Monday, October 5, 2009

Freewheeling down to Tembunan

William our friendly driver arrived 5 mins before 7am, and we were all ready for him. The 4 foldies, this time without their boxes, fitted easily into the MPV taxi leaving us with more than enough space for the drive to Gunung Alab. The decision to transport (US$45) proved wise as the 55km journey was a never-ending climb of one hair pin after another.

Misty clouds shrouding mountain tops with deep, green valleys distracted us from the possibility of losing our breakfast. Finally at 2000m and 15c, we arrived at our destination and unfolded our bikes in the "heavens", as well as fuelled up with hot coffee and noodles.

What we didn't expect was a 20km downhill run that was the perfect start for our Borneo adventure. The only part of us that got tired were the fingers - having to brake consistently to tame the 40-50km/h high speed descent of our overloaded foldies.

Kevin unknowingly cruised downhill with a broken front spoke!

Piercing through the cold wind in dead silence save for the spinning of our wheels is a delightful experience that must be savoured at least once in a person's lifetime.

We stopped at Rafflesia Sanctuary for a rest. These are one of the world's biggest flowers but I hear they stink pretty bad.

Soon, the descents became gentler and we knew the plateau was near. A quick right turn at the cross junction saw the heavens opening up lightly. Yes, we had not very cleverly chosen the start of the monsoon season for this trip but it was refreshing nevertheless. Our abode for the night was the Tembunan Village Resort Centre, a quaint resort by the river which had seen better days. It had a nice suspension bridge which we had fun crossing on our foldies. It was not easy!

Tembunan town itself is pretty sleepy and takes 1 min to finish exploring by bike. What intrigued us was a Pasar Malam or Night Market which offered fruits, veggies and all sorts of local delights. Because it rained, we ended up spending the whole day there just relaxing and feasting on cheap eats and fruits - 15 US cents for a small packet of coconut rice or fried noodles!

Waiting for the weather to clear with good company is one of the gems of bicycle touring. I really appreciate all the laughs with my ride buddies Drs Mike, Kevin and Cil, and look forward to more hearty moments in the days ahead.

In the evening, we discovered that Kevin's TR had a broken front spoke. That explained why his front wheel was wobbling down those long descents and we were grateful it held up. A quick repair solved the problem.

Later, Mike got hold of some local brew this region is famous for. The fermented rice wine was "interesting" and we had a most invigorating massage done by a Kadazan lady named Betty. She belongs to a tribe that came over 1000 years ago to Borneo from China. Getting to know interesting cultures and people are truly fascinating. Little did we realised that this was most needed for tomorrow's gruelling ride. But for now, we dozed off to bed happy and remembering the great freewheel descent that ended too quickly...

Kota Kinabalu to Gunung Alab - 55km (up, up and away to 2000m)
Gunung Alab to Tembunan - 33km (mostly downhills to 1000m)


Michael Khor said...

Hey, where da pictures? :)

Oldyonfoldy said...

Wait la kawan, akan datang...