Finding a way out

I can be an adventurer and at the same time I can be a very cautious person. Would it have been just me, I would have never thought of taking a shared taxi to a random place, but together with a fellow traveler, I found myself driving into the jungle.

At the street in Kota Kinabalu stood several shared taxis, waiting for passengers. One was going to a place called Tambunan and was about to leave. It was quite luxurious and there were four others on board. The drive took just over 1,5 hours and I really didn’t have a clue in which direction we were going. It was a long, winding road, surrounded by dense jungle. We left KK in bright sunshine, but now the weather turned, clouds coming in rapidly and heavy rain putting the ‘rain’ back in rainforest.


We’d planned to get out somewhere and do a walk, but since it was now raining, we quickly adapted the plan and went all the way to the tiny town of Tambunan. On top of that, the people in the taxi all said different things about the walks, and we weren’t at all sure anymore if we could find our way through the jungle. The village became the attraction for us and we became the attraction for the village. We seemed to be the only tourists around.

When we walked over a small market it was still raining. We found shelter by holding a piece of plastic above our heads. A break in the clouds allowed us to go on a little walk. We just started walking and found a small park near a mosque. The road continued into nowhere. The village was so small it didn’t take us long to find ourselves on a road with cows and the odd child that was playing with a bike.

We passed a few houses, but mostly cows. They, and their dung, were just everywhere. After going further into nothingness for a while, we met a boy on a scooter. He managed to show us the way back to town. We could make a circle. When he tried to continue his way, his scooter wouldn’t start. There we were, in a village in the jungle, giving a boy who’d just helped us a push on his scooter. Further along the road we got a lift back to town in the back of a pickup truck.


On our way here we were warned that the last bus/taxi back to town would be around 3.30PM. We were at the bus stop well in time, but still struggled to find any transportation. We quickly found out that buses here only went to town if there were over 8 passengers. As it turned out, we were the only two that wanted to get back to the big city.

After a quick bite at the local café, we still didn’t have any luck and we tried to hitchhike. On the corner of the main road we seemed to be quite the attraction, but it took a while for a tiny red car to stop. An old couple sat inside and after some hesitation asked us where we were going. They didn’t have a lot of space, but if we wanted they’d give us a ride.

So there I sat, with a bucket and bags with groceries between my legs. It didn’t matter. We’d be back in KK before dark. The tiny car had to work hard in the hilly landscape. Uphill it could only do 40km/h. I felt a bit bad for these incredibly friendly people. The woman was so nervous about driving. Every now and then I saw her hand reaching for the steering wheel, accompanied by a “slowly, slowly”.

The rain was pouring down again. The clouds had dropped onto the road and the visibility got really bad. After two long hours of driving we reached the outskirts of town. We offered to take a bus from there, so this lovely old couple could go back to their home. They wouldn’t hear of it though and brought us right to the city center. We quickly wrote a note and wrapped some hidden money in it. We knew they wouldn’t accept it otherwise, but these amazing people deserved it. What a fantastic day!


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