I was seriously overweight when I checked in to KLIA for my midnight flight to Frankfurt. My checked-in baggage, that is — my Surly and a box containing my tent, Thermarest, sleeping bag, a duvet, my cycling shoes, tools, stove, cookset etc etc. MAS only allowed 20kg of free baggage per person, but the nice boy who was checking me in turned to me with a smile and said (in Malay), ‘It’s like this, Sir, you’re 9kg overweight. But I tell you what, I’ll give you a 5kg discount ok?…and you just pay the balance of 4kgs’. ‘Ok, I replied. ‘So how much per kg? The nice boy looked at me with a nice smile and said ‘RM160’
Ok, that explains the nice smile… because RM160 X 4 equals a ridiculous RM640! My reflex action was typical — bargain like crazy. I put on a nicer smile than the nice boy and spun him some baloney about my being so skinny and why don’t he consider the fact that there were other passengers who carried excess baggage around their waists (and which the airline couldn’t charge for) and on and on….
I was very surprised when he said ‘Ok, ok … I’ll give you another 2kgs discount but…that’s all I can do, ok?’ I paused for a bit and wondered if I could push my luck. ‘Ok la’ I said. What was I to do? Overweight is overweight. So, while Lilian went to pay the bill, I checked in my bike at the oversize baggage check-in and that was it.
After 12 hours of squirming about in a not-too-comfortable seat, and with some shut-eye in between, I arrived at Frankfurt at 6.30 in the morning. The moment I stepped out of the airport, the cold autumn air bit into me so sharply I was totally unprepared for it. I guessed it must have been about 10 degrees. Undaunted, I quickly put on a sweater, pushed my RM160-overweight baggage to a quiet corner and began to slowly reassemble my bike.
One and a half hours later, I pushed off into the main road and headed for a bike shop near the airport where I planned to buy a front rack, and a pair of panniers to match. Germany was, after all, the home of 3 very popular brands of touring equipment — Ortlieb panniers, Schwalbe tires and Tubus racks.
5 minutes later I had my first taste of a typical European cycling path. It was serene and it wound its way through a light forest … I was suitably impressed.
Finally, I found the bike shop, but it wasn’t open. The owner was off to some Eurobike fair or something. So I asked and was directed to another bike shop nearby but they didn’t have what I wanted.
I decided to then head for Geisenhem instead to look for my old friends from Penang — the Pohs — Eva and her 2 sons, Aljoscha and Mavin. The boys and my kids grew up together as neighbours but after they moved back to Germany, we lost touch with them.
It was really a wonderful coincidence when I found out after I had decided to start my Tour of Europe from Frankfurt that the Pohs were located in my intended path along the Rhine heading north.
Geisenhem was only about 50kms or so from Frankfurt but since I didn’t have a proper map yet, I got lost somewhere between Wiesbaden and the Mainz river. After repeatedly asking some locals for directions, I made it back to the banks of the Rhine and followed it as advised. After clocking 80km, I reached Geisenheim On The Rhine, but not before I had to deal with a vicious (and cold) headwind that blew incessantly…so much so I was down to a miserable 10kph at certain stretches.
Exhausted, I rolled into the quaint and charming little town of Geisenheim and as soon as I entered the town platz, or square, the bells of the town’s beautiful cathedral tolled a stunning chime to mark 6 o’clock.
Aha, I thought, a good sign of His grace shining upon me … or so I’d like to think 🙂
The Pohs’ home is a charming little building that oozed old-world charm. It was in the town square itself but even more amazing, the bedroom windows looked out to the church itself.
Anyhow, the reunion of sorts with the Pohs was simply a blast. The 2 boys had grown up to be strapping young lads, and Eva looked pretty much the same as when I last saw them in Penang. Over dinner in their cosy townhouse kitchen, we reminisced about old times and it was just wonderful to be able to see familiar faces 10,000km away from home.
Next: Exploring Geisenheim and the neighbouring tourist town of Rudesheim.
Distance today:: 83km
Distance to date:: 83km