Saturday, November 28, 2015

Cycling Sabah 2015 - Day 4: Cycling In The Sea

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Cycling Sabah 2015 - Day 4: Cycling In The Sea
Pulau Banggi & Pulau Maliangin : 14th November 2015
Cycling Distance : It was cycling in the sea, so not tracked
Time : Not relevant.
Time Taken :  Not relevant.
Level: Not relevant.

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The previous day after two days of cycling we had reached the Tip of Borneo. It was a ride that was worth our blood, sweat and tears as the Tip was an awesome place. We spent the night at Tampat Do Aman and today we were ready to try something different, today we are going to go cycling in the sea.
Cycling in the sea? Can that be done? .... well read on to find out!

7:00am - Three Avanza vans arranged by Anslem came by to pick us up at the Tampat Do Aman  to send us to Kudat where we will take a ferry over to Pulau Banggi. Most of our bikes and luggage were put into one van; I rode shot-gun in that van, don't want our precious bikes to go missing, yah?

The drive took us just about forty minutes, en route we dropped by at Omar's place. Omar and his friends of the Banggi Youth Club have made arrangements for our stay in Pulau Banggi.
We arrived at the Kudat Jetty early. With time to spare we had a good breakfast at Rainbow Herbs located in a food court near the jetty. They served pretty awesome tomyams which had us drinking the soup until our bowls were dry (see Rainbow Herbs blog). Finished with breakfast, we were ready and eager to board the ferry and head for Pulau Banggi....

... and so were our bikes... only three of us brought our bikes, the others did not as we will be cycling in the sea too.

As the ferry approached the island, seeing the beautiful island with light green patches on dark green; our eagerness turned to anxiousness of getting on the island and witnessing life there.

10:30am - We arrived at the island, I was surprised to learn that Pulau Banggi is the largest island in Malaysia, bigger even than Penang Island and Langkawi. The main town on the island is Karakit, along the seaside here many houses sits on stilts.
Our accommodations while here were suppose to be some chalets like this, sitting over the water. It is rumoured that sea crocodiles will come below these houses at night to look for food. 

Unfortunately there was a mixed up in our accommodations and the chalets on stilts were fully occupied. We ended up staying at some rooms at the old rest house area, so there will be no crocodile adventure stories to tell.
This big blue plastic tank would be one of our favourite spots during our stay here. It stores rainwater piped in from the eaves gutters. See, the old rest house was a bit under maintained and the en-suite toilets had no lights nor water, so we congregated here for some communal bathing and carried pails of water to our dry toilets.
Oh yah.... we even had a room pet - a large green gecko that seems to be resident in our en-suite toilet. There I was one morning sitting on the throne staring at the gecko while it stared back at me; I just tried to do my business as calmly as possible.

Another of our favourite place, these two row of single-storey timber shop-houses which Baki affectionately call the Mid-Valley of Pulau Banggi. Quite an appropriate term actually as this is the place where islanders can come get most of their shopping done.

After we had "checked-in" at the rest-house we re-grouped at the Banggi Environmental Awareness Centre (BEAC) housed in a pastel blue building. The BEAC is an effort by the Banggi Youth Club (BYC) to instil awareness of coral care to the locals and visitors. It is a program that is backed by the World Wildlife Fund. They also do planting and re-planting of areas where the coral reefs had been damaged. Part of the payment of for our stay on the island goes towards their coral re-planting fund.

Above is a photo-grab from the BYC Facebook page showing the replanting of corals.
"As long as the coral reefs are healthy, the fishes will come and multiply and hence so will the community".
The photo shows corals three years after seeding. It is a slow process and that is why Omar and his gang after taking much effort to educate people on preserving the coral reefs.

Pinned onto a wall of the centre is a map of the north-eastern tip of SabahPulau Banggi and the surrounding islands. It is a rare map as the names of many of the villages are indicated, so are the locations of existing coral reefs.

The centre is also a community centre where some locals gather to carry out some community work like rattan-weaving. Their hand-made efforts are sold as part of their fund-raising efforts.
Here's Omar with the ladies of the community centre. Many thanks to these ladies as they also prepared the lunch for us.

For today, it's the weaving of colourful rattan bracelets, pretty aren't they?

Lunch over, the BYC brought us over to their dive centre at Pulau Maliangin. The calming spray of sea water with the blue skies above was just what we needed after the previous two days of hard cycling. They dropped some of us there for snorkelling, while the rest geared up to go scuba diving.

