Although the stereotypes of wilderness most people have about Borneo will crash against the sea of palm oil plantation, the third largest island in the world is still worth visiting. Adventure can still be experienced and people here are amongst the most amazing we ever met.
This is the detailed description of the 1st part of our itinerary. Link to the other parts are at the bottom of this page, together with a map of the route with elevation profile, and a street level photo map of the journey.
Here are some general things to know travel Borneo on a Budget.
From the hills around the city is possible to get a good view on Mt. Kinabalu, the highest mountain in South East Asia (4,095 meters). Unfortunately climbing it is incredibly expansive (not less than 100USD per person), check rates, prices and fees here. Our friend John says it's possible to bypass the checkpoint and climb it free, but you'll need the help of a local and, of course, it's illegal.
Opposite KK there are a few Island, Palau Gaya being the biggest, apparently beautiful but with a dubious reputation.
from Kota Kinabalu to Tenom: the Crocker range - 171km
Just outside Kota Kinabalu the road (road 500) is suddenly in a nice countryside, following a small stream where we can bath, it's 40 Celsius, as always in Borneo. Around 12km out of town the road begins to go slightly uphill, becoming steeper at km20 and really steep at km25. There are almost no places to camp, we pitch our tent after 5 more km, between a few dragon-fruit plants along the road, careful not to touch the spikes. No places to eat or shops in this area either.
Still 13 more km of steep downhill to reach the town of Tambunan, where there's a supermarket. We crossed the Crocker!
Tambunan to Tenom
Past Keningau there are 10km of climb which themselves are not so hard, but the achy legs and upcoming fever made quite a nightmare to us. On the top of this hill there are market stall to by fresh fruit.
The downhill is not so relaxing, still some up and down for ten km, before the last flat 20 to Tenom.
Of the 55,000 population, 60% is ethnic Murut, in the centre there's a statue to Ontoros Antonom (1885–1915), who in 1915 led the Muruts against British colonists in the Rundum village of Tenom.
We visited the Yit Foh coffee factory, had some great coffee for free and saw how they toast the beans in the traditional way, in iron cylinders hand-rolled on wooden fires.
our adventures in Borneo:
pt1: from Kota Kinabalu to Tenom, crossing the Crocker range (you are here)
pt2: Jungle Train, from Tenom to Beaufort
pt3: crossing Brunei by bicycle
pt4: around Miri, Lambir Hills and Logan Bunut national parks and Tusan Beach
pt5: the caves of Niah National Park
pt6: from Belaga to Kuching by boat
pt7: Kuching and Bako National Park
pt8: Rafflesia in Gunung Gading National Park
pt9: Overland crossing from Sarawak to Kalimantan, the secret border of Aruk
pt10: Sambas, a wooden Venice in Borneo
here are some general hints to budget travel in Borneo (by bicycle or not)
Check also our reportages:
Chap Go Mei in Singkawang
pierce your face with swords for the sake of Borneo Gods
Hydroelectric devastation in Borneo
part 1: Interview with SaveRivers
part2: a visit to Sungay Asap