Thursday, June 09, 2005

Kota Bharu

I finally made it up the East coast to Kota Bharu, my destination when I left Singapore. I was trying to stick to the coast as I had been told that there was a path running alongside the beach. I headed out along some of these small paths, but invariably was pushed back onto the highway. One time I headed towards the sea, pu the path started looping back, so I had a look at the beach, it was flat and the the tide was receding. So, I pushed my bike onto the damp sand and started pedalling along the sand. Steering is kinda hard before you get used to just leaning into any turn rather than turning the handlebars! After about 5km a river appeared, I had to drag my fully loaded bike through the soft sand, where it sank into all too easily. It was hard work! My bike wheel was in desparate need of repair and I had been informed that a good bike shop lay a couple of kilometres outside the city. I headed off and found Razani's Pro Bike Shop. Unfortunately Razani was not there just now but if I came back in a couple of hours, he could see what could be done.

Thankfully it was all sorted out. As seems to be the habits in bike shops the all work at a hundred miles per hour. He whipped off the wheel, pulled of the tyre, strips the inner tube, wrenches off the gears, gives a few quick snips with a pair of wirecutters and takes out the other spokes whose holders had been mangled by yours truly. He fits in four new spokes and balances the wheel. It is round again!

The next day I headed off to the cultural centre and watched a traditional Malay drumming group. They had husks of coconuts with the top removed and a plank of wood fixed above the hole. So when the plank was struck by a padded stick the coconut resonates to produce the sound. They bashed away for a bit, making quite a racket! Then we were invited to join in, so I'm now an expert on playing the coconuts, ahem.

Next there was a traditional game of keepie-ups using something similar to a shuttlecock, a small piece of circular wood bent round into a rough ellipse, this gave it a bit of spring when kicked, and attached were chicken feathers. The tourists were invited to join in, although the locals were obviously the best.

I went to cycle back to the guesthouse, but my tyre was now flat! So I pushed it back instead. I tried to fix the puncture and it seemed to work, but five minutes later it was flat, so I used my spare inner tube. I popped back over to Razani as I wanted to pick up a pair of gloves as my fingers have been getting pins and needles after riding. He again whipped off the wheel and added a plastic ring round the inside of the wheel to protect the inner tube from any spokes sticking through. He invited me along to ride with his group tomorrow, but they average around 30km/hr compared to me leisurely 17km/hr, so I politely declined. Razani is Malaysian number one triathlete, so I think I may just be ever so slightly out my depth trying to keep up with him! They were off for a 'short' 55km ride on Friday as a prelude to their 160km ride on Saturday. Gulp.

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