I’m not normally a jungle person.
Pedaling through places with steamy equatorial climates—Guyana, Gabon, Borneo—ranks just above biking through China’s factory belts or on Southern California’s 8-lane freeways.
Jungles scare me. The thick tangles of vegetation feel forbidding. The constant buzz of insects somehow threatening. And the rainforest canopy so thick overhead slightly menacing. My body slick with sweat adds to the sense of venturing into a wild and untamed place.
So it was with a tinge of trepidation that I pedaled out of Tanjungselor, in East Kalimantan. The Indonesian part of Borneo promised to be far more adventurous than what we’d experienced in Sabah and Sarawak—Malaysia’s share of the island (the world’s third largest —I’ll remind you—lest you’re wondering why we’re still biking around Borneo).
Not unusually, we weren’t quite sure what lay ahead. Cycle Laos or Cambodia or even Indonesia’s more popular islands such as Java or Bali and a google search will come back with loads of results. Not the case with Borneo. The only information we’d been able to scrounge up came from LP’s thorntree forum. A guy named Robin had this to say:
…the sun is intense and the roads are almost never flat, in fact there are no real hills or climbs but the road is forever steep up and down, up and down, up and down so it makes for some tough riding.
Robin was right about those ups and downs. The ABSOLUTE steepest hills I have ever encountered. No photo can really convey how menacing those climbs really are. Tears spilled more than once. We’d zig-zag our way up to give our knees a little relief. But when a palm oil truck is barreling down on you from above, it’s time to dart out of the way. Starting back up again is one of the toughest things I’ve done in all 6 years of cycling.
Here’s how cycling East Kalimantan has panned out so far:
Looking back at all these photos, I’m struck by the beauty of the landscapes and kindness of the people. I’m still not a jungle person. But I have to say Borneo has been quite an adventure.
And fun, in spite of all the suffering.
Type II fun, as blog reader Gili Rosenberg would call it. The kind you don’t enjoy at the time, only in retrospect.
“You don’t have to be having fun to have fun,” as they say.
Another 1,000+ kilometers to go in Borneo! Then we’ll hop a ferry to Java and continue down the archipelago exploring Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa and East Timor before we catch a flight to Australia on 11 September. Looking forward to some Type I fun.
Gili Rosenberg and his fellow adventurers at the Vancouver Varsity Outdoor Club define types of fun like this:
Type I fun – the normal definition of fun, you enjoy it at the time, and later in retrospect
Type II fun – you don’t enjoy it at the time, but enjoy it in retrospect. Of this it has been said: “you don’t have to be having fun to have fun”, if that makes sense to you…
Type III fun – you don’t enjoy it at the time, and don’t enjoy it in retrospect
Any thoughts on how much of each type of fun you have while bike touring?