SINGAPORE – A weather-beaten man and his equally weather-beaten bicycle arrived at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal on Wednesday morning. His journey to Singapore did not start an hour ago from Batam, Indonesia.
Dr Ian Wallis set off from his home in Australia’s capital city Canberra on May 1. In the past four months, he had cycled more than 9,000km across Australia, Timor-Leste and Indonesia. He took the plane only when he had to fly from Darwin to Dili, and hopped onto the ferry when getting from island to island in Indonesia.
The 65-year-old retired Australian scientist arrived in Singapore on the 129th day of his journey. His wife Cora, 56, flew in from Australia earlier and greeted him at the arrival hall. Both are avid cyclists who love the outdoors.
Looking spirited and energetic, Dr Wallis posed with his Thorn Nomad bicycle and showed The Straits Times what he carried in his bags – two of them mounted on the bike’s front, two on the rear and one on the handlebar.
He said the items include his diary, bicycle pump, bolt to attach the bicycle saddle to the seat post, puncture repair kit, spare spokes, chain lube, spare chain links, a few tools, cycling knicks and a sleeping sheet for protection from filthy bedding in hotels.
Dr Wallis has been documenting his adventures on his blog.
He does long-distance cycling mainly to satiate his appetite for exploration, but is also using his trips to raise funds for Australia’s indigo foundation, a non-profit group that he said has lent support to “a youth organisation in Timor-Leste that confronts sexual harassment, and an organisation in Indonesia that funds bursaries (for) girls from female-led households to attend university”.
He added that he had donated everything that had been given to him in kind. “Many caravan parks let me pitch my tent for free. I donated that money, usually A$30 (S$26), to indigo. This occurred many times,” he said.
He tries to keep his own expenses low while on the road. His average spending per day is about A$40, and he said this trip will cost him around A$5,000 when it is completed in Canberra in September.
Dr Wallis is no stranger to long cycling routes in many parts of South-east Asia, Central Asia, Europe and the United States. But Indonesia and Timor-Leste were new stops.
“Cycling in Indonesia is challenging for mental rather than physical reasons – loud vehicles, garbage dumped everywhere and (the presence of) smokers when I stop,” he said.
“I countered it by putting photographs of garbage on my blog. Those producing travel guides never mention things like garbage.”
The seasoned cyclist also gave some tips on how to avoid common cycling injuries.
“I know how to set up my bike such as saddle height and distance to handlebars. I am paranoid about this,” he said, adding that he left markings on his bike to make sure he got everything right when he had to reassemble it after a flight.
He found that the correct bike set-up helped him to prevent knee injuries.
He also would not wear outfits that cover his knees, as he does not want to apply more pressure on his kneecaps.
Applying sunscreen on exposed skin is also a must.
After the interview with ST, Dr Wallis was on his bicycle headed towards his accommodation in Chinatown.
He and Cora will be meeting their friends in Singapore before boarding a plane to Sydney on Sunday.
He will then cycle for another 300km to Canberra over three days. By the time he reaches home, he would have clocked over 10,000km on his bike.
“Planes are so fast, you jump on a plane and the next (moment) you are in your own house,” Dr Wallis said, adding that he prefers to slowly ease back into his routine by adding one more leg to his journey.
“And coming over the hill and seeing Canberra (on a bike) is just wonderful,” he added.
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