7 ROUTES TO RIDE ON WESTERN SARAWAK’S BACK ROADS AND BEACHES
Not long ago, bicycling in Sarawak was a means of transportation. In recent, years “pedal power” has become a popular leisure time sport with a growing segment of Sarawakians, both the young and not so young. The advent of portable, folding bikes has made it possible to transport your bike in the boot of your car, eliminating the need for a pick-up truck or those cumbersome, costly and less secure bicycle racks. The result of improved access to popular cycling destinations allows everyone to hit the road on two wheels!
Jay Blakeney, a Retired Canadian Forest Engineer and avid outdoors-man, describes the historic isolation of Borneo’s far western corner from the rest of Sarawak, and the scenic attractions that await travellers there.
ROUTE 1 BEACH CYCLING
Many of Sarawak’s beaches are exposed to the South China Sea, resulting in long stretches of hard- packed sand which are ideal for cycling between villages. These types of long stretches can be found between Pan- dan Beach (Lundu) and Sematan Bay, and also along the coast between Kam- pung Serabang and Kampung Telok Melano (Tanjung Dato).
Such trips must be tackled with care to ensure that one does not get stranded at the far end of the cycling route when the tide comes in. However, there are often alterna- tive return routes through extensive coconut plantations that front the coastal beaches.
ROUTE 2 THE BACK ROADS OF MATANG FOOT HILLS
Cycling through the villages at the base of Gunung Serapi – Sungai Tengah, Melihah,Bobak, etc. Is an enjoyable experience with signs of historic Sungai Tengah Rubber estates and tappers’s villages. The roads are relatively flat and views of nearby mountain peaks make a nice backdrop to the trip.
Similar bicycle routes can be found along the western flanks of Matang Ranges crossing the “red bridge” and continuing on to the entrance to Kubah National Park. Some nice waterfalls can be seen along this route. A short detour to Telaga Air and its abundant seafood retaurant and organic farms provide additional diversions along this route.
ROUTE 3 SARAWAK RIVER BANK
Closer to home is a 30km loop cycle trip up, heading up south along the shore of Sarawak River to Sungai Maong. Crossing the river to the north side will take you back down through a string of riverside Malay villages to the former toll bridge, and then back upstream to Kuching’s main bazaar. You will pass heritage buildings such as Fort Margherita, and the Anglican Mission, ending up at the new Darul Hana Bridge and musical water fountain.
ROUTE 4 BELIONG ISLAND
Beliong Island is a large river delta between Sungai Sarawak and Sungai Samarahan. It is only accessible by sampan, with bicycle paths connecting the five villages there. The three Malay fishing villages, one Chinese village, and one Iban settlement share the island with extensive areas of the Beliong’s former main industry: coconut plantations, copra processing and drying sheds. The ride past these historic farms will offer an interes- ting view into a past livelihood.
ROUTE 5 BAKO-MUARA TEBAS-GOBILT- SEJINGKAT-SENARI-BINTAWA
An interesting bicycle trip starts by taking a Red Bako Bus to Kpg Bako (bike can be loaded in the luggage compart- ment under the bus). From Bako, cycle along back roads to Muara Tebas, then back to Kuching via riverside villages of Gobilt, Senari, Sejinkat, cross the Barrage, and back to Kuching, heading west along the river front though the light industrial areas of Bintawa and Pending. The entire route is flat, with no hill climbs and generally light traffic. Good for peaceful cycling through riverine kampungs. An optional side trip is to load your bicycle on a sampan at Kpg Gobilt for a 45-minute upriver cruise into the heart of Beliong Island. Along the river are many crocodiles. Do not put your hand in the water.
ROUTE 6 PADAWAN TO BAU, VIA KPG SEMADANG AND BENGOH RESETTLEMENT VILLAGE
The new road connecting Padawan to Bau via Semadang and the Bengoh Resettlement Village offers a pleasant cycle trip through some very impressive limestone mountain scenery. This route is relatively flat with only occasional short hill slopes to negotiate. A bike with multi gears is essential, unless you don’t mind dismounting and pushing your bike up the uphill stretches.
ROUTE 7 OFF-ROAD IN THE BENGOH MOUNTAIN RANGES, PADAWAN
For those who find the rest of this list too tame, there are cycling trips to Padawan, crossing over from Kpg Kemas to the Bengoh Valley. These are tough trips, not recommended for the average weekend cyclist.
RISKS OF CYCLING OFF ROAD Lost, puncture, break down, accidentThere is always the risk that the trip will not turn out as planned. Our experience has shown that mechanical breakdowns, punctured tires, and the occasional accident are ever-present dangers of cycling off-road. Pack a tool kit, first aid kit, tire repair kit, and spare tubes so that you are prepared for every possibility.