipped on his bike but couldn't pedal off, because he on a high gear and a hump was blocking his way. So he fell.
And he yelled as he anticipated the fall, you know the feeling?
You are clipped in, panic sets in. And you know you just have to fall.
Back to Ulu Sembawang PCN, than when reaching Thomson road... Just had the hunger come in, and so wanted to eat at Hans... But a new eatery beside it seems really welcoming... So there was where he had a really fine meal!
We ate like a boss and I continued home to sleep for the next 14 hours or so.