On this Borneo motorcycle tour, we explore all three countries
It’s not easy to find good, reliable bikes in Borneo. Getting parts and decent mechanics are a huge problem, so simple is best. Below my trusty kick start Honda XR 400 R for this trip.
All geared up and ready to go (will have to get used to kicking this XR 400 for sure), off we go out of the left testicle of Brunei into Limbang, Malasia.
Immigration & Customs was a breeze, the “ins & outs” of Brunei (into the right testicle) & Malaysia here mean you collect a few immigration stamps in your passport
The Kambang Ayer/ water village at Limbang
Where we were headed was all new territory. We were headed down towards the Indonesian border in Boenro, then hopefully would find a trail south that would lead us back into Malaysia. Luckily found some local knowledge confirming it might be possible
In and out of the right testicle of Brunei and back into Malaysian territory
Small rope bridge,
Then out onto the unmade roads to head south, a bit unlucky with the weather on the first day
By the time we reached the Merirap Hot Springs Resort, the rain had stopped and we could dry everything out. This place is a beautiful oasis in the middle of nowhere with hot spring baths
Dried out and ready to go, off into the jungle to visit the 1965 crash site of the Bristol Belvedere twin rotor helicopter. It looks like it crashed and then rolled down the side of the mountain.
One of the blade rotor’s drive gear
Moisture lifting from yesterday’s rain
The XR lookin good
A typical logging camp
A good thing about logging camps is that you can get fuel
Its a one man operation to assemble these logging trucks once they get to their pick up point, quite amazing
Re-lining brake shoes by hand, not seen in many places now
Managed to get a bolt replaced there too
Back out on the road south some nasty looking bridges that seem to support the logging trucks without a problem
Making our intended lunch destination, Ba’ Kelalan with time to spare
Glad it wasn’t raining here!
Lunch stop Ba’ Kelalan, some fried noodles with chicken did the job, there’s an airport there mainly for trekkers
We’re now pretty close to the Indonesian border & hopefully we can find the trail in Indonesia that will bring us back into Malaysia. If it exists it will save a huge amount of back tracking for getting to the Mulu virgin rain forest.
The Indonesian border
The last Malaysian Army checkpoint before no-mans-land
Into Indonesia, Lord knows what is going to happen
Indonesian Army at the checkpoint are a bit confused as to what we’re up to, they don’t stamp our passports, write our details in a book and allow us to go on into Indonesian territory
Into the town of Long Baan, Indonesia, still a huge Christian presence
So many churches, we were surprised to see this here
The town is centered around a grass airfield/ runway
Not knowing what’s a ahead or how far, we top up with jungle juice
Locals say we can get through to Long Layu, then there is a motorcycle trail back into Malaysia, we don’t know how far or how long. We have camping gear so nothing should be a problem.
Here we go, locals say they’ve never seen the white man on big motorbike go through here before, so might be “interesting”
We make Long Layu, a town built around a grass airfield. We manage to find fuel here for the exploratory motorcycle trail back into Malaysia
An abandoned Rockwell Turbo Commander Twin Prop plane , probably was an emergency plane on stand-by in Long Lyu …(RHS photo)
The trail back into Malaysia is now single track in many places, lots of log bridges and mud sections, only a motorbike could do it
Surveying the river
Now getting more and more like single track and a hardly used trail. Trees scatter the trail indicating its not heavily trafficked, lets hope it goes through back into Malaysia
Towards the Malaysian border there’s been some rain showers, real slippy
Some beautiful virgin rain forest
So much so, this chap can’t get up the hill, there’s no way we’ll get back up if this trail turns nasty ahead
What no-one had mentioned to us, was natures natural boundary for the countries. A nasty river crossing at the Malay/ Indo border, then a really steep hill to get out on the Malaysian side. The other side looks horrendous.
With some locals help we get through. A Scottish Aviation Twin Pioneer left to rot on the way north
The Scottish Aviation Twin Pioneer left to rot, could have been one of the emergency planes scattered around Borneo on grass airfields from the British protectorate times ready for a quick evacuation
So we make it out of Indoesia, as far as we know the first ever to map this route creating a fantastic riding loop. Before the only way west to Bario, was to back track through the Brunei testicles and the SW to Bario, this is fantastic mapping.
