06 May 2011

Bintan Cycle and Seafood Indulgence

It was 7:30am on 1 April I was just a little concerned that I might be making a fool of myself. I had a new bicycle that I’d only used on a brief training ride the weekend before and studying and other commitments meant that I had not managed to get as much training in as I would’ve hoped. Fortunately my concerns were in vain as it was sunburn rather than lack of fitness that finally got to me and I managed to finish 160kms of the planned 200kms for the trip.

Day 1: From Bandar Bental Telani Ferry Terminal to Teluk Bakau
Distance Covered: 61kms
Climb: 754m

After arriving at the ferry terminal and passing through customs and immigration, we set up and made last minute adjustments to our bicycles before setting off. The first leg of the journey out of the Bintan Resorts area was largely downhill and we made good time before we passed by the security gate and entered Bintan proper. The morning was slightly overcast and cool with undulating hills – perfect cycling conditions and with fresh legs we were ready and raring to go. It wasn’t long before I realised that my front brake was continuously rubbing the wheel so I fiddled with it and next thing I knew – oops, NO BRAKE. Fortunately it was my front brake so I continued on, but it was a bit disconcerting not meeting any resistance when I squeezed the lever. Fortunately for all of us we had Benny who performed a couple of roadside repairs (including my brakes) and patiently rode at the back of the pack through most of the trip ensuring that we all got to our destination safely. The morning passed uneventfully and we were in good spirits at the lunch stop.
I expected the afternoon continue like the morning, but was disappointed. We rode along a new road towards the east coast of the island where the hills were higher than before and there was little shade to shelter us from the relentless sun blazing down from a clear blue sky. At one point when I stopped to rest I was completely isolated from the rest of civilisation. It was completely silent (which was a special treat coming from Singapore), just me, the road and the sun. The road continued up and no sooner than I’d reached the top of one climb than there was another in our sights. Eventually I saw a glimpse of the sea and I knew that we were nearly done, but fate decreed there was still one more hill to go before we finally descended to the ocean (and a welcome drink break!)
After that it was about a 10km ride along the flat coastal road to our stop for the night. I kept on wanting to stop and take pictures of the tidal flats and the floating fishing platforms along the coast, but that meant that the support vehicle would have to stop with me so I decided to focus on the cycling and getting to the destination.
We arrived at our home for the next two days, Ocean Bay Resort. As we were the only guests most of us were able (at no extra cost) to get our own rooms. The resort consists of rooms built on stilts about 200m into the ocean around an enclosed area of the sea where guests can (we didn’t) fish. Afternoon tea was served shortly after our arrival and most people either went to sleep or just rest outside their rooms. I decided to have a dip in the ocean and it felt like soaking in a warm bathtub (the water was knee deep so it was quite pleasant to just sit). After doing a couple of yoga asana’s and stretches I returned for a shower and then dinner.
“Seafood indulgence” was included in the trips billing and boy did we indulge. Both nights we were there we got plate after plate of food. I was a bit hesitant at first and concerned about eating too much msg, but the food was found to be msg free so I was able to eat to my heart’s content. On our 2nd night there we celebrated the birthday of one of the group with a large cake and much fun and laughter. The karaoke room was put to good use, but unfortunately one of the songs, Queen’s Bicycle Race, is still sounding in my head 3 weeks later (fortunately it has pleasant associations though).

Day 2: Circular route to Tanjong Pinang and back

Day 2 dawned overcast and cloudy with tales of a thunderstorm and pouring rain that swept though at 3am (I was oblivious to it). Some were concerned about rain, while others of us tried to get the group moving before the clouds dried up and the sun came burning though.  The morning started off easily enough with a flat ride along the coast, but after about 10kms the climbing started again (the highest elevation we reached on the trip was 63m, but it was the ups and downs that made it hard work).  It was Saturday morning and the village shops and repair works were all open and ready for business, in complete contrast to Friday when most of the people we saw were in their Friday-best.  It was awesome to greet everyone (especially the kids) as we passed through.  Sometimes the kids would come onto the road and try to hit our hands as we came past.  I managed most times, but on one occasion where I had 2 kids on my right and 1 on my left I had to choose as there is no way I would've stayed upright with no hands to hold on while leaning out.  Towards the end of the cycle on this day I passed 2 children who were ready and waiting on their bicycles to race us, unfortunately I was just too tired and dehydrated to be able to join in the game.

That evening my tired aching muscles were treated to a well deserved massage, before crashing into bed just after 9pm (but not before a surprise b'day celebration during dinner).

Day 3: Return to Bandar Bental Telani Ferry Terminal and home
Our route back on the 3rd day took us along the coast before cutting inland and across to the ferry terminal on the north-west of the island.  It was the longest of the 3 days on the bike, but not quite so hilly.  The weather in the morning was slightly overcast and made for perfect conditions cycling up the east coast of the island.  By all accounts it was pretty uneventful and we joked and sang as we made our way.  Ez even treated us to a demonstration of one-handed push-ups! After a while we turned inland (west) and started to climb, but all was well.  Once again I was able to savour some of those moments when I was completely alone and think back over the fun we'd had over the past couple of days.

It was with great misgivings that I realised after the lunch break that I really shouldn't continue.  My thighs had been badly sunburnt (inspite of constant reapplication of block out) and with the sun was still beating down I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and loaded my bike on the truck and I finished the route in the support vehicle. 
It was an awesome weekend with much fun and laughter and camaraderie.  In the days following the trip there were a number of emails flying around with other potential trips - Timor, Bali and even some more extreme trips like across the African continent or the Silk Route!  There are no definite plans yet, but watch this space!

Thank you to Foo for the picture of Ocean Resorts and Clarence for the GPS cycle tracks and Kevin Soh for the video

If you would like assistance in creating a similar trip for you and your friends / organisation please contact me here.


The Travel Chica said...

I could do anything if there was "seafood indulgence" promised :-)

Collin Ng said...

Hi Kim

Detailed description of the trip and looking forward to the one in Nov. Cheers.

Kim said...

Thank you Colin for organising a great trip and I'm definitely looking forward to the November one!