Better Be Home Soon
The light is slowly fading from the sky. Thunder rumbles overhead. Crowded House plays on the stereo. As I sit cross-legged on a large stack of cushions the air con unit blows an icy cold wind on me.
Outside the humidity is intense. After today's tropical thunderstorm it feels muggier than ever. Inside the circle of palm trees below, the pre-dinner contingent of expats and their children splash about in the giant kidney bean swimming pool.
We have spent the last quarter of a year criss-crossing Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand by bike, bus, boat, truck and train. After leaving the jungle treks and cool tranquillity of the Cameron Highlands we had a mad rush north across the border into Thailand to Ko Phi Phi Don to meet my sister Bryony and her English boyfriend Harry.
As we spilled off the ferry we felt relieved that we'd left the bikes in Malaysia. We were joined on the white sandy beach by hundreds of young backpackers searching for nirvana in Leonardo's hideaway. Luckily Bry and Harry had already reserved us a bamboo hut on a beach slightly out of Babylon's reach.
The week spent with loved family was truly decadent. Bryony treated us to the delights of a Thai massage. The four of us lay in a row with giggling while Thai ladies twisted and contorting our stiff bodies in every direction. Then, whilst Kev and Harry sizzled their senses at a Thai cooking class, Bryony and I took it a little easier with a gentle class of Thai yoga.
Then it was off to Patong Beach to meet Kev's brother Lee and his girlfriend Gemma, who were escaping England in search of some well-needed sunshine. Unfortunately the day they arrived the heavens opened and it didn't stop pouring for five days. Strangely enough as soon as we left the sun came out. This journey has turned us into Arabs - never going out in the sun without long sleeves - so perhaps we alone were happy to wake up with clouds each morning.
As we crossed the border back into Malaysia Kev turned to me and said: "I switched my brain off when we first arrived in Thailand and not once did I need to turn it on again". Southern Thailand is that sort of place. The beaches may be stunning but the place is a tourist conveyor belt and it's hard to jump off.
We found the bikes safe and sound where we'd left them on the rooftop of the Olive Spring Hotel in Georgetown, Penang. So without further ado we piled the bikes onto the train at Butterworth station and spent the next seventeen hours slowly chugging south to Singapore.
And after two weeks here searching websites, phone books and the local Shipping Times, (helped by friends, family and the Australian Embassy), we have finally found a way of getting to Australia without leaving the ground. P&O Nedlloyd has come to our rescue!
We had really hoped to arrive in Darwin or Fremantle, therefore enabling us to cycle across the continent to Sydney, but the only ship that would take us was going to Brisbane.
Tonight is our last in Singapore. The Turonga sets sail tomorrow evening. It just so happens that the day the ship arrives in Brisbane is exactly four years to the day since I left Australia. Four years since I said goodbye to my family at Sydney airport. There is still 1500km to pedal as we make our way down the coast to Sydney, but it feels like a good omen for the last leg of the journey.