Into Bario, the surrounding oozing with virgin rain forest, lots of trekkers and hikers are drawn to this area
Remains of a West Wirlwind single rotor helicopter
With all the logging, pretty easy to make some strong bridges quickly
You can’t beat getting some local knowledge when you’rev pioneering
Back onto a hard, packed stone road, these work remarkably well even in heavy rain.
Approaching Long Mattapa, i’m told this was a favorite for the boys for obvious reasons (beer mostly)
Chicken cock fighting is still big here as is the Philippines
Long Mattapa’s cock fighting “arena”
A lot of locations here, with access to altitude water springs can run small hydro’s from them (a paddle wheel turning a generator/ alternator), they produce enough electricity to power a tv and lighting constantly, all year round. Cost to set up is around USD$ 500.
Back up gen.
Some hunters were staying at the same homestay, they had been hunting overnight and got 2 civit cats, sad to see, as they said it was for sport not for food
Off south and through a big logging area
Amazing how remote and free you feel here
Often 20km sections with bad dust, either ride real close or 400 meters apart
& watch for the swing-tail on the long, logging trucks
Loads of bridges as the trail follows the river valley
Off the beaten track, Long Tebangan, hopefully some fuel here
The first tribal, traditional long house we’ve stopped at. These are huge, huge long building, often divided into houses where the whole village lives, many now have homestay arrangements so that you can stay there
Here the locals were from the Kayan tribe
Some fuel at last, without this we could have been stuck
Numerous wooden bridges have no barriers, they could be a problem in the dark for sure
Logs and trails
Long long day & into Bedian for the night, we managed to find a clean, well setup, guest house/ homestay for the night
Now this was going to be a big, scouting day & we were hoping and praying for no rain. The Royal Mulu Resort is situated in the heart of the Mulu virgin rain forest, its one of the most special places on earth. There are NO ROADS in or out, the only way there is by plane or riverboat, we were going to try it by motorcycle.
First hunt down some benzine
Then to do something as crazy as this, you want all the local knowledge you can get
The whole village get involved
The road started good, hard packed rock with mud and sand sections
We want to get this mapped, we’ll need all the local help we can get
All working well – into the Mulu virgin rain forest, spectacular
The trail cut into the mountain side through the lushness
Some lime stone rock formations, this should mean we’re headed in the right direction. As you can see its getting pretty muddy
Manifold’s of trails headed all over the place now, its getting very confusing
Then a huge landslide to deal with, with loaded bikes, let’s hope this goes through & lets hope it doesn’t get worse. The trail is deteriorating a sign that it might not go anywhere
I dont care if we get stuck here, the tranquility & animal noises that are unique to here are fabulous
Then, we turn one more bend “that’s it” !!! – We can make out a run way it must be the Mulu airfield, its the only one in the area, we might actually do this.
Getting closer, it’s def. a runway
Yeh baby we’ve done it (nearly anyway, we’ve still got to find our way to the river then the resort)
Quite exciting now, we press on as quick as we can
A few more bends and the river appears
Down to the river and there’s a traditional, long house village
A bit of chatter and we discover that we can get to the Royal Mulu Resort, this is fabulous, fabulous. We find a boat driver and he’ll take us there but is worried as the river is super low
We start inquiring about crocodiles, the locals say “don’t worry, they are our friends” (but are they the white man’s freind too???)
Looking down the silt-laden river, we don’t see any eyes poking out of the water
We’re off, our trusty boat captain skillfully avoiding the rock and tree obstacles
Looks like there’s jungle a fire close by, a Russian helicopter collecting water for a drop
The boat driver really needed to know what he was doing through the rapids
Limestone river bank
Surveying with a stick
At the confluence, the healthy jungle river showed its face. You can see the dark unsilted color of the healthy river, this is where we’re headed
Approaching the Royal Mulu Resort area, only accessible by plane (“normally”)
The Royal Mulu Resort is one of the most special places I have EVER traveled to by motorcycle, I will never forget it. Apart from the drama and energy of getting there, it is a real classy, well run set up. Pretty amazing considering everything is handled by plane or boat. Ecologically, they want to keep it inaccessible by road traffic and so they should.
There’s a huge amount to do there, from some of the most amazing caves on this planet to canopy walks in one of the few remaining virgin rain forests, this place is unique.
After a few hard days this place was an amazing oasis in the middle of a virgin rain forest, how often could you have this experience in the world today. Beautiful rooms with real comfy beds. The rooms are big and sharing isn’t a squeeze at all.
Marriot are in the process of taking over managing the resort, so it will probably even improve if that’s possible
A few more shots around the spectacular Royal Mulu Resort
Beat that view??
