A roadtrip to Semporna
  We weren't sure whether we were going to get any closer to the National Park by lunchtime. Close to 1000am we were still roaming around the area past Likas Bay asking for directions and stopping by gas stations filling up the rental car (Proton Waja 1.6 Automatic,fairly new, 21000km on the clock) with fuel and junk food. It must have been close to 1045am when we finally made the journey to the Park proper after giving up on the possibilities of getting a map of Sabah at the last gas station. Nobody else ever needed one, I supposed, must be reason why both Petronas and Shell stations don't stock up on maps.
  Roughly our timing:

0930 KK T2 Terminal, pick up our car from Geogie from Extra Car Rental.
1045 Likas Shell Station: No we haven't got any maps!
1145 Kinabalu Park HQ: Phew! Lunch and a short stretch out.
1245 Park HQ heading out.
1745 Sandakan, Sabah Hotel : a $340 nite's rest in a rather bare suite.
  Great sceneries abound on the way up to KK Park from Tamparuli. Would have been nice if we had some time for a pit stop in Tamparuli town ie. for the market and hanging bridge but alas we were on a tight schedule. We zipped pass town making our way uphill in a quick hurry.

With increasing altitude, cooler air, more winding roads came slow as tortoise tankers, lorries and containers inching the same route on their way to Sandakan. We were doing 90kmph one minute and dead on the road 10kmph the next depending on who's up the front bumper. The journey was all the way upwards winding through several quaint villages, numerous scenic viewpoints and a handfull of local markets.
  As is with other trailblazing endeavours, we scorched thru this trail with much gusto. Not having driven this route before the main trip became more of a "prove the timing" rather than a "stop and smell the roses, see what we see" kind of trip.
  Based on input from our Sabahan friends, it should take us 2 hrs to drive from KK to KK Park HQ; 4hrs from Park HQ to Sandakan; 4 hrs from Sandakan to Tawau. These friends of ours must have been driving thru these routes with literally their eyes closed (to the points of interest on the roadside) with the sort of timing they gave us. We tried it, it can be done however all we managed to see were the road in front of us, the numerous vehicles we overtook and of course the odd tanker of two we tailed. It must then be a given that familiarity turns most things to mundane undertakings. In our case perhaps blinded by the targets we had set ourselves at the beginning of the trip, we forced ourselves not to stop by to drive on.

It is key then perhaps one day to be able to do this trip again in a more leisurely manner, stopping along the way, look and see whats there along the journey and maybe perhaps even have the luxury to chat up the many friendly locals we did see along the way.
  From Park HQ we drove thru the winding roads Kundasang, Ranau, the junction to Tambunan, Kampung Panigatan, Telipok, Beluran before arriving Sandakan. We didn't stop at all except for a quick one after Telipok ... Ali needed to pee.

The view from Kundasang to Telipok could be categorised as scenic consisting mostly of small hill villages and almost towns. Parts between Ranau and Kampung Panigatan were particularly memorable with the green bare hills and winding clear water river filled with rounded pebbles.

Kundasang War Memorial, situated in the town of Kundasang could have been a great distraction so was Poring Hot Springs near Ranau. Sabah Tea Plantation just after Ranau might be an option for longer leisurely trips.

For some of these parts, there were a few places worth a pit stop for any travelling the same route. At one particular village just after Ranau, there's a hanging bridge (similar to the one in Tamparuli) crossing the river. Kampung Panigatan itself was rather interesting poised on hill overlooking the pebbly emerald river.
The Telipok to Sandakan leg was mostly if not all dominated by views of palm oil ... yuck! Sabah cleared it's primary rainforest much earlier than other states. Back in the 70s most of prime jungle were logged on a massive scale throughout making numerous timber tycoons in the process. The land was cleared for rubber and cocoa plantations, it's now in it's latest incarnation as palm oil estates. Only pockets of forest reserves are left dotted around the State ... these too will probably be razed down within the next 30 years.
  We arrived Sabah Hotel in Sandakan 1745pm. It must be noted here that the road leading to Sandakan all the way to 6th mile was rather abused, narrow and congested with lorries and busses. Huge vehicles ply these routem it being the only route to Sandakan. Damages were quite severe along many parts and road maintenance crews were a common sight. Along the way we saw signs to Labok Proboscis Sanctuary, Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary and others.
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