Leaving Kuala Tomani, we hit the dirt road to a timber camp and Sabah Forest Industry’s (SFI) checkpoint 9. We had seen Hiluxes of people coming out and therefore were sure that we were on the right track, but that confidence went as far as the first fork junction. At a toss of a coin, we headed left to find that the roads did not go in the planned direction. We backtrack to SFI checkpoint 16 and asked the rangers there. There were friendly and helpful and pointed us in the right direction. It appeared that these kind people are used to off roaders asking direction.
Senior Mr. Voon checking his map
Group stops to enjoy the view on the way
As we entered the ‘correct’ route at the fork junction, the road turned to one befitting of a safari expedition. I had very much earlier engaged 4x4 as it gave a smoother ride over the gravel and loose surface. The trail at this juncture is all hard packed dirt, then the mud holes begin to appear more frequently as we progressed. The mud got more intense on the hills – both up and down.
Meeting Labo in Lawas, before proceeding into Sabah
As we approached Sungei Telekosong, my engine emitted a loud scratchy noise. We stopped and saw what looked like oil dripping from the engine. On opening the bonnet, the whole engine compartment was splattered black. Closer inspection revealed it was dirty water. I was a little relieved to know that my engine had not blown. The noise was caused by the water pump which was leaking and rotating like a drunk walking in a straight line.
Along the route, it was bright and sunny and then it rained
All agreed that we should just top up the water, restart the engine and hopefully with the rotation, the water would remain in the engine. So we soldiered on and arrived at Sg.Telekosong. SFI had put up a jungle hut here and this would be a perfect camping spot on multi-day expeditions, except for the mosquitoes.
After lunch and a swim in the cool river, we put more water into the radiator and continued on. The trail got more technical as we entered deeper into no man’s land with deeper bogs and longer stretches of mud holes. I was careful to take the best lines and drove through these obstacles without dramas. Many parts of the trail was tight nearing ravines with drops going down over 200 meters.
Entertainment for the folks at Semambu village
Labo's Hilux crosses the landslideWe were grinding over some deep holes that I heard a different sound and saw that my temperature gauge showed a higher than normal reading. I pulled over to the side and with the bonnet still close, I saw that there was no water dripping out. I felt my ears tingling and the hairs on the back of my neck stiffening. My worse fears were realised when I opened the bonnet to see the fan and pulley dislodged, lying at the bottom of the cowling. I waited for the others to catch up and broke the bad news to them. My options played up in my head… it were either a rock or a hard place. It was at this point that it began to rain.