Cycling is like life. Cycling with no goal is meaningless. What meaning is there cycling in circles? Or living aimlessly? Meaning comes from direction and destination. Join me in my life's journey on a mountain bike :)

Blogging since 2003. Thank you for reading :))

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Bewilderment and admiration

Fri 6 - Sat 7 Mar

To Kundu Island, Indonesia, 152 km. The crash of waves along the beach is like cycling. Both are rhythmic, hypnotic, idyllic even, especially in a place like Kundu, one of the Riau islands to the south-west of Singapore. My first-time experience there ranges from bewilderment at the hassle to admiration of the friendly folks along the way.

The prelude to the ride proper is a ride to Harbourfront, followed by a two-hour ferry ride. The bewilderment begins upon landing.

The hassle: It doesn't matter that I can get into Indonesia visa-free. Upon landing, a man in uniform walks up, checks my passport and says that as I hadn't been to Kundu before, I have to pay up. After I pay him, he asks for tips. Another man demands $10 for pushing my bike out of customs, though I didn't ask him for the service. And you've got to register with the area chief with a photocopy of your passport and more money. Somewhere out there in the boondocks, a man in a helmet and flak jacket yells at me. He's appeased after I wave a greeting to him. Back in Singapore, I'm almost abducted as the ferry pulls away even though my pals say I'm still on board. I take a running jump and barely make it on shore.

The ride: There are gentle rolling hills and roads that skirt the sea. Forests of trees provide shade along the way. There are fields of grass and villages of houses, some wooden, some concrete, some half-built or abandoned. Traffic is occasional. A boy on a bike way too big for him stands on the pedals and careens along at 30 km/h. Others chase us to point us in the right direction after we get lost. Another boy walks barefoot. A girl reads as she walks alongs. A cat limps along on three paws. There is hardly any roadkill. But this isn't a place for speeding; crashing into the occasional pothole at high speed isn't good for you anyway. It's a harsh ride on 1.25" slicks, given the rough roads. There seems to be more dogs here than in Malaysia. Perhaps because there are more Chinese here. Anyway, the dogs are silent and harmless, unlike in Singapore.

The place: This is a nice place to retire in. In Singapore, you'll sit on your couch in your tiny airspace and watch TV. In Kundu, you can sit on the beach and soak in the view - that's what the villagers do, as many live on landed property by the sea. They fish or grow their own food, which seems to be there for the picking. A sweep of the hand, the drop of a net, and presto, prawns caught by the moonlight.

The businessman: Bikerboey's contact, SB, is an "Indiana Jones" entrepreneur. He's been around the region sussing out a place "to make a few bucks". He sinks in $300,000 into Sawang Beach, catering to the expatriate market in Batam until the heyday was over. He's in the construction business and was involved in building Bridge #1 at Barelang.

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