Overlanding 2: Across Indonesian Borneo

Trip Start Aug 24, 2010
Trip End Apr 30, 2012

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Flag of Indonesia  , Borneo,
Friday, December 23, 2011

We disembarked at 2am and I didn't see the point in a hotel for just 4 hours until it got light so I paid about 50p to sleep on the floor in a shed with the others.  At daybreak I went out to find info on the Orang Utan conservation feeding station I'd heard about up river but to my dismay I found out I was the only tourist there and it was way out of my budget to charter a boat on my own.  So plan B was to head on as it was unlikely any tourists would arrive in the next few days.

I had to wait til 4pm for the bus out of there, but was kindly invited to stay with an ice-cream seller for the day.  I slept some more on the floor of his wooden house he shared with three other people.  He fed me rice and egg which went down an absolute treat and I had a squat bath out the back which was paradise.  

After that I had three straight overnight bus/car rides of about 24 hours each.  There was nothing but plantations and mines at each town so I didn't stop, besides unusually I had a deadline - I really wanted to get as much time in Sabah before I had to leave to Philippines to catch my sailboat.

So I got off each bus, waited around a few hours at each bus station and got on the next one.  It's all about eating and stuff when you can on these journeys but there is cheap rice meals everywhere and I still absolutely love rice surprisingly.  The other plus is I got treated like a celebrity in Indonesia, with a lot of people half thinking I was David Beckham, given he'd been in Jakarta about the same time as me and I've got his girly hair.

The most crazy thing about these 24 hour journeys is not the horrendous state of the buses, including unconventional but results-getting wooden-block-under-the-wheel handbrakes, but the fact that only one driver does each journey, practically non stop!   We stop every 3 hours or so for toilet and food but they never sleep!  There is a cheap red-bull type drink called M-150 which keeps them going -  I think it comes straight from the lab.

The third leg of this section was 30 hours in a car because the buses can't negotiate the semi-built road through the forest.  I think this stretch was the most dangerous thing I've done in 16 months as he drove like a nutter and we passed one overturned lorry, a jackknifed tanker, the remnants of a head on collision, and we stopped to tow a fellow car out of a ditch who'd just fallen off the road at sunrise.  I think he'd fallen asleep at the wheel because there were no obstacles around and he'd just gone straight on at a corner.  But, patched up and gaffa taped the same car overtook us later on.  There's a real macho culture in Indonesia with driving and smoking and women talk and stuff and they all took the piss out of me for wearing my seatbelt.  I told them it was because I love my Mum!

It was Christmas eve at this point and I had slim hopes of getting to Sabah by Christmas day but that was scuppered upon the sight of a huge queue of traffic leading up to a flooded ford.  I went to see the damage and watched as big trucks dumped heaps of mud into the 2m or so of water, attempting to make a land bridge.  I guessed it would take about 20 hours and looked around for a place to camp but to my surprise they had fixed it in 5, with help from the army, and we drove on.  (Our driver took a long overdue nap, thank God)
I was relieved to make it to the port around midnight and managed a bucket shower as it became Christmas day which was delightful.  I was on a boat by 7am Christmas day for the next part of the journey.
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AJ on

Your overland journey sounds epic! Did you help the trucks throw mud into the river? Thats the only explanation I can come up wit for it being done in 5 hours... Hercules!!!

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