We left Malaysia on April 29th, finally tearing ourselves away from Steven's beautiful retreat. We had a really lovely time there, swimming in the waterfall, short treks through the rainforest (and the leeches were lovely too) , and a good test of all our camping equipment. We even managed a candlelit dinner in the jungle...
We rode up the coast, past miles and miles of bright green padi fields on either side of the road. After the most painless border crossing ever we were back in Thailand, unexpectedly!
We quickly sorted out bike insurance and rode North. All our Thai maps were on the way to Scotland in our container so we were using a photocopy. Riding down a road that was definitely on the map (but not the GPS; warning!) we were having a great time and making good progress by taking a huge short cut to the West coast.
Suddenly, as often happens in Asia, the perfect tarmac road vanished and became a track, which the locals assured us went nowhere. This meant we had to turn around and do a long detour... being sensible for once as it was getting late we decided to stay in the very unpicturesque town of Hat Yai instead of heading on to the coast.
We picked a place on the map which had a lot of promising looking umbrella and swimming symbols on it but after a few detours through tiny fishing villages we decided to head instead to Ko Lanta, further up the coast but still within a day's easy ride back to Penang in case a ferry miracle happened.
We found a bungalow near the beach, jumped into the sea, got stung by a jellyfish, jumped out again and had a beer instead.
On the way to the coast I'd e mailed some old friends, James and Corinne, who I knew were somewhere in Thailand en route to Canada from New Zealand. They didn't need much persuasion to come to the beach so for remainder of the week we've got some beer tasting activities planned on the deck of our hut. Really great to see them and catch up.
Here's a picture of the four of us caving in Ko Lanta.
So we're back in paradise, and not too worried about the lack of ferry, it'll happen, eventually. In the meantime all I've got to worry about is finding a place to transfer some pictures onto disc to put on here, and the fact that the sea is too hot - (really, it is) although I know anyone still experiencing winter will hate me for saying it!
Our friends James and Corinne left on Saturday after some great days catching up over a “few” Singha beers. We had quite an energetic week; exploring a large and slimy network of caves on Ko Lanta and going on a boat trip to snorkel around some nearby islands.
The trip also included a visit to the Emerald Cave - an 80m swim through pitch black tunnels trying not to lose sight of our guide’s torch ahead of us or bump our heads on the low cave roof. After what I found quite a scary few minutes we swam out into daylight and found ourselves in an enclosed bay with steep cliffs on all sides, reminiscent of Alex Garland’s Beach. We weren’t alone though, every other tourist in the area seemed to be there dressed (sensibly, unlike us) in bright orange life jackets. Their method of getting through the tunnel was to form a huge chain and be dragged through by a couple of guides, I don’t think many could swim and dreaded to think what would happen if one broke the chain and slid off down the wrong dark tunnel. We remained intact on the way out but I found it just as scary, and was relieved to see the bright turquoise water at the entrance.
James and Hamish invented their own version of beach tennis, battling it out each evening and I’ve continued the battle with Hamish “Agassi” Oag every evening since, before enjoying a sunset Singha.
We have continued to hang on here in Lanta for ferry news. Alan, our agent, is at the mercy of the Indonesian ferry company and it’s difficult to get any definite news. Over the last few days we’ve been through plans A – Z; Laos, East Malaysia, straight to Australia, Northern Thailand to name just a few but this morning, for various practical reasons, returned to plan A - back to Penang and a face to face chat with Alan to see if there is news either way.
Our visas for Indonesia expire on 23rd May so if nothing happens by then we will be forced to go straight to Australia, but at least we’ll have given it our best shot. We almost left for the airport this morning, before deciding to give it just one more week.
For some reason it is almost half the price and a much faster process to ship from Malaysia than it is from Bangkok so at least if we are in Penang it’s not too far to get back to Kuala Lumpur airport. One other issue is time, even though we’re really flexible we’ve made plans according to weather and climate patterns in South America and don’t want to leave things too late.
So tomorrow morning we’ll finally be back on the bike - who’s been waiting very patiently - leaving the beautiful beach and the dog who’s been following us everywhere since the day we arrived. We're both in good spirits, getting great tans and looking forward to the next bit!
As the satay's off the menu, we've leap frogged to the surf. I therefore sit here in Brisbane and not in Medan, updating our blog.
Our agent in Penang not surprisingly, sung a familiar tune..."ferry sometime soon lah!" Aye, right. So with our Indonesia visas nearing a terminal condition, followed closely by our sanity, we made a decision to exit stage left, leaving Asia for Australia.
Not only was it tough to leave Asia after what has been home for the last ten or so years, but to get our backsides into gear to leave Koh Lanta, our temporary home for ten days or so. The tennis games got more competitive and the sunsets just more spectacular.
However, we had to establish exactly what the score was with the ferry in order to trigger our next decision; to abandon our plans to travel through the Indonesian archipelago to Timor Leste and on to Darwin.
It had always been a dream to ride this route and therefore extremely disappointing not to be able to so. However, we had to get this gig on the go and therefore, with no ferry pending, we left Penang in a Southerly direction for Kuala Lumper and to arrange our next mode of transport: a Boeing 777.
