Green getaway: One man's solitary ride from Singapore to Desaru
One faithful Friday, CNNGo contributor Eddie Tee cranked up his bike, rolled up his sleeves and set off on a solitary cycling trip all the way down to Desaru. He jotted down some notes along the way to share his experience.
Why did I do it? I’d be a nomad on the open road. I’d get wind on my face, sunshine, exercise after a lifetime of working in an office coop (yes, it really does feel like you’re a penned-up chicken), and a chance to simply think.
The ride up
Desaru is a little Malaysian resort town about 60km away from Singapore -- not far considering you can reach there in an hour's drive, but the slow pace of cycling allows you to take in so much more of the local sights and sounds.
The cycling route starts from Pengerang ferry terminal (see directions below), runs along the coastline past Sungai Rengit (20 km), turns left and northwards to Desaru. Simple enough for anyone to follow, and it’s flat with occasional slopes, which doesn't make for an exceptionally challenging ride.
The roads hardly see any traffic, just an occasional beat-up car. That’s why this route’s popular with triathletes. It’s long enough to be a workout ride, and you won’t get sideswiped by lousy drivers. I’m grateful that there wasn’t any traffic because my bicycle pedal fell off on the outskirts of Sungai Rengit.
The little kampong (village) is full of seafood restaurants, garages, and shops sparsely packed with groceries and local snacks. They cater to the weekend hordes of Singaporeans who go on a back-to-the-village cycling tour. Must eats include lobster and crab, which cost on average Rm 50 per person. Despite the abundance of garages, none of them could fix my bicycle. Finally it took a one-eyed man amidst old and dusty made-in-China bicycles to wrench it back into place.
Off I went, and past an Ostrich Farm (Rm 8; 5km from Sungai Rengit) where tourists can pet Ostriches, and chow down Ostrich egg omelets and Ostrich satay (skewers of barbecued meat at just one Malaysia ringgit each).
Long Ride ahead
Trees overhead gave way to open skies, and a fierce sun. The road was sandwiched between a huge expanse of dried grass and coastline briefly seen through slats of coconut trees, like some glittering disco ball. My cyclometer registered 30km of covered distance -- 30km left to go. Every now and then, overweight road cyclists in bright colorful spandex zoomed past me. We grimaced greetings, gave a thumbs-up, and promptly forgot each other.
I couldn’t think. But I felt keenly the sun’s heat etching into salt-basted skin; the endless twitching of my legs as I pedaled once and again and again; and my constant thirst. I’d sip from my water bottles, but 5 minutes later it’d come back again like some clingy lover who doesn’t know how to leave it be. Then I turned the corner, and darted under the shade of an archway that proclaimed “Selamat Datang ke Desaru!” (Welcome to Desaru!)
That’s half a journey done.
I stayed a night in Johor’s resort land. And left, next morning for Singapore, a pedal, boat ride and a world away.
Take the ferry from Changi Ferry Terminal to Penggerang (S$9/person; last ferry at 4pm). Cycle up to Desaru (following the route for 50.3 km), and mix it up by cycling back to the terminal (which is slightly longer at 52.3km). More adventurous folk can re-enter Singapore via Woodlands checkpoint. Click here for the Google Map link.
What to bring
At the minimum you’ll need a bicycle with water bottle holders (with the requisite water bottles). Other useful items include: cyclometer to tell you how far you’ve ridden bicycle rack, saddle bags for your gear and emergency equipment and a patch kit of inner tubes and pump, when you get a flat.
Where to stay
Desaru’s full of resorts. Expect to pay anywhere between 100 to 200 Malaysia ringgit for a double room.
Before you go
Start early. If you can make it to Penggerang by 7am, you’ll miss most of the sun.
Drink lots of water before and after.