THEY say to see a country properly, one has to be close to the ground.
And what better way, in this age of environmental consciousness, than to tour a region on a bicycle where one can truly experience the local cultures and see the sights up close and personal.
Two persons who have embraced this method of touring are Singaporean Rahim Resad and American Heather Pritchard.
The two cyclo-tourists are embarking on a trip that will literally take them around Borneo — and they are attempting to circumnavigate the world’s third largest Island on two wheels.
Rahim has extensive background in cyclo-touring, dating back to 2006 when he did a 14-day tour of Western Australia, and as recent as October 2010 when he toured Sumatra for two months.
Pritchard, a sports rehab therapist by training, has been travelling around Southeast Asia for the past several years and three years ago, she decided that the bicycle would be an ideal vehicle to travel round and see the region.
For the past several months, she has been cycling through Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam before returning to Thailand to start her journey southwards to peninsular Malaysia.
During the round trip, she stayed in a variety of places, the most basic of which was her tent pitched on the beach in Thailand.
“In the interior part of the trip, I stayed in guest houses and was also fortunate enough to be invited to stay in people’s homes,” said Pritchard who typifies that relaxed yet active California lifestyle, her home state.
“This trip is more adventurous than any I have done. Kalimantan will be a big challenge as we do not have any good maps —- so we don’t really know what to expect.”
She is also wary of the heat they will be encountering.
One person familiar with the challenges they will face in the Malaysian leg is Kuching outdoorsman Francis Ho who in 2011 rode 1,340km solo from Kota Kinabalu to Kuching to raise funds for The Federation of Life Care Society.
“They will have to put up with the heat and the poor conditions of the roads. There were no shades on the sides of the roads when I made the ride in 2011,” Ho recalled.
The genesis for the expedition, undertaken by Rahim and Pritchard, came in 2012 when Rahim met Sabah tourism officials at a presentation.
When his proposal to cyclo-tour Sabah was turned down, he decided to expand his vision.
“After some research, I decided it might be much better if we could do the whole Island of Borneo,” he said.
The groundwork has been on-going for the better part of a year, mostly through the Internet, which is also how Pritchard came to know of the expedition.
Labels: Borneo, Kalimantan, Kota Kinabalu, Kuching, Sports Tourism