Leaving Jordan after the wedding in Petra was such a shame, we wished we had more time to visit more of the countries amazing sights, from the Dead Sea to Wadi Rum, we had seen only a fraction of its beauty but I suppose that gives us a good excuse to return one day!
We were exhausted after so much excitement and poor Abd had the task of driving us back to the airport in Amman, a good 4 hours away. We sailed along the Kings highway and watched the wretchedly hot sun slip behind the scorched dusty earth. The airport was calm and beautiful and as we wandered around we tried to mentally prepare ourselves for our next adventure.
Boris had arrived in Singapore and was waiting for us at the port, and within 2 days of travel after leaving Jordan, so were we, busy completing the paperwork to collect him.
It was a cathartic time, after almost four years on the road we were finally embarking on the last leg of our journey. A mere 3000 miles away (as the crow flies) was where we left Peggy and even thinking ‘we just have to get to near that point and we will have driven around the world’ was such a big deal.
Thoughts whizzed through our heads, dreams of a new home, a new start somewhere all now within our grasp, just within our reach…approximately 3-5000 miles away!
We signed for Boris and gave him a pat on the back for arriving without being robbed…we had taken serious precautions this time and were happy for him to arrive intact. As we were about to drive away a port guard in broken English asked us, ‘are you ok driving this here’ and Alex laughed and in his jolly manner said ‘of course, I have driven it in 70 other countries’ and waved as we drove away into the big city that is Singapore.
The perfect roads welcomed us and we blindly navigated through the orderly streets looking for a place to do a food shop…priorities are always our tummies. Every single car park had a barrier on it and we couldn’t figure out how to get in. We drove past a Marks & Spencers with our faces pressed to the glass praying for a parking space to appear, but no luck. We continued on until Alex had had enough and just pulled up to the barrier and pressed the button to get in. Magically, it opened and we were in…trapped in, the barrier to get out wasn’t going to be a case of pressing a button. We went to the local food store, grabbed our shopping and then searched for a place to buy a parking ticket. Eventually after 3 attempts with the wrong ticket, we had our way out. We only blocked the gate for 15 minutes whilst arguing in goodness only knows what language until the mechanical voice gave up and buzzed us out.
Free again we got lost and found ourselves in the city centre reading overhead flashing neon signs telling us to pay the toll online as we frantically looked for somewhere to park for the night but having absolutely no luck. We followed sign after sign to tourist attractions, gardens, view points, malls, all had signs everywhere posting fines for parking overnight. About beat and having driven around aimlessly for 5 hours in the city we got online (a challenge in itself) and looked for a campsite. I called the campsite lady who explained I had to live in Singapore to be able to use the campsite and that she would provide us with a tent and no we could not bring our own…I didn’t even dare to mention Boris by that point. I was back to the drawing board online when I stumbled upon this website with this very important information…right where it says NOT ALLOWED!
Oooops. Maybe the port guard wasn’t asking us if we were ok to drive…but if we were ALLOWED to drive in Singapore!
We pulled our usual panicked faces and swiftly plotted a route on the internet to the border of Malaysia. There was no way we were facing a fine of Singaporean standards for driving the most illegal vehicle (barring an armoured tank) in the country.
Hotfooting it in rush hour traffic in the middle of roughly 2000 mopeds was probably not the stealthiest way to exit the country but, we made it and when asked where our tow truck was while we waited for the officers at the border to complete our papers we both just said ‘he dropped us over there’ and it seemed to work. Within 3 hours we were out of Singapore and in Malaysia…where we didn’t know the law on driving campers yet so we would just wing it for now!
The rain came as we pulled into a petrol station to park for the night; rain is always good when wild camping as no-one wants to come outside to ask us what we are doing. We slept like sweaty logs in the humid heat and the next morning armed with a new map and a few days to kill before we met with our Malaysian wedding team we headed to the beach.
The drive through the south of Malaysia was an eye-opener. Literally every inch of it aside from the roads is palm. The plantations spread as far as the eye can see and trucks line the roads spewing the fruits of the palm trees labour. The country produces around 90 million tonnes of biomass from the plantations, including all of the byproducts of farming the palm oil and while the controversy surrounding the product is rife, the Malaysian government are making moves, they have made a commitment to keep half of the countries land as natural forest cover…but that half certainly aint in the south.
Malaysia is the worlds 2nd largest producer of palm oil and the arguments against the industry include child labour and forced labour as in these areas there is literally no other way to earn a living. This is of course before mentioning the appropriation of native lands, deforestation and habitat destruction of critical species, greenhouse gases and water pollution BUT, Malaysia has stopped expanding new palm growth thanks to the governments promise to keep 50% of the nation forested, they are instead working hard to increase production on the land they have and have now been recognized as the worlds largest producer of sustainable palm oil.
Seeing it stretch for miles upon miles astounded me, to see the small clusters of villages pushed into corners in-between plantations shocked me and when we tried to reach a lake, or a patch of land we could see on google maps we were repeatedly stopped by manned barriers, each one yet another entry to private land, to yet another plantation.
We eventually found our way out of the palm and arrived in Desaru at a small beach with crystal clear waters and a parking area. We asked could we stay the night and the guards seemed happy enough so we set up for the evening. It was sweltering. The humidity hit us like a train and we slept badly praying for a breeze to come in off the sea.
A restless night was rewarded with a cold shower at the beach block and a sighting of an incredible Great Hornbill which made me almost die of excitement.
We stayed a couple of nights at the waters edge getting mundane jobs done like laundry and fresh food shopping in the small town. Our route from the South of Malaysia up to Kuala Lumpur to meet with our awaiting wedding team took us through more and more palm, we zigzagged from the east coast to the west looking for some wilderness but found none. The humidity and heat was mind blowingly exhausting and after several nights in petrol stations or on waste land when we arrived in Melaka we couldn’t stand it anymore and booked into a hotel for the night. We made excuses to ourselves that we needed to be rested and refreshed when we met the team in KL and made the most of our night at the fabulous Majestic hotel. We wallowed in a cool bath, relaxed for the entire afternoon in the air conditioned room and slept like we hadn’t slept in the 8 days since we arrived in Singapore.
We did a little exploring in Melaka too, such a cute place!
The following day we drove up to Kuala Lumpur and finally met with Caroline of Blue Cicada Photography with whom I have been emailing since February 2014 thanks to Jemma at You Mean the World to Me, and whom I had roped into shooting our wedding in Malaysia!
It was the start of our Malaysian wedding adventure and the beginning of a lifetime of friendships in a country where we never saw it coming.