Yes, we are going scuba diving!
This is what my buddy called cycling in the sea as we will be pedalling in the sea with our flippers.... but without bicycles of course. Yes, after decades this AhPek is going for his début scuba-diving experience.

Three of us, Jui Li, Jason & me are new to scuba-diving and we will be doing what is called Discovery Diving, one where we dive with an experience instructor following and guiding us. Somewhere at the sea between the islands, Jason with his instructor plopped into the sea with a splash; but the currents were too strong for safe diving by amateurs, so it was back up the boat again.

We turned around went back to the dive centre to pick up our snorkelling friends and headed out to sea again. The boat dropped us, discovery divers & snorkellers, at Pulau Maliangin Kecil and continued on with three of our other friends (who were experienced divers) to go diving at another spot. (Note: when snorkelling, we wore life-jackets too. This is not because we can't swim, it's more to prevent us from going down to coral level and accidentally damaging them.)
The sea here is so clear, and we discovery divers went diving at the waters off this island. But then, this AhPek failed quite miserably at scuba diving. As we were heading out, I was too excited and tried to swim, scuba gear and all, to the bottom of the sea. When diving, one should remain calm; to go down just release the air on the floats and slowly sink down to a suitable level AND not swim down excitedly. Because I had over-exerting myself trying to swim down, I became breathless and the air from the scuba tanks did not seem to be coming fast enough for my panting breathe... I was having an anxiety attack!
I signal for the rest to proceed ahead and slowly made my way to the shore to join my other friends.... it's back to snorkelling for me.

Snorkelling wasn't too bad (I was consoling myself), but really it was cool thing to do as the following photos show:
Nice clear blue water...

... colourful corals ...

... and pretty fishes.

Yes! Thumbs up for a wonderful time at the sea!

The boat picked us all up and sent us back to Karakit.
Back to our pet gecko, back to a communal bath at the big blue tank, and a nice dinner.
We adjourned to bed, happy and satisfied with an exciting day.

(For more photos of the day Click Here)

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You are at - Jotaro's Blog / AhPek Biker / Cycling Sabah 2015 / Day 4: Cycling In The Sea     |     Go to D1 / D2 / D3 / D5-D7
If you like this, view my other blogs at Jotaro's Blog
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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Cycling Sabah 2015 - Day 3: Reaching The Tip Of Borneo

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                                     AhPek Biker - Riding Adventures                                   
Cycling Sabah 2015 - Day 3: Reaching The Tip Of Borneo
Langkon to The Tip of Borneo : 13th November 2015
Cycling Distance : 80.19km
Time : 7:20 am - 4:30 pm
Time Taken :  8 hrs. 50 mins. (Including stops for lunch, refreshments, rests, photography and lots of time at the Tip).
Level: Hard

Route Recommendations :
1. This route is hard with a few climbs. The last slope just before reaching the Tip of Borneo was very steep.
2. Interesting places along the route:
    - Matunggong, a small town with a cottage industry of making gongs.
    - Sikuati where there is a arch welcoming visitors to the ToB.
    - Kalumpunian Beach, a stretch of white sandy beach with clear water for swimming, lazing in the sun.
    - Tip of Borneo, where the South China Sea meets the Sulu Sea.
3. Along the rural stretches, watch out for dogs, they can be ferocious as a friend learnt.

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The previous day we had a long, tough ride from Kota Kinabalu to Langkon. It was a 125 km. cycling route filled with adventures and misadventures. Today we were eager to start off again, eager to see the Tip of Borneo after hearing much about it.

Today we ride to see the Tip of Borneo, that's what we came to Sabah to do. It was a shorter and easier route than the previous day but there were still some climbs. Anslem had planned well, we had done a longer ride the previous day and a shorter one today so that we could reach the Tip of Borneo (ToB) earlier and spend more time there before it got dark. We passed by several interesting small towns along the way.

There were less major climbs along today's route, just two but the final one just before reaching ToB was very steep and looked very daunting. We had to steel our hearts to be psychologically prepared to surmount it.

We were getting used to the early cycling start in Sabah, by 6:30am we were having our breakfast at the in-house restaurant (actually it's at a open-walled shed at the back). Even at a small town, eating in Sabah is not cheap (or perhaps we were charged hotel pricing). For the three plates, half-boiled eggs with drinks for the ten of us, we were charge RM160! Luckily we had a good treasurer/negotiator in Sooi Ying who knock down the price to RM130.
By 7:15am we rolled off, leaving Langkon and headed for the Tip of Borneo; eager to reach it as soon as possible.


