Saturday, October 18, 2008

Nightmare of a journey.....

Driving back from Penang to Kuala Lumpur, about 350km, usually takes me about 4 hours, including a break lunch or dinner of about half an hour. We have a house in Penang and an apartment in KL, and usually spend the week apart because of our work commitments :-(

Last Sunday it took me exactly 12 hours!!

I was about 30 minutes into the journey down our North-South Highway when my car ground to a halt, with some ominous noises coming from under the bonnet (hey, I'm English, but to those across the Pond it's the hood). As with most days here, the early afternoon temperature was about 34c (95f) and that's a shade temperature - I sure wasn't in the shade, so I reckon it was about 40c minimum.

Called the local Automobile Association, who regretably were not very helpful, but lucky for me along comes a truck of the highways division of the Malaysian Police, who were fantastic - and that is a word you will rarely hear about the Police here. They found a mechanic from a service station about 20km away - and remember this was Sunday afternoon. He arrived within about 30 minutes and pronounced (what I feared) that the timing belt had snapped, hopefully not causing any other damage in the engine.

Hope was in vain. The tow truck arrived after another hour or so, hanging around in the very hot sun, with a half-broken golf umbrella as the only protection!

The valves were damaged and it would all take at least two days to repair - and here I am about 300km from home, now at the service station, on the edge of a very small kampong (village).

I decide to get (another) tow truck organised, but this time to take me all 300km back to KL. Lucky for me, I know the CEO of Asia Assistance, and even though I'm not a member, he very kindly organised his call centre to find the right tow truck for me. It eventually arrived two hours later, and having broken down at about 12.45pm, we set off on the journey back to KL at just after 6pm.

The nightmare was only half over. At least none of this was going to cost me a single cent. My own service centre had put in a new timing belt only six months earlier and since then I'd only done about 10,000 km. The timing belt is good for 100,000! My service centre assured me they would cover all costs. It's OK, that's not a part of the nightmare, for they did cover the cost, without any arguments.

By now, the sun had gone, to be replaced by rain, in monsoon proportions! At best the tow truck can't do more than 80kmh, but at times, 50 was the best we could do safely, and even then that wasn't slow enough for some others. We came across several accidents on the way, one of which the tow truck driver, now my best buddy, felt he should stop to see if he could help. He donned his yellow fluorescent jacket and disappeared into the rainy gloom for about 20 minutes. He came back to get us going again, but said that a two of the passengers in one of the cars involved were in pretty poor shape, but the ambulance had now arrived.

We eventually stopped at 10pm for a very late dinner at one of the many good R&R stops on the highway, and enjoyed an excellent Hainanese Chicken Rice, a big favourite here in Malaysia.

There were still 120km to go to reach home in KL. At least the rain had softened to not much more than a drizzle.

To cut a very long story short (well, sort of), my car was unhooked from the tow truck at precisely 12.45am, exactly 12 hours since I had broken down, 300km away.

Never was it so good to be home.

I eventually got my car back, good as new, on Wednesday. Gee, did I feel naked without the car in its parking slot :-)

1 comment:

Jason said...

Hey there! I enjoy reading your "musings" on your blog. Kuala Lampur is a place that I have always wanted to visit. I saw that you commented on one of my posts on The Common Progressive and I appreciate that so much. I hope that you will continue to visit my blog and I will certainly visit yours. We could even do a link exchange if you like. Thanks again! Cheers!