Saturday, November 21, 2015

Cycling Sabah 2015 - Day 2: A Tough Climb to Langkon

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Cycling Sabah 2015 - Day 2: A Tough Climb to Langkon
Kota Kinabalu to Langkon : 12th November 2015

Cycling Distance : 123.12km
Time : 7:15 am - 5:30 pm
Time Taken :  10 hrs. 15 mins. (Including stops for breakfast, lunch, refreshments, rests & photography).
Level: Very Hard

Route Recommendations :
1. This route is very hard with a lot of climbs. At a stretch just before Kota Belud the road is as steep as ten degrees.
2. Interesting places along the route:
    - Jalan Tun Fuad Stephen and the cycling lanes at the stretch along Likas Bay. They are shady, faces the sea and has nice scenery.
    - The Tun Mustapha Tower, it's a modern office tower with a unique structure and a mirror surface that reflects the blue skies.
    - The Gaya Bridge over Sungai Mengkabong. On the seaward side are colourful houses on stilts. On the other side the river reflects Mt. Kinabalu for a perfect view at sunset.
3. Do try out the Tuaran Mee at Tuaran town.
4. Along the rural stretches, watch out for dogs, they can be ferocious as a friend learnt.
5. Langkon is a suitable stop. It's at the junction where one road leads to Kudat and the other leads up to Mt. Kinabalu.
6. The Borneo Backpackers hostel in Kota Kinabalu allows guests to leave their luggage behind for a few days if they are returning to stay.
7. Northern Inn in Langkon is a fairly new hotel with Wifi and very clean rooms.

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The previous day we had arrived at Kota Kinabalu (KK) and cycled down from the airport to the city where we later had a late dinner at the Night Market. We stayed the night at the Borneo Backpackers hostel; it's a nice affordable place that allows cooking too. We tried to sleep as best as we could as the following day we would be having one tough ride.

We would be heading for the Tip of Borneo, it's quite a distance away from Kota Kinabalu (about 200km.) so we broke the journey into two and put up a night at Langkon. The route was quite straight forward: ride out of KK and use the highway/main roads to head towards Tuaran and Kota Belud; by passing both towns and then onwards to Langkon where we will stay the night. Sounds simple? Yup... but we managed to get lost two time... read on to find out.

As can be seen from above elevation chart, we faced five difficult climbs along the way.

(Photo by Jason)
7:00am - The ten of us gathered outside our home-stay for the previous night, the Borneo Borneo Backpackers ready to roll off.  Anslem and Amy (residents of KK) had cycled over to send us off; the cycling day for locals start early, as early as 5:30am as the day is bright by six. By the time we ready to roll off, both of them had already finished their cycling stint for the day and were ready to have breakfast with us.
Just for note; Borneo Backpackers have a store-room for returning guest to store their luggage without charge, so that's where all our bike bags and cases ended up for three days while we headed for the Tip of Borneo.

We were joined by Adnan who will follow us in a support pick-up truck. He is also an avid cyclists and had tales to tell about our route, but more on that later.

First to fuel up ourselves at Keng Wan Hing coffee-shop. The place sells good wantan noodles, Yong Tau Foo and dim sum.

7:55am - We headed out of town riding along Jalan Tun Fuad Stephen. It was a pleasure riding along this shady road that fringes scenic Likas Bay. The serene atmosphere here calmed us and prepared us for the long and difficult ride ahead.

Along Likas Bay were also KK's cycling lanes, which starts near Jalan Istiadat, runs for about four kilometres and ends close to the Likas Bay Bridge. Brian, Jason & Baki had a good time riding here. This dynamic trio were fast riders; they were our scouts, often riding ahead to recce the route in front.

Likas Bay has a wonderful panoramic view of the sea; from here the islands off the shore can bee seen with ships sailing along. At certain point, egrets could be seen basking in the sun.

From the cycling lanes, the Tun Mustapha Tower looked so near, but from the lanes we could not get to it. The cycling lanes ended, near the Likas Bay Bridge, but from there is no connection to the main road above. We had to back track about half a kilometre to get to the main road.

 At the Tun Mustapha Tower, a quick stop for memorable photos.

From there we continued on, now cycling along the highway. Fortunately there is an emergency lane for us to cycle along safely.

