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Close Call on the Road to Singapore

Posted by on Dec 16, 08:41 PM
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Autumn, 2011

A comment my brother and I often receive about our trip, now finished, is: “it must have been so dangerous!” as Hollywood-worthy images of jihadists, terrorists, and robbers are conjured up with delicious horror in the minds of the uninitiated. They don’t realize, however, that the chief risk on such a trip (not counting arranged marriage, flat-tire-induced-insanity, or fratricide), is, of course, auto traffic.

Suddenly the hair rose on the back of my neck and my body tensed

True, we didn’t have a lot of close calls (that we know of), but one is prominent in my memory.

Andrew was not with me at the time: he had already left for China, and I was a day’s ride north of Singapore, in southern Malaysia. The sun had long-since set as I moved my gear along the edge of the long, straight, raised highway that led to Johor Baru and the causeways that connect the island city with mainland Asia. I was tired; there was no shoulder, and traffic, though light, moved at a dangerous pace; but I kept on into the night, waiting for the perfect campsite to present itself.

Suddenly the hair rose on the back of my neck and my body tensed; there was whoosh of air and the squeal of rubber. I was fine. A car had passed within inches of my body, and, over-correcting, the driver was in immediate peril of leaving the road. He corrected — once — twice — three times! Would he make it? On the fourth turn, far ahead of me now, he wasn’t so lucky, and I watched as he careened off the road, crashing through a billboard and smashing into what appeared to be an embankment beyond.

Malays swiftly crowded around, glaring, speaking rapidly with the driver

It was silent as I slowly approached his vehicle. The lights were still on, and the faint sound of a purring engine reached my ears. The driver climbed out as I came abreast, obviously shaken, unsteady on his feet; the car was a wreak. As he saw me and I asked if he was OK, all he did is wail repeatedly, “I was going to JB, man!”; and eventually condemned me for not having a light on my bike, which, having one in truth, I was swift to point out.

Malays swiftly crowded around, glaring, speaking rapidly with the driver. I was embarrassed, and guilty-feeling, but can’t recall worrying too much about being beaten up by the indignant group. I was worried, however, about the expense my poor driver would be put to, but failed to ask him if had insurance, and left when the police finally arrived and told me to go.

I pulled off the road at an outdoor cafe several miles up the road and asked the proprietors, a kind-looking family, to let me stay the night.

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