Out of luck and out of gas, a saviour in an ‘amma’ in Lembah Beringin

I cursed my lousy luck the entire 10km stretch back. I just couldn’t believe it.

I’m down to fumes, and I had just unnecessarily burnt 10km worth of gas – 20km now that I had to retrace my steps. Roxette’s ‘It Must Have Been Love’ was drowned out by the mono-syllabic, four-lettered expletive I was screaming non-stop inside of my helmet. A Lalamove rider no doubt heard the Doppler effect of my screaming as I whizzed by him.

Once I exited the highway, I again keyed in ‘Nearest freaking bloody gas station to me’ on Waze, and again, another popped up in Lembah Beringin, 17km away. I checked the ‘range to go’ based on the fuel I had left in my tank and it read 21km. Close, but I was comfortable with the margins. I put her in gear and inched my way to Lembah Beringin at a stately pace of 80kph.

Exiting the highway, I followed the purple line on Waze until it led me to a residential area. At a particularly heavily wooded area, it said ‘Turn left. Your destination is on the right’. I replied, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ And sure enough, there was no sign of a gas station, not even a hint of one as I turned in. Instead, there was an abandoned bungalow overgrown with shrubs and trees, and a mangy old mattress at the entrance of the house. And as if on cue, my gas level slipped down to one bar.

Now I was really in trouble.

I stopped for a second and weighed my options. I could barrel through onto the highway and hope to find a gas station nearby, or stop at the Lembah Beringin toll plaza and ask help from the Projek Lebuhraya Utara Selatan (PLUS) staff there. I immediately settled on the second option. Less chance of me pushing a dead bike that way, I figured.

As I pulled up into the parking lot of the PLUS office, I spotted another biker.

Brader, mana stesen minyak paling dekat? (Brother, where’s the nearest petrol station?)” I asked.

Saya pon sudah habis, bang, (My tank is also empty)” he replied. My jaw fell.

Takpa, Abang. Ini ‘amma’ ada jual, (Don’t worry, brother. This ‘amma’ sells petrol)” he continued, pointing to a diminutive little lady clutching a 1.5-litre bottle filled with sloshing amber liquid approaching his motorcycle.

As she poured the life-saving liquid into his tanks, I learnt that this was a common occurrence in these parts. Many a rider had found themselves running on vapour and fumes, and had stopped here for a quick top-up of the tanks, enough to at least get them to the next town.

This had given birth to a cottage industry of sorts. A 1.5-litre bottle of gas costs RM3. I told ‘Amma’ that I would take two. That should get me to Tanjung Malim with plenty to spare.

As we said our goodbyes, I finally got the chance to reply to Ahmad Razlan Alias’ numerous missed calls and text messages. My ride buddy and his wife, Karlin Kayzee Khairudin, had lost tally of me ages ago and were inquiring to see if I was okay. In a cruel twist of fate, they had stopped at a gas station just 44km from where I had initially bungled things up. If only I had just stayed on the highway and pressed on, I could have avoided all this unnecessary drama. If only.

I told him that I was heading for Tanjung Malim to fill up and would link up with him in Taiping. After loading up with high-octane ‘gazzaline’, I got back onto the highway and opened up the blowers all the way to Taiping.

After the rejoin in Taiping over a quick teh ais (iced tea) and iced water, we topped up our tanks and pushed on ahead for Perlis. The ride was uneventful except for the light showers in Gurun, which, considering the oppressive heat, was a welcome relief.

The ride into Perlis was perfect, with the sun dipping low against the horizon, the flatlands glowing with the striking greens of paddy fields, and the imposing mountains providing a spectacular backdrop. The light traffic allowed us to relax just a little bit and smell the roses as we rumbled along.

As Razlan and Karlin peeled off to the left to head for Arau, I pushed on ahead to my hotel in Kangar. Check-in was easy and I was relieved to find that the accommodation was relatively new. The bed was firm and comfortable, the room was spotless, and everything worked. I doffed my gear, cranked up the air conditioning, and hit the shower. The heat earlier had been unrelenting.

After a quick dinner of char koey teow (arguably the best I’ve ever had), I went back to the room to crunch the numbers for the next leg of the ride.

My biggest concern was the load and stresses that would be placed on my rear box and rack, once I filled up the three jerrycans with extra fuel. The cans had arrived barely 48 hours before the ride, and I simply had no time to perform load and slosh tests to see if the configuration was workable.

Tomorrow, we’d find out, one way or the other.

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