The long way home

Final day before we start on the long haul back. Began the morning by stowing all the gear not needed into the travel pod, ironing out the route, making sure all the paperwork’s in order, checking the weather forecast, planning for contingencies and diverts, and buttoning up Little Nellie for the ride home.

It had been a great week of riding on Thailand’s excellent and grippy asphalt, with fantastic food, warm people, and wonderful experiences and vistas.

I had my concerns when we initially hatched up this hare-brained scheme of riding the Vespa 560km (one way) to Songkhla and Hatyai. The Vespa is not known for its comfort and plush ride, and I was worried that I would end up with a block of cement for a derriere by the time this little adventure was over.

But it has proven to be the perfect little tourer, a great city carver. Insofar as navigating Hatyai’s kapchai and pickup-infested roads, and tight confines within the city limits, it was the perfect choice. My behind may not agree, though.

The first few days were relatively uneventful. The biggest concern once in-country was fuelling. Thailand runs on gasoline mixed with ethanol – a peculiar concoction called ‘gasohol’ – which can mess up the internals of your combustion engines. Not so sure on Captain MK Ganesan and my Vespas, but certainly on Pravin Menon’s Kawasaki KLX250.

I had initially calculated a ‘fuel ladder’ and had set my ‘bingo’ fuel limit. I had even brought along a 2.5-litre jerrycan to extend my range but unfortunately, things didn’t quite go the way I had planned.

Due to a series of unfortunate events, I was forced to take in the ethanol-laced derivative once Little Nellie was running on fumes. By this time, I had already used up my 2.5-litre reserve, was way past bingo, no longer in the mood for idle chit-chat, was downright antsy, and was not too thrilled with the idea of having to fork out RM4,000 for a complete engine rebuild. I could only pray that the fuel mixture would not run riot on my Vespa’s delicate innards.

The next day, Pravin scoured 15 gas stations in and around Hatyai for the elusive black gold. And wouldn’t you know it… He finally found one just a stone’s throw away from our hotel. Pffftt.

The ride back to Malaysia was equally hassle-free. The weather again, proved to be a fickle little fiend, with storm clouds constantly playing chicken with us. We refuelled in Changlun and settled on a boring, dreary, and monotonous cadence along the North-South Highway. While Pravin and I drifted in and out of microsleep, Captain Ganesan trudged along like a trouper. Finally, Pravin decided to cut through to Sungai Petani to inject some ‘excitement’ into the ride, and to prevent us from ending up dead in a ditch somewhere. Accommodation for the night was a sleazy motel in Butterworth more notorious for its ‘recreational’ spaces among amorous couples in the area, than for the piping hot steamed buns next door. This dump has seen better days. And bedsheets.

It is now Christmas eve, Dec 24, 2023, crack-of-dawn o’clock, pouring like a female dog, and we’re sorting out our stuff for the final push back home. I’m starting to really miss my bed.

By the time I reached home, Little Nellie had logged 1,577km and I was ready to have kittens. Would I do it again? Absolutely. But not in a heartbeat.

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