Merdeka Ride 2013 Participants – Shaf, Mael, Appan, Borhan, Amm, Hans, Ardy, Faizal, Arif, Owein, Aeran, Edrin, Nurul, Yaiz, Ateeq, Fazly, Naza, Zekri
All the planning by Ardy – brainstorming with club officers, weekend outings, sportives – had reached its crescendo. Our maiden cross country tour – the gruelling 240km West to East Coast Merdeka (Independence Day) Ride – showcasing all that is good and great about our young club. The inextricable link with Malaysia and Ireland, both nations connected by a similar past of colonialism and eventual self-determination, a history to be acknowledged and celebrated.
Dublin and various other counties saw a temporary exodus of a few of their denizens late Friday evening, as the above made their way by truck, bus or train to the City of Tribes, Galway, chosen as the starting point for our inaugural trip. On hand to receive us was Chef Saad, who cooked up a storm for the hungry travellers. Thanks to our resourceful Amm, our lodgings with Sleepzone were sorted and we looked forward to the next day with a mixture of excitement and quiet determination.
The atmosphere in Eyre Square in the morning was a merry one, full of cheer. Some of our Malaysian friends were there to send us off, with Dr Nazir given the honour of presenting us with the Jalur Gemilang (Malaysian National Flag), which we will carry with us to our final destination for the official Embassy ceremony at Malaysia Hall.
The initial ride was interspersed with scheduled short stops in Craughwell and Loughrea, whilst there was the Garda-assisted passage through Ballinasloe followed by the short but much-appreciated break in Athlone courtesy of Rahmat. After Moate and Clara, we descended upon what must be one of the best lodgings in the Midlands (www.grennanscountryhouse.ie) in so far as we were concerned. Thank you to Deirdre and Pat who were the most gracious of hosts and again to Amm who found this gem hitherto unbeknownst to us. Even their two dogs, a collie called Oscar and a black bullmastiff called Bruno, welcomed us and found us particularly amusing. A sumptious meal of pasta and noodles were kindly provided by Fida, Yaiz’s wife, and we went to bed satisfied and contented.
We were greeted with a hale and hearty breakfast on Sunday morning, but sadly as we were conscious of time, we had to bid farewell to our new friends. Before long we were back on the road again, passing towns in quick succession – Kilbeggan, Tyrrellspass, Kinnegad, Kilcock, Lucan and finally on to our final destination in Ranelagh. Throughout the road trip, the reassuring presence of Azri and his white Putra Venture truck shadowed us and gave us the moral and undoubtedly strategic support that we needed whilst enduring the long and arduous stretches of unforgiving asphalt. By default, as I’m sure all would agree, he was the 19th man in this journey and for that we must thank him.
We were making good time as we made our way through relatively light weekend Dublin traffic until a catastrophic puncture befell our young Arif on the home stretch. Thankfully many hands make light work, and we were back on the saddle again, with aching muscles and tired feet, and not forgetting painful derriers as well. Under cloudy skies, we arrived in Leeson Park, the focal point of our celebrations. We were ushered through a cacophony of adoring family and friends, as well as officials from the Embassy and Education Malaysia. The flag raising ceremony was accompanied by a rousing rendition of our national anthem which made the occasion both poignant and a source of pride. All in unison and pitch perfect. We were brothers bonded by our shared passion for this sport that we love and what better way to celebrate it than in this occasion.
Utmost thanks to Mr Azhan, Mr Mohammad and Mr Kamarool for gracing our event and to our loving family and friends for your unstinting support. Perhaps as rightly said, there might be similar trips in the years ahead but it is the first one that will always be fondly remembered. May Allah bless us one and all. Ameen.
Prepared by ZH