(written by Dave)
We had a long day planned so we were up pretty early this morning, using the alarm for the first time in a long time. Sleeping in hotels is a big change for us. For most of our time in Australia we were in the tent and up with the bird song, literally. So far in Malaysia we’ve only been riding short days so early starts didn’t matter. Today we planned over 90k and the mid-day heat here is something – thus the early start. Oatmeal was also on order – needing a good fuel up to start the day. We managed to get on the road by 7:30.
Today’s route was almost entirely on Highway 3, the major east coast route in Malaysia. There is no expressway on the east coast, so we sort of expected a bit of traffic. On the other hand, we were riding on Saturday, which of course is a day of rest in a Muslim country. We had no idea what the road conditions would be…
The result: Great rolling road with 1 meter shoulder the entire day. Not much traffic and more than few toots and waves. Even though it was a major road Malaysia roads still put on a good show. The only part of the day that was stressful was the last 5ks into Mersing – traffic here got a lot busier and we didn’t know where we were going. Wandering in traffic is never fun.
We only stopped a couple times for comfort breaks and for a morning tea. The later was of course our new staple, roti cinai. We probably could have eaten two of them each but we didn’t want to seem like pigs. The scenery varied from palm tree plantations to rubber trees to a bit of virgin forest. There was one factory early in the day pumping out smoke to give the morning the typical SE Asia haze. And of course there were once again quite a few groups of monkeys. The cars don’t bother them – but they kind of freak out when we go by. Sometimes you see them scurrying away, other times it’s just a jumble of moving bushes (I’m sure that they were monkeys, not tigers, sure).
We had the name of a couple of hotels in Mersing and picked the Timotel Hotel, which is close to the centre of town. It is a bit dated and not as nice as the hotel we had in Kota Tinggi but we probably won’t be that lucky again. We checked in, showered and headed out to get some lunch at the hawker stalls across the road. After lunch we wandered around town a bit and walked down to the jetty where all the ferries take off to the islands off the coast. Lots of folks there waiting for ferries so it looks like a popular trip.
Back at the hotel we enjoyed a complementary drink (no alcohol) and relaxed. We learned from reception that there was another touring cyclist in the hotel. Later in the dinning room, we met up with Anneke, a retired woman from Holland who was riding home from NZ after visiting her daughter. She’s been on the road for 14 months and even rode in Indonesia. She informed us that Malaysia is “easy” after Indonesia – guess we better not complain about Malaysia! What a kick she was – great spirit and energy.
Where we go tomorrow is still not settled. The questions is to head to the farm stay near Kulang or over to island of Tioman for some R&R. We don’t necessarily need a break but Tioman is supposed to be interesting. As noted, we say lots of folks heading there today… Check in tomorrow for our decision…
PS – Happy Birthday Linda!