Our day of unknown begins as we attempt to get from Melaka to Cherating. We rise at 6am and load our rucksacks onto our back to trek to a bus stop that may or may not have a bus that takes us to Melaka Sentral where we may or may not be able to get a coach to take us across the country.
We collect our deposit from the hotel and the helpful desk clerk is persistent in trying to arrange a taxi for us. Well, a ‘Grab’. Grab is an Uber-like app which is used heavily here. We repeatedly tell him we need a car seat, he says fine fine fine. The Grab literally screeches to a halt outside and it’s a tiny little car. No way the rucksacks are going in there! And there’s no car seat. He thought we meant some where to put the pushchair. The driver grumpily scoots off and we start our walk.
It only takes 20 mins or so and we arrive to find a local waiting. A good sign. We ask and he says there’s a bus due. Well I think that’s what he says. He more or less just nods. 10 mins later and LO! A BUS! 3RM and half an hour later and we are in Melaka Sentral! Delighted.
We tuck into some snacks in the bus terminal before going to get our tickets across country. I’ve managed to get EXCLUSIVELY extremely crumbly and messy snacks. We make an utter mess of the floor and then run away. Sorry staff at Melaka Sentral.
I attempt to buy tickets but the lady speaks no english at all. I speak no Malay so I draw pictures and gesticulate. She tells me to go to another kiosk but it’s closed, so I head back to check the details with Heidi and then return to the original kiosk. By now, the young lady has recruited an elderly lady in a wheelchair and as soon as I reappear, the young girl disappears and grandma is wheeled in to deal with me. Tickets are purchased, nobody really understands each other, the printer is from the 70s, and it’s more than we expected to pay but it’s fine. We’re going to from Melaka to Cherating today after all! I think. Just a note on the bus to Sentral. Yeah, colourful, as I noted from the last time we got this bus. This one had the added treat of being shouted at by an old man as I struggled off the bus, and a fist-sized mushroom growing out the floor of the bus. Lovely stuff.
So here’s the situation for those going from Melaka into Melaka Sentral: when you arrive in Melaka (at Dutch Square), DON’T assume this is the best spot to get the bus back again. From here, the bus goes round the houses and takes an hour or so. If you walk down Jalan Hang Jebat (where Jonker Walk is), and at the T junction at Jalan Kubu, take a left. Almost straight away, you’ll see a bus stop on the other side of the road. Get the bus there. It takes 15 minutes when traffic is quiet, 30 in rush hour. And costs 1.50RM per person. Kids are free.
For the bus to Cherating, there are two kiosks with buses that go there. Two buses per day each, at slightly different times. The kiosks all say what destinations they service. We paid 132RM (£25) for the four of us. The other kiosk was more cheaper for adults but more expensive for kids and worked out another 10RM or so. And it was closed anyway.
The Bus Journey. Mother, Look Away Now.
After purchasing some top class (not) food for lunch (this is a 5 hour journey) we load up the coach with our luggage. Slightly disconcerting that the driver is wearing flipflops, and the half hour before we leave is spent with the engine cover open and the driver periodically coming over to have a look. Hmmm. The bus is similar to the driver; it’s seen better days. One of the armrests are missing, and the lights don’t work. We had to stop after twenty minutes on the motorway, to top up the water in the engine. This doesn’t bode well. An hour or so into the journey, it becomes clear that the driver is a lunatic. 2 metres seems appropriate distance to vehicles in front, as we hurtle along bendy roads at 60-70mph all the way from Melaka to Cherating.
An attempted overtake of a truck has us driving on the verge, and as it becomes clear we are going to crash into something (probably the truck which is, at this point, inches away from our bus as we career along at god knows what speed) if we continue this maneuvre, the driver abandons, breaks hard and falls back in behind the truck. Can’t decide if I’d rather we were stuck behind a truck, going a bit slower (but with the risk of an overtake) or out in front and able to go fast. We overtake on uphill bends (reminder: WE ARE IN A COACH), attempt to overtake then abandon it more than once, and the accelerate-brake routine continues.
We are almost certainly going to die on this journey. I cuddle child one (child two and HPY are in seats behind so can’t reach), and bid a fond farewell. Out front, I notice that we are now driving full pelt up the middle of the road, straddling both lanes, as we go up a winding hill. This is less the science of driving, more of a sort of interpretive dance with the laws of physics.
We Made It. But It Gets Worse…
At one of the rest stops, after calming my nerves from the horror of the journey, I ask the driver, who speaks no english, to stop at CHERATING RIVER. I all-caps like this because this is how specific I was. I asked a few times to confirm, he said yes. Heidi asked also, and yep all fine. Eventually we stop and he tells us this is Cherating. Great. I confirm and he says yep, and off we get. It’s utterly baking hot. High 30s. Heidi checks the map and it’s up there, turn left, down the road a few hundred metres, and we’re there! Great. So we head out. I cannot emphasise just how hot it is. With rucksacks and poor, hot children who have been on a bus for 5 hours.
This doesn’t look promising though. No houses. Just goats. So many goats. We walk a few hundred metres, take a left, and then another half a kilometre or so towards the sea.
This isn’t right.
I consult the GPS and we are over 2 miles away. The driver has dropped us off too early.
A grumpy conflab later, we decide to walk along the beach a bit to see how we do, but it’s so hot and the rucksacks are heavy and the children are tired and want to play on the sand.
After about 30 minutes we abandon the plan and enter a resort to get help. A taxi is located (well, less of a taxi more of a mate of the concierge who will drive us for money in his tiny car), and it’s agreed the best course is for me, PY Jr, and the luggage to go to the guesthouse, and HPY and PR Jr Jr to walk the way with the pushchair.
After dumping the luggage, PY Jr and I head back out again in the sun to meet Heidi some of the way. She by now is on the verge of heatstroke and the road is pretty dicey, with no real pavement.
Finally, somehow, we make it to Maznah’s Guesthouse. We check in and meet the owner, Faz. Into the rooms, AC on. HPY recovers and goes gradually less red. We amble out to the beach, which is incredible, for a cool down, then clean up and visit one of the few restaurants open for a superb meal.
More on that restaurant in a future post, but suffice to say, it was the perfect tonic, as was the paddle in the sea.
We’re here. We’re happier. Heidi is a normal skin colour. Beach time starts now. Melaka was good. Cherating looks good. Melaka to Cherating…let’s not dwell on the journey.