THE 2012 Langkawi International Charity Ride was held from June 7 to 10 and what an adventure it was. More than 250 motorcycles (500+cc big bikes) travelled in a massive convoy from Kuala Lumpur to Langkawi to do charity work for the less fortunate. Bikers came from Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand and logistically, a lot of planning was required.
The event started on June 7 with a 7am gathering and flag-off in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. I knew it was going to be an interesting ride when I noticed the number of police motorcycle outriders enlisted for the journey. There were at least 20 of them. And what a job they did.
Cruising far ahead of the pack, the police bikes stopped traffic along every major highway in the greater Kuala Lumpur area.
If you were late for work that day due to a massive traffic jam, there was a good chance the Langkawi International Charity Ride police escorts were to blame. But it sure made for a clear and easy ride for the participants, and we cruised north along the highway without interruption.
Everything was brilliantly coordinated — even the two refuelling stops we made as a group, were complete with water stations and sponsored refreshments.
The sun was shining and there wasn’t a drop of rain throughout the entire journey. It was altogether a nearly perfect ride to the jetty to Langkawi, where the plan was to load the bikes onto a rented barge that would bring them to the island. We would board the passenger ferry separately and pick up our bikes on the other side.
That was when the unexpected happened.
The first sign of trouble was that the streets leading to the jetty were flooded with ocean water. Then the word began to spread — we would have to wait a few hours to load the bikes on the ferry as we had arrived during a full-moon high-tide and the barge was too high in the water for us to ride up the ramps. Only when the tide went out and the barge came down could we load the motorcycles. So we made the most of it and had some lunch. By 4pm, we were loaded and ready to go.
Then, came natural disaster part 2. A tropical storm began pounding the island of Langkawi just as our ferry arrived. No big deal, except for one problem: The barge with the bikes was still at the mainland dock, as the seas were too rough to traverse. Again, we made the most of it and had some dinner. Then we were notified that buses would pick us up at midnight to bring us to the Langkawi jetty to greet the arriving barge which was clear to sail after the storm had passed.
We must have been quite a sight for the islanders: 250 big bikes roaring through the streets at 1am on the way to our hotel.
After a day of sightseeing and relaxation on June 8, the charity work began in earnest the next day. We roared across the island for our first community service project, a tree-planting exercise that saw 250 bikers plant a mini-forest of little trees that we hope to see on subsequent annual visits to the island.
Our next activity was to host some less fortunate families and handicapped children at a luncheon which saw the big mean bikers giving away cash, food, clothing and even laptops. It was an emotional event and reminded us all how fortunate we are.
Our final stop that day was a photo-op at a major Langkawi shopping destination, complete with live entertainment to welcome the group and television interviews — basic celebrity treatment. It was quite a day.
The original plan was to load the motorcycles back on the barge early that evening before the final night gala dinner, but again the tide was at play. This time, it was too low, and so was the barge. So the plan shifted to sending the bikes after the gala dinner.
At first, I was concerned about safety — sending 250 motorcycles out to the barge after a gala dinner of bikers drinking and partying seemed like a recipe for disaster.
That concern was put to rest by one of the principal sponsors who, at the last minute, decided that they could not participate in the gala dinner until all the “open bars” had been cleared. So we waited an hour while the hotel staff cleared the beer. The gala dinner finally began just before 9pm.
At nearly 1am, it was time for the bikes to be loaded and again the poor residents of Langkawi were subjected to the roar of 250 motorcycles blaring through the peaceful wee hours of the morning.
Bikes loaded and ready for pickup on the mainland the following day, the gang of weary charity workers arrived back at the hotel at about 2am and most headed for bed.
The following day was the exodus from the island. Again everything had been planned perfectly. Upon reaching the mainland, the tide decided to cooperate and we were able to ride off the barge without any incident.
It was a memorable weekend during which the general negative perceptions of bikers shifted to that of a caring group through our community service and charity work. And throughout the many adventures, lasting friendships were formed. See you next year!
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