After our farewell some weeks previously, our good friend Markus got quite a surprise when we called him from a service station on the outskirts of KL to ask if he had a bed for the night. He expected us to be in a far flung exotic destination and not Sungai Buloh! However, he kindly obliged and therefore we celebrated our reunion with beer and duty free.
I took advantage of being in KL, home to the sole Malaysian BMW motorcycle dealer, in a final attempt to put the ABS gremlins to bed. With the red flashing ABS warning lights doing their best to resemble a Patpong night club, I was getting somewhat irate. Garry, the kindly service manager, hooked Bertha up to a diagnostic computer to establish a faulty front ABS sensor. At least the problem had been located and with the luck continuing to flow, they had one in stock! Then things got a little sticky when I remembered that I'd replaced the sensor connection block the year before as a result of a previous owner's fetish for insulation tape to fix broken connectors, therefore rendering it impossible to plug in the new sensor...bugger!
Garry, being the responsible BMW representative that he is, politely declared he couldn't touch it with a barge pole if a non-standard connection was to be used, however should I want to conduct such electrical surgery, then I was more than welcome to use BMW Malaysia's salubrious facilities. After some thought and discussion, I took advantage of a burnt out replacement 1200 wiring loom lying in a corner and removed the appropriate wires and connector and reconnected them into my loom! Hey presto, a BMW approved connection. What's more, a final hook up to Diagnostic Dan and no more go-go bar impressions! I was so happy I told Garry that if he was a girl I would have kissed him. He looked at me somewhat strangely.
I'm glad to say the day continued in a positive vein, as later that afternoon, some two 'phone calls later, we had ourselves and Bertha confirmed on a flight to Brisbane first thing Wednesday morning. It got better, as I had some remaining air-miles, we managed to redeem them, allowing us both to fly for a grand total of approximately 70 quid! Cause for celebration and the cause of our hangover the next morning.
Needless to say it was it was raining when we left the hospitable Mr. Markus and ventured into the congested city centre, (never fun on a loaded behemoth) to collect our redeemed tickets en route to the airport. Bertha was first to check in that afternoon, however not before a thorough scrub down in anticipation of Australia's tough quarantine requirements.
It was then back to the airport cargo bay to disconnect the battery, inform the friendly Malaysian Airlines officer, Rosli, that there was no need to drain the petrol tank as she was running on fumes anyway and tie her down to her own skid large enough to occupy four bikes her size.
We bid our farewell and took Rosli's kind offer of a lift to the hotel, before enjoying our final roti chanai at the local Mamak stall.
Whilst on the plane the following day, we were somewhat amused to find
"Crocodile Dundee" playing on the in-flight video. A reminding insight of what was to come over the next few months. As coincidence would have it, (the first of several as it turns out), a friend of ours living in Malaysia, Chris, was on the same flight. By way of introduction he kindly took us for a traditional Aussie slap-up meal upon on our arrival and of course a XXXX or two to wash it down with.
The next day we rose early in a our discount airport motel and set-off in high spirits to retrieve Bertha. However customs had other ideas. Despite their assistance and friendly manner, it still took the entire day to process the mountains of associated paperwork, therefore having to wait 'till the following day to go through a surprisingly brief quarantine check before exposing Bertha to the Antipodes.
As we'd expected the next stages of the paperwork trail to be somewhat of a formality, we'd planned to be on the go later that day and had therefore checked out of our motel. Emma was waiting patiently in the 'foyer' (if you could call the area next to the vending machine that), with a wealth of information of what to do next. After an expensive return taxi ride to buy some insurance, I set off on the bike to obtain a 'pink slip'. No, not new lingerie for Emma, but a road worthy certificate, the penultimate stage of the paper chase. A mere formailty - I thought.
To cut a long story short, Bertha failed as a result of 0.5mm, yes half a mil. The rear brake disc was worn 0.5mm below spec. Having lived in Malaysia for so long, the harsh realisation of being exposed to Western safety standards was tough to take. None the less, I tracked down a non-BMW (read cheaper) replacement disc from Chris at The BM Shop later on that day. Unfortunately by this time it was too late to catch the Road Transport office and therefore too late to set off that day. Being Friday, we'd have to wait until Monday now.
By this time I had several missed calls from a somewhat concerned Emma, still stranded outside the motel. We finally made contact and I assured her I would return soon - honest!
It was then a series of friendly coincidences occured, coincidences which seem to happen when you're travelling, perhaps even more so within the community of motorcyclists. Steve the mechanic at The BM Shop sympathised with our situation and the fact that Emma was still stranded outside the motel after 6 hours! He very kindly offered us to stay at his place that night, even arranging for his understanding wife, Sharron, to collect Emma from her staging post. We had a great night, drinking Bundaberg Rum and tapping Steve's brains with regard to outback routes.
Steve mentioned he knew a couple living locally who'd travelled extensively on their bike and asked if we'd like to meet them. He therefore put us in touch with Ken and Carol Duval, who of course we'd read about on the HU site. We called them the next morning and before we knew it, were sitting on their deck, drinking coffee, talking bike travels. Not only have they made us feel extremely welcome, but they insisted we stay, despite the fact they've had to leave for the night, leaving us the run of the house.
So perhaps some things are meant to be, even if the catalyst is a 0.5mm below spec brake disc!
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