Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Hitchhiking Borneo: Sepilok to Semporna

I only had to walk half a kilometer from my hostel on the outskirts of Sepilok to reach the roundabout that directs traffic towards Sandakan or Kota Kinabalu. I intended to make it 350km south to the coastal town of Semporna.

I had been told not to dare go to Semporna or Lahad Datu by many people due to the insurgent Filipino clans that had recently been terrorizing the area. Police officers and insurgents had been shot dead in the previous days, but the fear of the local people went way beyond reason to me. I wasn’t about to step foot into an actual warzone. While the situation was obviously misfortunate that these Filipino clans were targeting and killing police, I didn’t see an immediate danger to me as a tourist.

Rather then use a sign with my final destination like I had the day before, I simply wrote ’20 km’ on a large folded piece of purple paper. Within ten minutes, the same silver Isuzu pickup pulls to the side of the road. It must be Ming!

Actually it wasn’t. Hill was the name of my new driver. He instantly put me at ease with his easy going demeanor as I got in the car. I also felt lucky that he happened to be going all the way to Lahad Datu which was more then half way there. I was only hoping to make it about 50km to the junction where a road splits off to head south.

Hill was playing relaxing Buddhist music and after some basic conversation said I could rest if I needed to, and I did need it since I had been awake since 5 am. I closed my eyes and went in and out of sleep depending on how bad the pot holes in the road were. When I opened my eyes again, Hill and I talked a bit more.

He told me about the palm oil plantations and how at only 3 years they can start seeing oil from the tree. Yet after 15 years they have to deforest the land again and plant new trees. I don’t know about the accuracy of it, but I’ll remember to Wikipedia it soon.

Before I knew it we were in Lahad Datu, and simply because I had commented on how relaxing the music was, Hill insisted I take the cd. I tried to explain that I wasn’t even traveling with a way to listen to it. It didn’t matter, he wouldn’t take no for an answer. Before I got out of the truck I took a photo of him.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Hitchhiking Borneo: Sepilok to Semporna