If you’re the adventurous type, there’s certainly no better way to get a feel of Sabah’s bucolic surroundings other than by touring on a mountain bike.
There are plenty of cycling tours in Sabah to match your fitness level and risk aversion quotient. If you are the uber-adventurous with boundless energy type, you will love the 3D/2N Epic Mountain Biking tour. If you consider yourself a moderate adventure-seeking cyclist, the 2D/1N Mountain Biking and Homestay package will be a great option, in addition to letting you do some community work in Sabah. Alternatively, if you’re just like me, someone who hasn’t been on a bike for nearly five years and just want to have fun without killing yourself, the Kiulu Countryside Ride tour is just perfect!
Let’s go a-cycling!
The Kiulu Countryside Ride starts with a pick up at 8am from your hotel, or wherever it is your preferred pick-up place in Kota Kinabalu. From here, you will go on a 45-minute drive to the satellite town of Kiulu, near the Tamparuli town, which is famed for its legendary bridge — Jambatan Tamparuli.
The drive will be a pleasant one as your tour guide for the day introduces himself and shares some stories and urban legends from Sabah. One of the most memorable stories that our guide shared with us was the legend of Solungkoi — a local Dusun maiden who was said to have fallen in love with a British soldier and, due to jealousy, was offered as a sacrifice to the spirit of the Tamparuli Bridge. Such a sad love story!
The road leading to Kiulu is a scenic and peaceful one, dotted with trees and the occasional herd of buffalos frolicking by the roadside. The starting point of the cycling tour is at the Kiulu riverside, the same place where the white water rafting activity starts.
Before beginning the cycling tour, you will be given a short safety briefing and introduction on the route you were to take. The Kiulu Countryside Ride will take you across several suspension bridges, through fields, tarmac road and even graveled road by the riverside. You will get to enjoy the rustic countryside scenery and breathe the fresh kampung air.
Posing in the middle of the suspension bridge. It may look easy but riding a bicycle on a wobbly suspension bridge can be a bit scary for the uninitiated. It’s best to go slow or just walk across if you’re not confident riding the bike across the bridge.
The total distance covered in the Kiulu Countryside Ride is approximately 18 kilometers. After riding through the narrow village roads for about an hour, you will make a pit stop at one of the houses in the village where you will be served with local cakes and drinks.
After having your fill of local cakes and drinks, your guide will take you for a short hike into the village farm where you will be introduced to local plants, such as the tembaga (copper) banana tree and other edible shrubs that you can eat, if you ever get lost in the Bornean jungle. Here, you will also be given a rubber-tapping demo by one of the villagers, in case you’re interested in a career change. Depending on the season, you may also get a chance to try out paddy planting and paddy harvesting at the paddy field.
The journey to cover the other half of your journey resumes after this, starting with a refreshing ride through the rubber estate. This was my favourite part of the journey as the path through the forest is cool and shaded, with soft breeze caressing against my skin. Emerging from the rubber estate, you will get to ride along the Kiulu riverside. On hot days, you will be utterly tempted to jump in and swim!
The toughest challenge will come just before reaching the end point. This time, instead of riding under cool, shady trees, you will be riding on the tarmac road with a slightly ascending slope. On particularly hot days, the sun will be beating down on your back mercilessly, therefore, never ever skip sunscreen! You are also advised to keep hydrated at all times, as to avoid getting a heat stroke.
At around half past noon, we finally arrived at the cycling terminus where we enjoyed a simple local buffet lunch before being transferred back to KK. It was definitely a great experience for us and a fun way to get some exercise done!