Padas River White Water Rafting - The journey there

White Water Rafting Padas River
Padas River White Water Rafting (Sungai Padas in Malay) - On my maiden trip there for white water rafting, we took a van to Tenom town in Sabah to meet Alex, the owner of the white water rafting company.

So the journey from Kota Kinabalu took us about 4 hours as we made quite a number of stops to check out the towns along the way before reaching Padas River for White Water Rafting.

Petronas kerosene pump?

Padas River White Water Rafting

Going for the Padas River Water Rafting we stopped at one town where Mark, our personal friend and professional outdoor guide had to make a fuel stop, I was a little lost when I saw this kiosk. It was Kerosene. Now which car uses kerosene?

I tried explaining to rest of the guys as we were all puzzled. Then Mark gets into the van and the questions started. He just laughed at us at first commenting how city people we were.

Smaller towns in Sabah and Sarawak use a lot of kerosene to fuel the lamps. Especially for the rural and indigenous tribes who live out in the jungles where there is no electricity. So they make a weekly stop at the petrol station and full up their containers. Oh well, this still happens. Wow, only in Malaysia.

Stesen Keretapi TenomTenom Railway Station, our meeting point

Finally after an interesting journey, we arrive in Tenom. Alex has been waiting for us for twenty minutes. We are introduced and become friends instantly. He tells us of an incident that just happened a few days back were the train from Tenom to Pangi had fallen into the Padas River causing the train service to be halted and effecting the water rafting business. So the rafting operators needed to do something and fast.

We were then lead to a special spot where we would still be using the train track. I was thinking if there is no train, how do we go? He smiled and said 'wait till you get there'.

Padas River Water Rafting Journey via 'rail' service

On arrival, we were met by a group of locals whom two of them were Alex's top rafters for his water rafting business at the Padas River. Looking closely at some wooden platforms on the train tracks, they were in fact custom made trolleys for the train tracks. So more questions were asked by all of us. "Is there a small train that will pull or push us"?

"No, the local boys will take you there" replies Alex. "Just sit back and enjoy the ride" Alex goes on. And we still didn't have a clue until we saw what he meant. Oh boy, were we in for a ride of our life.

Padas River Water Rafting by rail

Never did I expect to be sent to the Padas River Water Rafting in such a way. I was so looking forward to sitting on the old diesel train that ferries the water rafters to the Pangi Station which has been one of the unique things about the whole journey.

Travelers from the world over come to the Padas River to white water raft because of the scenic journey with the old train and also the Class 3 and 4 rapids. Oh well, we got a trip which was even better!

Video of the Trolleys in action


Approaching the tunnel

The platform trolleys steered by the local boys of Tenom were not 100% full proof. There were instances where they had to stop as the wheels were getting out of alignment so we got off for them to adjust the trolley. Steering these trolleys is no joke.

The amount of brute strength used will tire you fast. Heck, all of us gave it a shot. We asked the boy to sit and we tried it ourselves. Well, only for about 300 meters and I was done.

Break time for the boys after the tunnel

There were also track rules set by the locals there as this train track was the main route for the locals to move up and down from the villages in Pangi to Tenom. So, if you saw another trolley coming your way down hill, your trolley should make way for them.

If you were going downhill, then the other trolley would make way for you. Simple rules set by the locals.

Going down the train tracks to Padas River
PADAS RIVER VIDEO

Cruising along the Tenom-Pangi train tracks was really an unforgettable experience for us. The natural beauty of the Sabah rural areas was amazing. You could actually see everything, from small villages to just plain nothing.

An old diesel train on the tracks

Then after 30 minutes of trolley rides, we reach the point where the tragedy happened. The train actually fell into the river as the tracks are just next to the water.

Apparently when it happened, a few people died and one of the coaches could not be found for the first few days. God bless their souls.

Carrying the trolley

There were repairing and upgrading the tracks where the incident happened so we had to stop and walk around the work area.

Boys oiling their trolleys

Then the trolley boys started to oil the wheels of the trolleys. Each of the boys had a really small bottle of cooking oil for this. How organic, I thought.

Trolley boy all set to continue

By then, we had our break from the sort butts and the boys were ready after a 5 minute break. Trust me, after all that poking, they needed it.

Guests passing on other trolleys

After the 1 hour journey, we finally reached the Pangi Station base camp. Not to be confused, but there are 2 bases here where a few river rafting companies that operate from here. Ours was the first stop and were were thrilled to be here.

An elderly local with his daughter and grandchild

While relaxing and waiting for the rafts to be prepared, we saw locals who were ferrying their loved ones along the tracks. Some with groceries, some even with new born kids. It was an unusual sight.

A triple trolley rail car

More rafters were passing us and one was really creative. 3 platform trolleys joined together with 2 local girls, they must have been at least 15 years old? and they were taking a group of six people to the other camp.

Me and the gang at our destination

At the end of our rail trip, we were just happy to be there in one piece for the white water rafting adventure at the famous Padas River. At least we had our exciting journey documented in pictures and also in video.

Thanks to Alex and his team for specially organising this amazing experience for us. The next trip I make (soon) will be with the old diesel train as how it has always been. Alex and Mark, if you are reading this, just get the Lihing (rice wine) and Tuaran Noodles ready!

Padas River White Water Rafting in Sabah is one of the most challenging river rapids in Borneo. This article was published in 2009 and things have changed since then. 

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