Friday, November 22, 2013

Tour de Bintan aka 'Enter The Dragon'

Group picture before rolling off

If I can count correctly, this was to be my 5th cycling trip to Bintan.  After our 'Ride For Rations 2013' cycling event which took us from Malacca to Singapore, our GP Riders captain, Tomas had been asking me to organise a cycling tour to Bintan for our cycling kakis.  So, the date 16 Nov, Saturday was fixed and we were to stay one night at a resort.  I had all along been staying at the idyllic Ocean Bay Resort at Trikora Beach but this time, I decided to change to another resort just for the experience.  Febry who used to work for Ocean Bay but now she is running her own travel company in Batam will be my contact person.

Some of us donning "Ride For Rations 2013" jerseys on day one

We aimed to get 20 cyclists for this cycling tour and this time, we also extended invitation to another cycling group, Hougang Slow Riders (HSR).  Most of the cyclists are regular and many will be bringing their road bikes.  And for many of them, it was to be their first tackling the much talked about 'dragon back' in Bintan but by my reckoning, they should not have any problem completing the 2-day tour on a high.  In my few previous trips, I had some who were not avid cyclists, did not even have their own bikes and they still managed to flash a smile at the end.  Notwithstanding, during the ride they were really struggling with the undulating terrain ahead and admittedly, the punishing weather, it can "make or break" one.  That said, in all my overseas cycling trips, I have always insisted to have support vehicles and this time, it was no exception.

The riders from HSR and on right, Poon (most senior rider in our group), Denise and Robin 

I invited some from my outdoor meet up group, Singapore Adventurous Nature Lovers (SANL) to make up the number but on condition, they are able to keep up with the main group and preferably, have a road bike. This trip was not meant for recreational riders.  In the end, I had 24 signed up for it - 20 guys and 4 ladies. The most senior in our group is a gentleman at 65-year old called Poon and another slightly younger one is Low at 63-year old who was the last minute inclusion but they are certainly tough cookies.      

Me and Patrick on day two ride

On 16 Nov morning, everyone had been advised to arrive at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal by 0730 hrs.  Our ferry departure was at 0910 hrs.  Some drove, some cycled and I cycled from my home.  My GP Riders gang drove their cars to Aranda Country Club, picked up their bikes at the bike room and cycled together to the ferry terminal.  The check-in was swift as all the boarding passes and bike tags were prepared for them one day before.

Everyone brought their sleek light road bikes but I brought my heavy mountain bike.  I had intended to cover the rear and to provide first aid assistance, where needed and therefore, a mountain bike can slow me down considerably.

On our arrival in Bintan, our bikes were picked up after customs clearance and everyone was ushered to the open compound to prepare for the ride.  Febry and their support crew were on hand to give directions.  I made a brief introduction of Febry to all, gave a final briefing to all and we were ready to roll off.  Febry will lead the front with her SUV vehicle and a mini coach will cover the rear.  The weather was hot on day one. Almost immediately everyone rode off on quite a fast pace.  The vast compound within the Bintan restricted zone is quite undulating and covers more than 10 km to the security gate.  Zorom was just ahead of me while the rest had surged ahead and I can see that he had some difficulty climbing up the slopes.  I told him to take it easy and not to over stress himself.  He felt bad to have held up the whole group but I assured him it was alright.  At this early juncture, he felt slight pain on his left leg which had been injured before.  He decided not to cycle after our first break, so as not to aggravate his old injury.  His girlfriend Angella has improved vastly. Just a year ago, she was a novice cyclist but this time, she was able to keep pace with the front cyclists.  She had the music turned on while cycling and this fondly reminded me of my late friend, George who used to do likewise.

Rolling off to Trikora Beach from ferry terminal  

After lunch, I informed the group that the real challenge will come for they will have to face the Bintan dragon's back.  The weather did not seem to relent anytime and the lack of trees on the long stretch of road only made it even hotter.  The road is nicely paved, thanks to the recently concluded 'Tour de Bintan' event and there were not many vehicles which made cycling such a breeze save for the weather.

Low, our second most senior cyclist who is going strong 

The distance from the ferry terminal to Cabana Resort where we were to be accommodated is about 60 km and by 1400 hrs, all of us had arrived.  Tomas, Richard and some wanted to clock more and after our check-in, they continued on.  I did not follow but stayed back to mingle with HSR cyclists who stayed back. Some took to the pool while some just relaxed around.  The resort is nice and the rooms are comfortable.  It was full as there was a big church group from Singapore.  Tomas and the gang finally arrived back from their extended ride and immediately, they jumped to the pool to cool down.  It was quite a funny sight to see a pastor baptizing people who were fully submerged into the water from across the other end of the pool while our people was frolicking around on one end.  I jokingly told them they were all baptized already.

Breakfast on day two before rolling off

Dinner was served at 1930 hrs.  It was an elongated setting with rectangular tables joined to sit 24 of us.  It was seafood meal for us.  The food was alright but I still prefer the home-styled cooking at Ocean Bay Resort though.  After dinner, some adjoined for karaoke session while some including me retired to bed early.    

Group picture at the resort before rolling off on day two

It was still raining quite heavily when we woke up the following morning.  We were to ride off at about 0900 hrs.  The rain turned to light drizzling, probably it heard our call for it to stop or maybe, just maybe, the church group sent a prayer for us.  At about 0900 hrs and after completing our check-out, we were ready to roll off again.  The distance to the ferry terminal is slightly longer but less undulating.  The weather was cool and there was hardly any traffic at that hour.

Denise, Dan and Amy

Due to the faster pace, we reached our usual lunch stop very early, well before 1100 hrs.  Even Zorom was in fine form.  After a short rest, we decided to have our lunch at another stop.  It was still drizzling but the weather was cool throughout and we cannot complain more.  Our lunch stop was just outside the compound of the security gate to the Bintan Resorts compound.  We had our lunch which was already prepared for us by Febry and as usual, some ordered beer and more beer.  As it was still early to our ferry departure which was at 1635 hrs, we decided to stop at Pasar Ole-Ole for more drinks and food.  Only Patrick from HSR had a good one hour massage while the rest waited for him.  We had more than an hour rest at Pasar Ole-Ole.  I went off earlier to the ferry terminal to prepare the boarding passes and bike tags.  When we arrived at the ferry terminal, we bade farewell to Febry and her support crew.  The ferry left as scheduled and by 1730 hrs, we were already in Singapore.

AJ "molested" by Denise in full view of all

It was an enjoyable trip and everyone mixed well with one and another.  There were a lot of laughter and even Angella, Jaq and Zorom who met the rest for the first time in this trip mingled well too.  Three cheers to all...hip, hip, hip, hooray (3x)!          


Amy said...

Great article Collin!! Thanks for the well organised trip! Great fun and laughter!

Amy said...

Great article! Thanks for the well organised trip. Such a lovely great time! You guys rock!