04: Malaysia > Sabah > The Crocker Loop

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Note: Please click any image for a better view.


I’ve always been intrigued by the KK-Ranau-Tambunan-KK loop through the Crocker Range, and today I intend to discover this rugged mountain route, all 230km of it.

Refering to the map below (click image for bigger view, thanks to malsingmaps.com), we’ll go northeast from KK, along the magenta route, turn right at the black dot and head for Kinabalu NP, Kundasang, Ranau, then back to KK via Tambunan (magenta route). Weather has been poor, but let’s hope for the best, especially along such a wriggly path!
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As we leave downtown KK, a huge marlin bids farewell.
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And across the Likas Bay, the brooding weather looks foreboding. It’s monsoon season now.
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Shrouded in clouds, The Mountain gives us a sneak preview. I hope the weather holds when we reach there.
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Along the way, we pause to gawk at the 7-year-old City Mosque in Likas, which took 10 years to be built. Splendid structure, indeed.
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Forty minutes later, along the road to Ranau, we detour to visit Tamparuli, a small town made famous by a local songstress who went big on national telly, thanks to SMS voting. We immediately bump into a local landmark, the Tamparuli Bridge.
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Being a rather long-ish pedestrian suspension bridge, it shakes and sways whenever people tread on it. Not good for acrophobic folks.
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But it does not bother these kids one single bit.
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Quite a steep drop to the river down below.
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It is a spectacular bridge to walk on. No wonder it has been immortalised in a song called ‘Jambatan Tamparuli’, rendered in the local lingo of Kadazandusun.
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Well past Tamparuli, along the mountainous KK-Ranau road, traffic builds up as heavy vehicles, bound for faraway east coast places like Sandakan and Tawau, struggle up the gradient. We take a break …
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… to admire Mt Kinabalu, but today is definitely not a good day.
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Nearby, a stall sells durians and again, taraps.
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Thick soft luxuriant hairs (unlike the ones on my skull) cover each tarap, like being wrapped in extra thick carpet. Very nice to hold and stroke.
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The flesh is sweet with a wild taste to it, whatever that means. So different from its cousin, the chempedak, but we like it! Read HERE for a local’s review of this uniquely Borneo jungle fruit. My verdict: not to be missed. 😀
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Soon we arrive at Nabalu, for a quick cuppa.
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Atop the look-out tower …
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… a fellow traveler scans the mountains.
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Again no sight of Mt Kinabalu. 🙁
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Moving on in the cold mountain clouds, we arrive at Kinabalu National Park, a World Heritage Site (one of the only two WHSs in Malaysia, the other being Mulu, which we plan to visit this early Feb). And this is the Timpohon Gate, the starting point to assault Mt Kinabalu (the other starting point is Mesilau Gate, further east near Kundasang).
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Next to the gate, a list of house rules and some climbing records. Please click image for better read.
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At 1800m high, this is the actual entrance to the trail to the top, at 4095m. Climbers check in and out here. Obviously these folks here are no mountaineers, just wimpish sight-seers like us. 🙂
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As the thick mountain clouds come and go …
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… a couple of exhausted macho-men arrive home from the top …
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… while a couple psyche themselves up for the big trek.
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The map of the trails is well-presented. Please click image for better view.
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Giving up hope of ever spotting the peak from here, we return to the gate …
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… only to be greeted by this handsome Golden-naped Barbet, aka Kinabalu Barbet, a species only found here. What a consolation! 😆
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A few minutes after leaving Kinabalu NP (next time I go there, I’m gonna climb that hill!), we come to Kundasang, an agrarian settlement popular with visitors looking for fresh vegies, fruits and flowers.
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Long stalls line up the road. If the weather is better, the majestic peak of Mt Kinabalu would hover above these stalls.
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Well-packaged fresh vegies of all kinds.
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Fresh blooms too.
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And all sorts of honey, fresh too I presume.
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The road from KK snakes its way into Ranau, a rather plain town, before going all the way to the east coast. After a couple of enquiries, I find a small road leading out of Ranau, supposedly the road to Tambunan. But soon I am in knee-deep, sticky mud.
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There are 3 spots where landslides have demolished the road. I just grit my teeth, engage 1st gear, rev the engine steadily, and slosh through the mud, as the car slides left and right. The bottom of the car scrapes rocks and stones but I keep going and hope for the best.
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Otherwise the Ranau-Tambunan way is a pleasure to drive. Yeah, we survived! :mrgreen:
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One can easily spot patches of the hill-sides cleared for planting hill paddy, locally known as padi huma.
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This paddy can survive with little water, and is the original paddy in Malaysia before the other water-hungry paddy variety was introduced.
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They say the rice quality is poor and yield is low, but how come it’s being sold for MYR10 per kg at the roadside? 😕
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Paddy plants lined up on neat shallow terraces.
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Close-up of the plants. Starting to ripen now.
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Then we come to this beautiful field of ripe golden paddy. Could be harvested any time now. All manually done, by hand of course.
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A while later another surprise – ponies in bushes!
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This must be a local variety, smallish and hairy too.
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And they roam the village looking for things to chomp on, as a man in red approaches. We scoot off before he gets near. :mrgreen:
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The weather turns for the worse and the way from Tambunan to KK is a white-wash. The famous Rafflesia Centre near Tambunan is closed, and that’s a real damper, just like the weather.
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Mountain clouds everywhere. Should come again here in drier times.
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At a bend I spot an interesting item.
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All the way from Vladivostok? Well, this is a Russian Kamov Ka-32S chopper, for hauling logs out of the jungles. I guess the weather has grounded it too, good for the environment, but not for long! 😡
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We finally make it back to KK just before sunset, in time for another spectacular show. It has been a great day, including the hairy, muddy drive after Ranau. 😀
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EPILOGUE

Some 62hrs after we drove the Kundasang-Ranau road, a major landslide demolished about 100m of it. It was re-opened more than 24hrs later, but with limited capacity.

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