Day 4 dawned in the same way as Days 1, 2, and 3 did. I was beginning to wonder if Songkran, the Thai New Year’s festival, had arrived early. That holiday is known for its water festival, which the Thais celebrate like this.
We had spent three days being constantly doused with water. Day 4 would be no different.
13 of us rode to Padang Besar. Heng Keng took over the duties of the Chief Support Officer in the van accompanying us.
Our train to KL was scheduled to depart Padang Besar at 3.43pm. We figured we needed about 2.5 hours to clear Immigration and Customs, get cleaned up, pack our bikes in the van, and get something to eat.
We left the hotel, in torrential rain, at about 8.15am. That gave us about 4 hours of riding time to cover 58km / 38mi if we were going to get to Padang Besar in time to catch our train.
The first flat tire of the day came within 4km / 2.5mi. It wasn’t going to be a good day for Danial.
The rain had eased off a bit by the time we got going again.
Our next unplanned stop came after 8.5km / 5mi. A railway line cuts diagonally across Kanjanavanich Road, at about a 45° angle. Railway lines always pose a hazard to cyclists.
The ideal approach is to cross the tracks as close as possible to a 90° angle, thus minimizing the possibility of getting a tire stuck in the grooves between rails and tarmac. Wet rails are slippery, so it is important to roll straight over them, without braking or turning as you are doing so.
I was the first to get to the tracks, followed by Danial and Johan S. I was lined up to cross the tracks at an angle less than 90°, but offset enough from the rails to roll over safely.
Then I saw the potholes in the tarmac just before the rails. I swerved to avoid the potholes, and skidded on the rails. I don’t know how I stayed upright, but I did.
Danial and Johan S. were not so lucky. Johan S. was unscathed, but Danial scraped an elbow, ripping his rain jacket sleeve in the process. He also snapped the Boa cable on his right shoe. Fortunately for both guys, the vehicles behind avoided them as they lay on the road.
As we were attending to Danial’s elbow, and jury-rigging a repair for his shoe, a motorcyclist skidded on the tracks and fell. I suspect those tracks claimed many more victims.
The same railway line cut back across Kanjanavanich Road again 19km / 12mi later. Having learnt from experience, we crossed very carefully, and without incident.
When we crossed the second set of tracks, we had been out in the elements for about two hours. It was time to look for a bathroom and some nourishment. Our support van driver told us that there was a 7 Eleven a few kilometers up the road. That would do nicely.
We ended up not getting much from the 7 Eleven. Alfred found a banana fritter stall on the side street beside the 7-Eleven. That is what is in the bag I am holding. Hot, crispy, sesame seed-coated, and delicious.
TH found a chicken rice shop a few doors down from the 7-Eleven.
Tasty chicken rice and hot chicken soup was just the ticket.
The 7-Eleven did come in useful. There was a standpipe outside. We rinsed a lot of sand and grit off our bikes and ourselves at that standpipe.
Strike three for Danial happened just before the right turn toward Padang Besar. Flat tire number two for him.
This is our support van driver, sensibly sheltering from the rain under the rear door of the van.
It was 13km / 8mi from the junction toward Padang Besar to the border crossing.
We were back in Malaysia.
We had come full circle over four wet, but fun-filled, days. About 375km / 233mi in all.
When I mapped the ride to Padang Besar, it looked like we would have a 5km / 3mi ride from the border crossing to the train station. I asked an Immigration officer if there was a shorter way to the station.
“Yes” he said. “Across the pedestrian bridge that runs from behind the cafe over there.”
The cafe had bathrooms, and perhaps more importantly, a hose. We had picked up yet more sand and grit since we rinsed ourselves off at the 7-Eleven. Another rinse was mandatory.
The pedestrian bridge took us over the railway tracks and straight into the station. Our bike transport van was waiting for us in the car park, as was our support van. The support van had been detained at Malaysian Customs. They wanted to scan all our bags. Arthur persuaded them to let the van through without us all having to backtrack to Customs to claim our bags and feed them through the scanner.
It had taken us 4 hours to ride to Padang Besar, despite the unanticipated stops. We had plenty of time to change out of our soaking cycling kit, pack our bikes into the van which would haul them back to KL, and get something to eat at the station’s self-service restaurant.
There was one last bit of drama at the station. TH had lost his ticket. And the ticket office computer system was down. Our train was also fully-booked, which added another complication to the mix. It took a while to sort out, with tension levels rising as our departure time approached.
TH eventually got his replacement ticket, and we were able to relax on the platform while our train was being cleaned prior to departure.
We were somewhat quieter on the return journey that we had been four days earlier on the way to Padang Besar.
I think this sums up the situation . . .
The damage to the track in KL was supposed to be rectified by the day of our return. KL must have had the same weather we encountered in Thailand, because the repairs would not be completed until the coming Sunday.
So we had another MRT ride to end our 4 day jaunt through Southern Thailand.
to everyone for their team spirit team and camaraderie. We rode through some lovely countryside, had a lot of laughs, ate well, and had a very enjoyable time overall.
Khun Metharin is moving her century ride to Hat Yai in 2018. Mark your calendars!
Our bicycles arrived bang on time on Wednesday at Pegasus Cycles. That is the good news.
The bad news is that four days of consistently wet and gritty conditions wreaked havoc on bottom bracket bearings. So many of us had rough or seized BBs that Pegasus Cycles ran out of replacement bearings.
A valid excuse to buy some new bicycle stuff!