A big 105 km today and probably one of the hardest rides done so far in terms of riding conditions. A 7.30 am start due to it being dark until much later unlike Vietnam starting at 5.00 to 5.30 am. I've been riding in the dark a lot from the start out from Hanoi, but further South the roads vary from having a verge to none at all, at which time we've been following the white line hoping not to slip off the edge or into a passing truck or car.
All sounds easy, but there are a lot of variables along that white line that are hard to see even during the daylight hours, and Matt and I hit one today; a sudden hole appeared and there was no time to avoid it. On hitting it, both of my feet were jolted out of the pedal straps that keep me locked to the bike and I nearly fell off at speed.
Riding today was very painful.
Riding for such a long distance into a strong headwind can be demoralising and unsettling especially when you're concentrating on your riding technique to save on energy, vehicles whisking in beside you after they pass the support vehicle behind and simply not thinking about the forces of nature (wind) slowing you down.
We lost our guide/mechanic at the half way mark today, who decided the support vehicle was a better option then roughing it on the bike for the next 60kms into wind. I found myself quite tired and overheated as well because of the humidity here in the South being closer to the equator, but thanks to my co rider Matt who encouraged me through it all, I may have been a victim to ride in the sad wagon (support vehicle) as well, even though I'm in surplus of my target distance for the 10,000 km ride home.
It's been a hard slog 72 days of actual riding and now reaching the 5,830 km mark, slightly ahead as mentioned (330 km) of my target distance for the Asia leg. Since leaving Hanoi on the 12th May there's been some highs and lows of the ride. Some lows being - battling the weather, road conditions and traffic to contend with all the way. Some of the highs being - the great support along the way, as already mentioned, but worth another mention, local support and encouragement through our Embassies and High Commissions abroad, the initial injection of sponsored funds by Lockforce for me to get underway and this far of the Asia leg, the great support by TLRH admin team back in Australia, and those that have already donated to TLRH cause, and finally the posts of encouragement from people in Australia and around the world which I get to read, but not always in real time.
My apologies to those that I haven't responded to (which is a lot) but for the reasons of getting through my daily tasks to make sure I'm not in the sad wagon for the first time, very early morning to rise, no breakfast on most occasions until a couple of hours into the ride, preparing all aspects of the bike, water bottles topped with electrolytes, lights on and working, cycling shoes adjusted to the pedals, and final briefing with support crew on the route and distances.
When underway it's mostly riding for two hours regardless of the weather conditions; raining or not, hilly or flat, bumpy road or smooth, heavy traffic or quite backroad running. A stop at 2 hours to cool down, when our cold packaged hand towels from the esky are an asset. Morning breakfast to at least get something down the pie hole for energy to keep going, on most days, another 60 to 70 km.
Electrolytes are important to take constantly due to the loss of fluids from riding in the tropical heat. I have to be vigilant to at least swig every 10 minutes or suffer the consequences later on with cramping. In my case, I lose a lot of fluids through my amputated leg which is supported by a gel liner and a carbon fiber outer socket. On every brief stop I have to empty the sweat from the gel liner, dry the stump to ensure that I continue have a firm fitting whilst pedalling - a hard task in the tropics.
On reaching Skudai today and a close call losing my grip on the bike near to the finish when suddenly hitting a pothole. I've realised it's a dangerous mission from start to finish until when you are actually off the bike.
Throw in all the variables today - fatigue, tiredness, dehydration and anxiety to just get it done heightens the risk of not surviving on the road. A small ride to the border tomorrow and a weekend off for an extended break before being in the saddle again. John Graham, the bike mechanic and support rider leaves tomorrow so it will be Matt and I standing by in Singapore before flying down to Perth a few days later.
On arrival to Singapore we are looking forward to the Australian High Commissioner Singapore riding with the long ride home team to Kranji War Memorial and War Cemetery for a small service to pay our respects there.
Yesterday in the last blog I mentioned riding through Malaysia and noticing the change to the landscape ie: Jungle replaced by palm oil plantations, certainly a change to the jungles that my father before me and I operated in as young soldiers between 1941 and 1975.
Riding along for the hundreds of kilometres over the last couple of weeks through Malaysia I've tried to imagine what the deforestation and the shift to palm oil as an industry has done for Malaysia as a whole.
Malaysia declared its independence from Britain in 1957, and formed its current state in 1963. Since then, it has seen significant economic growth, a large part of which can be attributed to its forest industry. Malaysia’s rapid rate of development has put it far ahead of several of its neighbours, such as Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. This has largely been in part to its abundance of natural resources, which constitutes significant portions of the country’s economic sector. Because of this large financial gain from logging, production has been high since initiation, and it was not until 1985 that consequences were first realised.
As stated above, Malaysia has received considerable financial gain from its logging industry. One statistic states this benefit is valued at $2,150,000,000 USD. Together with neighbouring Indonesia, Malaysia produces 85% of the global supply of palm oil, the chief cause of logging. Additionally, the agriculture sector accounts for 14.5% of the labour force - more than 1 in 7 persons. 56.6% of Malaysia’ tropical forests are used for production, leaving the rest for uses such as ‘Protection’ and ‘Conservation’ These statistic clearly show how much both the general population and the Malaysian government is able to benefit from its logging sector, while still leaving untouched nearly half of its abundant forests.
Consequences have been varied across different parts of Malaysia. However, all areas have suffered some effect from deforestation. Four of the most prominent include:
Malaysia ranks as the 21st most biodiverse country in the world, with 2,199 endemic species. 18% of these species are listed as ‘threatened’, and because they are endemic, if Malaysia fails to conserve them, extinction will result.
Indigenous peoples in Malaysia have always depended on the rainforest for medicine, shelter, food, and other necessities.They are not known to take more than what they need as this would be seen as a transgression of the forest and would bring curses to their people. The destruction of their prime resource is resulting in the destruction of their traditional ways of life. As the forest disappears, so does their culture.
Runoff has also increased. Though it would not be immediately suspected that logging deep in the jungle could affect a distant city on the coast, because there is less forested area to soak up rainwater and act as a slow-release reservoir, sudden floods are becoming more and more frequent. An increased rate of mudslides have been reported.
In Malaysia, the World Bank estimates that trees are being cut down at 4 times the sustainable rate. Logging does not have to be as destructive a practice as it currently is in Malaysia. In the past 2 decades, Malaysia has moved towards diversifying its economy, but logging still draws in many because of poor regulation and high profit. The most effective way to combat the negative effects of logging would be tighter regulation that still allows high production of palm oil, but in a more sustainable manner. This way, not only will the effects be mitigated now, but there will be more forests to log, and thus profits to make, in the future.
Malaysia still has a relatively high forest coverage percentage. Currently, it is estimated that 59.9% of the total area is covered by forests, of which, a sizeable portion are untouched virgin forests (see old-growth forests) which dates back to around 130 million years.
An increase in the level of awareness of Malaysians compounded with the local folk belief that existed in the indigenous populations (see Semai people) has added to the strength of the many Malaysian movements in environmentalism. The Malaysian Nature Society is active in advocating protection of forest. Other organisations such as the Tabung Alam Malaysia, a branch of the World Wide Fund For Nature has also established offices in Malaysia since 1972 dedicated to nature conservation as well as education on the importance of forest conservation to the wider populace. The Forest Research Institute of Malaysia has also been actively conducting research on the biodiversity of Malaysia's forests as well as in conservation. So one can only hope and pray that such measures can only benefit Malaysia and that the conservation process is positive in its approach for the remaining untouched forests.
Truck and Matt
On the long ride home, Southern Malaysia.
Do you like this post?