It was a beautiful start - with blue skies full of puffy clouds, cycling along a fairly flat road.

We passed by a places with interesting (and easy to remember) names like Molong KolongMatunggongKg. Toporoi, Sikuati, Kg. Pinawantai, Kg. Bavanggazon, etc. There was even a Kampung Vanilla where vanilla beans were planted, a Kg. Gombizau which has a honey bee farm, and a "Barangoi Gong" which reminded be of the Barangkays which we passed when cycling at the Batanes in Philippines.

As usual, the Dynamic Trio of Baki, Jason and Brian had sprinted forward, scouting ahead for us. As the rest of us approached Kg. Toporoi, suddenly we heard a cacophony sounding similar to circus barkers - it was them acting out a role of promoting a stall there that sold cold drinks and had nice pineapple buns too. Click on above photo to see the video by Jason; they were hilarious, weren't they?

At Matunggong; the town is renown for it's gongs hence the name. The locals have a cottage industry making these gongs. There is also a gong-making factory at Kg. Sumangkap.

At the 88 Wholesale highway R&R, Kimmi applying charcoal oil to Baki's wounds (from the previous day).
The charcoal oil was brought along by Jason; it's from the charcoal factories of Kuala Sepetang and helps dry up wounds so that they heal fast. The only thing is they contain vinegar too, that's why Baki is bracing himself for the stinging pain that comes when the oil is applied.

More PAIN as some pushing is required. Adnan with his support car was at hand to render assistance.

Aiks! Reindeer in tropical Sabah?
They came to celebrate Xmas with the locals. Haha!

Young boys repairing their bicycle at a shed. Sin & me stopped here to take forty winks, the boys were quite adept in using just a pliers to get their bike fixed.

At the daunting last hill, a steep one kilometre climb to reach the ToB.
It's surmountable, we tried pedalling down the slope fast to gain momentum but a gravel patch at the bottom slowed us down. At the steeper sections we just rode zig-zagged up.


Anslem and Amy joined us later. They came whooshing along on their racers and most of us smelt dust as they overtook us.

So did their daughter Ash. She followed us on the support pick-up taking photos of us along the way.

Taking a refreshment break at Kedai Kopi Yi Fung at the R&R after Matunggong; tired but still happy.

A sad & pitiful looking Jui Li. Things were more expensive in KK, running out of budget she is considering applying for the dish-washer position to earn some extra bucks (see the sign behind).
(Naw... she was just play acting!)

Hooray! At the "Welcome to The Tip of Borneo" sign at Sikuati, about 20km. from the Tip.
I like the name Sikuati, in Bahasa Malaysia it could mean "The Strong Ones", very apt in describing us.

Ice-cream time!
(at the Popo & Co mini-market/cafe about 10km from the Tip)

Another play acting.
After taking on the very steep last slope, Sin reaching out for help from the support car. The others in the car just shook their head - Sorry, the car is full!


Almost there!
At the Jalan Kota Belud-Kudat/Jln Tamalang Junction.

Happiness at Kalumpunian Beach; there's a long stretch of white sandy beach here. Sooi Ying is pointing at the Tip of Borneo.

Stopping for refreshments at the Tip Top RestaurantKalumpunian Beach we were surprised to find Kingdom Gold Beer that comes from Cambodia!

Here we are!
A view of the Tip of Borneo form the cliff before climbing down.

Brian taking an opportune moment to kiss the Tip of Borneo before the next wave comes in.

"YES! We made it!"

A panoramic view of the Tip.

Later we checked into the Tampat Do Aman and then came out to Tip Top Restaurant for dinner. They serve pretty good fusion food including Swordfish fillet steak.
While there we were lucky to catch a beautiful red sunset. Here's Jui Li giving you all a bow to end the day...

Pssst.... tomorrow we will be doing a different type of cycling.... Cycling in the sea; so watch out for the next instalment!

(For more photos of the day Click Here)

This is page 3 of a 5-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.

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You are at - Jotaro's Blog / AhPek Biker / Cycling Sabah 2015 / Day 3: Reaching The Tip Of Borneo     |     Go to D1 / D2 / D4 / D5-D7
If you like this, view my other blogs at Jotaro's Blog
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