65-year-old Australian cycles over 9,000km from Australia to Singapore
A weather-beaten man and his equally weather-beaten bicycle arrived at the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal on Wednesday morning. His journey to Singapore did not start just 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 for more than 9,000km across many places in Australia, Timor-Leste and Indonesia. He took the plane only when he had to fly across the Timor Sea from Darwin to Dili, and hopped onto the ferry when getting from island to island in Indonesia.
On the 129th day of his journey, the 65-year-old retired Australian scientist arrived in Singapore. 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 gamely posed for The Straits Times with his Thorn Nomad bicycle. He also showed ST what he carried with him in his bags – two of them mounted on his bicycle’s front wheels, two on the back wheels, and one on the handlebar.
He said the items include his diary, bicycle pump, bolt to attach his 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 to protect him from filthy bedding in hotels.
Dr Wallis has been documenting his adventures on his blog. While he does long-distance cycling mainly to satiate his appetite for exploration, he said he is also using his trips as an opportunity 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”.
Dr Wallis 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 also tries to keep his own expenses low while on the road. His average spending per day is about A$40, and he projects that this trip will cost him around A$5,000 when it comes to an end back in Canberra in September.
Dr Wallis is no stranger to long, arduous cycling routes in many parts of South-east Asia, Central Asia, Europe and the United States. But Indonesia and Timor-Leste were new stops in his latest itinerary.
“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.
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, Dr Wallis was on his bicycle headed towards his accommodation in Chinatown.
He and Cora would meet 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 next (moment) you are in your own house,” Dr Wallis said, adding that he prefers to slowly ease back to 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.