As this new day began, I had to make a decision : going to see another lake and crossing the famous 44 corners pass to get there, or going directly to my next destination, Sungai Penuh. I chose to give up the first option for 2 reasons that seemed plausible: I had seen a beautiful lake only a few days before, and while going through 44 bends could seem pleasant with a light motorcycle, mine with all its equipment on would really just feel like a big effort. So I continued my road, and discovered as I went that new beautiful lakes were on the way anyway. the view is accompanied by a coffee break with fried bananas.
Fried bananas and coffee : a beautiful way to take a break !
The landscapes were getting more beautiful down in the South, and the road went through many tea plantations, each greener than the one before. A local biker and his girlfriend stopped while I was taking pictures, and we exchanged a few words and handshakes.
Encounter on the road
The day was long, and the landscapes were changing rather quickly. The sun was soon replaced by heavy showers. A pass was particularly difficult to go through. The slope was very steep, and the water was running like a river in the opposite direction. I reduced my speed and broadened my turns so as not to slip and get surprised. I passed, for the first time since Burma, a kind of puddle so deep that my exhaust was entirely submerged. I finally arrived exhausted in Sungai Penuh, and found a hotel where the friendliness of the owners made me forget the mediocrity of the room. I still spent much of the night chasing spiders and bugs of all kinds.
I decided to get up early to go as far as I could. The alarm rang at 5.40 am, and I went on my daily ritual: preparing the bags, putting my boots on, and turning on my electronic devices. The route of the day made me cross from the centre of the island to the West coast, and the road was very difficult : not only the path was going through narrow and steep slopes, but the road was mainly made of gravel, mud and very deep holes. I nearly lost my balance several times, but slowly went on. I reached the coast a few hours later and continued my day all the way to the city of Bengkulu, some 355 kms and 10 hours later. I spent a spiderless night.
Once again, I got up early and started my day as early as possible. It seems to have become a kind of new philosophy for me. To cover the greatest possible distance and exceed my limits. The road in the morning is always nice, the air is fresh and landscapes awaken at the same time as me. I was doing well, but something was wrong. When you ride a bike for so many hours, you can easily notice the slightest change in it. That change (difficulty to maintain the bike straight when cornering) could only mean two things: either my bags were unbalanced, which would surprise me because I had redone my packing that morning, or I had an issue with my tyres.
The day before, I had spotted a problem on my rear rim, which probably got dented while going through one of the many holes in the road. I decided to go slower, and stopped at the following gas station. I dismounted, fearing the worst and slowly approached the rear tyre. I pushed it with my thumbs; it sank a few millimetres. Bad sign. I decided to re-inflate it, and keep going. The following 80-100 kilometres went relatively well, but I could feel a deterioration towards the end. It was getting worse and worse, until I was forced to stop in a village and found to my dismay how bad it was: the tyre was completely flat. I tried to draw the attention of a lady in the village to show her my problem and explain my need to re-inflate it quickly. Children watched the linguistic misunderstanding with a smile, and I tried my chance with them. “PSHT PSHT”. I mimed the sign of a pump, and attempted to communicate my need. They ran into a nearby house and came back with a bicycle pump. My saviours! I inflated my tire, gave them some money to thank them and left again, my self-insurance still very shaken.
Dent on the rim
The following 10 kilometres were really bad. I could really feel that it would not last long, but I tried to go on. The distances are long and I had to cover the 15 kilometres still separating me from the next village. The tyre decided otherwise and earth, mud, and holes were taking over my patience. I could feel that this time, I was really flat (well the tyres …). I heard the rim touch the ground several times, and began to have cold sweats. I got off the bike, and attempted to seek help from amused people looking at me from a hut nearby. They were observing me from their windows without glass, and told me they had nothing there to help me. The tyre was completely deflated, and the rain began to fall. I stood in the middle of this wild track with more holes than a Swiss cheese. I did not know what to do, but tried not to panic. The rain was quenching me, and I was really starting to struggle handling the problem. I tried to take all the bags off the bike and access the tyre repair kit located under my saddle. I tried to inflate the tyres with CO2 cartridges, but nothing happened. 6 cartridges later, I realised the obvious: I could not do anything.
I put all the bags back on, and tried to ride on the rim. Come what may. I crossed one hole, two holes, and almost dropped the bike several times. 10 meters further, I was completely stuck. The while span around aimlessly, and the rim was now fully touching the ground. I tried to put the bike on its stand, but realised that I have lost so much height that the stand was no touching the ground before it could fully deploy. The rain began to fall heavily. I was not a happy camper… One of the most difficult feelings for me to manage in my life is the lack of control, and that was exactly what I felt at that moment. A poor biker who could not even get off his bike in the middle of a terrible road, in an isolated and wild island, trapped in his own mission. Take a few years of experience off me, and I would already be sobbing like a child. But I had to face it, it would not change anything here. Night would start falling in a few hours, and I needed a solution.
I decided to wave at every truck that passed by and show them my tyre, and my inability to get off the bike because of the stand. They replied with sorry looks. A dozen trucks passed, but nobody could help me. After some time, a pickup truck turned around, and three men approached me. I tried to explain the situation and they offered to help me if I gave them some money. I accepted willingly, but explained that putting the bike at the back of their truck was not as simple as it looks because of its weight. They finally understood what I meant when one of them tried lifting up the front wheel. They held the bike, and I went down to remove all the bags. The rain was now really heavy and constant. I took all the possible weight off the bike and threw it all at the back of this salutary vehicle. They got planks out of the truck to make a kind of ramp, and it took all 4 of us to load it up. I asked them to drop me to the next big town, 15 kilometres away, and communicated my needs for a good mechanic. Then followed 15 kms of tight corners and holes, where I would stand at the back of the pickup with another man, holding the bike with all my strength so that it would not fall.
Pick-up truck !
In the village, we unload it in a small tyre repair shop. The man appeared to be a local specialist, and started re-inflating it. He put some water on it to try and see whether there was a leak, but no bubbles came out. I showed him the damaged rim, and he nodded. That was the problem. I used the translator tool from my phone to communicate my fear of having the same problem again later, and explained that I had already re-inflated it 3 times today. He nodded again, and decided to try and fix the rim by hitting it through a piece of wood with a large mass. Over the hits, the rim was getting reshaped into something a bit more conventional and the tyre seemed not to lose air anymore. I thanked everyone around, about 15 curious, my 3 saviours and my tyre specialist. I gave some extra cash to the people who could help me out of this situation, and left for my next destination. I decided to stop 2 nights to get some well-deserved rest and get ready for the rest of my trip.
At the tyre shop