Hitchhike to India leg 58: Malacca to Kuala Lumpur
Just as I’m preparing for my triumphant return to KL, the vile, sickly, green, snotty fingers of the man flu take hold. This I attribute to one thing and one thing only – air conditioners. Consistently walking around in 40 degree heat only to be then thrust into minus 20 every time you enter a 7/11 (which is an alarming amount) does not suit the fragilities of the human body. What starts as a sniffle erupts into a full-blown pandemic in every cell of my being, hacking a sputtering everyone awake in the dorm room. Watch The Exorcist in reverse for the sounds my nose was making as I tried to breathe.
So I put my initial plan on hold and waited it out. This gave me ample opportunity for procrastinating, including binge watching Broadchurch and Black Mirror. I am forever late to the game with TV series, oft having to rattle through swathes of episodes that people have been banging on about for years; but I’ll get there eventually. These two I highly recommend.
When my near death snotty nose experiences are finally ousted, once again I set out intrepidly to make the return hitch to Kuala Lumpur. Now this really should be in the bag from the get-go, and I’m overconfident with my predictions that I’ll get a ride right outside my hostel. Indeed there is a road sign for the capital not 50 yards from the door, and it’s towards this that I step out in the late morning.
Of course these things never turn out to be as easy as one would have hoped/thought. I’m following the green KL highway signs through the town, holding my KL sign out to every driver that passes – but nobody is biting. I’m not too worried, but walking to the outskirts of a city in blistering heat isn’t healthy. The problem always comes from being in city centres – nobody is going your way, and you get far too much local traffic. My T-shirt is clinging to me as I finally make what could be a decent hitching spot, with some good tree coverage, and space for drivers to pull in. The volume of traffic is comforting.
But I’m there for an eon. I say I’m there for an eon – but it’s probably only about 45 minutes. This is a lifetime by Malay hitch standards, and I’m not really sure the reason why. It’s especially upsetting when two young boys on a push bike trundle curiously past, and then turn to gawp at what I’m doing. This is where I desperately want to get picked up – to inspire them to have similar adventures – mesmerised by the Indian Jones type I am. But even after changing my sign to read highway “E1″ (and then turning to show the lads my handywork), not a sinner pulls in and I’ve got egg on my face again. Then it dawns on me – I’m not wearing my Superman T-shirt! I dash to the side of the road, do a quick swap – and BOOM! It still takes another half an hour but I do eventually get a ride to my beloved toll booths.
One of my biggest pet peeves in hitchhiking in these countries – and indeed why I struggle on certain roads such as this one – are the fucking scooters. I HATE SCOOTERS. They’re dangerous to me, they’re dangerous to their riders, and they’re dangerous to other drivers. Every time a fresh batch of traffic pulls away from the green light, hundreds of scooters and crap motorbikes zip past, effectively forming a barrier between me and the four wheels I want to attract. Sometimes the little bastards are coming the wrong way too – so I have to keep checking behind me to see if I’m going to get run over – or if some arsehole has shot by and snatched my gear. Then you’ve got the ones who (bless their hearts) will stop in front of you and suggest you go to the bus station (as if you’d never thought of that) – meanwhile twenty odd potential rides are zooming past. GAAAAH! I know they’re trying to be helpful but if I’d wanted a fucking bus I’d go to a fucking bus station and I wouldn’t be standing at the fucking side of a road with a fucking cardboard sign would I?! Infuriating isn’t the word.
Apologies dear readers. I needed a vent. To continue – eventually I’m picked up by a lovely chap who’s actually an Uber driver – but jokes there’s no need to worry for this one. He’s driven past me once before – and returned round the block to pick me up. I was to find this to happen on more than once occasion in Malaysia – people are very keen to help strangers and will go out of their way to do so. My host is actually going to KL – but not until tonight after his wife is finished at work. We have a constant natter all the way to the highway toll. He’s a prison officer in the city – so it gives me a chance to pick his brains about the conditions – and although Thailand is notorious for the “Bangkok Hilton” style big house, he claims Malaysian slammers are even worse. He’s a screw in a facility built for 3000, but holding 5000 plus inmates. Either way, Southeast Asia isn’t a place you want to find yourself on the wrong side of the law. I’m sweating just crossing borders carrying 1000 L-Lysine capsules and ten paracetamol.
It’s a shame to see him go as he drops me under a bridge just as the heavens open and the daily monsoon is deposited from on high, but he’s promised me to pick me up should I still be there when he passes by later. This I’m confident I will not be – for as much as the day has begun a struggle, once I’m in these kind of locations it’s a walk in the park.
And as predicted – when the rain subsides and the scooters (bastards) sheltering with me take flight, I’ve walked for less than a minute towards the toll before a young couple pull in and say they can take me all the way to KL. See! I told you this was gonna be easy! I’m gonna be home in time for tea and crumpets. MMmmmmm crumpets. I do miss crumpets.