A Far Cry from Mersing

The Bluewater 4* is an oversized speedboat that does 55km/h and is a little on the bouncy side. In the interests of accuracy, the sign at the front should read "-life jacket- bilge pump, jumper leads and old rope under your seat".

Still, the voyage could have been a lot more traumatic, thanks to the Travacalm pills Lyn was carrying. I only took one at first, but the first five minutes of the trip had be ripping into the packaging like an addict. They stop you from getting motion sickness by knocking you out.

...which made things a little interesting when it was time to get off at Air Batang. The driver, by now the only other person on the boat, pulled alongside the jetty and motioned us to get off while he expended considerable effort keeping the boat alongside. I was able to scramble up wearing my puny 11kg pack, but Lyn's 14kg behemoth (not counting the separate daypack) had her pinned between the boat and the jetty. We managed it in the end, and no one had to go swimming.

From Air Batang, it's either a 5-minute water taxi to Penuba, or a punishing 20-minute uphill scramble in 30 degree heat wearing full packs. We hiked it, much to the alarm of the Penuba staff, who greeted us with "Air Batang?!"

The beach is small but peaceful, apart from the unfortunate presence of a couple of English families with hordes of small children. This is, unfortunately, a resort, not a backpacker joint. One particularly loudmouthed mother was holed up in the internet cafe, simultaneously yelling into a mobile phone, trying to sort out some kind of trouble at home. This became a theme; at Bamboo Hill I overheard an American techie trying to do tech support over the phone for more than 20 minutes.

Sometimes, you've just got to let it burn.

. * No, not the Bluewater Express. Yes, we were surprised too.

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