I felt a lot like Snoopy leaning over his little typewriter and starting out with the words “..it was a dark and stormy night..” when I thought ahead as to how I would want to write about this expedition,
Loading up the Triton
The route that was not to be
Such a night- it was- indeed. Here I am in day 3 of the safari in Kampung Semambu, right smack in the middle of nowhere. The water pump on my car is totally disintegrated, with the fan fallen out of place and bearings all over the world. The nearest workshop is a day away, over terrain that usage of four wheel drive is a must and having rear lockers engaged would ensure that you get over most mud holes. My options bring to light the real meaning of the cliché - caught between a rock and a hard place.
As I looked at the darkening skies, my worst fears were realised when the heavens opened and rained cold, finger tips size droplets- synonymous with rains in Sabah’s magical highlands. Welcome to the Borneo Family Safari 2008, a week trek from Sarawak to Sabah during the Chinese New Year holidays.
The group and their respective cars
When I took delivery of my Toyota BJ73, it came with an engine that sounded like any other old engine. With new purring engines one would know if something is amiss when there is 'new' noise. Besides I had done a Sabah highlands drive before with this car without any issues. Unknowingly the water pump had already been signalling me but I was oblivious to the noise.
All nice and clean, fuel stop at Jakar
Our objective was to drive the old Camel Trophy route the opposite way in the south of Sabah entering from the main trunk road at Tenom to Kuala Tomani and then heading off road to Kampung Semambu, passing Rundum, Pesiangan and onto Sapulut to join the oil palm plantation roads to Kalabakan and back on an established route to Tawau.
The Sabah map available from bookstores has a few lines connecting these places but there is little ground information. The scouts for the Borneo Safari gave us a few waypoints in the form of villages and rivers. Without an accurate map or GPS route, there was no sure way of knowing the route. Google Earth has a great huge white cloud over the Rundum and Spaulut areas.
Entering into Sabah
We had a convoy of four cars – senior Sarawak 4X4 godfather Mr. Voon, accompanied by 2 friends in a Toyota BJ60 with MkII body, Kelvin the Mitsubishi rep driving a standard Triton, with two others and two RTM TV camera men – Zamzi and Tokino, divided between the two cars. Eunice and I were driving our expedition rig, a BJ73. Our intention was to shoot a TV document the expedition as it develops with little retakes.
We had informed the participants of this expedition that the best thing to have was an adventurous attitude. There was no knowing what to expect, except another cliché “expect the unexpected”.