Not so white water rafting
Tenom Travel Blog› entry 1 of 3 › view all entries
July 11th, 2009 – by: cja17
From here the railway hugs the narrow Padas gorge all the way down to Beaufort - rail and river, but no road. Tenom was where we would transfer to Borneo's last train for a short journey of 10km or so (I think) to our rafting start point.
Our "drivers" had to work hard for the first kilometre or so, then Newton kicked in and, forget Disney, this was a real fairground ride - speeding down the gorge, the river a blur on the left, cliffs and forest whizzing by on the right and the odd glimpse of a fantastically coloured huge butterfly as inflight entertainment.
The 45 minutes or so we spent on the trolleys flew by and when we rolled into the riverside collection of houses where our rafts stood waiting everyone had big smiles on their faces - if the trip had ended there it would have been money well spent - a unique and wholly unexpected pleasure. But, this was just the start - a quick watermelon snack and an even faster safety briefing later, we were drifting down the river looking for white water thrills.
Rafting guide Amin did his best but we were hopeless. Behind me was Calvin from Hong Kong, who'd put his wife and children on a plane home the day before and was having a bit of a solo adventure - the look on his face when we rescued him after his first rapid was priceless - he was almost in shock. Whilst the pics from my disposable are crap, I was at least able to send a set over to HK afterwards for him to enjoy.
Compared to the Bhote Khosi in Nepal, which was my only experience of rafting before this the Padas was a lot less scary and a lot warmer. On the quiet stretches between rapids it was fun to spin off the side and into the murky depths beneath - trying to remember if those fish that swam you-know-where were Amazon-specific or just generally tropical. But, like all big rivers, the current is deceptive - go with it and life is easy, but turn and try and swim upstream and you're going nowhere fast.
The aptly named Washing Machine (youtube it, well worth a watch) was the first of several involuntary submersions for me that day. By the time we got to its crux (it did look like a washing machine) we were way short of the power required to push on through, and just fell vertically into what looked like a gaping hole, and I was out. I did the gentlemanly thing and waited for everyone else to regain the raft before me - big mistake - by the time my turn came, the inexorable current had bought us to the head of the next rapid and the rocks were starting to knock my legs around under the water.
And so the day went on - a rapid, then a stretch of swimming or admiring the view, then another rapid, etc, etc. I think we spent a total of 19km on the river that day, with a lunch stop of the obligatory singapore noodles, curry and rice with a welcome bottle of water.
At the end of the day we clambered up the bank at a small village and walked together, raft on our heads, straight onto the station platform, then sat down and waited, still soaked to the skin, for the Last Train in Borneo, a scruffy little narrow gauge affair which, with most seats full, was clearly still a vital transport link for the area. As the sun set we trundled down the line to Beaufort and out waiting minivan, for the journey back up to KK along the coast ride.
So, if you have a day spare in KK, this is pretty much a must-do - the perfect one-day adventure.
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