Over two days in July I attempted to carve up around 70km of regional links to a number of disconnected Bornean towns by means of bus, bike and boot. Let it be said, however, that it’s a region of Asia which encompasses every facet of the simple life that ‘ruffians’ Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie would deem untameable.
Detached from the wider world by walls of dense ancient jungle that limit a community’s movement to walking, unless they willingly drive over several mountains to reach the nearest grocery store, adventure company Bike Borneo have packaged up the local life in the Malaysian state of Sabah and successfully sold it to daredevils and fitness-junkies alike.
Unbeknownst to us non-Olympians however is that a large proportion of the severely steep and rocky inclines are almost unsurpassable, lest you bust a lung or die trying. This might be the kind of adventure Lance Armstrong deems a cinch compared to the Tour de France, but for people like myself who barely know how to do a push-up, cycling over mountaintops sounds worse than white-water rafting down the river Styx for all eternity.
To be fair, I was completely aware of the distance I would be undertaking for the sake of exploration and exercise (I’m still convinced that a look into the mirror pre-departure was what got me in the mood initially). However, it didn’t exactly dawn on me just how difficult the task was until I was pedalling first-gear more than 500 metres uphill, heaven most certainly within reach if I were forty years older and diagnosed with an ill-fated heart condition.
Undertaking the journey was certainly a challenge.
There was blood (I managed to snag my useless limbs in the spikes of the tyres numerous times), sweat and tears – mostly in response to high humidity and temperatures soaring above 35 degrees celsius. What I didn’t see coming my way were the moments of utter magic; for despite every minute of wishing my legs would go numb and the pain would no longer be unbearable, I knew that this battle with my bicycle placed me in a position of the world that was still, in comparison to mainland Asia, largely unexplored.
Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Biking through Borneo.