Well I just had to do it - Borneo was begging for a ride. There was some trepidation on how the shipping was going to happen but I needn't have worried.
Despite thinking it was a mammoth task, it turned out easy peasy. Maskargo normally ships small cubs but they managed to accomodate me with one of their wide bodied aircraft. It was as simple as getting a Bill of Lading number and rocking up to the office within the cargo area just outside the LCCT in Kuala Lumpur. I unplugged the battery and drained the gas tank and put my money down. The next time I saw her was in the cargo holding area in Kuching airport - looking none the worse for wear.
Now - Sarawak. It's huge - it's bigger than Peninsula Malaysia - its more than a 1000km to Miri in North Sarawak. And outside of Kuching there isn't much in Sarawak. I do believe I'm doing Sarawak a huge disservice by saying that - however you need plenty of time and cash to really appreciate Sarawak - like the boat rides into it's jungles and it's native dayak culture, or trekking in Bako and its huge caves. But all that takes too much time, and time is a premium for us.
Kuching has all the necessary ingredients to keep you occupied for a while. Bako National Park with its screaming stealing monkeys was amazing - the trek within its interior was a revelation - scrabbling over limestones hills and dodging giant trees while following a faint trail we were hoping we didnt get lost. The easy trek was four hours long - I dont think I have walked that long in a while, not to mention wearing jeans is not really appropriate gear.
The city is quiet - its not KL for sure, but it does have a certain rawness from being next to some of the most treacherous jungles in the world. The mix of people are different from your normal run of the mill Malaysian town, and people speak somewhat differently.
The customs guys in Kuching were friendly and regaled me with stories of bandits on the coastal roads, of how plenty of drivers were left high and dry with empty pockets and missing wheels. Or how these bandits carried weapons and were somewhat trigger-happy. Those custom guys really had me going for a while there but I decided to take it all with a pinch of salt and I'm happy to say I didnt see a single bandit! I did however see groves and plantations of palm trees - for a while after Kuching I was glad I didn't see any palm tree but was I ever wrong!
Having said that the coastal road is very flat and very straight and very empty. The R1 was the perfect mile-muncher. The R1 made good time to Miri, and we were poised for Brunei.
Brunei has plenty of gasoline, and most of it exceedingly cheap! Well, that doesn't say much about the country, but unfortunately there isn't much to say. We spent a night in Bandar Seri Begawan and managed a quite enjoyable ride around the lake and canals.
The boatman was quite entertaining and did a splendid job of squeezing that high-powered boat between the lake houses and the numerous schools, restaurants and shops that dotted the lake. There is a high proportion of primary schools though, which the boatman informed us was a direct cause of the lack of nightly entertainment.
The city shuts down by 8pm, and the only places open are the gourmet tea and coffee shops. I can imagine how dull it might become after a few days. Another strange thing was the lack of motorcycles on the roads in Brunei - the motorcycle is the lifeblood of every Asian city. It's a bit disconcerting not to see the small motorcycles zooming in and out of traffic.
The next day meant a few border crossings - on account of the land configuration we had to exit and enter Brunei twice before we were finally in Sabah. Its about a day's ride from Bandar Seri Begawan to Kota Kinabalu.
Kota Kinabalu is loud and awash with foreign and local tourist, all trying their feet on the slopes of Mount Kinabalu. I was pretty done with walking and I was thinking it was time to dip our feet into some cool refreshing sea somewhere.
The Celebes sea with its myriad of tropical isles was where its at - specifically Sipadan and its turtles. With the R1 stowed away safely, and running out of time and money we managed the local rate for a 4 day 3 night package at the delectable Sipadan Water Village.