Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Haunting ride to Keningau

By Mohammad Abdullah

A town the size of Bangar Town in Temburong lies hidden in Sabah. Keningau, about 130km from Kota Kinabalu and about 300km from Temburong, is a town where not many venture to.

Reaching the town of Keningau, one has to take a turn at a junction near Sipitang. From there, the long and winding road takes travellers high above the hills of Sabah where spectacular views of the forest below can be seen.

The town itself is accessible via two roads, one from Kota Kinabalu via Bukit Emas and the other through the junction prior to reaching the town of Sipitang. It takes about four to five hours to reach Keningau from Temburong, depending on the traffic in Lawas.

Many stories abound about the road to Keningau, which locals swear is haunted. They'd warn travellers never to stop for anything, not even to help motorists who are stranded.

There are lights on the road but because the road cuts through the virgin forest, it is a bit imposing, and could be terrifying in stormy weather. On our first trip to Keningau, we've experienced it all. We travelled at night during a storm and experienced a car break down.

What the locals say is true.

No one would stop to help out a stranger on that road, and because of the steep inclines and declines, the wet weather makes the road very slippery and becomes a tad dangerous. We didn't experience any 'x-files' though.

The irony is that the road to Keningau is almost perfect. The road is smooth and beautifully made. The winding road with the steep inclines and declines poses a little challenge for drivers and a haven for bikers, in particular those who wish to test their tenacity and skills.

Keningau was once said to be a cowboy town, where travellers hardly stay for long. The city of Kota Kinabalu pulls a stronger attraction than Keningau. However the town does have its own merits. Because of its relatively small size, practically everyone knows everyone, and news travel fast about a group of travellers staying in one of the only hotels in town, especially when they roll on two wheels accompanied by the sound of thunder.

People even cheered as the parade of bikers negotiates by the narrow high streets. What grabs is the number of natives who walk the streets, from the inner tribes of Sabah, who commute to Keningau to sell their goods.

The town is growing, but at snail pace, with pockets of rural living. This can be seen on the roads itself, as we approach the town herds of cattle walks leisurely across the road ignoring the traffic they hold up.

For adventure seekers, Keningau is worth a visit, a small town with great appeal as it is set on a backdrop of lush, virgin forests, to wake up to the muted sound of traffic and hustle and bustle of town life.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

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