The Transnational double-decker moved off from Hentian Putra on the dot at 10pm, but an hour late from the scheduled time. As the three of us rolled our bikes to join the queue of passengers, half of the luggage compartment was filling up fast. Wouldn't you expect a bigger luggage space on a double-decker inter-state express bus? Yes? Wrong!
We had no time to swear at whoever designed this bus. We had to find space for our 3 bicycles. The shaking of his head told us that the driver had no experience in accepting bicycles, let alone 3 full-sized adult bicycles.
There was some space on the opposite side of the bus. There were some curious onlookers. We quickly moved to the other side and started dismantling the bikes. Jalil's bike frame was the first up. Fendi's bike was already packed for transport. He laid his frame flat, neatly packed in plastic. My brand-new untested Surly frame went on top of Fendi's Bianchi frame. Then we had to find space for the wheels and our panniers at those other little spaces available. We were about the last passengers to board. The air-cond was not on and we were sweating profusely from our efforts.
The cramped luggage space
Our destination? Dungun. Our reason? To join our 3 other friends who would be comfortaby tucked in bed by the time we would reach Dungun in the wee hours of Friday morning.
Our real reason? To complete a 3-day tour the East Coast on our bikes, from Dungun to Kota Bharu.
I had carried my bicycle on buses many times before, first time in July 2005 to Padang Besar to start on my Peninsular ride. Many times thereafter, I had transported my bike from KL Sentral to LCCT both ways for my AirAsia flights to Thailand or Indonesia. They were all single-decker buses with ample luggage space on both sides of the bus.
So, there is always something new to experience, no matter how often one does the same thing. I shall no longer ride a double-decker bus if I have my bike in tow.
One can take cat naps in a moving vehicle. Deep slumber is wishful thinking.
Well past midnight, the bus stopped at the R&R in Cherating. The sight of food stalls sent hunger messages to the body. If we had remained on the bus, the additional calory intake of hot milo and roti bakar were not necessary. It is always amusing how the body reacts at the sight of food!
At about 4 am, the bus was nearing Dungun and the bus stopped frequently for passengers to disembark at their own drop-off points. We entered the bright lights of Dungun and the bus stopped at a bus stop. Passengers alighted and we were ready to alight at the Dungun bus station. The bus rolled on. Soon the bright light gave way to the semi-lighted road. I sensed we were now on the trunk road heading towards Kuala Trengganu. I asked a girl seated behind. "Bah ni nok gi ko Kuale Teganung".
We have overshot Dungun! Our booked hotel is now roughly 5kms behind us! The driver was informed. He stopped the bus and we alighted. We were rather amused at our folly. If we had dozed off, we would be in KT when dawn breaks.
Under the street light, we assembled our bikes and pedalled back into Dungun. The cool morning breeze and the relative silence of breaking dawn was a pleasure. We could cycle straight on to Kuala Trengganu.
Fendi and Jalil ready to ride at 5am!
Seeking direction from sleepy buddies snugly in bed posed another challenge. Fendi was our communication man and Razak was giving direction from his comfy bed. "500 metres from the last junction" was, I believed Razak's instruction to Fendi. "Look out for Restoran Kapal".
1 kilometre from the junction, we saw no Restoran Kapal nor the hotel. We made a u-turn and met 2 boys on motorcycles. "Depang lagi, dekat kubur nuh" one of them said, pointing us back to the direction we came from.
We made another U-turn, cycled on and soon saw a flashing light. It was Razak, fully awoke and welcoming us. Zaba was there too and directed us to our rooms. Sham, the other buddy was soon up disturbed by the commotion. Not long after, azan Subuh filled the air. We showered, prayed and tucked in bed to catch what little sleep we could garner.
We would have a long ride day today to Pengkalan Maras, Batu Rakit.