Random News

Journey to Padas River White Water Rafting

White Water Rafting Padas River
This is an unforgettable experience for my Padas River white water rafting journey, and it is totally out of this world so read on to find out what happened.

On my maiden trip to Padas 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 four hours as we made quite a number of stops to check out the towns along the way before reaching the Padas River (Sungai Padas in Malay).

Journey To Padas River White Water Rafting

Kerosene Oil Pump Petronas
Pumps like this still exist in Sabah
During our journey to Padas, we stopped at one town where Mark, our personal friend, and a professional outdoor guide had to make a fuel stop.

At the Petronas petrol station, I  was a little lost when I saw this odd looking 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 on 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 affecting 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 whose 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.

Train tracks in TenomPadas River Water Rafting by rail

Never did I expect to be sent to the Padas River Water Rafting in such a unique 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 downhill, 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
Video of Padas River

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 ingenious, 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 one hour journey, we finally reached the Pangi Station base camp. Not to be confused, but there are actually two water rafting bases here which a few river rafting companies operate from.

Ours was the first stop and I was absolutely thrilled to have finally arrived. The journey was not that comfortable if you ask me, but it had to be done.

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 newborn 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 in Sabah.

At least we had our unique and exciting journey documented in pictures and also in the video to be shared with the world.

Final Thoughts to my Journey to the Padas River for Water Rafting

Thanks to Alex and his team for organizing this amazing one-of-a-kind experience for all of us. The next trip I make (soon) will be with the old diesel train as to how it has always been.

Alex and Mark, if you are reading this, just get the Lihing (rice wine) and Tuaran Noodles ready, as I already miss those.

If you should know, the Padas River white water rafting in Sabah is one of the most challenging river rapids in Borneo.

Also, this article about my journey to the Padas River was published in 2009 and a lot of things have changed since then. 


Mas Light said...

Waw this is kewl. But, I'll skip the whole water rafting thinggie coz I'm scared I might drown not being able to swim and all XD

Ben said...

Horgan, bet you must really enjoy the double rafting ... rail and whitewater rafting :P I missed the rafting @ Padas too. The last time I was there is in 2000 :) Kerosene is also widely use in Indonesia. I even come across a factory in Bandung using kerosene powered water bath and occasionally bought the jet fuel from nearby Bandung airport when the kerosene out of stock :D

Ihsan Khairir said...

wow, initially i imagined the trolleys not moving that fast, but after that video, i concur that it's much faster than walking or running...

Malaysia Asia said...

Maslight - it's a great adventure, should learn how to swim now :)

Benedict - I didnt know it was widely used in Indonesia. Always thought Kerosene is old fuel. Thanks for the info :)

Ishan, hahaha yes it WAS fast. Sometimes too fast and scary but one helluva ride I tell ya!