Our senior writer recounts his nightmarish experience test-driving several diesel models during a road trip to Malaysia.
FIVE years ago, my editor sent me on a road trip from Singapore to Malacca.
Along the way, I would testdrive several diesel models from a particular German carmaker. I’m not going to name the brand, because till today, the mere mention of it sends shivers down my spine.
Writing this column is a form of catharsis, I suppose.
The assignment sounded easy at first. With several hundred kilometres to cover and different roads to experience, I thought I had the stories in the bag even before I left. All I could think about was the delicious fare awaiting me in Malacca – fare that would definitely include chendol drowning in gula melaka.
After crossing the Second Link and entering Johor Bahru, we formed a convoy. There was inevitably some jostling and position-swopping, but for the most part, the drive was pleasant and uneventful.
I was even more pleased after our Peranakan lunch, which ended on a very sweet note. I was in such a state of bliss that I wasn’t even thinking about the cycling activity that was to follow.
After all, riding a bicycle around Malacca should be quite relaxing. But I began to worry when the vans that were going to take us to the starting point of the ride began heading out of the city.
Nearly two hours later, we arrived in the middle of nowhere. I was already sweating buckets because the van I was in had no air-conditioning.
The first 20 minutes of the bike ride was okay, as our route consisted of paved and flat roads. After that, we turned into what the local guides said was a rubber plantation. That’s when my nightmare began.
With the ambient temperature over 30 degrees C and the sun mercilessly baking my head and back, I knew I wasn’t going to last very long. Heat exhaustion hit me like an invisible wave.
I went from feeling like a broiled lobster, to frozen sashimi. Cold sweat poured from my forehead, back and chest. I heard my heart pounding in my ears and felt it beating behind my eyes. And despite telling myself to stop hyperventilating and take deeper breaths, my body refused to listen. I was about to pass out.
As my vision began fading to black, I somehow managed to sit down without collapsing. As I came to, I saw stars. Someone was pouring water over me.
I wanted to curse and swear when the fella asked me if I was okay. Do I look okay? When I was finally able to stand, I looked around and saw that I was the only journo left at that spot.
One of the guides asked if I wanted to ride pillion on his motorcycle the rest of the way. I gratefully agreed. After puttering along for about 10 minutes, we came upon another journalist, who also looked like he was about to faint. They asked me to swop places with him, but after I said yes, I immediately regretted my decision.
There was only one motorcycle and since I had given up my spot, I would have to cycle the rest of the way. Sniggering sadistically, the guides wheeled out a bicycle. I arrived at the meeting point dead tired and dead last.
What upsets me is that to this day, nobody from the German carmaker ever apologised for what happened. I guess my signature on the indemnity form precludes the company from having to do that.
Mind you, I’m not the only one who suffered from heat exhaustion that day. Three other journalists also nearly fainted from having to cycle 15km that searing afternoon. Like me, none of them has ever heard a single word of apology.
As a final insult, several of us were stricken with food poisoning after this road trip. I’ve heard about suffering for your art, but my Dieselgate was just dreadful.
"WITH THE AMBIENT TEMPERATURE OVER 30 DEGREES C AND THE SUN MERCILESSLY BAKING MY HEAD AND BACK, I KNEW I WASN’T GOING TO LAST VERY LONG."
JEREMY WOULD LOVE TO REVISIT MALACCA TO TOUR THE CITY AND EAT LOTS OF CHENDOL. CYCLING, HOWEVER, WON’T BE PART OF HIS ITINERARY.
Things were going well until Jeremy embarked on what turned out to be a bike ride from hell.