Many hours of discussion in Mulu & it looks like we’ve found another way out back to civilization by boat, this has never been done before. The boat skipper has been there 45 years, he says this is the first time its been attempted and he doesn’t know whether it will work. We manage to twist his arm to try, what could possibly go wrong?
Off we go to get the bikes, not the guy on the bow signalling the depth to the skipper, easy to strip a gearbox here with propellers on rocks (they’ve stripped many)
It’s very silent, everyone’s a bit worried ans for good reason!
We have to come down this in a few minutes to get the bikes to the boat, doesn’t look fun at all
Here we go, note my mirror has taken a walk already
Bikes down and time to get them on the boat
Could be a scene from an X-Men movie
The local Brawan tribal chappy has never seen this before with big bikes
Fingers crossed, he we go
Nice to get in the shade at last
Shallow rapids, hugely dangerous with the heavy cargo
Deep water and we start to plane
More nasty rapids
Further down river much deeper
He looks less worried now
Late in the day we settle for a homestay, which was probably one of the most fascinating stops for knowledge on the trip
Cartoon time, they didn’t seem to be too interested in us
A very switched on elderly gentleman named Philip owned a resort in Mulu and had retired back to his native village. His house/ homestay was immaculate & he was a wealth of knowledge on trails and ways out as he’d spent all his life there
A real pro, had a great dinner organized for us and gallons of ice cold beer
This is Philips Grandfather 100 years ago, a Brawan tribal chief
Philip the chief 100 years later on
Philip was a real gentleman, was sad when it was time to go. Now time to try find our way out of here and back to connecting roads
Not as bad as we thought ….. Doesn’t look like this Landie is going anywhere soon in Long Lama
They’d moved the ferry in Long Lama and hidden one to throw us off, it wasn’t here
Found it and waypointed it
Back eastwards to Brunei, mental note to self – do not try do anything in Brunei on a Friday between mid day and 2pm, Sharia Islamic Law states that everything has to stop/ shut for prayers (except Mosque’s )
Even Shell, the oil producer in Brunei is shut for the 2 hour duration
Across the Baram River, huge floating dry dock
Gagging for a cup of tea
Into Bandar Seri Begawan (capital of Brunei) & found a great value hotel for USD$ 50 with aircon & free wifi
With some time to spare in Brunei,it would be a shame not to set eyes on some of the spectacular Mosques in Brunei’s capital.
The biggest mosque in Brunei is Jame’asr Hassanil Bolkiah mosque, built in 1988 but not officially named until 1994. The mosques has total of 29 golden domes which symbolizes 29th Sultan of Brunei Darussalam, His Majesty Paduka Seri Baginda Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah. Quite a spectacle. There’s easy bike parking everywhere.
1km south is the equally if not more elaborate Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque.
Named after Omar Ali Saifuddien III, the 28th Sultan of Brunei who also initiated its construction, the mosque serves as a symbol of the Islamic faith in Brunei and dominates the skyline of Bandar Seri Begawan. The building was completed in 1958 and is an example of modern Islamic architecture.
Muslims cleansing in holy water before entering the mosque
The mosque’s most recognizable feature – the main dome, is covered in pure gold. The mosque stands 52 m (171 ft) high and can be seen from virtually anywhere in Bandar Seri Begawan. The main minaret is the mosque’s tallest feature. In a unique way it mixesRenaissance and Italian architectural style. The minaret has an elevator to the top, where a visitor can enjoy a panoramic view of the city.
Built in an artificial lagoon on the banks of the Brunei River at Kampong Ayer– the “village in the water”, the mosque has marbleminarets and golden domes, a courtyard and is surrounded by a large number of trees and floral gardens. Abridge reaches across the lagoon to Kampong Ayer in the middle of the river. Another marble bridge leads to a structure in the lagoon meant as a replica of a 16th Century Sultan Bolkiah Mahligai Barge. The barge itself was completed in 1967 to commemorate the 1,400th anniversary of Nuzul Al-Quran (coming down of the Quran) and was used to stage the Quran reading competitions.
I think this is the prettiest mosque i’ve ever seen
Just a little further south east & you get to the “Kampong Ayer”, meaning water village, on the Sungai Brunei River
The Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque can be seen to the north in the distance
Quite a mish mash of squatters
Another beautiful mosque as the southern end of the Kampong Ayer
Fabulous Borneo motorcycle tour!
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