EPISODE 4: CURIOUS CHLÖISU DID IT AGAIN
"KINABATANGAN RIVER AN OTHER DAY"
Feeling fully energized from the good night rest and refreshing morning river cruise in Sukau, Chlöisu was all set for his cycling adventure for the day. His first long distance cycling since landed the beautiful “land below the wind”. He did not seem to be concerned when we mentioned that the estimated travelling distance from Sukau to Kampung Batu Puteh was about 65km in total.
At about 8am after breakfast, Chlöisu was all set for his ride. He dumped his luggage in the pickup and off he went pedaling through the villages with Simon. Though the sun was quick to warm up the day, the gentle breeze was present to make it pleasant for Chlöisu to appreciate his cycling experience at the Borneo soil. It was amazing how much attention he attracted from the villagers, who were ever so friendly and greeted him with a genuine “good morning”. Chlöisu who was obviously enjoying the attention, waived back and with a huge smile on his face and said “Hallo!” As Chlöisu reached the end of the village, the terrain led to a well maintained road with minimal traffic. In fact it was pretty much Chlöisu and Simon on road that is surrounded with the backdrop of banana trees and palm oil plantations. It was amazing that even though they pedaled away from natural spots, there was still a strong presence of nature. Just as they were cycling they spotted an eagle flying in a halo sign right above from where they were. Hmmm, perhaps giving its blessing for discovering this area the eco friendly way?
Their next encounter was a large monitor lizard gracefully despite its perceived heavy weight crossed the road. Both Chlöisu and Simon stopped pedaling to avoid scaring the lizard away. It turned its direction towards the cyclists and nonchalantly continued its journey! A flock of sparrows flew gingerly alongside Chlöisu and Simon before fleeing towards the clear blue sky, and left slimy brown and white souvenir on Chlöisu’s bicycle handle! It was not long when he discovered the surprise that the sparrow had left him. His sweaty palm squashed the slimy “souvenir” as he gripped the handles!! His expression took a quick transformation from a grinning Chlöisu to curious Chlöisu to a cursing Chlöisu to a laughing Chlöisu!!! All that captured within seconds! Classic!!
Before he realized it, Chlöisu had completed his first 30km of cycling. In his own words, he described it as a very pleasant ride. We made a quick stop at Ana’s place for delicious Kampung Fried Rice and grilled chicken wings and Chlöisu bravely tried Ana’s potent homemade chili sauce! Despite the heat and the sweating from the due effect of the chili, he still claimed that it was the best simple dish he tasted in Sabah! As we were there on a Saturday, and got a chance to take Chlöisu to the market or better known to the locals as “Tamu”. The locals were friendly and at the same time curious with Chlöisu presence in a vegetable and fruit market!
Having tried mangosteen for the first time this week in Kundasang, Chlöisu was quick to spot the mangosteen in Sukau! He bought about 3kg of mangosteen as he was afraid that he might not get a chance to eat this tropical fruit again!
The journey continued till Chlöisu pedaled his way to an intersection where the local car rental owners were playing cards whilst waiting for customers. Chlöisu made a quick stop to mingle with them before heading towards direction Kampung Batu Puteh at the Kinabatangan River. Upon leaving Sukau, the terrain led to the main road passing through palm plantation and a few village houses. The road was slightly busier compared to the road in Sukau. A few vehicles slowed down and the passengers wind down their window to show thumbs up sign as they overtook Chlöisu. It was just a few kilometers before reaching Kampung Batu Puteh that we pointed to Chlöisu the heritage site of the Agop Batu Tulug limestone cave. The limestone formation of over 20 million years contains ancient coffins with carvings of buffalo heads, crocodile, snake and lizard.
Curious Chlöisu ventured into all the three main caves and when he reached the summit, he just dropped his backpack and like a model for a tv commercial, he placed his hand just above his eyebrow and inspected the view of Batu Puteh villages and its surroundings. The landscape offered mixture of jungles, tiers of palm plantations, riverbanks and villages. We took our time to appreciate the view before taking the wheels to Batu Puteh village.
As we entered the village, we were welcomed with the sights of youth playing “sepak takraw” – a native Malay-Thai sport that use a rattan ball. This game only permits the players to use feet, knee, chest and head to touch the ball. We hang out to watch this game the kids demonstrated their skills at balancing the rattan ball on their knee, dribbling it on their feet and knocking it down with their head!!!
Zaza greeted us at the playground which was located underneath the brick bridge and took us to the main hall. Kampung Batu Puteh Miso Walai Program is managed by Kopel which is a community based co-operative that combines and coordinates the village activities there. Part of the money paid to stay there is contributed towards conservation initiatives. The beauty of this village besides the friendly locals is its location which is alongside the Kinabatangan River - blessed with existence of the wildlife.
Our guide for the day was a cheerful and energetic new recruit named Leny. She was very upfront and told us that we were her first tour group that she is managing on her own. Chlöisu cheekily promised to give her a hard time!!! Not!!! We took the boat
to our eco camp which was situated next to a calm oxbow lake. The eco camp is a simple basic accommodation right smack in the jungle. The camp replicates a wooden villag house on stilts equipped simply with mattress, pillows, blanket, towel, aluminum box to store your things and a huge balcony with an amazing view of the lush green jungle! Chlöisu was smiling from ear to ear saying that this was what he has been looking for!
We had some time to freshen up before taking the late afternoon river cruise to inspect the wildlife that hang out near the riverbank for their evening meal. Our boat could easily fit about 8 people but since it was just 5 of us including the boat navigator Osman, everyone had spacious room for themselves. Leny took her spot at the head of the boat and started observing her surroundings. A book of “Birds of Borneo” was clasped in her hands, glancing at it for reference when she spoted a bird. We must say she did very well at spotting the hidden animals! As the boat cruised along the stream, Leny pointed out the different species of kingfishers, pelicans and hornbills.
It was not long till Chlöisu got his wish to see the proboscis monkeys! His binocular was almost a fixture that nestled on his nose during this trip! Who could blame him, when we were at the corridor of the wildlife! As the boat cruised further, we came across a group of naughty meerkats. Some curiously peeked from behind the layers of green leaves to check out the visitor for the day. Some perhaps too used with “excited audiences” watching them from the boat, just carried on what they were doing – scratching their body, picking for lice on their mates’ coat and some simply enjoyed the freedom of swaying from one branch to the other! As if to send us the massage that this is definitely their world. Their haven!
As time passed, the blood orange sky reflected on the calm gleaming stream, Osman told us that it was time to head back to our eco camp at the Kinabatangan River. The birds were chaotically flying overhead like sprinkles of black ants in the sky, chirping loudly as if calling its members for a general meeting. And as our boat hit the riverbank, darkness sneaked steadily, the sounds of crickets muffled the sounds of the chirping birds. We walked back to our camp in silence clearly mesmerized by the priceless sights of the mystical jungle of Borneo.
Story by: Itisha Mahadi from Bike and Tours
Photos by: Simon Werren from Bike and Tours