Another stop at the Gaya Bridge over Sungai Mengkabong. This is a nice place for beautiful photos, on the seaward side below were colourful houses sitting on stilts along the river banks. On the other side, at sunset, one can catch the sun and Mt. Kinabalu's reflection on the river.

Pit stop at rest stop near Tuaran.
The Dynamic Trio had made an unplanned detour to Karambunai; to save time the support car had gone to fetch them. While waiting we got refreshed and got water at the Kedai 1Malaysia there.

10:45am - After cycling for two hours and fifty minutes, we reached Tuaran. We had covered 41km. at an average speed of fifteen kilometres (including stops) which was not to bad.... but we had only covered the easy stretch and had not hit the hills yet!

After a short rest at the Tuaran Clock Tower, we headed out to ride a short stretch along the highway.... and then turned right away from the main road .... Hmmmm.... looks like Sin's GPS unit is taking us on another adventure!
The road took us across a metal bridge with decks of timber planks; on have to be careful cycling here as at certain points, there are gaps between the planks, gaps that are wide enough for our tires to go in.

About five kilometres ahead, we hit the first of many steep slopes, dragon-backs there are called. A hot dragon indeed as the afternoon temperatures were hitting the high thirties. Some of the stronger riders manage to overcome these dragon-backs, but many had to come down and push.

In the meantime, our Dynamic Trio friends had continued along Highway A1 and they too face a tough patch. They just hit one major slope, but it was a very steep ten-degrees slope that stretched on for kilometres.
Over the top, coming down on the other side was an even steeper slope! This was the stretch that Adnan had described to me as a nightmare. He had previously done a day trip to Kota Belud; on his return ride when facing that steeper slope, had asked himself what he was doing there and had told himself "I AM going to sell off my bike!"

As we cycled further in, we felt something was amiss, there don't seem to be any signboard indicating directions to Langkon or Kudat. Little did we know that we were cycling into the interior of Sabah. At a little village called Tinambak we decided to stop.
OK! It's time to press the EMERGENCY BUTTON and send out a SOS to Adnan to come pick us up!

While waiting for Adnan, we might as well observe rural Sabah life. I saw this old lady in a hut, slowly stringing a hook getting ready to fish from the earth drain behind. Hmm... not bad... food is just at the back-yard.

Adnan came advised that if we wanted to continue cycling it would be easier to back-track to the highway as in front were more hills! We all elected to get on the support car. Somehow the seven of us managed to do a Houdini and squeezed ourselves, bikes and luggage onto the pick-up.
Adnan took us on the road ahead, it was a shorter route back to the highway but in front were many hills and the road winded around sharp and steep bends. Yup, we were glad to be on the support car.

1:15pm - The support car dropped us at a highway R&R area just before Kudat, the dynamic trio were already there waiting for us. It was a good place to regroup as here there were stall for our lunch. Most of us had fried/soup noodles from a stall called K.B. Delight Cafe.

2:25pm - After a good rest we happily continued on; the scenery had changed. On and off we will pass by small towns and at one of them we saw several women fishing at the road-side drain. It was a hot day and they covered themselves up as best as possible.

Our happiness was short-lived as later it began to drizzle, and the drizzle turned into a heavy rain. We just dogged on, and without our rain-coats. We were actually relieved to be in the rain after a long hot day.

To compound the rain, we hit some slopes again.... and then suddenly we saw the support pick-up zooming by with Baki sitting at the back carrying an umbrella.
Hmm... what was he doing in the support car, he's one of the Dynamic Trio; these slopes, rain or no rain should not be a problem for him.

Little did I realize that a while back, he was chased by three ferocious dogs. He managed to defend himself from their bites but suffered a fall from his bike and got some bad abrasions.

5:30pm - After a long day's ride through several steep climbs, some riding in the rain, some chasing by dogs but all the same we had a tough but good fun....
Our first line of action was to get our friend treated for his wounds. Fortunately, there was a nearby clinic and it was still opened.

Our other friends had helped us check in to the Northern Inn, it's a fairly new hotel with clean rooms and good Wifi. They had also allowed us to leave our bikes in a storage space at a back corridor, saving us the trouble of carrying our bikes up to our rooms on the first and second floors.
We freshened up, had dinner at the hotel restaurant and went to bed early; tomorrow is going to be an awesome day... tomorrow we will reach the Tip of Borneo!

(For more photos of the day Click Here)

This is page 2 of a 5-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.

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