July 15, 2001 GMT
Restarting Starship Enterprise

I had grown used to thinking of it in the same way as it was viewed by most of the people I met along the way: A technological marvel, impossibly big and shiny with undreamed of capabilities, no doubt able to achieve twice the speed of sound with a flick of the wrist.

"How much this bike cost in your country?" they would ask in awe, clearly expecting a sum of money more usually associated with moon shots or major hydroelectric projects.

"Or about fifty quid," I thought in shock when I whipped the dust cover off the machine and wheeled it out into the light. It looked like shit...

A Monday morning in the middle of July. It was unseasonably hot, and the stupefied commuters on the M6 were nose-to-tail as usual. I was on my way to Kuala Lumpur, but was currently stuck somewhere near Redditch, ("The Kuala Lumpur of the North" as it is known locally).

Late arrival in Birmingham caused three of us on board the coach to miss the connection for Heathrow. However, the nice people at National express hired a taxi into which we piled in a jumble of weighty luggage. I ended up in the back seat wedged uncomfortably against someone's large plastic suitcase on one side, and a large bloke named Peter on the other. Peter, it transpired, was in textiles, and generously wished to share his love of fabric commodities with me. Needless to say the hours just flew by, and presently the cabby did us the honour of tuning into Radio 2. Terry Wogan was playing hits by the Carpenters. Clearly, I had displeased the gods in some way....

Aside from this, the trip was unremarkable.

Ha! How can you travel halfway round the world in a tin box, in less than a day, and call it "Unremarkable"? How can you skim over dozens of countries and civilizations and chai-shops and entire social systems based on bad karaoke, and one hell of a lot of biscuits, and think of this as just another mode of transport? It's not healthy, neither physically nor psychologically. (I think I may have ranted on about the evils of airplanes before, so just consider it said again.....)

Climatic shock and jetlag could not prevent me from rushing straight off to Mr Wong's lockup just as soon as I had dumped my gear at the guesthouse. I really should have paid more attention to the little voice in my head that was telling me to lie down, drink water and make no sudden movements for a couple of days, but I couldn't wait to start bolting onto the bike all the spare parts I had lugged painfully over from England.

I was stupidly concerned that my three-month stay in England would have affected my attitude to Asia. Kind of de-Asia'd my head. I felt that I would have somehow gone soft on too many english breakfasts and sumptuous B&B's, and lost my tolerance for lavatorial hotel rooms and hot and cold running rats. That said, next to Singapore, Malaysia is probably the least Asian part of Asia, and a good place to reacclimatise.

I did notice one dramatic change in my perceptions, however, with regard to the bike itself. I had grown used to thinking of it in the same way as it was viewed by most of the people I met along the way: A technological marvel, impossibly big and shiny with undreamed of capabilities, no doubt able to achieve twice the speed of sound with a flick of the wrist.

"How much this bike cost in your country?" they would ask in awe, clearly expecting a sum of money more usually associated with moon shots or major hydroelectric projects.

"Or about fifty quid," I thought in shock when I whipped the dust cover off the machine and wheeled it out into the light. It looked like shit. Nothing material had changed, the bike had been left completely undisturbed for three months, but inside my head I was holding this battered, oil smeared wreck up alongside all the latest pristine products of the Jap motorcycle industry that I'd seen humming smoothly about the streets of England. Through Asian eyes, it was still the Starship Enterprise. But in UK terms, it belonged in the back yard at Steptoe and Son. You would be hard put to decide whether to scrap it or compost it.....

Enough of this. I did my best to put my Asian head on, and thought Starship Enterprise.

It wasn't easy. When I thumbed the starter, it appeared that the warp drive was up the spout. Several fruitless attempts later, and the battery was flat. I had to resort to impulse drive: that is to say, I shoved the thing round to the back of Mr. Wong's shop where his team of mechanics lived. Although I was free to use any of his tools and equipment, Scotty and Sulu and all the rest were busily engaged in their own projects and I was on my own. Which, to be honest, is how I prefer it.

I did all the usual stuff like hooking the flat battery up to Mr. Wong's charger, a piece of equipment which would have been more at home bringing corpses back to life in Frankenstein's laboratory. Sadly, the power from beyond the grave availed me of nothing.

A new plug didn't help either, nor did cleaning the carbs out, although I did find some stuff in the venturi that looked like lurid green snot, which I'm nearly sure shouldn't have been there. I scratched my head. I rubbed my chin. I swore inventively. I frowned and made "hmmm-mmm" noises and tried to look mechanical. I sniffed the exhaust (OK, OK, I know...).

Scotty glanced across from time to time, in a sympathetic sort of way. Spock raised an eyebrow. Chekov looked embarrassed and went off to fiddle with a clutch on a Honda 125. Uhura appeared briefly from behind the sales desk, giggled, and went away again, but otherwise contributed nothing.

In the end, the bike started. It didn't start in response to anything specific that I did, nor do I think that it was the cumulative effect of all my twiddling and adjusting and head-scratching. No, the bike just made the decision that it was time to start, and did so. Perhaps it felt that I had suffered enough. I know the dangers inherent in anthropomorphising pieces of machinery, but the plain fact of the matter is this: It was sulking. It was saying something along the lines of:

"Three months in the back of a sodding shed in some godawful humid tropical hole, with dust and rust and rats, look mate, all I'm saying is, if I don't go anywhere, you don't go anywhere. Capische? Point taken? Right then. Let's go."

So we went........

(And while you're at it a couple of litres of Shell Helix
20/50 wouldn't go amiss, and have you seen the state of the oil filter......? Kuala bloody Lumpur, I ask you.....)

I changed the oil, and the chain and sprox, checked the valve clearances, and bought a Malaysia sticker for the windshield. Thus mollified, the bike ran perfectly, or as near as I was going to get beyond a complete rebuild....

Loading bike in Melacca Malaysia.

Loading the bike in Melacca, Malaysia

We went, in fact, to the port of Melacca on the West coast of Malaysia. Thanks to excellent intelligence by team Duval some months previously, shipping the bike to the Sumatran port of Dumai was simplicity itself. I loaded the bike onto a small wooden cargo boat, by chance the very "Kurnia Jaya" on which Ken and Carol's BMW had sailed in April.

Loading bike in Melacca Malaysia.

Posted by Connor Carson at July 15, 2001 12:00 AM GMT
Sorry, due to heavy form spamming, Comments are OFF.

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